How to Guard Your Heart in a Relationship
Guarding your heart – whether you’re in a new relationship or a mature marriage – will not only protect your emotional health, it’ll help you build a strong, healthy bond with your partner.
This post was inspired by two things: a reader’s comment on How to Cope When He Says He’s Not in Love With You Anymore, and my recent realization that we need to learn how to find the balance between guarding our hearts and loving fully deeply madly.
Many of the women who comment on my “How Love Blossoms” blog are so fully immersed in their relationships that they can’t see clearly. Even when they know what they need to do about a relationship issue, they’re so emotionally entangled – in an unhealthy way – that they just can’t make good choices. This is why I’m encouraging us to learn how to guard our hearts in our relationships – whether we just started dating or we’ve been married for 15 years.
Here’s part of my reader’s comment on my article about healing a broken heart:
“I am so confused and heartbroken right now, but it helps to read all these comments,” says DeeDee. “I was only with my partner 6 months but it felt like years in such a good way….He told me I was the one for him and how he never wanted to marry (he is 43) until he met me. He was soon announcing to my friends, family and his son, uncle and brother in law how we would be getting married and how he wished we could have our own baby. Everything was so good and we had spoken about moving in together later in the year.”
She added that after they bought a furniture set and booked a holiday, he said out of the blue that he can’t do the family thing after all.
“He gave me insignificant reasons/excuses, nothing makes sense,” says DeeDee. “Everything he promised was snatched away. He told so many people about his love for me and his plans to marry me – we even had a wedding song!!! I am heartbroken. I keep telling him that our relationship can work, and I refuse to walk away but I will give him time. I pray that when his head his clearer he will find his way back to me. I know I cannot put my life on hold and I won’t, I will be here for him and I will regularly text him (right or wrong) so he knows I will not abandon him and give up on him like his previous relationships.”
It’s one of the most disappointing, heartbreaking, and shocking things to believe that you will be with someone you love forever…only to be let down. We can’t protect ourselves from the risks of love, but we can learn how to guard our hearts so we make healthy, wise decisions in our relationships.
3 Ways to Guard Your Heart in a Relationship
Why do we need to “guard our hearts”? Not just because Proverbs 4:23 says “Above all else, guard your heart because everything you do flows from it.”
Our words, choices, and actions are controlled by what’s in our hearts. Guarding our hearts will help us:
- Make healthier decisions in life
- Know what to do in unhealthy relationships – even when it’s painful
- Avoid making impulse decisions that lead to bad or unhealthy relationships
- Choose kind, loving, effective ways to communicate
- Live in peace with others and ourselves
If you learn how to guard your heart in a relationship, your love will be strong and healthy. “Guarding your heart” doesn’t mean hiding behind walls or withholding love from people, nor does it mean you need to be cold or distant. It’s not about giving the silent treatment when you’re mad, or not being vulnerable in new relationships.
1. Know what it means to “guard your heart”
Guarding your heart means protecting yourself from negative influences, toxic people, and evil behavior. It means shielding your mind and body from anything that isn’t life-giving or affirming. When you guard your heart in daily life, you choose not to listen to conversations that are critical or wrong. You avoid sinking into bouts of complaining or criticizing, and you don’t allow depression, anger, bitterness, self-pity, or self-hatred to overwhelm you.
When you guard your heart in a relationship, you take time to consider how your partner is affecting your mood, attitude, thoughts, and choices. You carefully consider his words and actions – and maybe you even run them by God before you go along with your partner! For example, my reader DeeDee allowed her eager, loving heart to forge ahead into marriage plans with a man she’d only been dating for six months. She allowed her heart to rush forward without her head
2. Discover what prevents you from guarding your heart
We all have different reasons for not guarding our hearts in relationships – but the underlying root for everyone is fear.
Being rejected, unloved, or abandoned is incredibly painful. We were created to be alone, and we don’t want to be left out of the pack! We were meant to be in community, to have a partner to share our lives with.
Sometimes we allow our relationships to override the healthiest parts of ourselves. We choose to allow people, behaviors, and things into our lives – and our hearts – that we know aren’t good for us. We want to be accepted and loved, so we put the healthy choice of guarding our hearts below the unhealthy choice of going along with things we know aren’t right for us.
3. Keep your eye on your heart
A practical way to guard your heart in your relationship is to stay alert! Remember that unhealthy habits in love can be a slippery slope. What seems like “harmless” behavior (eg, your boyfriend teasing you about your weight or eating habits) might have a bigger effect on your heart than you realize.
“The psalmist is keeping watch over his heart with all vigilance, so he notices that his heart is feeling cast down and in turmoil,” writes Steve Fuller in How to Guard Your Heart. “But not only does the psalmist notice what he is feeling, he understands these feelings biblically.”
Steve is referring to Psalm 42:5: “Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me? Hope in God; for I shall again praise him.”
Another perspective is to set and maintain strong, healthy boundaries in your relationships. In 7 Ways to Know if Your Relationship is Worth Fighting For, I describe several ways to set and protect healthy boundaries.
What to Do Next
Read Battlefield of the Mind: Winning the Battle in Your Mind by Joyce Meyer. Your mind and your heart are directly connected – and if you don’t know how to recognize when your thoughts are sabotaging you, you’ll never learn how to guard your heart in a relationship! In this book, Joyce explains how to deal with negative thoughts such as worry, doubt, confusion, depression, anger and feelings of condemnation. These are attacks on the mind that will stop you from guarding your heart.
Listen to that still small voice. The best way to guard your heart in a relationship is to stop and listen. Be still. Hear what God is telling you to do, where He is leading you, and when to move forward or stay put. His Holy Spirit is guiding you…but you have to stop and take time to hear Him. Be quiet, and know that He is God.
May you guard your heart, move forward in peace and confidence, and trust God to direct your paths.
“When your heart speaks, take good notes.” – Judith Campbell.