Wow, I’ve put this question off way too long. I’m committing myself to getting it answered before I go to bed tonight!! Life gets very busy in this family/ministry combo life of mine! But I thought it was a great question and am happy you asked.
I’m curious how you are feeling now – almost a month after you sent this to me? Sometimes feelings like what you’ve experienced pass and we look back on them with a good laugh, wondering why they ever seemed so important. But, sometimes they don’t and they really do have to be addressed!
Presuming that this is still an issue, I will attempt to help you address them.
Feelings for a prof are completely normal and in your situation very understandable. The fact that he is young, single and attractive to you all work together to make the situation plausible and therefore hard for you to ignore. If, however, he were married or there was some other major obstacle to a romantic relationship, then you would of course have to deal with the situation appropriately.
The fact that there is a plausible situation for a romantic relationship between the two of you, I don’t believe you have to necessarily “stop liking” him. What you do have to do is discern God’s will for the relationship before it goes any further. You need to consider all the implications and then decide what you want to do: (1) allow the relationship to develop, if it does so naturally, into a romantic relationship, or (2) to put an end to the possibility now and move on, leaving your feelings behind, if you feel there is adequate reason to do so.
Some things for you to consider on your own before you would allow a romantic relationship to develop are as follows.
First of all, there is the issue of him being your prof and you being his student. Since the term is over and that situation no longer exists – much of that issue is gone. But not entirely! You see, he will always have been your prof. If things were to continue and you were to form a romantic relationship with him, you would have to be able to feel that you and he are on an equal ground. It can be very dangerous to head into a relationship that sets him “above” you – not just intellectually, but in terms of status and power. A romantic relationship should flow out of a relationship that views each other as equals. This is achievable, but in a situation like yours you need to be aware of it in order to achieve it. And in all reality, it might not be an issue at all for either of you. He may very well view you as his equal – stimulating intellectually, spiritually, emotionally and physically. These are all important factors in a romantic relationship.
Secondly, there is the issue of age. He is at least 12 years your senior. That does not make the relationship impossible, but it does present a challenge. Again, can a man that much older than you, with that much more experience in life view you as his equal? Of course he can – but only if he chooses to do so.
Thirdly, since the goal of a romantic relationship is ultimately marriage, before you entertain a romantic relationship with this (or any) man you have to first decide whether or not you could see yourself married to him. Is this the kind of man you would want to marry? Does he have the qualities of what you are looking for in a husband? (Have you ever sat down and considered what qualities you are looking for in a husband?) Do you share a common faith and understanding about marriage, children and family life?
For you to discover the answers to these questions, you’d have to somehow be able to enter into a relationship with this man – ideally as friends. And if you really thought there was something there between you, you might enter into a courtship, a time of real discernment for marriage.
I really do believe that age difference is not the factor that determines happiness in a marriage. And the fact that he was your prof does not have to present any kind of hindrance. What is important is that you are able to discern that God is indeed calling you to marriage with each other. Discernment can only happen through prayer, and of course spending time together. Courtship is the ideal circumstance for open discernment. Also, reading my novel Arms of Love is a great starting point to understand and see how courtship can be lived out in a modern day setting. It is but one model of how courtship can work. Josh Harris' works are also wonderful – I recommend them highly! I Kissed Dating Goodbye and Boy Meets Girl, Say Hello to Courtship.
You also should stop and think about what marriage is and have a very good and clear understanding of it before you seriously consider it with any man. It is essential that both of you share the same view of marriage, children and family life. Do you know and understand the Church’s teachings on these issues?
And as you enter further into a relationship with this man, either as friends or through courtship, you might discover that there are things about him that you don’t find that attractive. You might discern that, despite your initial attraction, you are no longer interested in him. That is fine. The goal of courtship is not to end up married, it is to discern marriage. If it is not for the two of you, that’s okay. You move on, satisfied that you were open to God’s will and have responded to it accordingly. And if you have been honest and honourable throughout, there should be no regrets.
Of course, if you discern that God is calling you to marriage, your marriage will only be blessed by the time of courtship you share. Enjoy the romance, while reserving affection, so that you can save yourselves entirely for each other in marriage. Even if either one of you has a past, you can choose today to live and love chastely and purely, from this time on. As you sacrifice for each other, you will find exciting and creative ways to express yourselves romantically, which will set a wonderful pattern for marriage. Marriage often requires sacrifice, but that doesn’t mean there won’t be any fun. Courtship is a great time in life to discover and establish healthy, romantic, life-giving patterns of loving each other!
So in the end, as you can see, I am certainly not writing off your feelings for this prof. Perhaps God has placed them there because he has called you to marriage with this man. Perhaps, though, they are just the simple stirrings of a heart with a crush – revealing to you qualities that you are looking for in a man. This prof may not be the man for you, but he may be helping to point the way to the man you are called to marry. I always encourage people with crushes to take inventory. The crush in itself may lead to nothing, but it can reveal all kinds of things to you about yourself and what qualities you are seeking in a husband.
One last word: allow the man to take the lead in a romantic relationship. I really do believe that men need to initiate the romance. They appreciate it more when they choose it and when they have to work for it. So, if you have decided that you are interested in allowing the relationship to develop naturally – if it will – into a romance, then you need to let him know. But to do so, I recommend that you wait until he initiates more in the relationship. If he asks, then let him know you are interested. If you’ve decided you’re not interested – let him know.
If he doesn’t initiate anything further with you it could mean a few things. It could mean he’s really not interested. It could mean he is interested, but for some reason is unavailable – maybe he’s divorced and has issues to deal with there that you are not aware of. It could mean that he is interested, but because of the age difference and his role as your prof, he is unsure as whether or not he should proceed.
This becomes challenging. If you are not going to initiate, then how can you let him know you are interested and open to pursuing a romantic relationship with him?
Ultimately, the answer lies in prayer. Pray and trust God. Set Jesus first in your life and trust that He has a perfect plan for you. If Jesus is calling you to marriage with this man, and you are open and prayerfully discerning His will, He will make it all work out! Be patient and trust that Jesus, in His own creative and wonderful way, will bring you two together, if it is meant to be. If it is He who has opened your eyes to each other, then He will also open your hearts! Trust and pray!
I hope that all these ideas (and others you will find on my website) will help you to discern God’s will for you in this relationship. Knowing and living God’s will is the only path to happiness. And the only way to know and live God’s will is through prayer.
I will continue to keep you, Natasha, in my prayers. I ask, humbly, that you would please pray for me, my family and this ministry of promoting purity, in your prayers as well.
In His Most Holy Name,