Man with fingers in ears

Listen to other people – or follow your heart?

‘My boyfriend and I have just got engaged – I’m madly in love with him and I believe God has told me he’s the one,’ said the Facebook message. How lovely! I got ready to offer my congratulations. She continued… ‘However, my friends and family think I’m making a big mistake. Should I listen to them or follow my own heart?’

Ah. Complicated. But many of us can relate to this dilemma.

As life experiences go, being dumped without warning by my fiancé after eight years was up there with the death of my mother. I was utterly devastated. So I was shocked by the reaction of those around me. My friends struggled to hide their relief at his departure. My family were practically organising a party to celebrate the split. Even our vicar reckoned I’d ‘dodged a bullet’.

Once the dust had settled and I could think more clearly, I could see my fiancé wasn’t actually very good for me. Apparently, everyone else had spotted this before I did. When we were together, I’d have insisted we were soul mates. But now? I’m SO glad I didn’t marry him. It was indeed a lucky escape.

When we’re in a relationship, we’re often too close to see things clearly, especially if we’re still in the fog of infatuation. Warning signs are minimised and concerns about the future dismissed. Sometimes it takes someone outside the situation to see the fault-lines. After my experience, I swore that from then on, I would take seriously the concerns of those who love me, instead of turning a blind eye to red flags and declaring, ‘Other people don’t know him like I do.’

Of course, other people don’t always have our best interests at heart. Sometimes, friends and family will take against a potential partner unfairly. I’ve known couples who were told, ‘It’ll never last’ or ‘They’re not good enough for you’ because the person wasn’t of the desired class, age or colour. Some of those couples have gone on to have long and happy marriages. I’ve also seen friends have their relationships sabotaged out of spite and jealousy. So ignoring our own convictions simply to please others can be a grave error.

However, if we know from experience that our friends and family want the best for us, I believe we’d be wise to listen to their concerns. We owe it to ourselves to consider their opinions carefully and pray through them, asking God to give us clarity. It can be a catastrophic error to be blinded by infatuation, a desperate desire to get married and have children, or the belief that God has chosen this person for us. It’s very easy to be convinced that something is meant to be when the truth is we’re just high on emotions.

If we’re struggling, chatting it through with an objective counsellor can be helpful. Working through a book such as Are You Right For Me? Seven Steps To Getting Clarity And Commitment In Your Relationship by Andrew G Marshall (Bloomsbury, £6.99) can also help us spot potential pitfalls in a relationship (as well as think clearly through our concerns if we’re irrationally fearful or unsure about commitment).

A kind and mature partner will be understanding and supportive of our need to be absolutely sure before we walk down the aisle – after all, marriage is one of the most important and life-shaping decisions we’ll ever make. If they protest or sulk about it, that’s a bad sign in itself.

If, after listening to the concerns of our nearest and dearest, and thinking through the issues carefully, we still honestly believe that our partner is right for us and will make a good spouse, then we can move forward with more confidence.

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