What I Learned From Dating a Non-Believer

One of the greatest challenges young women and men face today is the temptation to start a relationship with a person who doesn’t share their faith. I know this both from personal experience and from hearing and seeing the experiences of other young people in the church. I would like to share my experience, along with lessons I learned from dating a nonbeliever, and how God blessed me when I surrendered and fully trusted Him to find the right person for me.

It was the beginning of my freshman year of high school when, one day, I met him! He was very sweet, tall, and handsome, and was genuinely interested in me. He was the first guy that had ever shown interest in me like that, and I was flattered that someone would like me in that way.

He was also a Christian, but I knew we couldn’t be in a relationship because we didn’t share the same beliefs. I knew the potential tension this could cause, but I was caught up in the pleasant surprise that someone liked me! At church, I felt nobody thought of me as “relationship material”. It felt good knowing that someone liked me. These feelings, the doubt and the flattery of attention, eventually led to a relationship with this boy—my first boyfriend, my highschool sweetheart.

I loved him, or at least I thought I did. I felt like he was the only person who understood me. We had the same friends at school; we would go out to eat or on hikes, and for the rest of my high school years he made me feel cared for. I tried to ignore the tension caused by our differences and the way we would disagree over our beliefs.

My parents slowly found out about this relationship and grew concerned. I knew that their worries were valid. Though I felt frustrated with them at the time, deep down I knew our relationship wasn’t right or healthy. But I had trouble letting go and getting him out of my mind.

When I graduated from high school and started college, I thought it would make it easier to end things. But he was persistent and persuasive, and I couldn’t do it. I spent the next three years of my college life with him. It was hard and stressful. At times, I felt like I would never be happy again. I wanted him to visit my church and to eventually accept my beliefs as his own, but when he came, I felt uncomfortable and wished he had never come.

But it wasn’t always that way. For six years I spent time with his family and became a part of it. We developed a strong bond, and despite our differences, he chose me. We were in this challenge together, and while our differences divided us, it also somehow brought us closer.

He promised that he would join my church, but he said, “If I compromise and join, you’ll have to compromise on your beliefs as well.” Compromise! I hated that word! It meant that I would have to give up something, but deep inside I didn’t believe my faith should be compromised. I would go through my beliefs and discuss the similarities between mine and his, but we would never reach an agreement. Sometimes we would pray together, but I felt our words were empty. Still, I couldn’t wait to get out the door every day to be away from my family to be with him.

Slowly, I noticed that I was losing all my church friends and my relationship with my family was becoming strained and contentious. I tried to reason with myself, “What’s the big deal? Plenty of people get married to unbelievers and their families work out. Maybe I can go to church, and he can just stay home, but I would have to make sure our kids came to church!” I struggled. I cried a lot. I was under a lot of pressure. I used to beg him to come to church, to study with my pastor. But he always contested everything and never wanted to study. He only wanted to study with me, so he could confuse me and push a compromise.

I finally realized that I needed to end the relationship. But I didn’t have the strength to do it by myself. I had tried to put him out of my mind so many times, to end it, but I couldn’t. Little did I know that a whole army of people was praying for me and pleading with God to strengthen me and guide my life. Finally, after many prayers of my own, I realized that I didn’t need this person to be happy. I surrendered my will to God and broke up with my boyfriend. He left, and I never saw him again. It was one of the hardest things I have done, and I could never have done it without the prayers and support from my family and friends. God gave me such peace and assurance about my decision that I did not feel alone or unhappy. I was convicted that I had made the right choice.

I learned many lessons in that relationship, and it became very clear to me why I should never have begun a relationship with someone who didn’t share my beliefs and principles in the first place. But I also learned that God had always had a special plan for my life, if only I let Him be in charge. I’d like to share with you what I learned.

But why not?

The problem with pursuing a relationship and eventually marrying someone who holds different values than your own is that you and they serve two different masters. You are walking different paths that are leading in different directions, which will inevitably create conflict. The Bible says, “Can two walk together, except they be agreed?” (Amos 3:3). This is why many faithful young people eventually open hand of their principles and compromise their beliefs in order to avoid conflict with someone they love and who loves them in return.

What I realized is that God’s principles of success in courtship and marriage depend on unity, not compromise. “The happiness and prosperity of the marriage relation depends upon the unity of the parties; but between the believer and the unbeliever there is a radical difference of tastes, inclinations, and purposes. . . However pure and correct one’s principles may be, the influence of an unbelieving companion will have a tendency to lead away from God.”—Patriarchs and Prophets, p 174.

One day they will be converted…

“But one day he’s going to be converted!” I used to tell myself this all the time. The reality is that no one should be in a relationship with someone they have to change, fix, “convert”. Only God transforms the soul and convicts of truth! A relationship where I would be constantly hoping he would change, and he would be pressuring me to compromise would never allow for true happiness.

Other times I would think, “He’s already Christian. We share many similar beliefs, and he agrees to participate in some of my church’s activities. How can you classify a person like that as an unbeliever?” But the truth is that if “the companion of your choice were in all other respects worthy…yet he has not accepted the truth for this time; he is an unbeliever… You cannot, without peril to your soul, disregard this divine injunction.”—Testimonies, vol. 5, p. 364. The truth I had to accept was that such a union would have eternal consequences for both our souls.

God has a special plan for YOUR life!

While dating someone that wasn’t from church, I often felt that there wasn’t anyone for me in the church. This was one of the biggest factors that made me cling to my relationship for so long. It wasn’t until I walked away from that relationship that God opened my eyes and made me understand that I did not need to get married to be happy. What I needed was to get to know Jesus first. He had other plans for my life, “For surely I know the plans I have for you, plans for your welfare and not for harm, to give you a future with hope” (Jeremiah 29:11).

After my break up, I began to immerse myself in God’s Word. It was then that my friendship with Christ grew. I realized that happiness is only found through a fulfilling relationship with Jesus. As I began to trust God more, I committed my daily plans into His hands. If it meant that I would never find someone who shared my beliefs, someone with whom to spend the rest of my life, I wasn’t worried because God had big plans for my life, and I was ready to accept them.

It was during this time of complete surrender to Christ that I became friends with a young man from our church on the other side of the world. We began a beautiful friendship with Christ at the center, and the rest is a story for another day. Today we are married, and I am blessed to say I married the love of my life, someone who shares the same beliefs, goals, and love for God as I do. Someone who encourages me on my walk with God daily and proves true that “marriage affects the afterlife both in this world and in the world to come.”—The Ministry of Healing, p. 359

I will be forever grateful that I surrendered my relationships to God and allowed Him to choose the right person for me. Reader, if you are currently struggling in a relationship with someone who doesn’t share your beliefs or if you are contemplating such a decision, please learn the lessons that took six years of my life for me to learn. Put God first, ask Him to be your Counselor, and you will find true happiness. Even if you think you will never find someone with whom to spend the rest of your life, like I thought, let Christ be the One who brings fulfillment and companionship into your life! Let Him be enough. “Commit thy way unto the Lord; trust also in him; and he shall bring it to pass” (Psalms 37:5).

16 thoughts on “What I Learned From Dating a Non-Believer”

  1. Evelyn Gessner

    Hello Renata,

    I too have been in that situation, although in a smaller scale. But I can relate to the struggles, the crying, the lack of peace and the tense relationship with familly members. It was hard to walk away, but I have my peace back, and that is somenthing I am not willing to give up.

    Thank you for sharing your story, I hope it’ll help those who are currently dealing with that!

    Love, Evelyn

    1. Renata Chapman

      Hi Evelyn,
      Thanks for your comment, yes that was my goal with this article, to help girls realize that we don’t have to go through all this pain and suffering, God has someone special for us and the best thing to do is to rely on Him to find the right person at the right time.

  2. Unknown Random Reader

    Well, this is true. That it’s hard for people who don’t share the same lifeview to stay together or even be happy.

    About me, I am what this text says a non believer. I mean, I believe in the Bible and Jesus, but I don’t assist any church like people from this page or many friends of mine. And I wouldn’t date a sdarm christian because I can see there would be lots of problems. Would be an illusion to believe that so different people could be happy.

    My parents were not happy because of religion. My father was atheist and my mum from sdarm.

    So yes, if a person who dosn’t believe what you believe says that loves you even like that, it’s a lie. Don’t waste your years with such person, and don’t make the other person loose time with you. You as a professed christian are not loving your neighbour staying with an unbeliever, because that is not love for such a person, but a false illusion of love, just feelings or emotions. We should repent from doing that to unbelievers as well.

    1. Renata Chapman

      Hi Unknown Random Reader,

      Yes, as you mentioned your parents were not happy because of religion you can see that it is difficult to put unbelievers in this position as well. It definitely affects both parties. I can testify that the person I dated told me he would never be happy without me, but today he is engaged to be married to someone else, and it brings me real joy to know that he finally is truly happy and that I didn’t make his life miserable as well.

      It is also important to realize that even outside of religious beliefs, if two people who love each other do not have many things they can agree upon together then it really affects your marriage and life together. No matter how much you love someone, you are not truly loving them because you are not allowing them to be the happiest person they can be. You are basically restricting them from being with someone who they could truly be happy with.

      Thank you for your comment I am glad my article was a blessing to you.

  3. Hi there. Thank you for your story! I’m in a similar situation as well. After looking for so long for a partner in church and Christian circles, I met a “religious” lady, who believes in church and also in Christ, but not as the Bible wants true believers to believe. I still came together with her and it’s been 6 months now. Ever since I always wondered why I’m restless and lost peace and can’t even sleep well although anything else is ok. We share some biblical views but there is the most important decision of her accepting Christ as her savior missing. I feel like she pulls me away from my faith and builds a invisible wall between me and God. Especially in these days we need someone we can pray with and share the same belief. At the same time, as you did, I ask myself if I would take away an opportunity for her to find to Christ by ending the relationship, since we aren’t for too long together. Of course it was wrong from the beginning to start a relationship with her, but I still am a little anxious to do the wrong thing in the wrong timing.
    My family thinks I should end the relationship, so do my friends. It just makes me really sad that she heard the real gospel so many times and yet her eyes stay closed. On top of that, her family is against real faith too but also at the same time, I became a part of her family. Its funny, that she can make compromises with almost everything besides faith. I’m not wise enough right now to do the right decision. Of course I have to decide what to do and what not at the end, but right now, I wish God would tell me unequivocally what to do.
    Thank you for reading.

    1. Renata Chapman

      Hi Marcus, so happy you were blessed by my article. I am happy you have come to the realization that dating an unbeliever is challenging and not exactly a path that God recommends. However I can see that the Holy Spirit is still working in your life and I believe this is one of the ways God is telling you what you need to do.

      I know this is hard!! I have been there myself I went through a relationship that lasted years and I can tell you I too got very involved with his family and dearly loved them as well. I also remember feeling like I would never find anyone that would love me as much as he did. I felt tainted like every guy in the church would look at me differently because I had dated an unbeliever. But all of this was Satan trying to keep me trapped in this relationship. Once I completely let go of these false ideas and trusted God completely to the point where I was happy even being single forever this is when God blessed me with the best gift that is my husband, a Godly man who brought me closer to God. A man that I would have missed out on had I kept living in a never ending cycle of unhappiness dating someone who didn’t share the same beliefs as I did.

      It took me years to let go and let God, but the beauty is that throughout this time the Holy Spirit was still with me and still guiding me and He is still with you too. Trust Him! It is hard at first but when you give your all to Jesus He gives us gifts we never dreamed of receiving. I will be praying that you make the right decision.

  4. Hi Renata
    I have been in a relationship with a non believer for ten years. Like you I wanted to let go of it but I don’t know how, when . I was in confusion. But everytime someone in my heart tells me to let go of that person. You both are not destined to be together leave him leave him but I was so scared. In the mean time my parents started searching for a suitable person for marriage and they couldn’t find it. I slowly started going away from him and yesterday I completely surrendered to god and broke up with him. He says it hurts him a lot and it hurts me too but I don’t know the way . Please pray for me

    1. Renata Chapman

      Hi Shya,

      I will be praying for you. What you did is hard, but you are not alone. Remember God is with you and even though the path may be lonely at first, I know you will find happiness in the Lord eventually. When I broke up with my boyfriend I felt so alone and thought I would never find happiness again, but God helped me so much during this time and I reached out to Him during the moments I felt so alone He was there with me bringing me peace and comfort. I eventually became happy again, even though I didn’t have another partner. Don’t feel like you need to find someone to replace him, accept God’s plan for your life in this season. There may be other seasons in your life and God may bring another person into your life but He also may not. Just trust Him with everything in your life and He will bring you peace, happiness, and joy just like He did for me. This Bible verse became my motto during this time in my life. “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not in your own understandings, in all your ways acknowledge Him and He shall direct your paths.” Prov. 3:5-6

      You will be in my prayers Shya, and if you ever need a friend to talk to feel free to email me anytime. God Bless.

  5. Hey.
    This experience of yours has made me think twice of dating someone outside our church, it has made me realize what kind of things I could put myself through if I did and thanks for that.
    Please continue publishing such experiences for it is helping a lot of us.

    1. Renata Chapman

      Hi Angel,

      I am glad to hear that my article was such a blessing. My intention was exactly that, to prevent others from making the same mistakes that I did. I pray you will make the right decisions about future relationships.

      God bless,

      Renata Chapman

  6. Ellen Machado Feijó

    Realmente é algo muito sério, vários jovens e até de outras denominações saem de suas igrejas por causa de relacionamentos com pessoas que não são de sua fé. Particularmente nunca me envolvi em um relacionamento com um descrente, mas temos que tomar cuidado com isso. Porque as vezes pela falta de jovens na igreja, pensamos que assim podemos levar alguém a conhecer melhor a nossa fé.

  7. Ellen Machado Feijó

    It really is something very serious, many young people and even from other denominations leave their churches because of people who are not of their faith. Personally, I have never been involved in a relationship with an unbeliever, but we have to be careful with that. Because sometimes due to the lack of young people in the church, we think that this way we can make someone better know our faith.

  8. Hi Renata,

    I’m grateful to have read your article.
    This situation has happened to me, but merely in a span of four weeks. I resonate entirely and can relate to the feelings you conveyed while being in a relationship with a non-believer.

    In my scenario, I met him in the fourth grade. We reconnected when I needed an escort to a party. When we reconnected, he was beyond caring and welcoming. It was until the night of the debut that he asked me out.

    He knew I was religious and it was conveyed through my active church volunteering and the stories I would tell him of my students at church. It seemed as though he respected it on the first two dates that we had. I was convinced that he wasn’t like the other non-believing men that have entered my life, and I soon became certain that he didn’t want to engage in anything too intimate.

    It was the first time a man drove me places, and I can not deny that I had so much fun and would leave with a wide smile on my face, frequently updating my friends on the exact details of the dates we had and how happy I was.

    But that whole time, I knew God did not want me to ever engage in a relationship with a boy who does not believe in God. He has taught me that lesson two times in the past, but I was certain it was different through the way he treated me and the happiness he made me feel. But it became evident through the way I began avoiding God and talking to Him less, fearful that he would be taken away from me. I also hid him from my parents, for I would tell my parents that I would be going out with a group of friends–but it would only be me and him.

    Everything changed on the night of the third date. We would hold hands and the proximity between us would be closer, yet I told myself that he wasn’t the type to want anything more.

    I was wrong.
    He suggested being more intimate with me. When he said those words, I felt fear rush throughout my body. It took me a couple of minutes until I told him that I did not want to ever engage in that kind of stuff, and he soon promised that he “wasn’t like the other guys” and said that he wouldn’t take advantage of me. I firmly told him that I am very religious and that I put God first. He soon asked me how religious I was on a scale of 1 to 10, and I immediately said “10.”

    The conversation changed, but the whole situation continued to bother me the next day. I asked my friends for advice, and they told me to confront him in person the next time I see him. But it continued to bother me and I could no longer hold in the feelings and boundaries I wanted to instill.

    The day after the third date, I confronted him and told him my boundaries. I told him that I never want to engage in that type of stuff until I am married and explained that what he suggested scared me. I told him that it felt like it was all he wanted from me.

    He replied saying that he didn’t have those ill intentions at all and apologized. I assumed that things were resolved, for he told me that he hoped I had the same fun that he had on the three dates we had. But the day after these messages, he texted me saying that we should go back to “purely being friends.” He also asked me to prom on the third date, but he requested to call off prom in that same text message.

    I was taken aback, I thought things were resolved and that he would respect my boundaries and continue what we had.

    But I soon realized that it was God that sent him away. God knew I was too comfortable and wouldn’t leave, so He took him away knowing that it would be the only way I would move.

    It still stings, but the feelings of discernment and anxiousness that I was straying away from God those three weeks are no longer present. I am no longer bonded to that man, but I can’t deny that the memories are still intact. A mutual friend told me that he said he’s completely fine, that he’s “on to the next (girl).”

    I ask God why He allowed this to happen, but now I know that it was another lesson that He wanted me to make sure I understand.

    I apologize for how long this comment is, and I sincerely appreciate you if you read to this point.

    Do you have any advice in regard to staying on God’s path? Or did you have any methods in removing the memories you had with the nonbeliever guy you dated (before you married your current husband)? How did you accept things and move on without the memories hurting you and circling throughout your mind? What did you do to improve your relationship with God?

    I also apologize for the number of questions I’m asking.

    1. Renata Chapman

      Hello Grace,

      Thank you for sharing your story. While my experience in a relationship with an unbeliever was a lot longer than yours I definitely shared the same sentiments of hurt that you feel. I acknowledge that every relationship you encounter leaves memories that last a lifetime. It’s hard to not pass by that restaurant you had your first date or drive by the places you used to frequently visit without remembering some of the good times you might have had with that person. Which as you mentioned wasn’t all bad. What stings too is that he moved on so quickly. It seems he was not as emotionally involved in the relationship as you were, which hurts even more. I will confess I went through the exact same thing and it wasn’t easy. In terms of removing memories I had a bunch of pictures and I threw them away I tried getting rid of everything that reminded me of him. But memories may never go away so whenever I had memories I would submerge myself into different hobbies, keep myself busy, and do my best to read Gods word. I came to terms with the fact that I may be single forever and began to read Gods Word more and more each day. I stopped frequently visiting social media because that would always remind me of him and I would always see pictures of people with their significant others and it was always hard. These were just some of the things I did and I felt that it was so amazing because I stopped getting worried I’d not find anyone and focused more on myself and making myself a happier person focused on Christ being the center of my life.

      In terms of being able to move on, one of the things that helped me is recognizing that God moved in a wonderful way in my life, in preventing me from marrying him and being unhappy forever. In your life it seems God has worked in a wonderful way too by preventing something worse from happening to you. Imagine if you had gotten intimate with him and he would have dumped you and moved on as quickly as he has done now, you would have been so devastated. So you can thank God that He delivered you in a wonderful way from making a big mistake in your life.

      In terms of staying on the path and being encouraged in the Lord I think the biggest thing for me is reading the Bible and constantly talking to God; telling Him how you feel everyday, every moment. It’s a daily thing, sometimes I don’t feel like it, but those are the times when we need to push through and ask for help and ask Him to give us the desire to have a relationship with Him.

      Hope this was helpful I know God has a special plan for you and while it’s tough to be in your situation, just know you are not alone. God has greater things in store for you and He desires to get to know you better so keep seeking Him and He will direct your path to great things.

      Praying for you and feel free to reach out if you have any other questions or thoughts to share.

      Blessings

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