In response to my article, Are You Truly Free To Commit To A Relationship?, I received a lot of mail and I wanted to thank all of you who responded and shared your concerns and situations with me. There is one email in particular I wanted to share with you because it discusses a situation that many people are saying they struggle with. It seems some people feel trapped by the dilemma of having strong feelings for someone they know just isn’t right for them. I appreciate the author’s permission to share, and hope this will help you if you find yourself in this predicament.
Up until yesterday I was certain I was free to commit to a new relationship, my last one having been over eight years ago. We were engaged and I was a stupid kid and broke up with him when we went to separate colleges, but I had come to terms with everything.
Then, yesterday, I spent the day with him. We’ve kept in touch over the years and he still considers me to be one of his best friends. I realized I still love him, but he’s not the type of man I want to raise my children with, especially due to some of the things he told me yesterday. He’s emotionally unstable, doesn’t believe in God, despite having been brought up Catholic, and has bought into the lies of the world as far as sexuality goes. What would you suggest I do, other than pray for him—which I’ve started doing—knowing that my love for him is still there and now that I realize I am not free to accept the love of another… I appreciate any advice you can give me!
– Still in Love
Dear Still in Love,
I think the best thing you can do at this point is look at your situation with as much practicality and realism as you can and separate the good from the bad.
On the one hand, you have your emotional love for him, which I have no doubt is very powerful. On the other hand, you readily admit he is emotionally unstable, does not believe in God and is sexually active outside of marriage. So, now that we have those two sides of the situation laid out let’s look at the real issue, which is considering what being married to him would look like.
Please remember that true love is much more than an emotion. It is an act of the will to do good for another person. Married love is wonderful and amazing, not because of the emotions which come and go, but because of the way the spouses treat each other when the emotion of love is not present. They put each other first and when they don’t, that’s when things get difficult. So try to see the two of you in this situation. Knowing what you know about him, how do you think he would treat you when the emotion of love wanes? Do you think he will put you or himself first? Do you believe he would respect your faith in God, or have a hard time with you going to Mass and receiving the sacraments? Would he be open to having a marriage that is open to life, or would he want you to take artificial contraception? It’s questions like these that really need to be thought through.
Let’s say his emotional instability takes over and he makes living together nearly impossible… would you be able to love him through an act of your will?
There is no perfect marriage. Even the happiest couples have their problems. We’re imperfect sinners and we’re going to make mistakes. But how spouses treat each other makes all the difference in the world as to how the couple will weather their storms. And because I would do anything to prevent even one more divorce, I would ask you to strongly consider that this guy is not right for you.
Does this mean he’ll never be right for you? No. Maybe, in fact, you are the one that will help his heart come back to God. It’s certainly possible, but it would be dangerous for you to be in a relationship with him before that happens, so my suggestion is to be friends only and lead by example. If you are meant to be together, you will know it because he will be willing to become the man you want raising your children. Until then, I encourage you to recognize your love at this point is only an emotion and the best thing for you to do is put that in God’s hands and keep dating men whom you can be proud to take home and introduce to your family because they have all the right traits and qualities. Trust me, they’re out there and they’re looking for you.
If you have any questions or situations you would like help with, feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.