Respect Yourself

You are special. You are treasured. You are loved. I am writing this to affirm all the SINGLE women out there who are in unhealthy relationships. I receive messages and emails so often from women who ask me what to do about the unfaithfulness, lying, cheating, abuse or constant conflict they experience with their partners.

If you are single, my advice is to leave the guy. You are single. You aren’t committed in marriage. Why waste your time fretting that he may betray you again? Why trouble yourself with unnecessary anxiety? Why stay in a relationship where you constantly clash over values that are important to you?

I am not saying, “Don’t forgive,” if you have been hurt, but forgiving doesn’t mean you have to stay in a relationship that is toxic. You are NOT bound by covenant in marriage. You are free!

Let’s think through the reasons why women seem to stay in bad relationships:

1. We are more afraid of being alone. There is comfort in the familiar. We would rather stay with someone we know, even if we are well aware of their ugly side, rather than remain single. Loneliness is a more undesirable a state than putting up with a bad relationship.

2. We have a messianic complex, believing we can help the guy to change, that we will be the reason he gives up his bad habits and vices. Well, there’s only one Messiah. His name is Jesus. Sometimes the best way for a man to encounter and see Christ is when we aren’t in the way or blocking his view of Him.

3. We don’t value ourselves or dare to believe we deserve better. Many of us have suffered from broken relationships at home, therefore we are emotionally vulnerable, and we tend to settle. We’ll take the discounted, 50% off version of a man because we think he’s as good a man as we are entitled to in this life.

4. We are caught up in an addictive sin cycle. The relationship is sexually gratifying and that makes it feel “right.” Since sex was designed by God to join us to our spouses, experiencing it outside of its rightful context has a bonding effect that is meaningful and powerful. However, it is without the guarantee of permanence. We continue to give ourselves physically thinking that this is a way to keep a man, to stay connected to him, when he has returned no real promise of security.

In other instances, we use sex as a manipulative tool, and we like that power. It allows us to get what we want.

I know of women who have lured married men with sex in order to feel important, to get attention, or to receive material gain. However, almost always these women are at the losing end of the relationship. Married men who cheat on their wives are not decent, honest men. They are liars. How can they be trusted? Why does a woman ever want to end up with a married man who makes promises but breaks the ones he made to his wife and children?!

5. We believe we can’t live without the person. It’s not surprising that some women tell me how depressed they become (even to the point of contemplating suicide) at the thought of separating from the guy they are dating.

Sadly, when our lives revolve around people, when they are center of our world, the tendency is to set them on a pedestal. We become loyal in an irrational way to a person rather than to our convictions or even the truth. As a result, we will disobey and resent authority figures who are against the relationship, and we will over-function, sacrifice our personal values, as well as ignore the observations or counsel of others who tell us that it’s not a good relationship.

6. We cling to a false sense of reality from playing “house”. It’s becoming more common for men and women to test out compatibility by living in together.

However, live-in relationships aren’t a guarantee for the success of a future marriage. In fact, it delays the need for a man to propose marriage. If he has all the benefits of a pseudo wife, why should he take the next step? Plus, it makes it easier for him to exit if things don’t work out because it wasn’t a marriage in the first place. Statistics report that 60 percent of couples who live together will not go on to get married either because they break up (39 percent) or just continue to live together (21 percent). (Myths about Living Together)

Live-in relationships tend to experience similar challenges that married couples do, such as overfamiliarity, communication, money, and expectation issues leading to conflicts and problems. However, without the covenant of permanence, there is no true security.

Why should live-in couples work out differences if exiting is always an option? Why should they value the covenant of marriage in the future if they can always “try out marriage” with other people, or treat what is supposed to be a serious, marriage-like situation as something that they can leave when the benefits expire?

The artificial union of living in together before marriage actually predisposes us to devaluing what a marital covenant is.

If we stay in a bad or abusive dating relationship for any of the above reasons — fear of being alone, a messianic complex, a lowly perception of ourselves, sexual sin, or because we are testing out a pseudo marriage by living together — it’s time to leave. None of these relationships are healthy or glorifying to God, especially if pre-marital sex is involved.

BUT…HERE’S THE GOOD NEWS!

I can’t word it better than John Piper does:

Purity on the other side of sin is possible through the justifying and sanctifying work of Christ. That is what I want these couples who have sinned to embrace. And the fact that they, in their past, have the sin of fornication…doesn’t diminish the possibility of purity and holiness in the present and in the future.

What does this mean for us? If we are in unhealthy dating relationships with men, if we have participated in pre-marital sex with them, if we have seemingly wasted our time by giving our hearts, bodies, and minds to boyfriends who have not appreciated or valued us as we hoped they would, and if we have lived in disobedience to God because we have traded the worship of Him for the idolatry of an individual, here’s our comfort…There is hope for those who sincerely repent and return to the Lord.

We do not have to persist in bondage to the wrong choices we made or the ones we continue to make. God wants to set us free, to trade the lesser existence we have settled for with the best of what He has to offer — Himself, His love, peace, and joy — through His Son, Jesus Christ.

“Don’t you realize that those who do wrong will not inherit the Kingdom of God? Don’t fool yourselves. Those who indulge in sexual sin, or who worship idols, or commit adultery, or are male prostitutes, or practice homosexuality, or are thieves, or greedy people, or drunkards, or are abusive, or cheat people—none of these will inherit the Kingdom of God. Some of you were once like that. But you were cleansed; you were made holy; you were made right with God by calling on the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.”

‭‭(1 Corinthians‬ ‭6:9-11‬)

“Jesus answered them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who commits sin is the slave of sin. The slave does not remain in the house forever; the son does remain forever. So if the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed.”

‭‭(John‬ ‭8:34-36‬)

In summary, a bad dating relationship is one where we endure and put up with physical, emotional, or spiritual harm, refusing to trust God enough to let go of it. God does not want his precious daughters to be used or abused. He wants them to treated like the special treasures that they are to Him.

Remember, you are a woman of worth, redeemed in God’s eyes, with a future and a hope in Him. So please, please don’t settle for a dating relationship that will give you anything less! It may hurt to cut it off now, but think of this difficult yet sensible decision as liberating and protecting yourself from the certainty of serious brokenness in the future. While I have seen God restore and heal, He also encourages us to be wise. Why endure unnecessary heartache when you can enjoy His blessings instead?

10 thoughts on “Respect Yourself

  1. But what about when you were convinced you married a Christian man, but he has now decided he doesn’t believe the Bible-or at least not all of it. (To me there does not exist that distinction, all or nothing.) He left, but hasn’t filed for divorce, and doesn’t know what he wants or if he wants to come back. So many lies, and 3 years of waiting. How do I respect myself while respecting my husband in the current circumstances?

    1. I am so sorry to hear about your current marital status and how difficult it is. There is no easy way to endure it. But God does give different and very clear principles for married women to follow, one of these being that we must respect our husbands. Yet he also gives us a unique hope. A husband can be won over by the behavior of their wives. “In the same way, you wives must accept the authority of your husbands. Then, even if some refuse to obey the Good News, your godly lives will speak to them without any words. They will be won over by observing your pure and reverent lives.”
      ‭‭(1 Peter‬ ‭3:1-2‬) There is a special grace that God extends to the married woman who honors His principles in marriage, even if it is difficult and even if it feels like we are trapped. The solution is not to exit, but to patiently endure and seek to work it out, to do our part regardless of whether our spouse does theirs. The option is not to leave the marriage but to trust that God can do the impossible in a marriage. One of the books I have read recently is called “How to Survive a Spiritual Mismatch” by Lee and Leslie Strobel. I think you will be encouraged by it. Lee was an atheist. But Leslie’s example and the power of Christ changed Lee. It didn’t happen overnight, but their encouragement to people who are in the same situation is not to give up, to keep praying, to live the gospel in such a contagious and attractive way that a spouse will have no reason to say no to the Lord. In fact, Leslie very much challenges such wives to respect their husbands because this helped to turn Lee’s heart. There are cases where husbands are in sin. But God sees this and will hold them accountable. Because he loves even the sinning husband, he will do something to intervene, to get their attention. Sometimes this means a very painful consequence, which is a form of his mercy. But rest assured that God has not forgotten you as you wait on Him. So in the case of the married woman, to honor God’s principles for marriage comes before even our own wants and agendas. Yet, there is the promise of his grace, and He is ever on the throne and at work, even if it may not always feel like it. For the dating woman in an unhealthy relationship, her act of faith is to exit, but for the married woman, her act of faith is to stay and look to God to uphold and do the impossible in her marriage.

  2. Dear Joy,

    My husband surrendered his life to Jesus Christ years ago, reads the Bible continuously cover to cover, from Genesis to Revelation. He’s a responsible, good provider, hard working husband and a loving father to our daughter. However, he has a recurring habit which he cannot overcome. He’s verbally abusive to me through the years that we’ve been together whenever he gets upset. He kept digging about my sinful past which happened almost 20 years ago. To that time when we don’t even knew each other, met and have a relationship. You see, I had worldly relationships before I started dating him. And I confessed all of these to him during our courtship days because I wanted to start on a clean slate with him then. It makes me wonder now if it was such a huge mistake that I was totally honest with him. If I did something wrong or a shortcoming was committed, either he lashed condemning, degrading words to me.. reminding me of who I was before or he makes me feel utterly insignificant in his life.
    ” I can easily live without you kind of treatment”.

    Here’s an example and my current situation:
    He works in an international passenger cruise line. He left last May 11, 2018. I got an email on the 15th and admittedly, it was my fault that I wasn’t able to acknowledge nor answer it immediately. May 18, he tried to call me through Messenger but then, it didn’t went through because I was outside our home, hence, I have don’t have internet connection. As soon as I saw the missed calls, I messaged him explaining the situation and wrote a lengthy email too, for that matter. No reply from him. Since then.. more than a month now, he stopped communicating with me. No calls. No emails. None whatsoever. Last Father’s day, I wrote him four emails. One as a father and three as a husband. Declaring my love and hope for our marriage. Still no reply. I know that temptations are left and right being on that ship. Still, I don’t want to entertain negative thoughts and carry negative emotions towards him. It’s hard NOT to imagine what he’s doing on the ship with whoever, but I’m doing my best NOT to indulge in this kind of mindset. It makes me think though.. Is my fault so huge that I’m getting this kind of coldhearted treatment from him again? Nevertheless, I’m lifting everything to GOD. I’m sure HE SEES what I am going through right now. And I know HE IS STILL in control of everything. Here’s my question:
    Should I respect his space and moment of silence and just leave him alone for the time being? What is the Godly response to a verbally abusive husband? (Please note that I made him aware of how much it hurts me whenever he’s doing this, be it verbally, in tears, and in countless letters). When the husband left the wife, his child, his home for another woman, what should a Christian wife do? Just let him leave the nest?

    I need Godly counsel and wisdom. May the Holy Spirit be with you.

  3. This helped me a lot. I read this article thinking, I had the right to leave my ex. We broke up in 2013, and we studied in the same school, but ever since I went to college and left him, I felt so much better. But it didn’t stop there. Last year, I deleted my Instagram account because he kept on posting insensitive things about me, so I hid from Instagram because I didn’t want him saying things about me. It wasn’t until 2 months ago when I saw him while I was picking up my brother. My ex wanted to hurt me but one of the authorities stopped him from doing what he did. We talked to the police about this and they decided to punish him.

    But ever since I cut my hair short last month, it really changed me a lot. I have finally moved on now that he’s out of my life. I would always say “that boy may want to hurt me but I know that God will protect me, because I am His daughter.” This article has helped me in so many ways. Thank you so much. I really needed this.

  4. “I just can’t leave him.. are words Ive heard many times. Single women wrapped up in man who has all but destroyed them and married women who see nothing of themselves left living like ghosts in their own life. But you can sweetheart. You can leave him. And yes it might hurt like hell but unlike hell it wont be forever.. I promise. You can cry and kick and scream all you want when you imagine being alone. Alone. But lets talk about that alone… Alone and having the freedom to go anywhere you want to and no one will text you to ask why you are late. You can drive all night sweetheart. You can go to the beach. You can go to the masjid and stay for the whole class. You can go to the store and wander the aisles and buy whatever you want. That kind of alone. You can say “fine thank you” when the male cashier asks you if you found everything ok without being terrified you smiled too much, spoke too long.. that kind of alone. You can call your parents and your best friend without having to pretend you are fine when you are dying inside. You can eat whatever you want and take seconds without anyone telling you you’re going to get fat or you are too fat and you look nothing like so and so.. who he stares night and day. You can eat what you want becoz its right for you not becoz somone controlled your diet. You can sit down with a journal and write down all the things you want to do in your life. You can dream as big as you want and know that, with the help of God, you can make it all happen becoz you are smart, talented human being created with a purpose. You are here for a reason. And that reason and purpose is not tied to any man. You can dream sweetheart. When you do leave him he’ll try to tell you that no one will ever want you. No one. Becoz you are a disgusting woman that should thank the Lord that he loved you. That he gave you a chance. He’ll tell you how pathetic you are. What a terrible wife you make. That no man will ever want a used up good for nothing woman like you. He’ll tell you all those lies. But when you leave you see a whole world out there. A whole world full of people looking to love. Looking to connect. A whole entire freakin world of people who can love you, respect you, honor you, and yes someone out there who can fill that honorable position of husband. It’s that kind of alone sweetheart. Joel 🙂

  5. Thank you for another article. I am actually confused right now I broke up with my ex a year ago In my head I know I did the right decision knowinh he made someone pregnant yet every now and then I miss him and want to reconcile with him for he kept contacting me that he still loves me. Yet at the back if my mind I cant have the same relationship that made me feel unworthy and less of my self and being an option only. This article opened my eyes thank you

  6. Thank you so much Ms. Joy. Please do help me. I have a boyfriend for eight years. When I saw my first love, I felt I still love the man. However, he is not legally separated.

    I am confused. I don’t know what to do. I am totally lost.

    I believe your messages will help me to enlighten.

  7. Hi, I just want to ask how should a Christian react to unrequited love? I have no idea how to dissed what I feel for the guy. That’s what saddens me most of the time. When I am constantly being ignored and feel unloved. Thanks I really need advice.

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