Integrating Compassion with the Wisdom of God’s Word


The purpose of Aunt Dara’s Christian Advice Column is to glorify God by addressing human needs with compassion and the wisdom of God’s word.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Boyfriend is Impatient with His Mother

Dear Aunt Dara,

I've always heard people say to watch how a man treats his mother, because that is how he will someday treat his wife. Well, I've been with my boyfriend for a year, we are both Christians, ages 21 and 24, and we plan on getting married in a year or two. We are very happy together and I look up to him for many things, spiritual and otherwise, but I do have a concern about how he treats his mom. He is pretty impatient with her, jokes with her in a demeaning way, and I feel like he makes her feel dumb for the things she doesn't know, such as modern technology. I know she feels like she can't do anything right by him because she has said so outright. Once in a while I feel a tinge of the same treatment from my boyfriend, but whenever I ask him about it, he explains he never means to put me down and he just didn't realize how his words or tone of voice came across, and I believe him and can tell he loves me dearly. I have talked to my boyfriend about his treatment of his mom maybe 4 or 5 times, only once or twice in depth, and he's explained to me that he knows he needs to be more patient and treat her more kindly, but the things she does really irritates him, and some of the things she says seem demeaning to him. In my boyfriend's defense, I will admit that some of his mother's quirks can be annoying sometimes, and since my own mother has similar traits, and I have responded at times in a similar way as my boyfriend does with his mom, I know how hard it can be. I know my boyfriend wants to treat everyone with the love of Christ and become more like Him everyday, but I still wonder if this is something to be concerned about for our future. I am a very sensitive person sometimes and I know I couldn't handle receiving that kind of treatment on a regular basis. We have both agreed to do premarital counseling, and I'm thinking that should help but I also know that I can't count on another person changing, since only the other person has control over that. Should I be concerned?

Concerned Girlfriend

Dear Concerned Girlfriend, 

I see a lot of positive things in your letter.  Both you and your boyfriend are Christians and want to please God and grow spiritually.  You have been together for a year, you are not rushing to get married anytime soon, and the two of you will be participating in premarital counseling before you marry.  Your letter makes it obvious that you love each other and have a good relationship.  You are able to talk to each other on an intimate level and be honest with each other about your feelings, motives, and needs.  You have a lot of good things upon which to build your lives together and I pray for blessings for you both. 

However, you are concerned about how your boyfriend speaks to his mother and how he sometimes talks to you, and you fear that he may continue to act this way in the future.  Here are some things to consider.  Does he ever speak to anyone else in a demeaning way?  Did he ever see his father or any other man speak to his mother in a demeaning way?  If so, this may be a learned behavior.  (The positive news is that anything that is learned can be unlearned.)  When you have talked to him about his communication, he says that he is not aware of how his messages are being received and he says he doesn’t mean to be hurtful.  That’s probably true, but you have talked to him enough times for him to realize that he needs to be more sensitive to the feelings of others.  Did he seem to be sorry for hurting his mother or you?  Was there any improvement in how he talks to his mother or you, if even for a short time, after each time that you talked to him?  I ask these things because (1) it seems that he is making excuses when he says he didn’t know how his words and tone of voice came across, (2) it seems he is not accepting full responsibility for his behavior by blaming it on his mother’s annoying, irritating quirks, and (3) it seems he is trying to justify himself by saying that she says demeaning to him sometimes. 

So, what I see that is of concern is his lack of respect for his mother and girlfriend, and he is defending himself by trying to excuse and justify his behavior.  However, he does acknowledge that he needs to be more patient and kind, and you say he wants to treat everyone with the love of Christ and become more Christ-like.  So, there is hope.  It’s true that you can’t count on another person changing, but you can count on God, and God can change people.  I suggest that you and your boyfriend have some in-depth, regular Bible study and prayer focusing on Galatians 5: 22-23 and II Peter 1: 5-8.  The object of this study should be for the spiritual growth of both of you (so he doesn’t feel as if you are trying to “fix” him).  In the meantime, whenever he slips and says something hurtful, model the fruit of the Spirit to him in your response by acting and speaking kindly and lovingly to him. 

God bless,
Aunt Dara

Friday, October 19, 2012

Boyfriend is Addicted to Computer Games

Dear Aunt Dara,

My boyfriend of almost 2.5 years has decided to quit college for the semester.  He's 20 and I'm 19.  He says he's been going to school his whole life and that he needs a breather.  Why should he stop while everyone else (including me, the woman in his life) is working to finish school?  He's addicted to computer games and I think it's a way for him to just play all day long.  I can't live with his addiction.  I want him to go back to school and to limit his game-playing, but he just doesn't care about how I feel and he says I'm manipulating him.  No, I'm just setting standards. (Right?)  He says it's his life, but if I'm part of his life, don't my opinions matter?  I want us to secure a future for our family-to-be.  (We have plans to marry after school—if he ever finishes).  How do I deal with his laziness and seemingly awful decisions?

Constant Sigher

Dear Constant Sigher,

It sounds as if you are frustrated with your boyfriend and a little resentful toward him.  You are right to be concerned about his decisions and his behavior.  However, he is right in saying that it is his life and his decision.  You cannot change him.  He has to want to change. 

First of all, let’s examine his compulsive behavior.  God is very much interested in how we spend our time and the things that we make a priority.  Our relationship with God and our relationships with others should be our priority (Mark 12:28-31, Ecclesiastes 12:13, Micah 6:8).  Furthermore, God is not pleased with laziness.  He wants us to engage in productive activity and use our time to accomplish something (Proverbs 19:15, I Thessalonians 4:11, Ephesians 4:28, II Thessalonians 3:10-13).  While there is nothing wrong with leisure activities, God is not pleased when computer games, video games, social media, sports, television (and such like) consume our time, hindering our relationships with God and others or preventing us from engaging in productive activity.

Next, let’s consider his decision to take a semester off.  It’s not uncommon for college students to “take a breather,” as he put it.  However, there are concerns.  Will he go back to school after he takes a brief time off?  The danger is that he won’t finish school, and then were will you be in building a secure future for your family-to-be?  Next, what will he be doing during his time off?  Will he be doing something productive, such as getting a job or perhaps doing some volunteer work, or will he be wasting time playing computer games, as you suspect?  His break from classes will be a test for you to see if he spends his time productively, or if he wastes it.  So, my advice to you is to stand back and let him do what he wants.  That will show you if he is mature enough to take on adult responsibilities.  If he ends up wasting his time, you will have some decisions to make.

Anyone who is contemplating marriage should ask themselves three questions:

  1. Is this the type of person with whom I could live happily for the rest of my life?
  2. Is this the type of person who I would want to be the father of my children?
  3. Is this the type of person who will exemplify Christ and be a godly influence on our children and myself?
If the answer to any one of those questions is, “No,” then you should seriously reconsider your decision to marry this person.  Remember, the best predictor of future behavior is past behavior.  The things he does before marriage will be the things he does while married.  If he thinks that he may lose you, he might promise that he will change his behavior.  However, unless followed by long-term, demonstrated changed behavior, promises are nothing more than empty words designed to manipulate you.  Don’t let that happen.  Keep your standards high.

God bless,
Aunt Dara