“Sisters before misters.”
You’ve probably heard this old saying, and you may even have some strong feelings (whether negative or positive) about it. And that’s understandable! It makes sense for that phrase to strike a chord in one way or another because friendships matter.
It is 100% a gift from the Lord to have friends, and it is good (see Ecclesiastes 4:9-12). BUT, if we’re talking about a formula for balancing those sweet friendships with, say, a serious dating relationship, I’m not quite willing to say that “sisters before misters” will cut it.
My boyfriend and I started dating in our hometown almost 4 ½ years ago, but we have spent most of our time since then in two separate cities. Because of this, the dynamic of maintaining my closest friendships while dating has looked different for me in different seasons. And in the uniqueness of God’s design for each of his daughters, I’m sure it will look different for you.
But if I could go back and talk to myself about strengthening friendships while building a relationship, I would share some of these lessons I’ve learned the hard way:
#1 While this guy may take up a lot of space in your daydreams, he is not the only thing your friends want to talk about.
Here’s the thing: you will want to talk about him. All the time. You will want to tell your friends about every little sweet or silly thing he does. God’s word tells us that our mouths speak from the overflow of our hearts (Luke 6:45), and he will probably be developing a special place in your heart. But don’t forget the value of your friends’ hearts, too. Encourage them. Listen to them. Support them. Pray for them.
#2 Let your relationship be a learning experience for everyone involved.
With point 1 being said, your friends probably do care at least a little about the difficult and beautiful details of your relationship, because they care about you. While again, everything does not become all about you simply because you’re dating this guy, God will be teaching you a lot along the way. Your friends will want to learn with you. Let them.
#3 Let your friends teach you, too.
“As iron sharpens iron, so a friend sharpens a friend.” -Proverbs 27: 17
Yes, you will experience a lot of mistakes and successes that your friends can learn from, but your friends will also have lessons to offer you. Proverbs 27:9 says, “Perfume and incense bring joy to the heart, and the pleasantness of a friend springs from their heartfelt advice.” As a third party to your dating relationship, your friends can point out red flags or sweet blessings you may have never otherwise noticed or appreciated.
#4 Spend time together.
Involve your friends. Let them get to know your man first-hand and not just through your rose-tinted glasses. And let him see why your friends are so important to you. In a practical sense, this will also make it easier when you’re feeling torn between spending time with your friends and spending time with your boyfriend.
But also, be intentional about valuing one-on-one time with your closest friends. A lot of times, especially with class schedules and work schedules, this will be hard. Sometimes this will mean scheduling a weekly Skype session between homework assignments, grabbing dinner together before church, or getting coffee when you don’t really have time. No matter what it looks like, one of the best things you can do is let your friends know that, regardless of how preoccupied you might often seem, they still matter to you. Do your best to be faithful to and joyful about your plans to spend time with your friends.
Important note: finding a happy medium between group time, one-on-one time, and date time is not easy. Because time is limited, it will require sacrifices. But sacrifices demonstrate value (see the demonstration of love in Christ’s sacrifice in Romans 5:8).
#5 Remember you’re not married yet.
While dating should be a time to prepare for a marriage that will one day your primary ministry, you’re not there yet. This is not to say that marriage will mean abandoning your friends, but it is to say that nourishing a covenant relationship between you, the Lord, and your husband is not yet part of your job description. In other words, don’t put too much pressure on yourself.
The presence of a serious boyfriend in your life does not negate any of the truths about the goodness of God’s design for friendship and community (see Rebekah’s post about healthy friendships here). In fact, it should offer you the opportunity to appreciate them even more. Ultimately, friendships and dating relationships share a common purpose: to delight in, grow in, and glorify God together. With that purpose in mind, a God-honoring relationship should ultimately enhance, not hinder or replace, God-honoring friendships.
Want to read more on friendships? Check out the blog posts below to see more: