Mean Boyfriends

My boyfriend and I have been dating for almost a year and we are so in love. We do everything together, and he always brings me flowers and other small presents. The problem is that sometimes he acts a little mean in front of other people and it really embarrasses me. He’ll jokingly tell me to shut up, or he’ll throw my food away before I’m finished and joke that I don’t need the extra calories. I don’t understand why he does that because he’s normally the perfect guy. Is there something I can change about myself to make him be nicer around his friends, or do I just need to be tougher and not let it bother me?

– Embarrassed in Alabama

The love discussed in 1 Corinthians 4-7 is very different from the love you just described to me. Check this out:

“Love is patient, love is kind and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant, does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered, does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.”

Real love acts like the love described in the above passage. Being mean to you in front of other people and telling you to shut up is not acting patient or unprovoked, and is not at all becoming.

Your boyfriend might just be immature, or he may not even be aware that it hurts you when he acts that way. Guys joke with each other a lot, and he might think it’s okay to do that with you. Talk with him about this. Tell him how it makes you feel and give him specific examples of when he has acted mean. If he refuses to listen to you, don’t expect him to change in the future.

Something you said that really stands out is the comments he makes about calories. This is definitely a red flag. He might argue that he has good intentions to help you be healthier, but throwing away your food before you’re finished eating is a very poor way to go about trying to help. Talk to him about this, and if he doesn’t understand why it’s a problem, I can only suggest moving on.

I also suggest talking to your mom or another older trusted woman who cares about you. Make sure the person you choose to talk to knows both you and your boyfriend, because they’ll probably be able to give you more direct advice of what to do.

Above all, pray about your decision. Ask God for wisdom to know what to do. Ask Him to open your eyes to the truth of who your boyfriend really is. Then accept the answer. If your eyes are opened to see a person with huge character flaws, break up with him (see July’s Dating article for more information about this).

Be careful not to let the longevity of your relationship affect your decision. Even though a year can seem like a long time now, when you’re young, keep in mind that a year is very little when compared to an entire lifetime. Dave Ramsey says that the only thing worse than being in an unhealthy relationship for year is being in an unhealthy relationship for a year and a day!

Remember that the way your boyfriend acts isn’t your fault, so there’s nothing you can change about yourself to make your boyfriend treat you better. You deserve the best, which is what God wants for you, so please don’t put up with anyone mistreating you. If you break up with your boyfriend, don’t worry about who you’ll date next. Learn to be happy being single, and trust that God will lead you to the right person at the right time, someone who will treat you the way that’s described in Ephesians 5:25: “Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her.”

– Nathan

Mixed Swimming

My mom doesn’t want me to go swimming with my guy friends this summer because she says it is hard for a guy to keep his thoughts pure when he’s around girls in their bathing suits. What’s worse is she won’t even let me get a bikini! All of my friends are wearing them! She says she’s just concerned for my purity, but I think she’s being way too overprotective. Can you please explain to her that it’s not a big deal??!?!!

–Dying of Heat in Georgia

I know how you feel—you think your mother is being way too restrictive and doesn’t have any idea what’s cool now. While that might be true, she still has your best interests in mind. It’s not that she doesn’t trust you; she obviously just understands teen boys. I’m sorry, but I’m not going to be able to help much with the fashion side of things—check out Alicia’s article for that—but I do think I can help with idea of both sides of the situation and give you a direction to go.

What’s the big deal about a bikini anyway, right? “It’s just a bikini and everyone else wears them.” Or, “That’s just the way things are today.” I’m sure these thoughts have crossed your mind, so let’s think about it for a minute and decide what the real issue is here. If we take a look at 1Timothy 2:9, it says, “likewise also that women should adorn themselves in respectable apparel, with modesty and self-control….” So, girls are supposed to be modest. Anyone can take an honest look at this verse and agree that bikinis aren’t modest. The verse also mentions respectable apparel. I think respectable apparel would be clothes that allow the wearer to be respected.

So, what about swimming with boys? In the appropriate situation, I think this is just fine, but I’d definitely not swim alone with a boy. Even if your intentions are pure, his might not be, and even if they are, he can easily be severely tested. You can help out by talking to your mom and setting up some rules–don’t forget to cover all the bases. Important situations to talk about would include the public pool, pool parties, going swimming on dates, swimming at camp, and swimming at the beach. Taking responsibility for yourself can often be met with greater trust. Of course, in the end, you must obey and respect your parents’ decisions. If they have clearly stated that you may not swim in the company of boys, then don’t. It doesn’t matter if everyone else is, or if you feel uncool, or if you think it’s simply just unfair and too old-fashioned. “Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right” (Ephesians 6:1 ESV). This verse in Ephesians does not include the word unless. (This means no switching swimsuits after leaving the house and no lying about who all will be attending that pool party!)

Now for the second half of that question. I will confirm that if you get that bikini, you will get attention. However, it isn’t going to be the attention a Christian girl should be looking for. God designed guys to be visual. We can’t help it; it’s just the way we were made. God made us that way so we can enjoy our wives after we’re married. We are made to like what we see, and to want more of what we see. When God designed us that way, he wasn’t intending for females to walk around in skimpy clothes or bikinis. He was intending for us to have fun with our wives at home. Read Song of Solomon chapter four if you need a better explanation of this! When girls dress immodestly, they are dressing in a way God does not approve of, and they are tempting men to lust over them. All men are tempted in this area—Christians, non-Christians, married, and single. It doesn’t matter who the man is—God designed all of us to be visual! You will be respected more when you’re dressed modestly, and we’ll appreciate you for your godliness and consideration.

Remember that your mom is just trying to protect you because she understands men a little better than you do; so try to listen to her and be patient with her, because she’s doing her best. It might require a little more work and some well-thought-out shopping, but you can find alternatives that will keep both you and Mom happy. Just a simple google search for “modest swimsuit” yields tons of results. You can also try your local mall or other stores, but finding one online that suits your taste might be a little easier.

When looking for a suit, keep a few things in mind:

1. Does this swimsuit cover a lot more than your normal underwear? If not, then call it what it is; don’t believe a name change makes it acceptable to wear in public.

2. Is the suit family friendly? What if you wore this swimsuit with your family at the beach? Would you feel comfortable?

3. Are you embarrassed? Try the suit on and walk outside the changing room. Just how red your face turns is a good indicator!

4. Is it functional? Look for something secure enough that it’s not going to malfunction (think strapless or too loose) if you take a jump off the high dive.

You can look attractive and modest at the same time, so please do all men a favor this summer and cover up.

“And he will spread out his hands in the midst of it as a swimmer spreads his hands out to swim, but the LORD will lay low his pompous pride together with the skill of his hands.” Isaiah 25:11 (ESV)

By Nathan Parks