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QUESTION: Dear Mr. Parish,

I hope that you can help to advise me with my relationship.

I started dating a woman named Colleen in November of 2012. We met because we were both instructing fitness at our university. I was pretty wild about her from the first time we met - she was smart, ambitious, driven, and funny! And we both shared a passion for fitness.

The first year or so was pretty happy. We are coming up to our two year anniversary and now I'm miserable and my relationship with her has caused me to sin and has led me away from the God I so love and desire to obey.

She and I became sexually intimate after only two months of dating. I personally had always wanted to wait until marriage and she pushed for sex and I gave it to her. However, I can't blame her or play the victim because it takes two and I went along with it!

She even pushed moving in together and I complied and it's alienated me from my church family and my devout friends.

Now she's pushing getting married and is irritated that I haven't yet put a ring on her finger. I am torn Ryan.

She identifies as  Christian but isn't as devout as I am and frankly, I feel like if it weren't for me she wouldn't be going to church every Sunday. I also just feel like if I had pursued a woman who was as devout as I am, none of this would have happen.

Also, what attracted me to her at first have now become annoying traits. Her fun competition with me has become gloating when she wins in athletics. Her drive that I admired has turned into pushiness and aggression. I don't see in her a Godly wife potential and her personality paired with her apathy about her faith would make her almost impossible to lead towards Jesus as a Christian husband is commanded to.

I want to go back to God and to my roots which is why I'm torn. Is it more christian to man up, honor the commitment I made and the hole I dug myself into by marrying her since I've already had sex with her and moved in with her?

Or is it more Christian to respect the fact that this relationship was doomed to fail and lead me astray from the start, end it respectfully, repent, and then find a more devout girl this time around?

I told my friends that if I do break up with Colleen, I know that in the future I will only pursue Godly devout and pure women and they think that my knowing I'll go for a different kind of woman if given the chance is a big sign in itself.

To make it more complicated, I'm developing feelings for a girl named Nina. I met her on April 3rd and as soon as I met her, I felt that instant connection. She was cute, modest in dress, kind, playful, but also not aggressive at all and is receptive to me but doesn't chase me. A few days after meeting her, I found out that she's also a devout Christian.

I feel guilty because I thought to myself: "I wish I was single and still pure - then I could court Nina!" I can't help thinking these things and I feel guilty because I still have a commitment with Colleen.

I'm in a relationship that's been draining me for months and then suddenly Nina's there in church and I'm sitting next to Colleen, watching Colleen sighing and checking her watch during the service and then looking at Nina taking notes during the sermon and throwing her hands up in prayer.

I try to push away my thoughts about Nina because I want to be a better and more christ-centered man now. And if I DO end things with Colleen, I want it to be because things weren't working, not because I found something that seemed shiny and greener.

What am I supposed to do? I find myself being cold to the point of rude to Nina because I'm trying to keep my own emotions in check and stay disciplined, which I feel is also unfair to her because she's a kind girl who's just being friendly and lovely - and isn't being any more bubbly with me than she is with her parents or her female friends!

She's done nothing wrong and is appropriate with me yet I find myself snapping at her which hurts her feelings and also confuses her since she's done nothing wrong, it's more a result of my feeling guilty about my feelings than anything she's done.

I have quite a conundrum on my hands and I want to do the right thing. Please help!

Sincerely,
Ryan

ANSWER: Ryan, thank you for your question and for providing a good amount of context for the question.  

I really do sympathize with you in this dilemma, and I commend you for seeking to do what is honorable and pleasing to our Master rather than what is easiest and more desirable to you.  This is a good evidence of your love for Him.

One of the reasons it is difficult to answer this question simply and succinctly is that the Scriptures do not deal with your specific situation.  When the Law was given to Israel through Moses and when Jesus gave His commands to His disciples, they did not have the approach to sexuality and relationships that we have today.  What we can do is look at what commands were laid down so that we can discern what God's heart would be in the matter.

Under the Old Testament Law of Moses, God would have commanded that you offer Colleen's father a bride-price and marry her if her father would allow it.  If not, you'd still pay the bride-price (Exodus 22:16-17#.  There would enormously significant cultural reasons for this, of course, because of the way their society dealt with women in the family.  You are not under the Old Testament Law of Moses, nor is our societal situation comparable to that of ancient Israel.  Interestingly, God did not insist that the man who seduces a virgin #which, I understand, is not quite your situation) marry the woman NO MATTER WHAT.  He said it would depend on the father's decision.  The concern in that law seemed to be the care of that woman and her prospects for the future.  

We ARE under the new covenant and the commands of Jesus and the apostles.  They called for repentance from sexual immorality.  It sounds like you have repented of your own sexual immorality, and I hope that you and Colleen are no longer physically intimate.  I believe it's also clear that they would call you to repent about living together.  Again, you seem to realize that you should not have moved in with her.

I have a suggestion that I think will allow you to find some clarity in concrete terms.  I urge you to make decisions about your lifestyle in these two areas.  In your desire to honor the Lord, decide to remain pure physically and live separately.  Approach Colleen about this and see how she responds.  Will she agree that you ought to honor the Lord right now - whatever your past decisions have been?  Let her show you in these clear terms her own willingness to follow your lead.  The conversations that are born of this can perhaps give you opportunity to talk very honestly about the things you've brought up here.  

It seems to me that before you try to find the answer to your big question about whether to stay with Colleen, you ought to deal with the specific things that God has been very clear about.  Trust Him to reveal His will to you in that process.  I'm hoping you will do these things and then contact me again about your bigger question.  Perhaps after you have taken these concrete steps we can further discuss what it might mean about your decision about staying with Colleen.  I trust that God will generously pour out the wisdom that you need to make the very best decision.  If I can be of help to Him and you in the process, I would very much like to be.

I hope to hear from you again soon.

---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------

QUESTION: Dear Mr. Parish,

Unfortunately even before writing to you, I had already approached her about how I wanted to not be sexually intimate again until marriage and also move out and repent. She was livid at first, screaming at me but then she made me feel guilty and told me I didn't love her and have never loved her if that's what I want.

I thought that I should marry her because of what scripture says, but she's the only woman I've been intimate with yet I'm not the first man she's been intimate with.

I think I overlooked these basic things at the beginning because I didn't want to force my religion on her. I realize now that choosing against being unequally yoked isn't forcing anything - it's just choosing someone compatible with me!

I have been praying about this situation. I know that even though Colleen is not a good Christian, God still loves her and she's his daughter. He cares about her and wants her to be safe and happy (along with desiring that she come towards him).

I keep feeling, the more I pray, that it would be more dishonorable to marry her when I know I don't want to be with her anymore at all. I don't believe in divorce and I don't want it to ever even be in my vocabulary, yet with Colleen it is. I keep thinking to myself: "If I'm this miserable now, I can't fathom what it will be like two years from now!"

My heart 1000% knows that I'll be miserable with her. Yet I'm trying to figure out what's the most honorable thing.

And I'm distracted by this other girl. It's gotten to the point where I really care about her and worry when she's walking home alone at night and whenever I hug Colleen now, I think: "I wish she was N!" Would I pursue N if I break it off with Colleen? I don't even know, because my feelings are deep enough for her that I'm no longer selfish and actually think: "She  deserves so much better than an impure Christian."

I already know that I want to remain pure now and not be sexually intimate ever again until I find my wife! And also never live with another woman again. It was a mistake because not only did I disobey God, but this mess of a situation showed me WHY God protects us with these laws in the first place.

Yet Colleen is continuing to mock my faith for this decision. Even though I've carried out these two decisions, it's hurtful and frustrating when she says things to me like: "What, so you've become a wimp now?" That's the difference between us, Mr. Parish. For me, it's a sign of great strength that I'm choosing to try to discipline myself and overcome one of the strongest temptations! But to her, I'm no longer a real "masculine man."

I want to do the right thing, both by God by now saving my purity for my wife and no longer living with a woman ever again, but also by this woman who I committed to. But God has to come first - and I have to wonder if God would want me to be with a woman who regularly mocks my love for Him and tries to steer me away from his love.

And I can't even imagine what it'll be like when I'm trying to raise our children as Christians!

I've pondered these things very much and know that it's important I repent and stop being sexually intimate, regardless of whether or not I stay with her. And I have carried out these decisions. It's hard enough to stop once you've experienced the temptation - it's even harder when I also have her pressure, mockery, and general lack of support.

I do care about this woman, Mr. Parish and there was a time when she and I were really happy. And I do have respect for her - she's an intelligent, driven, funny, and successful woman. But not only am I no longer in love with her, I'm not even sure if I LIKE her anymore. I do still love her, but I feel like my love is more related to what we used to have and not what we've become.

Sincerely,
R

Answer
Ryan, it sounds like you already sense what you're to do.  I cannot find any reasons Scripturally to counsel you against breaking off your relationship with Colleen.  In truth, the benefits to you and to the kingdom seem to point toward prayerfully seeking a godly woman whom you can confidently marry.  

There are few reasons to enter into a life-long commitment with such huge reservations, and I do not see a compelling reason that you should do so.  You can love Colleen the way Jesus intends for you to love her without marrying her.

May the Spirit make your way clear through the Word and the Church!  And may he lead Colleen to Himself in a rich and deep way.

Perhaps my part to play in this is to confirm your understanding and decision.  I hope that has been of help.  Please feel free to continue the conversation further if I can be of any more help.  

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Ryan Parish

Expertise

I can answer just about any question about Christian living, believing that the Biblical revelation is meant to deal with all of life. Though not every modern issue is addressed specifically in the Bible, I feel confident in applying the grand principles of love, submission and Christ-likeness to all issues. I can't answer some questions definitively simply because God has not given detailed information on some matters. I can draw valid conclusions from what God has revealed, though.

Experience

I was raised in the church from my childhood, and have had an interest in God, the Bible and spiritual things from a very early age. At around the age of 15, I felt led to pursue a future in full time ministry. I've been in professional ministry since 2003, but was very active in teaching and encouraging Christians long before that. I preached my first sermon at the age of 15 and have found great joy in teaching God's truths ever since!

Organizations
Pastor of New Hope Community Church; member of the Christian Ministers Association.

Education/Credentials
BA in preaching from Hope International University (Fullerton, CA); full time pastor for five years; continually engaged in reading and studying to further my understanding of Scriptures.

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