Cultivating Commitment: Six Ways to Show Honor in Your Relationship

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Some of you may have read my most recent post about my college classmate Scott and how he honored his college girlfriend, the woman who went on to become his future wife.

Scott was an amazing person, friendly and kind and as such had lots of friends, both male and female. While I don’t know the specifics of his relationship, I do know that many at his memorial service spoke of the love he had for his wife and of how he, at his young age, taught them a lot about marriage and love. In the post from last week, I shared how he honored his girlfriend while she was away and another girl liked him.

In the same spirit, I thought we could talk today about how we can honor (esteem, respect, show integrity toward) our partners when we’re in a committed relationship.

Honoring your partner is not about control or manipulation; that is fear-based. Honoring your partner is about respect and love. The fruits of it are trust, peace, and freedom—and a relationship that others feel safe in as well.

So what are some ways we can honor our partner?

  1. Ask God for wisdom and discernment.

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” —Philippians 4:6–7 (NIV)

I pray for wisdom a lot, especially in dating! While I consider myself a loyal, committed person by nature, I’m also a very friendly person who loves to encourage. And I’m also very in touch with emotions and feelings (hello, relationship blogger!). So I do my best to put these gifts “under Jesus,” especially when it comes to other men.

Good questions to ask yourself when you’re trying to discern a situation:

  • Will this choice serve my partner?
  • Is this conversation honoring my partner? Would I be okay with my partner hearing it?
  • Will this activity honor my partner?
  • Would I be okay with my partner seeing this text or messenger conversation? Why or why not?
  • Is this relationship honoring my partner? Does my partner know about this friendship? Does my partner have concerns about it?

Overall, pay attention to any checks in your spirit when doing something—a little tug to stop talking or a feeling that something is a little “off.” This is often the Holy Spirit trying to get our attention.

2. Discuss boundaries regarding opposite-sex relationships.

Some people think discussing ways to protect your relationship reeks of control or possessiveness. I think it’s quite the contrary. Setting boundaries together can lead to freedom and peace of mind, with less fear-based responses and outbursts. It’s more about respecting your partner and loving them well.

I would suggest letting your partner know you’d like to have this discussion and then take a day or two to think through and pray about these boundaries. Then come together, starting with prayer, and discuss. Try to remain calm and work through these together. If you can’t, realize that you might just not be compatible in your definitions of fidelity and may have to move on. But also resist knee-jerk reactions. We’ve all been hurt in relationships, and we may just need a couple of days to process things in prayer and revisit the conversation.

Every couple has their own boundaries when it comes to opposite-sex friendships. You might consider things like:

  • Is it okay for us to have one-on-one lunches or dinners with our opposite-sex friends?
  • What are some topics we should try to avoid with our opposite-sex coworkers and friends? (Relationship problems is a biggie.)
  • Is it okay to text for fun with opposite-sex coworkers? Or just for plans and such?
  • Do any of my opposite-sex friendships concern you? Why?

Even Kristen Bell, half of one of my favorite celebrity duos (have you seen their “Africa” video—you must!!!), had some trust issues to work through in the first years of her relationship. I like how she and now-hubby Dax Shepard found a way together to diffuse these feelings and develop boundaries that worked for them. While Dax did not want to be told who he could be friends with, he encouraged Kristen to tell him what her fears were so they could discuss them. In Kristen’s case, she was fearful that Dax would be the person one particular female friend would call when she had a flat tire. Said Bell, “‘to me, that means you’re a man in her life. That makes me feel like I’m less of a woman in your life.’ The minute I vocalized that and he said he would tell her to call someone else, it evaporated.” [1]

  1. Have accountability in your life.

I’m a huge fan of building accountability into your life. Same-gender accountability partners and mentors for couples can really help us when we’re confused over a situation in our relationship and don’t know what to do. Of course, we should always try to go to God first, but having people in our lives we trust is a godsend. We are His hands and feet!!!

“Where there is strife, there is pride, but wisdom is found in those who take advice.” —Proverbs 13:10 (NIV)

Word of caution:

While we shouldn’t be afraid of those of the opposite-sex and should seek healthy, positive relationships with them, we need to be careful whom we’re seeking for advice. Many emotional affairs have started with guys and girls discussing their relationship problems with one another, to vent or to seek advice. When you start wanting to share your life more with another man or woman than your significant other or start to feel like this other person understands you more, you’re stepping into some dangerous territory.

Listen, if you’re dating, you’re not married yet. And you may decide in time that you’re not compatible. But honoring your partner as best you can while you’re in a relationship is #goals and cultivates seeds that will take you into your future marriage relationship.

  1. Give your partner your first fruits.

A sweet piece of marriage advice I held onto (which I think also applies to committed relationships) is to give your partner your first fruits. He or she should be the first person to hear your good news or your bad news when you need someone to talk to. They’re your “top person.”

  1. Honor your partner in conversation.

While there are times we legitimately need wisdom on a relationship situation, we should do our best to honor our partner in conversations with people.

I’ll never forget the time Justin butt-dialed me after a fight in which I had LASHED OUT at him. While I had some reason to be upset, I reacted with volcanic eruption on a Mount St. Helens scale! When I listened to the voice mail, I realized soon enough this was not a planned call to me. He was talking to a woman he was delivering food to. I listened with interest and fear. What was he going to say??? The woman asked about me, and while she must have determined from his face that things were strained, she reiterated that relationships were work, and my man agreed: “You said it, not me.” But then my man honored me. That’s all the negative he said. He could have gone into a full-scale litany of how crazy I had just acted and all the swear-word lava I had just spewed through the phone, but instead he told her that he loved me, I was a great girl, and I was good for him. Then he said he had to go. Granted, I’m sure he said it through gritted teeth, but I felt honored. He could have said a lot of things, and I kinda deserved them, but he didn’t linger in the conversation. Though cringing to hear this exchange, it built trust for me in him.

  1. Don’t make assumptions—communicate.

We’ve all been hurt before—all of us. And sometimes we filter things through the eyes of the past, through the eyes of previous boyfriends who cheated on us or who made fun of us for our bellies (I seriously had a boyfriend who would poke my belly and make the Pillsbury Doughboy sound—not cool, dude. Not cool. Most of the time I could laugh it off, but it happened a few too many times …). Anyways, we can carry this baggage into current relationships, and misunderstandings or misperceptions can occur.

This is why it’s important to communicate with your partner. Sometimes, it is good to go to a girlfriend (girls) or guy friend (guys) to talk you off the crazy ledge first. (Thanks girlfriends!!!) But ultimately, if something is bothering you, just talk it out. As calmly as possible, my fellow Italians and emotional volcano types.

In Conclusion …

While most articles about cultivating commitment are geared toward married couples, we can still seek to honor our relationships at the deeper dating or courting stages, even when in early dating. Ask God and those whose relationships you trust for wisdom. We don’t live in a world in which commitment—and the hard work of loving someone—is honored as much anymore. But we can change these patterns, one relationship at a time.

Commitment is cool!!! Bumper sticker? T-shirt?

In my relationship, Justin and I are both friendly people who love to encourage. We have some opposite-sex buddies. We get excited about people and life—it’s part of the reason we love each other. Neither of us wants to dim the other’s light. With prayer and communication—lots of communication—we are learning the boundaries that work for us and that honor and protect our relationship.

I hope you have a beautiful week and that this post gives some food for thought. I am definitely not a certified relationship counselor—just sharing lessons I learn along the way and things I wish someone had shared with me. Lots of love!!!

“Freedom is not the absence of commitments, but the ability to choose—and commit myself to—what is best for me.” —Paulo Coelho, The Zahir

[1] Monica Corcoran Harel, “Kristen Bell,” Redbook, August 2016.

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