It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to know relationships are complicated. Any time there are two imperfect hearts attempting to grow together, there are going to be some bumps along the way. Yet no matter what your relationship history, there is always hope for the kind of relationship God designed His children to enjoy.
God designed relationships because God is a relational being. The entire story contained in the Bible is the story of God’s redemptive love, seeking to save people and draw them into a relationship with Him—even when those same people hurt and hate Him. So when God gives us outlines for healthy relationships, we can trust that His wisdom is good and useful in our lives.
With this in mind, there are some things healthy relationships are not.
1. They don’t get trapped by jealousy.
“For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there will be disorder…” (James 3:16)
Where trust is absent in a relationship, jealousy quickly takes its place. Healthy relationships seek to keep the line of communication open, establishing a foundation of trust that defeats jealousy before it can begin.
2. They aren’t dictated by insecurity.
“And you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” (John 8:32)
Jealousy is almost always the product of an insecure heart. Insecurity causes turmoil in dating relationships. Healthy relationships are not dictated by insecurity or by the emotions produced in an insecure heart. Instead, healthy relationships have security and confidence in a God-given identity. This kind of objective security allows that trust foundation to stay in place, based on the truth of God’s word, which frees guys and girls to be the most authentic versions of themselves.
3. They don’t communicate solely through text and Facebook.
“Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time…” (Ephesians 5:15)
There is definitely a place for technology-based communication in a relationship, especially long-distance. But healthy relationships cannot develop when communication is limited to text and online chats. The protection of a computer or phone screen limits the ability to communicate emotion and prevents relationships from deepening that trust connection. While there is a place for texting, phone calls and face-to-face communication help build a deeper bond as that relational part of human nature is satisfied.
4. They don’t move too fast.
“Love is patient and kind…” (1 Corinthians 13:4)
Yes, relationships are exciting! It’s so easy to jump right in and feel ready to take on the world as you hold your partner’s hand. But in healthy relationships, while couples still experience those emotions, people take time to really get to know each other. Never underestimate the value of time. It’s natural to put your “best face forward” in any dating relationship, but those facades fall away as the months go by. Cultivating patience permits couples to be honest and authentic with one another.
5. They aren’t physically focused.
“How can a young man keep his way pure? By guarding it according to your word.” (Psalm 119:9)
This one is tough. Part of God’s design for marriage was for emotion to lead to a physical bond; it’s part of what binds couples together in marital intimacy. But before marriage, we are called to honor the preciousness of our sexuality. That means setting limits on physical intimacy while dating. Healthy relationships are not physically focused. Very often, when the physical takes precedence in a relationship, the important things—growing in trust and spiritual intimacy—fall by the wayside. Healthy relationships set limits to honor Christ’s design for marriage and keep that pure foundation intact.
If you’re wondering “How far is too far?” check out this post.
6. They don’t alienate girl and guy friends.
“Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another.” (Proverbs 27:17)
We’ve all had that friend who started dating…and we never saw her again. In healthy relationships, couples do their best to “make new friends, and keep the old.” Spending time with your girlfriends (or, for men, their guy friends) helps create space in a dating relationship and can help couples appreciate one another more.
7. They don’t ignore the family.
“Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long in the land that the Lord your God is giving you.” (Ex.20:12)
While not everyone’s family relationships look the same, as far as is possible, healthy dating relationships include—not exclude—the families of the couple. Where there are Christian parents available, this can provide greater accountability and encouragement. But even including unbelieving parents and siblings cultivates honesty and openness, and in some cases, can act as a light for Christ to family members who do not know the Lord.
8. They won’t hold you back.
“For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.” (Jeremiah 29:11)
Healthy relationships will refine you. Healthy relationships encourage you and build you up. They don’t tear you down, hold you back or prevent you from achieving what God has laid on your heart to do.
9. They don’t see spiritual things—like devotions and church—as a burden.
“Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers. For what partnership has righteousness with lawlessness?” (2 Corinthians 6:14)
While we should always be ready to share the gospel with guys and girls alike, when it comes to dating relationships, healthy ones are made of two people who are spiritually equal. This means both the guy and the girl take their faith seriously. While it might be tempting to “salvation date,” remember that the heartache of being with someone who does not love the Lord is deep, and the consequences can be painful. This doesn’t mean we give up on the person. It means we continue to lift them up in prayer as a friend, remembering that it is Christ—not us—who can save them.
10. They will never pull you away from the Lord—they draw you closer to Christ.
“Let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith.” (Hebrews 10:22)
Finally, healthy relationships push you closer to Jesus. While every couple is made up of two imperfect people, two people who love the Lord will be equipped to show one another love as God defines it: trustworthy, honest, authentic and everlasting.