Dear Swafford, Is it My Job to ‘Fix’ My Boyfriend? Signed, Stuck

Below is the first example of email correspondences I’ve had with college-aged students in recent years about love and dating. Hopefully, these exchanges will be fruitful for others. St. John Paul II had it exactly right when he said: “By living ‘as if God did not exist,’ man not only loses sight of the mystery of God, but also of the mystery of the world and the mystery of his own being” (Evangelium Vitae, 22). We are disciples of the Lord Jesus — we should look different!

‘Stuck’ in a Relationship

Hey Dr. Swafford!

This is a very random email, but one of my friends asked for relationship advice and you and Sarah’s name came to my mind almost instantly because I am at a loss for what to tell her. 

One of my campers over the summer is in a relationship that isn’t leading her closer to Christ at all. She texted me, “It started out fine, but then it just got worse and worse. I feel like I’m stuck in a place where I don’t really want to be because it’s not leading me toward Christ. At the same time though, I feel guilty for leaving him or going on break because he’s not incredibly stable at this point … ” 

I’ve been through something similar but I pushed off the break-up for almost two months so I don’t know what a good response to her would be because I know I didn’t handle my situation that well. What would you say to her if you could talk to her? She has a really good and helping heart so I know she just wants to help him but it’s bringing her down in the process. 

Thanks in advance!

Response: When Helping Isn’t Helping


I know this is hard, but there’s only one answer. As much as she wants to help, she’s really not in a position to help. I’d ask the girl in the relationship three questions:

  1. Is she having fun?
  2. Is she growing in virtue through this relationship?
  3. Can she see herself marrying this person?

If the answer to any of these three is “no,” then she needs to be honest and leave the relationship (she’s wasting her time and his and will only make things harder in the end). In order to console her on this (because it is hard), she needs to think of it this way: doesn’t he deserve to have someone who is madly in love with him? Clearly, she’s “half in,” at best, as she tries to put a “good face” on it for his sake. But deep down she knows that even he deserves better.

The healing and growing that it sounds like he needs is simply not going to come about through her relationship with him. In fact, facing the rock bottom reality of losing her may be the catalyst for him to really grow and heal in a deep way. But maintaining the status quo by staying with him is not going to bring this about.

I hope this helps.

God bless,
Dr. Swafford

This appeared at Ascension.
Photo: Sourav chanda, Flickr.

Andrew Swafford

Andrew Swafford is Associate Professor of Theology at Benedictine College. He is general editor and contributor to The Great Adventure Catholic Bible published by Ascension Press and host of the video series (and author of the companion books) Hebrews: the New and Eternal Covenant, and Romans: The Gospel of Salvation, both published by Ascension. Andrew is also author of Nature and Grace, John Paul to Aristotle and Back Again; and Spiritual Survival in the Modern World. He holds a doctorate in Sacred Theology from the University of St. Mary of the Lake and a master’s degree in Old Testament & Semitic Languages from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School. He is member of the Society of Biblical Literature, Academy of Catholic Theology, and a senior fellow at the St. Paul Center for Biblical Theology. He lives with his wife Sarah and their five children in Atchison, Kansas.