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Tip #6: Know when to walk away.  While there’s much to be said for giving things time to develop in a dating relationship, things such as friendship, affection, attraction and relational rhythm. There’s also much to be said for knowing when to walk away.

Remember, the goal of a dating relationship is not to come out on the other side with a husband, although that can happen. The goal is to glorify God throughout the process, and one of the best ways to do that is to submit to His will when it becomes obvious the dating relationship you’re in is not going to lead to a marriage He would choose for you, one in which you are equally yoked with someone who truly loves Jesus and is just as committed to and enthusiastic about a future with you as you are with them.

Where forever is concerned, two out of three won’t cut it, which is why you and the person you’re dating must be honest with one another, admit when the relationship you’re in is only a friendship and nothing more, and mutually agree to walk away from the pursuit of a future together if/when the time comes to do so. When mutual agreement isn’t possible, you still have to do what’s right for you.

How do you know when it’s time to walk away?  Here are a few indicators:

1. He disrespects or mistreats you. If the person you’re dating disrespects or mistreats you, even if your idea of disrespect/mistreatment differs from his, it’s time to break up with him.  Be swift about it.  He may apologize, promise to do better and even do better for a while, but this type of behavior typically worsens over time.

While we’re on the topic of apology, let me clarify something for those of you who are having trouble breaking free from a relationship in which you are being disrespected or mistreated.  Your choice to break up with a man does not equal refusal to forgive him.  Don’t believe any man who tells you that breaking up with him is somehow un-Christian because you’re supposed to forgive and forget.  This is manipulation.  You can forgive a man’s behavior and still allow his behavior to inform the decisions you make.  Do so, always.

2. You are not attracted to him. Men who love Jesus are attractive to women who also love Jesus, at least on some level.  Kinship in Christ often leads to fondness that can lead to physical attraction, but that’s not always the case.  Sometimes, sparks don’t catch or form at all, and that’s okay.  The absence of mutual chemistry in a relationship is not a statement against the aesthetic quality of either person, but a mercifully simple way to discern that two people aren’t suited for marriage—friendship, yes, but not marriage.

3. Investing in the relationship feels more like a chore than a privilege. Romantic relationships take work, but they shouldn’t feel like work.  Oh, sure, you could take a deep breath, gut it up, and make something happen—we women excel at that, and the fact that we can do anything through Christ who gives us strength brings hope to those who are struggling in their marriage (Phil. 4:13)—but, at this stage of the game, you really shouldn’t.  Leave that business up to those who have taken vows and are obliged to remain in their marriage, if not for themselves, then to paint an accurate picture of the permanent relationship between Christ and the Church.

For lack of a more glamorous analogy, dating should feel something like guiding a self-propelled lawn mower.  Creating something desirable might require time, attention and focus, and progression might require a little extra effort on the incline, but the relationship itself should move along largely of its own accord, fueled by the mutual enthusiasm, satisfaction and curiosity of both parties.  If you don’t feel pulled along by the relationship you’re investing in, it may be headed nowhere.

4. The two of you are not on the same spiritual trajectory. Marriage is like a three-legged race.  To get where you need to go happy and whole, you’ve got to move at the same pace and be headed in the same direction, so before you tie yourself to someone else, make sure they can keep up with you spiritually.  That’s not to say they have to know as much as you do.  Not at all.  Some people have had fewer opportunities to learn, experience and grow than others.  They shouldn’t be faulted for lacking what they’ve never been provided.

No, the man you’re dating need only to share your spiritual focus, passion for the things of God and desire to grow spiritually.  If he feels like dead weight where spiritual things are concerned, you find yourself giving constant spiritual pep talks, or you feel as if you have to muster up enough enthusiasm for the both of you where God, the Bible and/or church are involved, he’s probably not meant to be your life-long running buddy.

Granted, walking away is never easy, but understand this: Letting go of a dating relationship you’re not meant to be in is not failure, a defeat or an embarrassment.  On the contrary, it’s a step in the right direction. Walking away takes courage sometimes, but don’t ever stay in a dating relationship just because staying seems easier or to spare feelings.

If walking away is God’s will for you, it’s also God’s will for the man you’ve been dating, and “until death do you part” is a very long time.