Navigating the undefined relationship

Colleen Elisabeth Chao is an editor and author. She enjoys dark-dark chocolate, side-splitting laughter, and half-read books piled bedside. She makes her home near Boise, Idaho, with her husband Eddie, their son Jeremy, and Willow the dog. 




Navigating the undefined relationship

Navigating the undefined relationship

Navigating the undefined relationship

It’s the agony and the ecstasy, isn’t it? An amazing godly man shows interest in you, and you want to know if this is “the one.” Like, now. Fear looms on the horizon and the emotional stakes are high. You want to do the right thing, you long to honor the Lord, but what does that look like in this undefined relationship? How do you risk the chance at love while guarding your heart from unnecessary anguish?

I spent long years wrestling with this question, and it has been the subject of countless conversations with other single friends. We girls long for clarity, guarantees, and a fail-proof method for falling in love with the right guy at the right time.

But the hard truth is—there are none.

After many years of singleness, I realized I’d been given only one Guarantee in life, and his name is Jesus. The rest is not promised to me.

While I was in the thick of this struggle as a single woman, I wrote a list of principles that helped me navigate these emotionally-charged, confusing, fearful places.


Pursue sincere love. “Having purified your souls by your obedience to the truth for a sincere brotherly love, love one another earnestly from a pure heart.” 1 Peter 1:22

Pray, pray, pray. Then pray some more! (1 Thessalonians 5:17)

Pick someone else’s brain. Seek wisdom and input from wise, godly people in your life. Surround yourself with truth-tellers who love you and want what’s best for you. (Proverbs 15:22)

Practice patience. Wait on God, not on a man. We will do this for the rest of our lives, as wives and mothers too, each day giving us another opportunity to set our hope on the Lord and wait for His timing and purposes in our lives. (Isaiah 64:4)

Promise nothing outside of a relationship. Don’t give all of your precious time, energy, emotions, physical affections, and daydreams to a man who isn’t interested in you enough to pursue a relationship with you. If he’s not committing, you shouldn’t either. (Proverbs 4:23)

Purpose that Christ will be your first love, whether you are single, dating, engaged, or married. No man can or ever will be God. Let man be man and God be God! (Isaiah 40:6-8,18)

Provide a safe place. From your inward motivations to your clothes and body language, ask the Lord to make you a woman who is beautifully safe for a man to know and be around. Are you prodding him on sexually, or are you encouraging him in the Lord? (Ephesians 5:3)

Preach truth to yourself. Don’t listen to your emotions; command them! Stay in the Word and do what it says. (Jeremiah 17:9; 1 John 3:20; James 1:22-25)

Praise the Lord continually. He gives and He takes away. He is always good, and He knows what He’s doing. And He’s wise enough to not always give us what we think we’ll die without. (Romans 11:33-36)


Brick walls don’t risk relationships; people with hopes and feelings do. We all experience some form of brokenness and heartache on our way to the altar, but God’s wisdom can guard us from foolish and rash decisions. Moreover, a heart that is filled to the brim with Christ and His love, is a heart that will win the battle against idolatry and will find His beauty in the brokenness when it comes.

On this side of marriage, I look back on some of my undefined relationships with guys, and I shake my head. Even with all my good intentions, prayers of surrender, and the principles above, I had to wade through the waters of confusion and heartache to realize just how desperately I needed Jesus in this area of my life.

And somewhere along the way, I finally started living like marriage was not my ultimate goal. Christ was. In the end, when Eddie and I said “I do,” we realized that God had pulled off the impossible—and He alone would get the glory.

Dear one waiting long on the Lord, singleness can sometimes feel like a series of steep, precarious steps along a precipice, can’t it? May God give you light and grace for one step at a time, and may you lean hard into Him as you tread these high places.

God the Lord is my strength;

He makes my feet like the deer’s,

He makes me tread on my high places.  Habakkuk 3:19