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In his book The Meaning of Marriage, Tim Keller warns against becoming “a faux spouse for someone who won’t commit to you” (215). While some relationships move too quickly, many others drag on for years with no signs of deepening or progressing toward marriage.  Keller observes that some people (usually men, I’d say) are content to experience a relationship with the opposite sex that yields many of the benefits of marriage (companionship, someone to talk to, someone to bring to social functions) without any of the commitment.

Tim poignantly, and humorously, explains how this very phenomenon was occurring in his relationship with Kathy at one point.

[T]here came a time in our relationship, after we had known each other for several years, when Kathy saw that this was exactly what had happened, and so she gave what has come too be known in our family as the “pearls before swine” speech.

Though we were best friends and kindred spirits, I was still hurting from a previous relationship that had ended badly. Kathy was patient and understanding, up to a point, but the day came when she said, “Look, I can’t take this anymore. I have been expecting to be promoted from friend to girlfriend. I know you don’t mean to be saying this, but every day you don’t choose me to be more than a friend, it feels as if I’ve been weighed and found wanting–I feel it as rejection. So I just can’t keep going on the same way, hoping that someday you’ll want me to be more than a friend. I’m not calling myself a pearl, and I’m not calling you a pig, but one of the reasons Jesus told his disciples not to cast pearls before swine was because a pig can’t recognize the value of a pearl. It would seem like just a pebble. If you can’t see me as valuable to you, then I’m not going to keep throwing myself into your company, hoping and hoping. I can’t do it. The rejection that I perceive, whether you intend it or not, is just too painful.”

That’s exactly what she said. It got my attention. It sent me into a time of deep self-examination. A couple weeks later, I made the choice. (216)

Now listen, don’t do anything rash on Valentine’s Day. The emotions may be running just a bit too hot. But there is probably someone reading this blog who needs to make their “pearls before swine” speech. And just as likely there are probably more than a few folks who need to make up their minds. Think about it. If you’ve found a pearl, don’t lose it.

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7 thoughts on “Put a Ring On It”

  1. Wesley says:

    Or, as Beyonce is wont to remind us, “If you like it then you shoulda put a ring on it!”

  2. SG says:

    This is such a nice post for today. Thoughtful and wise.

  3. Elle says:

    I would like to have this conversation, but I would prefer the man to DTR (define the relationship).

  4. Austin says:

    I’d HIGHLY recommend against marriage to any man unless he is 100% sure that the woman he is marrying is a devout follower of Christ that is completely aware of her own sin nature. Also, a woman who doesn’t want to raise her own children, who would rather work on her career and send the kids to daycare, isn’t going to make a good wife or mother.

  5. kpolo says:

    The core issue is the dating culture which is decidedly not biblical. Pursue courtship – an intentional period of getting to know each other with the express purpose of seeing if you should get married or not.

    If you are feeling more adventurous, try arranged marriage. Adam did it, Abraham most likely did it, Isaac most definitely did it. And it allows the wise counsel of parents early on. It has a higher success rate.

    My prediction – 99.9999% of single readers will vince at the second suggestion.

  6. Don Hartness says:

    @kpolo – outside of a (very) small town, I see a social and cultural decay so profound as to make an arranged marriage impossible (although I like the idea and wish it could be so).

    @Elle – understood, but if he won’t, make sure YOU do.

    Although I agree that this post is aimed mostly at men, it works both ways. I was once engaged to a wonderful woman who I loved very much. She wore my ring but never moved to the altar. She enjoyed all the benefits of being betrothed to me without the responsibilities of marriage (such as introduced as the fiancee, the intimacy involved with being a fiancee, and so on). Sadly, due to the personal issues from her past that rendered her unable to go the distance, we split up. I felt trampled, as I had compromised myself with that engagement ring.

    Fornication can be emotional, as well as physical…

  7. Melody says:

    Yeeeeah. I’m super over-due for this conversation.

    @ Elle, yes, ideally that would happen, but often it doesn’t.
    So you (and I) can either just decide we’re done and disappear from the guy’s life…which kind of seems like a kid running away from home waiting to be noticed…or we can be grown-ups and have the conversation we need to have.

    @ Don, I actually don’t see as mostly at men. Both genders need to not let themselves be in that situation. Both genders need to not string someone along if they’re not willing to commit.

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Kevin DeYoung

Kevin DeYoung is the senior pastor at Christ Covenant Church in Matthews, North Carolina. He is chairman of the board of The Gospel Coalition, assistant professor of systematic theology at Reformed Theological Seminary (Charlotte), and a PhD candidate at the University of Leicester. Kevin and his wife, Trisha, have seven children. You can follow him on Twitter.

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