OK, I’m about to enter some territory that will likely irritate some and completely offend the rest of you. But I’m going there anyway because I wish someone had been bold enough and loving enough to tell me some hard truth years ago before I wrecked my heart and wasted years in wrong relationships. Knowing what I know now, about how much God loves us and wants the best for us, I can tell you in complete confidence that this is THE TRUE AND TRUSTWORTHY PATH for opposite-sex relationships as a single parent.
1. Wait on God. I’ll be honest, this is HARD. The first time I went online looking for help as a new single parent all that I could find was singles dating sites. There are so many external and internal pressures to get in another relationship right away, but I promise that if you succumb to this you will MISS OUT on all God wants to do in you and through you. God does his best work in us when we are waiting and suffering in what you might call the desert or the “land between” our exit from a marriage or previous relationship and our next relationship. When we position ourselves well during that time and agree to obey and wait on God, he will completely transform us into a person who can attract a worthy mate.
“Promise me, O women of Jerusalem…not to awaken love until the time is right.”
–Song of Songs 2:7
“But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness and all these things will be given to you as well.” –Matthew 6:33
2. Don’t shack up. If you’re already in a relationship and considering moving in together, I have one word of advice for you…STOP! Take a hard look at what you are agreeing to if you enter into this arrangement. First, you are showing your children that the model for opposite-sex relationships is to live with and have sex with people outside of marriage. Second, you are saying that you are fully expecting this to end at some point, which will expose your kids to something therapists call “double abandonment” and cause further devastation to their hearts. Third, there is no practical reason (like more household income or help with the kids) that is important enough to justify compromising your heart and settling for someone who does not value you enough to make a marriage commitment. It leaves both of you in a place of insecurity and resentment of the other. Finally, God will not bless it. He still loves you, but he cannot bless what he has not sanctioned. It is for our protection that he specifically instructs us not to have sex outside of marriage.
“There is a path before each person that seems right, but it ends in death.” –Proverbs 14:12
3. Live the relationship life you want your kids to model. Like I just mentioned above, how you handle opposite-sex relationships is usually going to be modeled by your kids. They will not do what you say, they will do what they see you do. Do you really want to see your kids struggle as teen parents or single parents too? Ask yourself, if they do what I’m doing, how is that going to set them up for life? The good news is, even if you have a relationship history you are not proud of and your kids have been exposed to divorce or break-ups, it is not too late to change that pattern. God is in the business of transformation, and when your children see you seeking and obeying God in this area, and leading them in a new, healthy direction, they will experience the blessing it brings and want to follow it too.
“Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.”
4. Guard your heart. Just because you’re not technically having sex with someone outside of marriage does not mean your heart cannot get entangled in unhealthy relationships. Overcome with loneliness, many single parents find themselves lured into seductive relationships through online dating sites or even texting. This can become anything from an unhealthy habit that steals your focus from God and your kids to a full-blown addiction. The enemy knows just where our hearts are vulnerable and will attempt to gain entry in those areas. When God advises us to guard our heart, he’s telling us to be alert and aware of these subtle attacks that can divert our hearts from him and steal life and joy from us faster than we can blink!
“Guard your heart above all else, for it determines the course of your life” –Proverbs 4:23
“The heart is hopelessly dark and deceitful, a puzzle that no one can figure out. But I, God, search the heart and examine the mind. I get to the heart of the human. I get to the root of things. I treat them as they really are, not as they pretend to be.” –Jeremiah 17:9-10
5. Run from sexual temptation and seductive people. If necessary, establish some groundrules for yourself in areas where you know you are vulnerable. Maybe determine that you will not go out to bars with your other single friends. Maybe decide that you won’t ride in a car alone with another single person of the opposite sex. Maybe you literally need to disconnect your internet because you struggle with pornography. The point is, when God says run from it, he’s serious! Sin always starts in the mind with “I saw” and then progresses to “I wanted” and is eventually acted out in “I took.”
“Run from sexual sin! No other sin so clearly affects the body as this one does. For sexual immorality is a sin against your own body. Don’t you realize that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, who lives in you and was given to you by God? You do not belong to yourself, for God bought you with a high price. So you must honor God with your body.”
–1 Corinthians 6:18-20
“Wisdom will save you from the immoral woman, from the seductive words of the promiscuous woman.” –Proverbs 2:16
“So listen to me, my sons, and pay attention to my words. Don’t let your hearts stray away toward her. Don’t wander down her wayward path. For she has been the ruin of many; many men have been her victims. Her house is the road to the grave. Her bedroom is the den of death.” –Proverbs 7:24-27
6. Allow God to heal your relational brokenness and make you whole. I confess, for at least a year after our separation, I was so consumed with how I had been wronged that it was hard to see, let alone want to deal with, the relational brokenness in my own heart. Until we are ready to get humble and authentic and undergo deep heart surgery in the loving presence of Jesus, we will continue to see wreckage in our lives because we will carry our wounds and brokenness into the next relationship. Jesus has the power to set us FREE of these lies and areas of bondage, so let’s let him!
“And you will know the truth and the truth will set you free.” –John 8:32
“He heals the broken hearted and bandages their wounds.” –Psalm 147:3
7. Have Godly mentors and accountability partners. Part of submitting to God’s authority in this area of our lives means placing ourselves under the leadership of other believers who are more mature than us and who can guide us on the right path. It also means being authentic and confessing our struggles and temptations in this “safe” context so we can be prayed for and led appropriately. I would say that positioning myself around same-sex mentors and accountability partners has been one of THE most significant things that has facilitated my own healing, growth and understanding in this area.
“Whoever walks with the wise becomes wise, but the companion of fools will suffer harm.”
“Good leaders cultivate honest speech; they love advisors who tell them the truth.”
“People who accept discipline are on the pathway to life, but those who ignore correction will go astray.” —Proverbs 10:17
8. Let Jesus be enough for you. Until you can be OK on your own with just you and Jesus, you are probably not OK to be in another relationship. Sometimes we get a little healing or a little understanding and then plunge prematurely into another relationship when at the core we are still not stable and content on our own. God wants to heal us at a core level and make us pure and whole, not leave us stuck with a “manageable” degree of brokenness. If you’ve never had a season of life as an adult where you’ve gone at least one year without being in some kind of relationship, that may be a warning light that you are looking to relationships for the validation and security that you can only get from Jesus. Knowing him and sharing his hope with others gives us everything we need to feel filled and complete.
“Not that I was ever in need, for I have learned how to be content with whatever I have.”
“Let the message about Christ, in all its richness, fill your lives.” –Colossians 3:16
9. Know the non-negotiable qualities you’re looking for in a future mate. When you have a clear vision of what you are looking for, it will be easier to recognize someone God is bringing to you and to say no to the offers of those who do not align with what you know is God’s best for you. Some great qualities to look for in a healthy mate are someone who is secure in their identity in Christ, who is actively submitting to God’s authority in multiple areas of life, who is passionately pursuing their purpose in life, who has a track record of faithfulness (not to be confused with perfection), and who is well-trusted by others who know them well.
“Don’t team up with those who are unbelievers. How can righteousness be a partner with wickedness? How can light live with darkness?” –2 Corinthians 6:14
“Who can find a virtuous and capable wife? She is more precious than rubies. Her husband can trust her, and she will greatly enrich his life.” –Proverbs 31:10-11
“Charm is deceptive, and beauty does not last; but a woman who fears the Lord will be greatly praised.” –Proverbs 31:30
10. Trust God to bring you a mate…or not. Ideally, we should all come to a place of maturity in our faith where we are able to say we want what God wants more than we want what we want. God will withhold nothing good from us, but we have to trust him to decide what that “good” will look like. For some of us, it may mean a future marriage. But for others of us it may not. There is no shame in that. In fact, the Apostle Paul was single his entire life and ended up being the most influential man in the Kingdom of God next to Jesus himself (who was also single his entire life). Ultimately, the richness of our relationship with Jesus is what defines us and completes us, not our marital status.
“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways submit to him and he will make your paths straight.” –Proverbs 3:5-6
“But God gives to some the gift of marriage, and to others the gift of singleness.”
–1 Corinthians 7:7
“At the resurrection we’re beyond marriage. As with the angels, all of our ecstasies and intimacies then will be with God.” –Matthew 22:30