Here’s a question I have pondered in raising daughters and helping them think through how to guard their hearts —
This question comes out of some mom/daughters bedtime talks.
But just in case you’re wondering why there would even be a question like that, here’s the background:
Before marriage comes engagement, before engagement comes courtship or dating, and before that comes “liking.”
Most girls want to get married. But for many, along the way toward marriage, they forget all about guarding their heart.
What usually happens with teenagers is … well, it’s kind of like a surgeon who starts learning how to do heart surgery by practicing on real people.
Nobody wants to have a broken heart. But then why do so many young people go around breaking each other’s hearts? That’s not a good way to learn about relationships. It’s like floundering, stumbling around and hurting each other as a means to figuring out how to find true love.
In an effort to avoid all this heartbreak, many people have advocated courtship rather than dating. That can be a very good thing. But it can also cause problems and confusion.
What if young men and women are afraid to even talk to each other unless they’re in a courtship? But if you try to just be friends and get to know each other before deciding whether to start a courtship, there are still hearts involved.
So, backing up to liking someone, there are some things a girl can do to examine her own heart, and hopefully avoid a lot of unnecessary heartbreak.
I am only addressing the girl’s side of it here, maybe because I have three daughters and only one son. Hopefully, another time I can write something more specifically for my son.
Having the Right Foundation
One very significant thing for us, which is a foundation to everything else, is a real relationship with God through Jesus Christ. We believe that He is the One who loves us more than we could ever imagine, and He is the One who helps us most in this area of relationships and in every area of life.
So, with God’s love and wisdom as the foundation, desiring to guard your heart, but at the same time recognizing that liking someone is a valid stage that comes way before actually getting married, when is it safe to like a guy?
It’s not real simple, yet it’s not too complicated either. I came up with 10 ways to know if you’re at the point where you could like a guy but still be guarding your heart.
Some of these points may seem very obvious, but I do have a reason for saying them, because of what I have observed either in my own life or in the lives of young women I have known over the years.
#1 – Be at least 16 years old.
Different people mature at different rates. You may be (or at least think you are) pretty mature at 15, but trust me, when you’re 17 you’ll look back and think you’ve learned a lot in the last two years. So, having lived a few multiples of 16 myself, here’s why I’m saying this…
Before you’re 16, you’re less likely to know what qualities to look for in a young man.
Also, if you’re younger than 16, whoever you like might also be under 16, which means he would also still have a lot of maturing to do.
Or he may be older, in which case there may be too much of an age difference between you and him. When you’re younger, age differences are greater, but as you get older, age doesn’t matter as much. So if you’re 20 and he’s 23, you’re close in age. But if you’re 15 and he’s 18, that’s a big difference.
#2 – You have to know the fellow.
This probably sounds very obvious. But really, I know someone who thought she would marry a celebrity-type person that she didn’t even know personally. From what she knew of him as a public figure, he seemed like a great guy. But if you’ve only seen someone on a stage or a screen, then no, it’s not safe to like him.
You would just be setting yourself up for heartache when nothing ever happens, especially if you never even get a chance to meet the guy!
And besides that, you’re keeping yourself from noticing young men around you whom you do know.
#3 – He has to know you.
If he doesn’t know you, even if you think you know him, you’re setting yourself up for disappointment.
How could you know someone who doesn’t know you? Well, I admit that’s not quite realistically possible. But the danger is in convincing yourself that you do know someone who doesn’t know you.
A girl could sort of observe a guy at a distance. Well, maybe even more than “sort of.” She may be watching him a lot, seeing what kind of person he is, what his interests are, how he relates to other people, what other people think of him … and she may find out a lot about him. But she may be so afraid to talk to him, or not have much opportunity to talk to him, and he may be so oblivious to her, that he doesn’t even really know her.
Don’t just daydream or imagine “what if….” Live in reality, and don’t let yourself like someone who doesn’t really even know you.
Now I’m not saying that this type of situation has never ended in an actual relationship developing, and eventually marriage. You could probably find some exception to this advice — some young woman who greatly admired a young man who didn’t know who she was at first. But be very, very careful. I would not advise risking heartache just because you can think of one person for whom this advice did not apply.
#4 – He needs to love God most of all.
As you observe how he lives, what he does, what he talks about, how he interacts with people, how he spends his money, etc., try to discern if he is putting God first, and if he is also putting others before himself.
Only God ultimately knows a person’s heart, but we can tell a lot about what’s in a person’s heart by the way they act and what they talk about.
It’s not enough to just go to church on Sunday. He needs to be sincerely following Jesus, spending time each day reading God’s Word, being humble before God and others.
In fact, humility is a very good clue to a person’s character. Pride is definitely a big red flag.
#5 – Consider who he is and what he’s like.
It would be a really good idea to prayerfully make a list of qualifications that you’re looking for in a husband.
Some of these characteristics will be general — like he’s good with little kids, or he’s careful about how he spends his money.
Others will be very specific to your own personality and interests — like he’s musical, or he likes hiking.
These are the things you personally would like to see in your future husband, and your list will be unique to you. (As one of my daughters said, “I don’t want to have to teach a guy to ride a horse.”)
Get some input from your parents on your list. They might think of some things you hadn’t though of, whether it be general character traits or something specific based on how they know you and your own gifts, abilities, and needs.
Then, if there is someone you might be interested in, take a good look at each characteristic that you have already written down, and see how well he fits your list.
Of course, no one is perfect, but hopefully you’re not making your list so demanding that someone would have to be perfect in order to qualify. We are all growing. There may be areas that he’s working on and things he’s learning. Look at the direction he’s moving in, and what his desires are.
Take your list very seriously, but don’t ever think that your future husband has to measure up to all of your expectations all the time.
You want to guard your heart in who you even start to like, but at the same time know that when you’re married, you need to encourage your husband and build him up as he continues to grow in many areas.
One thing on your list should be that he is an encouraging person, because whoever you marry, you’re going to want him to help you in your areas of weakness as well!
#6 – Get to know his family.
If at all possible, it would be best to get to know his family. You’ll know a lot more about a person if you know their family, and see how they relate to their parents, siblings, etc.
If it’s hard to get a chance to meet them, at least see how he talks about them — if he’s respectful and kind in whatever he says about them.
Even if there might be some issues in his family, the way he talks about them to other people should still be respectful.
#7 – Your parents should know him.
Your parents should also know him. If your parents have any concerns about him, then no, it’s not safe to like him.
You don’t have to make a big deal about this. In fact, it’s probably better if you don’t at this stage (before he has even expressed any special interest in you).
You may or may not want to tell your parents that you kind of might be interested in a certain person. You’re not asking them to get out a magnifying glass and examine him, at least not yet.
Just keep an ear open for any concerns they may express. Parents can typically be pretty expressive if they have any real concerns, particularly regarding young men who are about the age of their daughters.
On the other hand, they can be pretty expressive about what they admire as well. So listen to what they might say about him.
If there comes a point when the young man does express some interest in you, your parents are probably going to be even more observant.
But before that, take a look at their expressions when they’re around him, see if they enjoy talking with him … casual things like that.
#8 – Be sure you can be yourself around him.
Treat him like you would any other friend.
If you’re having a hard time being who you really are around other people, then you may not be at a point where it’s safe to like anyone right now.
At the same time, don’t overthink this. It’s normal for girls to have some insecurities and to be hard on themselves or to compare themselves with others. Don’t do that either.
Accept the fact that you’re not perfect, even in how you interact with other people. Things you want to say may not always come out the right way. Sometimes you may not even know what to say.
But the caution is, don’t be too far on one side or another. Here’s what I mean:
Don’t be so afraid to talk that you are literally silent in groups of people. But again, don’t get hung up on your insecurities, and don’t condemn yourself for not being more outgoing. Give yourself some grace. Work on it, and as you grow more, it will get easier.
But on the other hand, don’t be the kind of person who always tries to draw attention to yourself. That’s even worse. People who try to draw attention to themselves are not only insecure, they’re broadcasting their insecurity to everyone around them!
Just be real.
Don’t be afraid to talk to him, but don’t be the one always starting a conversation.
Being too far on one side (silent) or another (drawing attention to yourself) are both symptoms of the same thing — thinking too much about yourself and not enough about other people. If this seems to be a problem for you, talk to someone (like your mom) who can help you, and work on it … before you let your heart start liking a particular fellow.
#9 – Care more about him than about a relationship.
Pray that God will help him to draw closer to Him and to be all that God wants him to be.
Continually give your feelings for him to God, and trust God for what is best for you and for him.
This is a constant thing. It can be hard, but if you’re really struggling with holding onto him rather than giving him to God, then it isn’t safe to like him, or any guy, yet.
A good marriage is always focused on God first, and the two people put each other before themselves. Don’t ever forget that.
So in this time of not even knowing if there will ever be a relationship with a particular young man, care more about him and his relationship with God than about any possible relationship you may ever have with him.
Take everything to God in prayer. And His peace will guard your heart.
#10 – Be actively preparing for the responsibilities of adulthood.
Ask yourself how ready you are for the responsibilities of adulthood. Don’t spend all, or even most, of your time thinking about the future as if it’s a lot different from the present and you can’t wait till the future.
Make a list of characteristics you want to describe yourself, and things you want to do or know before you get married.
Ask God to help you with these things, and do your part to work on them.
Keep focusing on God and your relationship with Him.
Develop your friendships with other young ladies you know, and especially your own sisters.
Have frequent talks with your mom.
Don’t let “liking” someone distract you from being all God wants you to be right now, or from doing what you need to do now to prepare for your future, whatever that future may hold.
So… how do you control whether you like someone or not?
If you have the attitude that you’re just going to fall in love, and it’s inevitable, and you can’t do anything about it, you’ll be in serious danger of falling out of love.
Love is a commitment, an act of the will, regardless of feelings.
So while you still have time, while you’re still at the stage of “like,” think about it, pray about it, and act on what you know is right. Keep putting God first, and others before yourself. Pray for wisdom, trust God to help you do what’s right, and let Him guard your heart.
He is the One who loves you most!
Feel free to leave a comment below — What do you think? Do you have any other suggestions? Any lessons from experience?