Hoping in Hannibal

Dear Gabby with Guest Columnist, Tamara Jane

Dear Tamara,
For about two months, I have been dating I am dating this guy, Ryan, who my parents really like. He treats me like he really does care. His name is Ryan and my parents love him. He treats me like he really does care. He comes to my church now every week and this Friday, he and his mom are staying the night in Jeff City to come and watch me at my state XC meet. We hang out a lot and we love to spend time with friends and family.

Anyway, I really admire your example – your gentle words and kind heart – and I would like to know how you have made thinks work with your boyfriend. I thought I should ask how to put down the rules to keep ourselves true to each other.

Hoping He’s the One in Hannibal

Dear Hoping,

I’m honored that you came to me for advice, and as someone to confide/trust in. I’m beaming with joy not only from honor, but from the story that you’ve shared with me. It sounds like you have a good guy – so happy for you!

I admire you for seeing the need to “lay down the law.” Not many girls these days view purity as something sacred and beautiful. Glad you still have your head on straight.
First, you need to give Ryan a heads-up about what you expect from him, yourself and your relationship. Make a list of boundaries and guidelines. Have him make one too, discuss what’s on your lists, combine the ones you both agree on, pray about the list, and show it to your parents or close friends to help keep you accountable. Make sure your list reflects your devotion to God and your morals.

One good guideline for any list is don’t be alone. I know there are times when you’re feel like you need to talk about something private, and in those times, you could go outside in an open area where people can see you from windows, or to a public park. Another list must is to pray – a lot – separately, and together. Other suggestions are to get involved in your youth group. Establish yourselves and your relationship in group settings. Go on double dates if you need more intimacy than a group provides.

Secondly, recognize that maintaining purity is tough and you’re going to need an escape plan for when the boundaries get crossed or guidelines violated and things get hot or risky. Try to avoid those sketchy situations all-together.

Sounds like you’re dating with a future in mind, and in that case, what you really need to do is get to know each other better. Some ways to do this are playing 20 questions, writing each other letters, and doing things together that put you in drastically different contexts. Try going somewhere where it’s appropriate for him to be on his best gentlemanly behavior, for example. You are a precious gift and he should treat you as such. Let him open doors, take your tray, slide your chair out, etc. Giving him opportunities to do these things will tell you a lot about him.

If you observe or hear from others things that make you cringe, talk about them with Ryan. There may be some completely logical or mitigating reason that you could never know without open communication.
But if I could give you one piece of advice that will aid in here and now in this relationship, as well as with your mate throughout your life it’s this: MEN NEED A LOT OF POSITIVE REINFORCEMENT. They are tough on the outside, but tender on the inside. They need you to say “Good job”, “I noticed you doing this.. .awesome”, “Way to be”, “I appreciate that” and 100 others way to say, “You’re my hero.” In addition to almost constant (though sincere) praise, he needs to feel needed. Men like to “fix” things, so figure out ways in which he excels and then seek out ways for him to “help” you using those skills.

Finally, though I believe there is a God-given place in your heart for a man, don’t forget about your girlfriends. No guy can replace girlfriends and if he tries to be everyone to you, that should be a red flag. Likewise, you should not expect him to be everything to you. He doesn’t like to go the mall or watch chic flicks? That’s normal, and for those things, God created girlfriends.

That’s a lot to consider and there’s a lot more that could be said – a lot more to figure out as you go. Keep me posted as to how this works out.

Blessings!

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