Have you ever had a friend that was so obsessively focused on the good elements of her unhealthy relationship that she was unable to notice all of the red flags? No matter how much you tried to warn her, she always had a rationalization for why she stayed. Or, have you been that girl?
Women have an innate ability to see the good in others. I believe this is part of their feminine genius. They can perceive the sufferings of others with extraordinary intuitiveness and empathy, and can see the potential in people that others might not see in themselves. However, one’s greatest strength is often one’s greatest weakness.
How do you know if you’re making excuses and dating a guy who only exists in your imagination? Here’s my top-ten list of the rationalizations women make when they’re in dead-end relationships:
1. “He’s really sweet.”
Being sweet is not difficult. Most house pets can do the same. The real question is: Why is he sweet? Is he sweet because you deserve it, or is he sweet because of what he wants to get in return?
2. “We’ve been together so long.”
The length of a relationship does not determine its value. To cling to a bad relationship would be like saying, “I know I’m driving in the wrong direction, but we’ve already gone ten miles. Let’s just keep going until we circle the globe.” Turn around. Just because a relationship is hard to leave, this does not mean that you should stay. After all, the longer you drag on a bad relationship, the longer it will take to heal.
3. “I already gave myself to him.”
Having slept with someone is not evidence that you should stay in the relationship. It’s just a reason why you find it difficult to leave. When you sleep with someone, you create a bond that is not easily broken. Part of this is due to a neuro-chemical called oxytocin, which is released in your brain during sex. It causes a massive emotional bond, impairs your critical thinking abilities, helps you to forget bad memories of the guy, and causes you to trust him more. All of this is great in marriage, but it’s a recipe for disaster outside of marriage. That’s because you lose your ability to clearly see the value of a relationship. It binds you and blinds you. You downplay the negative, until it’s too late to ignore.
4. “We’re not always doing it. There’s more to our relationship than sex.”
My wife once wrote, “One clue that you’re doing something wrong is when you start spending a lot of time trying to convince yourself that what you’re doing is right.” If a woman is sleeping with a man she’s not married to, she may justify it by comparing herself favorably to those who are having meaningless hookups. Since she’s not always in bed with her boyfriend, and they have other common interests, she assumes that the relationship is a balanced one. The idea that they’re “not always doing it” distracts her from the fact that they should not be doing it at all.
5. “My family really likes him.”
To test how much your parents like your boyfriend, imagine the look on their faces if you disclosed the full truth about your relationship. If the image of your dad running to find his shotgun comes to mind, odds are you’re parents like only who they think he is.
6. “But we really love each other.”
In the words of Saint John Paul II, “Love is not merely a feeling. It is an act of the will that prefers, in a constant manner, the good of others to the good of one’s self.” Simply put, if you love one another, you do what is best for each other. Lead each other to heaven.
7. “He doesn’t pressure me to have sex.”
He may not be pressuring you to have sex, but he’s probably not pressuring you to be pure, either. More than likely, he’ll take everything you’ll give him. I remember one high school guy asking me, “Do you ever tell the girls that we sometimes tell them we’re okay not having sex so that they’ll give it to us?” Players know that women are more likely to sleep with them if the woman perceives that she’s freely choosing it. She feels honored that he’s not pressuring her, and this lowers her inhibitions. But even if the girl is the one who urges him, or the decision is mutual, this does not make the sexual activity moral, or the relationship healthy.
8. “We both agree with it.”
If mutual consent made any sexual act moral, then even prostitution could be acceptable. What couples often refuse to see is that sexual activity involves more than the two of them. Their children could be created, their parents could be devastated, and their future spouses could be affected. But most importantly, they are ignoring God, who is the author of love. This is why St. Augustine defined lust as “that affection of the mind that aims at the enjoyment of one’s self and one’s neighbor without reference to God.”
9. “He’d be devastated if we broke up.”
If your relationship is unhealthy, then you’ll end up devastated if you stay. A man who cannot stand on his own two feet without you is not the man who you want to marry. Such a dependent man will not make a good husband and father. Therefore, his dependency is not a reason to remain, but evidence that you should leave.
10. “He’ll change.”
My wife and I once met a woman who dated a man who had some personal problems, but she always hoped he would change. Now, after a decade of marriage, they’re divorced because things only grew worse with time. All too often, women romanticize about the future so that they won’t have to focus on today. If you want to think about the future, ask yourself, “Am I content with this kind of man raising my children?” Give your kids the best, and don’t ever date a guy hoping he’ll change. It’s unfair to him and to you. Besides, it’s not your job to be his messiah.
I’m not sure how many of these points you recognized, but I hope that you’ll be brave enough to consider if they’re at work in your relationship. If you recognized some of these warning signs in your life, don’t be afraid that you’ll never find a better guy. God knows well the plans he has in mind for you, but sometimes we need to let go of what we think we want in order to receive what we really deserve.
Jason Evert founded chastityproject.com has spoken on six continents to more than one million people about the virtue of chastity. He is the author of more than ten books, including How to Find Your Soulmate without Losing Your Soul and Theology of the Body for Teens.