6 Questions to Ask Before You Define the Relationship
The day my boyfriend and I “made it official” was super romantic.
We were at Panera early in the morning, enjoying our free coffee refills when our conversation naturally drifted toward…Power Rangers. I discovered that his knowledge of the subject greatly surpassed mine and he asked, “How do you feel about having a boyfriend who knows so much about Power Rangers?”
To which I replied, “Do I?”
“Do you what?”
“Do I have a boyfriend?”
He looked a little frightened. “I…think so?” he queried, as if his very existence was coming into question.
“Well,” I took a sip of coffee that was supposed to look casual. “You never asked, so…”
Okay, so it wasn’t really very romantic, but I do look back on the day we “defined the relationship” fondly. You see, labels aren’t always necessary or important, but this particular label meant a lot to me.
After that day, we talked plainly about what this label of “boyfriend and girlfriend” meant (and what it didn’t). We desperately needed those extremely straightforward conversations to make sure we were on the same page and to give me the security I needed to move forward in our relationship. Some moments are romantic. Some moments feel more like the building of a legal document. We needed, and still need, both.
About two years have passed since that day and, though we’ve had to have multiple conversations about if we should keep moving forward or not, I’ve never regretted that conversation at Panera. Relishing this confidence is what made me want to write to girls who might today be facing that same decision; girls who are in the early weeks of a relationship and considering moving from “going on dates” to “staying together.” This means different things for different couples, but in some form or another, practically every married couple has to cross this threshold.
This list isn’t comprehensive, of course, and it’s not everything you should ask yourself before ever going out with a guy. These questions can really only be answered after you’ve started getting to know him, through dating or friendship.
1. Does he respect me?
This is something I don’t hear girls asking enough. He probably likes you. He might even flatter you, but that’s about attraction and ego. Does he respect you? Whether the two of you end up being a good match or not, a good man will always show you respect. Does he listen to you and consider your opinion? Does he try to help you become the best version of yourself, not just someone he’d enjoy spending time with? This is crucial.
2. Is he teachable?
I can’t think of anything more critical to the health and longevity of a relationship than being teachable. Both partners must be humble enough to learn from the other. We all have things to learn; we all have things to teach. Is he proud or is he humble? Does he let older men speak into his life? The quality of his friends will be a good indicator here as well. Quality folks aren’t typically going to continue to develop a friendship with someone who refuses to listen to sound advice.
3. Does he have self-control?
Maybe you two were attracted to each other from day one, maybe it came with time. Maybe it still hasn’t shown up (That doesn’t necessarily mean the relationship won’t turn into something wonderful!). If the sparks are there, is he able to create boundaries and respect yours when it comes to physical touch and intimacy? Does he control his temper? Does he control his mouth? The importance of these things is twofold. For one, they will have a huge influence on your life in the future should you stay together. For another, they are indicative of his spiritual life.
4. Is he looking out for me?
This will depend on personality and preferences, but a good man will be looking out for you–it may just come out in different ways. Does he check in on you when he knows you’re carrying a big load at work? Does he pitch in when your to-do list is daunting? My boyfriend loves through acts of service, so he is amazing at looking out for me. He fills up my gas tank, carries snacks in his car in case I get hungry, calls to see if I’m having a good day, helps with the dishes, and lends me his jacket. I’m an old fashioned girl and none of these acts of chivalry escape my notice. Maybe your guy holds you accountable to go to the gym or helps you study before a test. This really comes down to a caring heart, more than a specific action itself.
5. Does he work hard to communicate?
Notice, I don’t ask if he communicates perfectly or if the two of you always have perfect communication! If that’s the case, there are only a few possibilities. He’s either a robot, you’re both robots, or the two of you don’t talk much at all. Miscommunications are inevitable and, with most couples, fairly common. Men and women tend to communicate differently and each person has their own unique perspective that may or may not be shared by their significant other. My boyfriend and I confirm the theory that opposites attract, and that means communication takes work and lots of it. Does he put in the work necessary to communicate? I have found I’m more likely to give up and let it go when we need to finish a tricky conversation or work through an issue. My boyfriend is really good about encouraging me to stick with it, and it’s been very fruitful when we do. Good communication can be difficult, time-consuming, and uncomfortable. Is he willing to see it through?
6. Does he challenge me?
This is something I set near the top of my list before I started dating. I knew I wanted a man who would challenge me when I was wrong, challenge me to lean into Jesus every day, and challenge me to see things differently than I am apt to right at first. I wanted someone who wouldn’t just accept whatever I said as law because he thought I was pretty and he didn’t want me to get upset. Of course, being with someone who is willing to challenge you adds its own…challenges! It’s not always pleasant when my boyfriend disagrees with me or puts up resistance but I always remember that this is literally what I prayed for. I saw plenty of guys who were easy enough to impress and lead along, but I knew I didn’t want to be a monarch in my marriage. I want a strong partnership, and that requires a strong man of God who encourages me to be a strong woman of God.
My boyfriend is not perfect. I knew that from the beginning and it’s been confirmed several times since! And I am certainly full of my own faults. Our relationship is not perfect and I am not even close to being an expert, but I do know I have a good man in my boyfriend. These six things were all on my mind when we moved from “going on dates” to “being a couple” and, I am happy to report, they’re all just as true of him today.
1 Corinthians 15:33 says, “Bad company corrupts good character.” In the same way, when we spend our time and energy on someone of excellent character, they encourage us to become more like them.
Choosing a boyfriend isn’t just about chemistry and compatibility.
In the end, it boils down to the question Christians must ask about every significant decision: “Does this bring me closer to Christ, or push me away from Him?” When you consider the effect a relationship has on your own spiritual life, it becomes a spiritual decision! Dating can be fun and exciting—and if it is, that’s a good sign! But later on, it’s not going to matter so much how he looked at twenty, what he drove, or where he worked. It’s not even going to matter if he was an expert on Power Rangers and you weren’t. (Shocker, I know.) What’s going to matter is this: did you push each other toward Christ? In the end, that’s the question that will truly define the relationship.
44 Questions We Asked Before Getting Engaged from Phylicia Masonheimer
Is he worth marrying? from Jenni Marie
Two Things You Should Know Before You Marry from Natasha Metzler
@BecomingWisdom on Instagram from Caroline Rose Kraft
Photography: JenniMarie Photography