Dating Part II

I am beyond thankful for the responses I received to my recent blog on (Christian) Dating (link to read). I wanted to do a follow-up to address some of the items that came up in discussions, calls and texts. I also wanted to thank the men who reached out about introducing me to some good Christian guys. I love it, I’m thankful for it, and I hope this kind of networking continues not just for myself but for the many wonderful single ladies I know. Let your matchmaker self free, friends.

First, I get that it might have sounded personal when I listed “How awesome I was,” and perhaps even that, “I was upset with my own singleness.” I’m actually the happiest I’ve ever been. That doesn’t mean I’m not open to a relationship, but I don’t feel this great emptiness or anything. I was merely using myself to illustrate a point: I’m pretty cool in some ways, and not a single Christian guy has ever asked me out. And this is the same story of friends much more beautiful and amazing than me. I didn’t have approval to share their stories, so I shared mine. Part of that is sharing that sometimes, even when we’re in a good place, we can feel discouraged and ask ourselves if the criteria we are using in dating is right (for example, Christian).

That being said, I have been on a long journey to understand what kind of guy I should keep my eye out for, and I have taken many other women on similar journeys. I got a whole lot of “Amens,” and “I’m glad someone finally said something,” from so many ladies regarding the lack of boldness from men, but I want the gentlemen to know that I recognize that this is a two-way street.

To be blunt, there’s a whole lot of ladies that discount a man long before they ever make it to a date. There’s something to be said about being equally yoked, but there are some I know that seem to think the man should BE Jesus (but taller, and obviously financially sound, with a good career but, you know, has work/life balance, takes care of himself, loves kids and God…).

Here’s the list of things I OFTEN hear from women (before we spend weeks or months on the list):

Their MUSTS

Financially stable

Taller than me in heels

Takes care of himself

Likes to Travel

Plays ___________

Loves God

Loves kids

Good career

Owns a car/house

Good teeth

Nice Eyes

Full Head of Hair

Healthy

Intelligent

Charismatic

Thoughtful

Handy-able to fix things

Funny

Affectionate

Pursues me

Close to his family

No kids

Not divorced

Dresses well

Likes to dance

Plays an instrument

Active in the church?

My list of MUSTS (currently)

Has a growing relationship with God

Has male friendships (some Christian)

Kind/Compassionate

Sense of humor

Active (nothing major; can hike/camp)

A Little Adventurous

Ready to be in a serious relationship

Depth of Conversation

Enjoys community

Has some kind of vision he’s working towards

Substantially shorter, but no physical attributes. Why? Time to be a little bit uncomfortable but say something I think is necessary. I’ve dated a lot of very different types of guys, and (before I became Christian) I was intimate with some of them. One thing I learned is this: if you’re both motivated to have good sex, you have good sex. And it keeps getting better. This might SOUND crass, but my point is that sex with almost anyone can be good, and if you’re having good sex, you become more and more attracted to the person. So I’m not as concerned about the physical embodiment of the guy… hair color (or lack of hair), height, size, etc. Also, I become more attracted to a person based on their brains and personality (or if they are fixing a car or doing plumbing… weirdly attractive). This is a startling idea to some people but it’s true. So, let’s consider my list again:

My list of MUSTS (currently)

Has a growing relationship with God The trajectory of a man, where he’s been and where he’s going, are far more important to me than mistakes from his past or where he is presently.

Has male friendships (some Christian) I’ve dated guys who have no guy friends, or no friends at all. It’s very telling of their ability to maintain relationships. And guys need guys; I can’t be your everything. You need a community of brothers to do life with too.

Kind/Compassionate I’ve dated cruel and/or apathetic men. Although I’ve healed from it, it’s a vulnerability for me. I need to see that he will consider me in his decision making and behavior. This is a fruit of the Spirit I need to see manifested in his character.

Sense of humor Sex is great and a gift from God, and I hope to have a lot of it in my marriage, but there’s a lot of time we will need to spend together NOT having sex. And I want it to be filled with laughter. It’s so important to me and it’s such a great place of closeness and joy.

Active (nothing major; can hike/camp) I want us to be active together, and model an active lifestyle for whatever family we have.

A Little Adventurous I don’t need a rock climber or skydiver, but I also don’t want to have to pull teeth to try new things, and I want someone who will continue to push me to try new things too.

Ready to be in a serious relationship Because I’m not 22 anymore.

Depth of Conversation Its actually just super sexy to me. A guy who can hold a convo about something meaningful? 😍 Work on a motorcycle at the same time and you’ll have my heart forever.

Enjoys Community Likes people and understands I need more people than just him to be happy. Is cool with building community in our home.

Has some kind of vision he’s working towards I’ve dated men without vision and it sucks. Because it’s so important to me, it becomes a point of contention. They don’t need to know what they want to do for the next 40 years or be career obsessed; they just need to be moving towards something (also, it’s kind of sexy).

My list has changed a lot the last couple years and I’m confident it’s not perfect. It’s what feels right for me. Mine didn’t used to have the things I listed for what I heard from a lot of Christian ladies, but there were some misguided items. Really dumb things like “at least 2 years older,” “a bit of a bad boy,” “eyes that make me melt,” or “plays guitar or drums.” But spent some time in prayer and reflection looking at what I NEED vs. what I WANT. And let’s not discount the importance of sex. After looking at the Bible, as well as seeing how wrong I was getting it doing things my way, I decided to stop having sex and save all that fun for my future husband. But if the guy has the attributes on my list? I think I can be pretty confident we’re going to have something pretty stellar. Because we’ll make sure we do.

In summary: guys, I hear you saying you’re trying to be Christian brothers, etc. but coffee is coffee. Just get to know someone and be clear about your intentions. That’s really all there is to it. Girls will appreciate it and it’ll save everyone a ton of time. And both guys and girls should examine every item that’s on their list and ask themselves if their really using the right things to recognize “the one.” Because we could all be missing out on something AMAZING for a really unimportant reason.

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Dating

I heard a guy ask recently why so many Christian girls don’t date or marry Christian guys. And I can tell you why: they’re not asking. At least, not most of them. And many that are, ask based on looks rather than compatibility, so they get shot down because women are discerning creatures and then those bros stop asking.

There’s a whole lot of amazing women spending a ton of time dropping hints, expressing interest, and investing in men that never make a move. And so finally, they begin to say yes to men who 1. See how amazing these women are and 2. Are bold enough to ask them out. And they tend to not be Christian.

There’s this weird trend I notice in a large percentage of Christian men and women. Some of the best married couples I know break these molds. Yet generally, guys (who as we all know are driven by the eyes more than the heart scientifically speaking) seem to think that God is going to hand them a woman much younger and more attractive than they are, and also with the purity of Mary. And women think that if they just sit and wait, these boys that lack cajones will suddenly be transformed into bold men, leaders of families, who are capable of pursuing not just in the beginning, but throughout the marriage.

And what that leaves us with is a whole lot of people not dating, not getting married, and not establishing Christian families. Awesome. Then I’ve got Christian men in my life telling me I need to do more to catch a guys attention. I should try harder, give more. And while I’ve loved living a lifetime full of men telling me how I’m not quite enough, I’m done. I’m truly done. Because I am enough, more than enough. And I’m confident that whoever I end up with will know a great many blessings because he chose me for a wife. (Side-note: rather than encourage women to be aggressive and make them feel unchosen, maybe just encourage your male friends to ask ladies out more; it’s just a date).

I’m a dope conversationalist and I’m hilarious. I’m considerate and when I’m with you, I’m present as heck. You don’t have to worry about my phone being more important than you. I’m more focused on our compatibility than the brand you wear or the gear you own. I know how to respect and honor a man and I know how to love WELL. Hospitality and generosity are gifts of mine, and I’m slow to anger and quick to forgive. It’s clear pretty quickly that relationships with the people I love rank just below God in my life. I have a wealth of patience and I love kids. I’m as happy outdoors as I am at a party, in the city, at a concert or out on a farm. I’m easygoing and laidback but I love diving deep into conversations. I’ve got great taste in music (IMO) and I can cook pretty well (I love hosting dinners for friends). In other words, if you spend a little time getting to know me, I think you’ll know my worth. And I think I am enough. But not for the average Christian guy.

And so, even though everyone says it’s a terrible idea, and even though I know that there will be issues down the road if our faiths don’t align, I begin to consider the non-Christian. Not because I want to, but because it appears as if I have no other choice. The only ones that seem to see my worth are men who may not know God, but see His light shine in me. And I pray a lot; I pray so much over this because my deepest desire is to have a family that honors God and that disciples young people so that they, too, can have a family that honors God. But even though I believe this desire was given to me by God, both parties have to opt into it. And the guys just aren’t there. So I begin to ask myself the same question so many others around me ask themselves: do I keep waiting?

A Reflection on “Love, Sex and Dating” by Andy Stanley (Part Six)

I’d strongly suggest starting at Part 1, it’s probably worth it. We’re diving into “The Talk,” in chapter 8. It’s maybe the talk we should have gotten, but most of us didn’t, and even if we did, most of us didn’t listen.

Sex isn’t just physical. Sex in more than just physical. Way more.” (132) Many of us might feel the truth in this statement, but often don’t act that way. Society doesn’t tell us this either: hook-up culture is rampant. If you’re being safe and it’s consensual, enjoy. Satisfy those physical urges, right? But sex is more because you are more. You are way more than a body. Think this isn’t true? “If sex is just physical, then once any physical damage was healed, that would be the end of it. Granted, there may be some residual trust issues to work through. But every pastor, counselor, and victim knows the flood of emotions associated with sexual abuse goes way beyond trust issues.” (133) Andy Stanley walks through several more examples, including rape, to help highlight the fact that sex goes way beyond the physical.

He then looks at the connection between sexual addiction and alienation from fathers. Having talked to dozens of men with these issues, something else was revealed: “The men I’ve talked to would be quick to tell you their sexuality and their sexual struggles are not just physical. Something other than their male appetite for sex was driving their self-destructive behavior. Many of these men had given up on actual sex.” (136) Consider this, if sex is “just sex,” why the sense of betrayal when someone in a marriage has sex with someone outside a marriage? Why is that one of the deepest cuts you can make to the trust in your relationship? Or why do people care about the sexual history of the person you date? It comes down to our desire for intimacy. “You may find this difficult to believe, but you have an appetite for intimacy… knowing fully and being fully known… There’s a significant and mysterious connection between one’s sexual experience and one’s capacity to experience relational intimacy.” (138)

What does this mean? It means the sexual choices you make now will influence your marriage later. It means that what we do now has an impact on what we can experience later. Pretending something isn’t true (like intimacy being important doesn’t help you, it sets you up for disappointment. “The heartbreaking consequence of our sexually liberated culture is that single men and women are undermining their own potential for sexual fulfillment later in life.” (141) The more partners you have, the more your experience of sexual intimacy decreases. This is the outcome of separating sex from the significance it has to us beyond the physical.

“What is touted as safe for the body is dangerous for the soul. While your body is designed with the capacity to successfully accommodate multiple sex partners with no apparent consequences, you are not.” (143) And this isn’t just your history; it’s the history that will impact and influence your future partner for life. While we can certainly alter our path now, it is worth noting the difference between forgiveness and consequences. The past doesn’t necessarily remain the past: you bring into your bedroom memories, guilt, comparison (or the fear of it), etc. This isn’t saying that you shouldn’t be with anyone who has a sexual past. It IS saying that you should understand what that was and what repercussions it may have.

“Over 30 percent of the couples that come to us for premarital counseling are already living together. Of the remaining 70 percent, most are already involved sexually. You might assume couples who are living and sleeping together have worked through the sexual challenges created by their sexual histories. Not so.” (144) Why? This goes back to the earlier chapters that mention that adding sex to a relationship stunts the ability to build healthy relationships. Andy Stanley requires those going through premarital counseling to cease sexual activity before marriage, and they have those living together make separate living arrangements as well. Why? Taking sex out of the equation makes talking about issues easier. “Those who comply thank us later. And only 7 percent call off the wedding.” (145) He gives other examples for why this no sex before marriage is a good idea, but I think that the gist of it is pretty clear. Working to preserve your purity now makes a path for deeper intimacy in the future.

You might think abstaining from sex outside of marriage is only for teens. It’s not meant for newly single adults, right? Or maybe you think that if the damage is done, is it really worth stopping at this point? Ask yourself this: “Has sex as a single… made your life better or more complicated? If God is a heavenly Father who loves you and wants the best for you… and he knows sex apart from marriage will complicate your life… what would you expect him to say about it?” (148) The thing is, each time we sexually engage with a person and then it ends, we end up hardening our heart a little more. Insulating ourselves a little more (the opposite of intimacy). We lie to ourselves, we say it was meaningless, that we’re over it. This is true of all of us, if we really look at ourselves. If we look at our choices and the effects it has. If we look at how we relate to people.

“All regret is difficult to live with. Sexual regret may be the most difficult. So we lie to ourselves. We tell ourselves we haven’t done anything wrong. It was his fault. Her fault. You were young. You were drunk. All of which may be true. But you’re still guilty. Nobody wants to feel guilty. So we create narratives we can live with and move on. Or attempt to.” (150) When we acknowledge this (some might call it sin), things shift. When we change our path from sexual encounters to preservation for marriage (let’s call this an act of repentance), things break free. You move towards a healthy understanding of sex and intimacy in relationships. It’s how you engage in that process we’ve been calling becoming.

A Reflection on “Love, Sex and Dating” by Andy Stanley (Part Four)

I’m clearly getting a lot from this since we are in Part 4. I encourage anyone reading this to start at the beginning with Part 1.

Chapter 5 is called ‘Love Is,’ but I think the best way to describe this chapter would be, ‘Love Does.’ When you think about all the Disney stories, fairy tales and (again) romantic comedies that are ever so popular, the understanding is (whether stated or not) that everyone lives happily ever after. Those who scoff might be called realists, or skeptics, perhaps even cynics. But one thing that is abundant in life is trials and tribulations: generally only children believe that happily ever after happens in this life. Paul wrote on love in I Corinthians 13:11, “When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me.” In order to be a man (or an adult), you must put away your childish understanding of what and how to love.

“Think about it. Aren’t you amazed at how immature adults can be when it comes to love and relationships? Immature, as in childish. Childlike. Why is that? When it comes to their relationships with women, why do grown men revert to acting like teenaged boys? And why do grown women play along? …We all know that approach to romance never ends well. So why is it repeated so often?” (74)

But if that doesn’t work, what does? How do we love as mature adults? If we seek the answer within the bible, Paul provides the context of love as a verb. And verbs, being actions, naturally have effects. In other words, “When both people are willing to do a little causing, both experience a little effecting. Perhaps affection would be a better word. When two people choose to put the other first, powerful things transpire.” (76) What exactly are those verbs? Check out I Corinthians 13:4-8. This, in essence, ought to be our “Become List.” Find someone that has mastered these or is at minimum actively working at them on their “Become List.” Why? Because impatient people don’t suddenly become patient when they fall in love; it is a skill that is built over time. But on to the list.

  1. Patient: Rather than a means to an end, “Patience is the decision to move at someone else’s pace rather than pressure him or her to match yours.” (78) Counter to idea that life is about getting ahead and being first, this calls us to match pace. “It is a decision to pause rather than push.” (78) Impatience, on the other hand, is an emotional response that you feel. So patience is a choice, impatience is a feeling. What effect do they have? Patience, unnaturally shifting your pace to that of another, isn’t natural but it is an act of submission, of putting another first. It is an expression of love. Meanwhile, being impatiently pushed by someone you love can cause you to feel less loved (because they aren’t showing love).
  2. Kind: I am a BIG fan of kindness. Kindness is at the top of my list for desirable traits in a man. Super attractive. Kindness isn’t soft or weak: “To be kind is to leverage one’s strength on behalf of another. When we’re kind, we put our strength, abilities, and resources on loan to someone who lacks them… Kindness is love’s response to weakness.” (80) It is a choice and in it’s highest form, it is unconditional. Andy Stanley notes that it is likely the most important attribute in any romantic relationship! Conversely, unkindness brings death to romance: consistent acts of unkindness will end any relationship. Like patience, it is not a means to an end. Paying attention to how a person reacts to people either in a difficult situation or to whom they are under no obligation to be kind to will be a strong indicator of how they will end up treating you.
  3.  Doesn’t Envy, Boast, and is not Proud: Manifestations of insecurity, these three are expressed through sarcasm, criticism and public disrespect and they also kill romance. Think of relationships where one person could hardly say a nice or kind thing about the other person. Rather than celebrate the successes and strengths, they celebrate failures and cut their teeth on one another’s weaknesses. Envy is not rooted in the relationship; it’s roots spread deeper and farther than the expanses of any one relationship. Envy establishes it’s roots in a person and influences all relationships; envy is a problem smuggled in. “Is your initial response to celebrate or denigrate? To add or subtract from? Are you comfortable allowing the spotlight to remain on other people? …Envy is next to impossible to see in the mirror. But if you pay attention, you may see it mirrored in your relationships… you’ve got to own it and dethrone it.” (83) How? Celebrate, lift up, encourage. Instead of you telling a better story, you celebrate theirs. Lastly, pride prevents celebration because rather than pouring praise and encouragement, we remain silent.
  4. Doesn’t Dishonor: A rarely used term, some might think that honor is antiquated. “But honor is at the heart of every great relationship. In fact, if you fall in love with someone who has prepared to, and is committed to, honoring you, you are one lucky individual. In some ways, honor is the epicenter of a satisfying relationship.” (84) Picture your most prized possession, the thing you would choose save if there was a fire. How do you treat that possession? How do you care for it? How would you feel if it was mishandled by another person? Your instinct is to protect those things which you value. “Protecting is an expression of honor… Honor defers. Honor yields. Honor gives way… Interesting thing, Paul doesn’t present honor as something to aspire to. He presents it as something we should never deviate from.” (86) Why? Because love is choosing to give honor to another. Honor is, in a way, also an act of submission. Conversely, dishonor is dangerously comfortable. Treated that way long enough, one can begin to believe that is their truth. Resting in the fact that we are all created in the image of God, we must recall that our honor is not reliant on what we have done but on that which we innately are: created and loved by God.
  5. Not Self-Seeking: If love is about putting another before yourself, than it is a necessity that you not put yourself first, and it’s also a great test. “If you give and give and give and the other person takes and takes and takes, then you’ll know to run and run and run. But if you choose not to be self-seeking and your love interest returns the favor, then you’ve made a valuable discovery.” (87-88)
  6. Not Provocative: Modern translations have this as “not easily angered,” but Paul was likely referring to being ‘fired up,’ if you will. It’s having a short fuse, assigning blame. “…you may be tempted to respond, ‘That’s easy for you to say because you don’t know (name of person who stirs you up).’ That’s true. Here’s something equally true. Stir-ees always blame the stir-ers.” (88) This doesn’t change the dynamic though. If you provoke others, you are not acting in a loving manner. If you allow yourself to be provoked, you are equally not responding in a loving way. It is best to seek one who is not easily provoked, and doesn’t thrive on provoking others.
  7. Not a Record Keeper: While they can totally be into vinyl (the sound quality is better, right?), NASB translates this part as “does not take into account a wrong suffered.” We all know people who, in the midst of a disagreement, pull up past sins to be used against the other person. If someone is a record keeper with others, undoubtedly that tendency will eventually turn towards you. This can bring the same reaction out in you as a means of defense with an increasing likelihood to continue responding in the same manner. “The challenge for record keepers is that they are right… The problem isn’t their accuracy. The problem is the damage it does to a relationship.” (91) Why? It doesn’t foster love; forgiveness does. Even if you can’t forget, the best option is to pretend you have until you do. Keeping records is about keeping others down. Love is about lifting others up. This is often justified through the fact that it’s truth, but this kind of truth is best left to friends, counselors, etc. Truth served up by a record keeper will just lead to isolation and pain.
  8. “Love chooses to see the best and believe the best while choosing to overlook the rest.” (94) This summary from Andy Stanley is based on I Corinthians 13:6-7 which says, “Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.” Always. Sound impossible? It is making the choice to always trust that they are putting you first. It is to always hope. And it is choosing to persevere in the face of things which could drive you apart. “Every time your spouse, boyfriend, girlfriend, or friend-friend makes a promise or sets an expectation and doesn’t come through, he or she creates a gap. Whether you realize it or not, you choose what goes in the gap. And there are only two choices: trust or suspicion… when there’s a gap, love does everything possible to protect the integrity of the relationship rather than undermine it with suspicion.” (96) It is choosing love, when everything says otherwise. This inspires the other person to be their best self. If we always believe the best, they carry that with them. If we always believe the worst, it can end up leading them to believe that is who they are. It is, in a way, a self-fulfilling prophecy.

That’s it. None of this comes naturally, they are all something we choose, something we cultivate, and according to Paul, they’re all non-negotiable when it comes to the love Christ calls us into. The question is, are we ready to put our childish view of love away and focus on becoming the person God calls us to be?

Want more? Check out A Reflection on “Love, Sex and Dating” by Andy Stanley (Part Five)

A Reflection on “Love, Sex and Dating” by Andy Stanley (Part Two)

First, if you haven’t read Part 1, I suggest you read that first. Chapter 2 is titled, “Commitment is Overrated,” which at first felt like a huge red flag.  How could commitment be overrated? Isn’t commitment a big part of what makes things work? “In the realm of relationships, unlike any other arena of life, we operate from the premise that a promise replaces the need for preparation. That a couple can promise, vow, or commit themselves into a successful future.” (p. 36) This sounds like a pretty ludicrous idea when it’s framed this way by society does this and we have that expectation all the time. It’s like in the episode of Friends when Joey finds out about his father’s infidelity and is fearful that he’ll struggle with fidelity when he’s married.  Chandler reassures him that when he finds the right woman, that won’t be an issue.  But do we really believe that? How often do we see this scenario playing out well? Like Andy Stanley says, “Coaches know that you don’t promise to win games; you prepare to win… Very few people prepare. Most people are content to commit.” (36) He points out that this belief makes people accountable without making them capable, and the end result is misery.

Proverbs 14:15 “The simple believe anything, but the prudent give thought to their steps.” In the context of this book, it’s understanding the value of prudence: that what we choose to do today will impact our tomorrow. You can see the trajectory of many things if you learn to start looking at what has happened in the past. It’s not saying that people don’t change but it is acknowledging that change is a process, and it is recognizable. “Discount the promises but pay attention to the dots, the patterns. Again, the paths people choose trump the commitments they make…The past is a better indicator than a promise.” (40) This might SOUND unforgiving or lacking in grace but it isn’t. It doesn’t DENY that people can change (some of us call that repentance), but what it says it that you know what people are about when you look at what they do.

Consider this when you date someone who has a questionable record relationally, financially, morally, etc. but are promising that things are going to be different in the future. For yourself, recall the biggest, most positive change that you’ve made in your life. Really think about what it took to make that change and identify what the greatest contributor to that positive change was. “…in the end, wasn’t it your decision to act, to engage, to move forward, to move out, that brought about the change you celebrate? …You shook something off. You moved on with your life. You chose a way forward. Others may have cheered you on. But the change came about because of something you did for you.” (42) Now think about your greatest regret that YOU had influence over (not something that happened to you, something that was the result of a decision or decisions that you made). What was the biggest contributor to that regret? “Chances are someone else was involved. Perhaps a group of people. People you liked. People you trusted… You believed that moving in his or her direction would make your life better, richer. But in the end, it wasn’t so.” (41) What does this tell us?

We change when we make the choice to, and if you’re dating someone who leans on others instead of being self-driven, as hard as it might be, that’s where you need to give them the time and space to change. “…no one depends his or her way to change. Change requires fierce in-dependence that should eventually lead to inter-dependence with other healthy people.” (43) If they aren’t there, they won’t get there by you or anyone else being a crutch. Those are people who are not being prudent, who are behaving (according to Proverbs 14:15) as if they are simple. They aren’t thinking about their steps. Maybe you’re one of these people. Life seems to “happen” to you a lot, you don’t necessarily consider the consequences, your yes isn’t your yes. “Commit now to preparing to keep your commitments later. That’s the goal, what you should focus on. If you do, when you say ‘I do,’ you’ll be prepared to follow-through.” (46)

Chapter 3, titled “Becoming the Right Person,” is summed up in this: “Become the right person. Becoming the right person is how you prepare to commit. Becoming the right person dramatically increases your odds of sustained relational success when you finally meet the right person.” (47) My brain didn’t explode the first time I read this a while back, but it may as well have with how eye-opening it was for me. We’ve already established that the right person doesn’t make everything great and that committing without preparing is pretty much guaranteed failure. This calls for some serious introspection, some honest evaluation, to make you ask yourself if you would be attractive to the type of person you’re trying to attract.

“If you are as intentional about becoming the right person as you are about meeting the right person, you will position yourself to bypass a boatload of unnecessary pain, regret and wasted time.” (47-48) This makes complete sense, doesn’t it? But we never really think about it. It’s not the plot of most romantic comedies, because the idea doesn’t come off as funny or particularly romantic on paper. But to me, I find the idea that a man began preparing for marriage before he even met me deeply attractive, and I think that kind of guy might want the same thing from me.

We have to ask the hard questions: “Are you the person the person you’re looking for is looking for? If not…are you willing to begin the process of becoming the person the person you’re looking for is looking for? If you made a list of what you are looking for in someone (which isn’t a bad idea), would that person be looking for someone like you? If the other person’s list matched your list, how would you measure up?” (50) I suggest you read through that paragraph a couple times. Maybe take a break and make a list of what you are looking for and what you bring to the table (both good and bad). Be really honest. This isn’t about shame, guilt or tearing you down. It’s about honest evaluation and being Proverbs prudent: where are you, where do you want to go, what steps are needed to get there? And do we see a hypocrisy in wanting in others what you refuse to develop in yourself? “Bottom line: it’s not enough to look; you must become. You must become intentional about becoming the person the person you’re looking for is looking for.” (51)

You might be feeling like nobody does this, or almost nobody. So why should you? But that reasoning doesn’t really take us anywhere, and the argument made in our becoming is a worthwhile one.  What do we lose in this preparation other than becoming the person we want to be? Plus, as Andy Stanley writes, “If you commit to prepare before your promise, it will dramatically increase your chances of crossing paths with someone who is preparing as well. Why? Because preparing for anything sensitizes you to people who share your passion and direction.” (51) It makes it more likely for you both to not only recognize one another, but to engage with each other over a shared passion.

Think about when you get a new (or new to you) car. You begin to notice the number of times you see someone else with your car on the highway or in a parking lot. Or what about you find a TV show that you then binge-watch on Netflix; don’t you become more aware of the number of fans and references made to that show? “Don’t ever forget: We see what we’re looking for. We see whom we’re looking for as well.” (52) In the book he uses the example of Jenny and Shane meeting through online dating.  Shane, because of his age and success, was a bit of a commodity online. He attracted a lot of women, but they weren’t the kind of women he was looking for. He updated his profile to be more reflective of his morals and values which caught Jenny’s attention but wasn’t enough to hook her. It wasn’t until he spelled out these things in his profile (which he thought would seal his online-dating fate) that Jenny decided to take a chance on him. “Funny thing about Jenny and Shane, they really don’t have much in common on paper. Their common ground, as is so often the case with successful relationships, was more directional than recreational… Their common direction quickly blossomed into mutual affection.” (54-55)

So if you’re spending a lot of time looking, but not a lot of time finding, it’s certainly worthwhile to investigate why. In the story of Denise (not shared here), it was that she wasn’t the person the guy she wanted would want when she shifted from her faith to a life of partying and hooking up. In the story of Shane, it was a matter of clarifying what mattered to him and what direction he was heading. “Someone who is merely looking for the right person usually winds up with someone merely looking for the right person. But people committed to becoming the right people are usually attracted to and notice individuals who are the same.” (55) This leaves us with asking ourselves where we want to end up (and with whom), and determine what steps it will take to arrive there.

Want more? Continue to A Reflection on “Love, Sex and Dating” by Andy Stanley (Part Three)

A Reflection on “Love, Sex and Dating” by Andy Stanley (Part One)

In the introduction, Andy Stanley starts by reflecting on our cultures current state regarding sex, love and dating: that everything is sexualized. This sounds like an exaggeration but when you begin looking, you start to see it all around you. “Sex is leveraged to sell just about everything. Actually, the promise of no-strings-attached sex with a way-above-average-looking person is used to sell just about everything. Sexual scandals among politicians, athletes and celebrities elicit yawns. Infidelity is woven into the plot of just about every form of entertainment that involves a plot.” (pg. 12) He then points out that this tide that is relentlessly sweeping through our lives runs against a secondary current that has existed for ages: “a deep appreciation and desire for good ol’ fashioned, stand-the-test-of-time love.” (pg. 13) This book, though, isn’t about changing the culture so much as it is about NAVIGATING it. The truth is that the hook-up and overtly sexualized culture we live in leaves most people disappointed and eventually seeking something better. He writes, “So whether you’re still in or back in a season of looking for love, I can help. If you’re living with someone in an attempt to discover whether he or she is the right choice of a lifetime companion, this content will help. If you’ve given up on love or if you’ve never seen a marriage you would be caught dead in, this content may very well restore your hope. If you’ve concluded, ‘All guys are the same,’ and ‘Women only care about how much a guy makes,’ keep reading.” (pg. 18) And so I kept reading.

Chapter One dives straight in with the myth of the right person. The pervasive idea that there’s this person out there that is a perfect compliment to you in every way and it’ll be like every romantic comedy ever made. He emphasized, “The myth isn’t, There’s a right person for you out there somewhere. There may very well be. The myth is that once you find the right person, everything will be all right.” (pg. 22) It’s not just about looking for the right person, although that is important, it’s about the more of the relationship; the part that shows up very little in media but grows great relationships.

Consider the “list” you have. The boxes we describe as MUST HAVES in the right person, the boxes that are WOULD BE NICE. These lists that might possess good traits and characteristics like adventurous, kind, Christ-follower, respectful, etc. are fantastic, but they are rarely the deciding factors in who we date or even marry. Why? Andy Stanley says it falls into two categories: chemistry and attraction. And while attraction alone works for relationships in adolescents, in adulthood we usually abandon our list for a combination of chemistry and physical attraction. But should those two things be the foundation of our relationships?

“They knew before they got to know each other. Strange. Strange, but not uncommon. While instant chemistry that dovetails into an instantly healthy relationship with until-death-do-us-part potential is not… falling in love is easy; it requires a pulse. Staying in love requires more. There’s that word again.” (pg. 24) His point is that when a relationship feels right, it can be powerfully persuasive and pushes us to go further faster than is healthy. “Physical attraction isn’t like art appreciation. It’s not something you admire from a distance. Physical attraction is like hunger. It’s something you satisfy.” (pg. 24-25) This leads us to the big reveal: someone and you have a few things in common and you’re attracted to one another. Shouldn’t you see if you’re also compatible in the bedroom? Andy Stanley points out that we are compatible with far more people sexually than we are relationally (he also said no male would underline the sentence stating that, because isn’t this obvious?). But this means that sexual compatibility is not the tool by which we ought to measure our relational compatibility. “Sex is a bit like glue. You shouldn’t apply it until you’re absolutely sure you’re ready to stick two things together permanently.” (pg. 26) This is because sex actually inhibits relational development while also building attachment. It camouflages potential red flags that, if we weren’t already sexually engaged, might have us making different decisions.

This also isn’t a distortion which, now that you’re aware of, you can engage in sexual relationships while keeping your eyes open to potential problems. It’s an actual cognitive bias that you develop which is known as focalism. “Focalism is the brain’s tendency to magnify one thing to the exclusion of everything else. Focalism distorts reality, be that reality food, a dress, a car, or, yes, a person.” (pg. 27) We experience this often and rarely is it something of much importance, resulting in spending too much on an outfit or driving out of the way to appease your sweet tooth. When it comes to selecting a partner though, such bias can have substantial long-term consequences. Many of us might recognize this in a relationship where two people are mad for each other while everyone else is asking themselves if maybe they’re just crazy. Do they not see what everyone else sees? The answer is actually no, they probably don’t.

“If you allow attraction and chemistry to sweep you immediately into sexual involvement, you will most likely confuse sexual compatibility for something it isn’t. Namely, a sign.” (pg. 28) There are consequences too, beyond just the cognitive impairment. It diminishes something that has great value to you into something summed up in, “you’re place or mine?” Treating valuable, bond-building stuff cheaply comes at a cost. When the connection built on sex and attraction stops being effortless, when the chemistry slowly begins to ebb, the foundational more that is so critical to the success of the relationship isn’t there. It wasn’t built.

Side note: Babies don’t help broken relationships and divorce doesn’t fix why the marriage didn’t work. Babies: Why do we think that adding a helpless, totally reliant on you bundle of life to an already difficult situation is going to “fix” things? “While 15% of married couples divorce within three years of the birth of their first child,  the percentage of unmarried couples who separate after the birth of a child is closer to 40%.” (pg. 31) And divorce?  “…Second marriages have a higher failure rate then first marriages. Sixty-seven percent of second and 73 percent of third marriages end in divorce.” (pg. 31) Why? Because their approach and philosophy remain the same: if I find the right person, then it’ll all work out the way it should.

He closes chapter one by reminding us that there aren’t any guarantees, but there are ways we can be better equipped and then asks readers to step back if we are in a relationship that people are warning us about. He reminds us that while what we are feeling is certainly REAL, that doesn’t make it reliable. Love (or should we say chemistry and attraction?) just isn’t enough.

For more, continue to A Reflection on “Love, Sex and Dating” by Andy Stanley (Part Two)

Reflections on Relationships

How many of us have confused lust with love at some point in life? Or have mistaken danger for adventure? I’ve fallen in “love” a couple times. Once was a first love, and it had many of the entanglements for confusing what is good with what was bad because I didn’t know any better. The second love was even worse, mistaking supreme brokenness for a common ground on which relationship could be built. But you can’t build anything on a crumbling foundation. At least, nothing that will stand for very long, which is probably why he hadn’t been able to maintain long-term relationships before me.

There’s a difference between someone who is an anchor and someone who drags you down into the depths of the water to drown. It took a long time for me to understand that. To recognize that I need somebody who will slow me a little bit, but who is courageous enough to not fear something just because it is unknown.

Mindy Gledhill – Anchor (Official Video)

I find boldness and courage attractive, as well as the ability to build, restore and create. It’s why I’ve historically been attracted to men who are engineers or musicians, guys who can fix a car and figure out how to repair things. They are, in a way, my favorite reflection of what I now see as the Creator. Their mind works to solve problems, to fix what is broken, to make something new. But a creator should care for creation, and not only things that are built but life itself.

I’ve almost always ended up with men who, while possessing this passion for creating, have a lack of love for creation. In other words, the respect for the lives of others was often missing. They served themselves first and foremost, which is why in the beginning I would always be fooled, for what served them best at that point was to be a chameleon, to put on the colors of love, empathy and compassion without having much behind it. They behaved as if they were playing a video game where people were just a means to an end and the only player that mattered was ultimately them. This occurred so frequently that I began to attribute the traits of these particular individuals to all men.

It’s why I had to take so much time off from dating after my last relationship. Each time I tried to venture into the field, I found myself with the same chameleons even though I had come to learn that there were many men who were not like this. I began to wonder if perhaps it was me that was the problem. What made me so attractive to predatory men while I remained so invisible to men with a heart for God and His people? I don’t know what that answer is yet, but I do know I am a different person from the one I was a few years ago. So I’ll keep focused on the things to which I feel called, and wait for the man who will push me gently towards adventure and be an anchor without drowning me.

James Morrison – You Make It Real