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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.

Ways to Guard Your Heart in a Relationship

3 Practical Ways to Guard Your Heart in a Relationship

“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.

How to Guard Your Heart in a Relationship

How to Guard Your Heart in a Relationship

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

how to guard your heart in a relationshipRead 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.


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12 thoughts on “How to Guard Your Heart in a Relationship”

  1. Hi Laurie,

    I read and re-read the post on guarding your heart in a relationship.

    I’ve been at my church for about 2 years. My Pastor is a loving, playful, down to earth person. The reason I started attending the church was because my friend left the church we were attending together to go there and ended up following her there. I went to that church for the wrong reason, however it became the right place for me to grow. My friend was always saying the pastor and I should hook up. We’re both single and it would be a good thing. My pastor does everything slow!! We began going out as a group ( Pastor, friend & me). We always laughed and had a good time. Finally my pastor asked to me to dinner after service on a Sunday alone. We talked and laughed as usual. His first question to me was “are you dating” and I wasn’t. He said that he liked having female friends to go out to dinner and good conversation. So we started going out alone often after bible studies. He is super playful and has shown jealousy on occasion. He also makes it very clear that it’s all about him. He has made statements like “Sharan I run this show”, even though he is playing, there is some truth to that. We go out on his terms meaning, whenever he wants to go out I say yes but if I ask him to go any other time he’s busy. He has set the precedent how the relationship goes. I also feel like when we talk, he needs a listening ear which is find, I feel uncomfortable sharing details of my life with him. I don’t know how it happened but I’m emotionally connected to him!! I know it’s my responsibility to take care of my emotional well-being, but I thought things would change between us. He can be sweet, for instance he text me to check on me if he hasn’t heard from me and always pays when we go out. There are too many examples to share of our closeness. With all that being said I recently decided to back up because I want to be married and feeling obsessed with us. He never confessed his love to me or express interest other than someone to hang out with. I can’t do this any longer and I don’t feel I need to tell him I’m in love with him. Right now I need to back up and take care of me without focusing on not being around him. I am having a hard time being at church with him and I don’t want to play any games. Do you have any suggestions???

    Thank you,
    Keep up the good Support!!!

    1. Dear Sharan,

      Thank you for being here, and for sharing your experience. What an interesting time you’ve had with your pastor friend! He sounds like a warm, loving man….but not one who is necessarily “emotionally available.” That is, he might need to talk to you and share his life with you, but he seems like he’s holding back. Perhaps he doesn’t want to get hurt, or he just doesn’t have the emotional capacity to fall in love and get to know YOU for who you really are.

      I’m actually in “pastor school” right now – I’m getting my Master of Divinity. For on class (Soul in Ministry), we had to read 4 books on being a pastor. Under the Unpredictable Plant by Eugene Peterson and Resilient Ministry by Bob Burns were extremely helpful. It may help you to get the pastor’s perspective on relationships and ministering to a church. A pastor’s marriage and family time is often sacrificed because of his job, because he didn’t learn how to balance loving a church with loving his own wife and kids.

      So…sometimes pastors aren’t that good at one-to-one personal relationships — and getting involved with a parishioner or congregant is very complicated. It may help you to get an inside perspective on what pastors deal with, both personally and professionally. And of course your pastor friend is his own individual, unique man! It just gets so complicated 🙂

      But about attending church and feeling attached to him…What options have you considered? You’ve probably already thought of attending a different church, but don’t want to leave your church family. Is that right?

      One of my books said that bringing “secrets” out in a light-hearted, Christ-oriented way is a healthy way to deal with situations like this. I can’t make specific suggestions for you, but sometimes holding on to something as big as love can make that thing seem bigger than it actually is. I’m not saying you should tell your pastor friend how you feel…I’m just wondering what it would feel like to talk about your relationship with him?

      Sharan, you sound like a very healthy, self-aware, woman of faith and love. Talk to Jesus about your pastor friend. Sit down with Jesus, invite the Holy Spirit to join you, and ask God what to do. Write out all your feelings, concerns, and thoughts. Maybe you’ll feel led to do or say something…or maybe you won’t hear anything. But I encourage you to talk to God about guarding your heart in this and other relationships. It’s so hard to be loving yet guarded, isn’t it? And yet, it is what we are called to do.

      With love,

      1. Hi Laurie,
        Thank you for sharing your thoughts and providing books that could be helpful to me. I very seldom look at the “PASTOR aspect of our relationship. I look at the man and our interactions, not looking down the road of a pastor wife life.

        My heart doesn’t want to leave the church but my friends and family that do not attend my church says find another church, get over him. As long as I’m not obsessing I’m okay!! I’m going to quite myself listen for an answer from the Holy Spirt and read the books you suggested. I’m sure there is some healing that needs to take place in me and it’s time to get to the other side and be whole. God is not caught off guard with me, so I’m going to be gentle with myself.

        You stated “It’s so hard to be loving yet guarded, isn’t it” Yes ma’am it is.

        Thank you so much for your thoughts! I’ll keep you posted on the outcome.

  2. Madelin Barrios Casin

    Hi I’m Madelin, I’m into relationship but i’m so confused we are dating for 8months now and we were as if we were boyfriend and girlfriend, one time i talk to him in a serious manner about our relationship because it has no label and we’re sharing some intimacy together and I ask him if where this relationship will lead us, because im starting to fell on him, he just answer me that he is not ready and he was pressured on my question. He just said we will see? I was so dissapointed on his answer but I just accepted it because I dont want im to leave and I love him. What I am gonna do, does he really want me to be his girlfriend? Or I’m just rushing him cause On my thoughts I on the right age to be settled down. I need help because i dont want to feel this heartaches and he is consuming my thoughts and my life 😔😔😔

    1. Hi Laurie,

      A lot has happened since my last comments. Where do I start! I backed up for self-care since my pastor hadn’t made his intentions clear. Out of the clear blue sky he asked me to accommodate him to an honors inductee ceremony in his town after church. I was ecstatic and thought my backing up paid off and he was finally asking me out on a date. He called me on Saturday to let me know that his armourbearer would be driving us and I thought that was odd because the venue was about 7 minutes from the church. The event was really nice. A lot of his high school, college friends attended. He introduced me by name, however one particular friend ask him was I his girl. I was completely silent to hear his answer. He literally flubbed up (He’s a conversationalist and never faulter when talking) he said we’re friends and hang out… I thought what in the world kind of answer was that. I would have felt better if he would have just said we are friends…. After the event I decided to talk to him in a nonconfrontational manner. I started off by letting him know how nice the event was. Then I said “ What is your intentions between us, so that I am crystal clear in my thinking”. He said Sharan that’s a good question, I’m not pursuing a romantic relationship with any women at this time, not to say that may not change in the future. I wanted to know the truth and it hurt because I had deep feeling for him. Keep in mind we have been around each other for 2 years and the truth be told I was totally into him. I took some time away from church to heal my emotions and decide if I wanted to continue attending there. I’m sure he knows how I feel. ☹ I returned to church as I am an usher and changed my interaction with him. I feel like he wants to keep me close but not be in a relationship. He watches everything I do. Every Sunday before service starts he calls me up to ask me some hog wash that is irrelevant. For instance Sharan can you give the water bill to the accountant or sharan can give out contact sheets to newcomers or Sharan are you interested in helping with the projector and the list goes on and on. These are things he could have called or texted me prior to service. I use to think maybe I wasn’t spiritual enough for him or maybe I needed to grow more. The bottom line is he isn’t interested and there is nothing wrong with me. I see him as a man that plays the typical games as any other Joe Shmoe! Yes I take responsibility for not guarding my heart. I know Pastors are human. My pastor is very spiritually intuitive. He is my Shepard and I am his parishioner. How is it I was under the emotional burden of a leader that is supposed to protect me and I was wounded by him. I’m still there for now but keeping my distance.

      1. Thank you for the update, Sharan! You are very self-aware and honest. I think it’s wonderful that you were truthful with your pastor, and that he was truthful with you, too. I also think this is why many pastors try not to spend much time with people who may develop an attraction to them. We are emotional and relational, us human beings, and our hearts get involved whether we like it or not!

        I hope you get my Echoes of Joy newsletter…I send weekly emails, and would love to keep in touch with you 🙂 The link is at the bottom of my blog posts.

        Take good care of yourself, Sharan. You are a child of God, and that means you are worth taking good care of.

        With His love,

  3. Thanks for your comments – it really is a big thing to learn! We need to learn how to guard our hearts in a relationship, but we also have to trust God to lead us even when we don’t know where we’re going, why, or how.

    How do you guard your heart in a relationship when you don’t want to get hurt?


    So often we teach our children to guard their hearts in relationships, but we don’t go into detail as to what it truly means to do so. Thank you for expanding on this verse!

  5. Thank you, Esther! I appreciate your comments. I wasn’t sure about writing about guarding your heart in a love relationship, because I thought it might offend people. We shouldn’t protect ourselves from the ones we love, right?

    But then I thought it IS important to guard our hearts…especially when we’re falling in love. Sometimes our love can blind us to reality, or even God’s will for our lives.

  6. I like your blog. You are realistic I and don’t seem to over spiritualize like many Christian blogs do. I call them the God bless you Christians. Real life can be hard at times! I can relate to your style of writing more. Thanks