Thursday, July 13, 2006

How to know if she's the one

Over the past few years, we've heard numerous stories of guys who are having a hard time taking a dating relationship to the next level—even after a couple of years. Some stories are from the girls who are starting to feel frustrated and even taken advantage of. Others are from the guys who are genuinely wrestling with the question, “Is this the girl I should marry?”

A new article posted on Boundless called "Stop Test Driving Your Girlfriend" is a must read for those who are either in this situation or know someone who is. It was written by Dr. Michael Lawrence who has seen this storyline numerous times in his pastoral work in the nation’s capital. As an associate pastor at Capitol Hill Baptist Church, Michael developed a seminar for singles in which he provides Biblical principles to guide a young man to make a wise and timely decision about the potential for the relationship he’s in. This article reflects several key principles from that seminar.

We’re excited about the bold challenge this message brings to young men who often just don’t know how to appropriately guide a relationship. It’s our hope this article will start a much needed conversation among young men and women and that it can encourage more accountability and ultimately more good marriages.

Here's one of the best passages:
Too often in dating relationships we think and act like consumers rather than servants. And not very good consumers at that. After all, no one would ever go down to his local car dealership, take a car out for an extended test drive, park it in his garage, drive it back and forth to work for several weeks, maybe take it on vacation, having put lots of miles on it, and then take it back to the dealer and say, "I'm just not ready to buy a new car."

But so often, that's exactly the way men treat the women they're dating. Endlessly "test driving" the relationship, without any real regard for the spiritual and emotional wear and tear they're putting her through, all the while keeping their eyes out for a better model.
Read the whole article at http://www.boundless.org/2005/articles/a0001306.cfm.

10 Comments:

At 2:23 PM, Blogger Mike Theemling said...

Interesting article.

Part of the problem is young people are getting a lot of mixed messages. They are told that choosing a partner is "the most important decision you'll ever make" so naturally they are cautious (although often too much so). Christians read things like "Don't marry the person you can live with, marry the person you can't live without" (sic)-James Dobson and read Boundless articles which say that its best to cancel a marriage even on the wedding day if you have second thoughts. They also see how many marriages around them DON'T have happy endings.

As a result, one big problem is that his advice works well in theory but poor in practice. Almost universally in our culture mention of the "M" word too early on in any dating relationship scares a person off. They think either you are either "desparate" or too possessive. Christian singles who advertise "Ready to marry now" don't get many dates. If you are in a culture (like the Amish perhaps or a Christian Bible college) which such upfront, direct intentions public are expected, then it works out great. Sadly, 95% of Western society is not this way.

I don't have any viable solution other than to just "play the dating game" and not mention marriage right away. It SEEMS the way it works is you have to get to a stage where one person in the relationship is the pursuer of and early wedding and one is the person who needs convincing. It's like being a car salesman. You don't immedately try to seal the deal without showing all the benefits of owning the vehicle first.

And so, we are left where the men are the pursuers of attractive young ladies who know they are pursued and thus "hold out" and women who aren't so attractive are pursuers of men (any men by this point) who aren't interested in them.

 
At 4:23 PM, Blogger Elena said...

I did a *happy, bouncy "office chair dance"* when I read the article Steve cited. Wahoo!

If a corollary one addressed to the womenfolk hasn't already been written (and actually, Boundless has published numerous articles addressing the female part of their audience), I'm sure it is forthcoming. :o)

 
At 4:49 PM, Blogger Firinnteine said...

I find such articles very good, but rather too convicting for comfort. Has he *tried* being truly unselfish in relationships? It ain't easy. (Also, loving unselfishly sometimes means not marrying the young lady, or even not pursuing her at all. How easy or difficult this is depends on the situation, and how "unselfish" the relationship actually manages to be.)

RE: Mike Theemling's comment -- good point. Does anyone have good practical suggestions for how we can radically revise 95% of Western Society?

 
At 5:49 PM, Blogger A. LaLande said...

Well, my friends, we can try BEING a radically different 5% instead of trying to "Christianize" the world's way of doing things. It is true that our convictions are not always going to be comfortable, but we need to speak them out nevertheless. Being forthright about our desire to please God in the way we live is essential to changing our world.

The thing is, and this is in answer to Mike’s post, I don’t think we SHOULD pursue dating relationships without the scary “M” word coming up early on. If it scares someone that much before marriage, whatever will it do to them after marriage, provided one is able to trick them into it at last? Desperation and possessiveness are certainly traits to avoid, but that is just too broad a generalization to make - there ARE young people out there who are godly, working hard at being unselfish, and not afraid of…that word! Also, Mike, I sincerely hope that the culture’s bias against marriage and family is not becoming an useful excuse for Christian men and women to “just play the dating game”.

And by the way, you can’t lump all girls into “attractive hold-out” or “unattractive pursuer” categories! That would make all men either not-quite-good-enough or hounded-by-the-homely, which certainly isn’t true either!

I hope this blog and these conversations will encourage each of us to meet every day joyfully, content with where God has us right now, and excited about what He is going to do in our lives next! I know that I have been inspired, encouraged, and…well, convicted!

 
At 1:39 AM, Blogger Mike Theemling said...

lalande,

Thanks for the reply.

First, I'd like to say to be clear:
1. Marriage is a desirable thing for most people
2. In my studies of the Bible I find no one truly "Biblical" way of FINDING a marriage partner. Many marriages back in those days were arranged, yet I don't think that would fly today at all for anyone (either those seeking marriage or the parents of them). There have been arranged, courtship, dating, common-law marriages, etc. etc.
3. That being said, my point was that "playing the dating game" may not be the most desirable method for finding someone but (in our culture) is the most effective. A simple test in most any church singles group would confirm this. If I were to ask 95% of the girls in the 20-25 age group I were interested in up front, "Hi. I've been keeping my eye on you and think you'd be a wonderful wife and mother. Would you please consider letting me court you so we could be married in about 6-12 months?" Yeah, unless they were totally head over heals for me before I asked them how many positive responses do you think I'd get? It's not about "tricking someone" into marriage. It's about getting that person interested in you and marriage as a natural eventuality.

What I like about the "What guys/girls wish they knew about them" Boundless articles is that girls say they want one thing and yet when presented with it, are often hesitant to commit.

Don't want to sound like I'm full of myself, but for example this is what I have to offer:
- A desire for a family
- A well paying job
- My own home
- No addictions to drugs, alcohol, or gambling.
- Relatively fit physically
- No short tempers
- Enjoy conversation and love to listen attentively.
- And I put Christ first in my life (or try to at least)

And I have been relatively ACTIVE in finding someone. Yet, in online dating I've received very few "views" and even fewer replys to my initations. And in my single groups at church I've been given lame excuses for just asking someone out to get a cup of coffee (I CAN take a 'No').

Now either I'm totally oblivious to something about myself, those I'm asking don't have marriage on their minds at all in the near future, or maybe just dumb bad luck. The point is that I'd much rather have people be honest to themselves and other people and from what I've experienced I'm not seeing that.

In Dobson's book "Life on the Edge" he gives tips regarding finding someone. One of them is:

"5. Don't be too quick to reveal your desire to get married-or that you think you've just found Mr. Wonderful or Miss Marvelous. If your partner has not arrived at the same conclusion, you'll throw him or her into panic."

I'm sure he would rather not have this be the case and younger Western folk could just be more proactive with marriage but he is just reflecting societal attitudes. I'm just saying that such a radical attitude change to marriage on such a large scale will take a long time.

 
At 1:11 PM, Blogger Jake said...

Reading the most recent posts here as well as Boundless articles, I keep thinking Christian pundits might be illegitimately conflating the secular world and the Christian world. For example, in the Boundless article being discussed here, the author writes "But so often, that's exactly the way men treat the women they're dating." Yes, that is the stereotype, as reflected in sitcoms and movies. But sitcoms and movies don't usually depict Evangelical Christian relationships. So, that may be the way many men treat the women they're dating, but is it the way Christian men treat the women they're dating? Or, in this post, Steve wrote "News reports bemoan men who won’t commit." Yes, they do--but those reports are usually about the population at large, which is majority secular. News reports that I've seen don't bemoan Christian men who won't commit. I'm reminded of Camerin Courtney's response to Albert Mohler, in which she wrote: "However, I take issue with the gross overgeneralizations they make about single people. Their comments make me wonder how many actual Christian singles they interact with on a regular basis, or whether they're basing their understanding of singles from viewing a few episodes of Friends." I wonder, too, because these comments don't seem to correspond with my own experience.

I know Michael Lawrence says he's basing his comments on lots of experience with Christian singles, and I know the plural of anecdote is not data, but it's hard to agree when one isn't seeing this in one's own life at all, especially when one is a man and is having the finger pointed at him for doing something he's not, in fact, doing. According to Albert Mohler and other Boundless authors, there is an epidemic of Christian young men who are taking minimum wage jobs and continuing to live with their parents so they can sit around playing video games and avoiding responsibility and maturity, instead of getting real jobs, moving out, and being willing to support a family. I just don't see it. It's especially perplexing when this argument is made by Christian pundits in connection with a condemnation of men's lustfulness and the adage that "he won't buy the cow if he can get the milk for free." If we all want to have sex so badly, as we are accused, why on earth would we intentionally remain single and celibate? Unlike wordly men, we presumably aren't getting ANY milk without buying the cow, so why wouldn't we be eager to go ahead and make the purchase?

I also disagree with Lawrence's assertion that the notion of "the one" is inherently selfish. I personally do not like the notion of "the one," but some people who buy into it are thinking "the one God has for me, to sanctify me, strengthen my faith, spur me on to serve Him, be a good help-mate," etc, rather than thinking selfishly. That is certainly how my ex-girlfriend meant it when evaluated my "the one"-ness. Of course, my ex-girlfriend wasn't a a man, so maybe she doesn't deserve condemnation for not being willing to get married.

In a different recent post, Steve wrote: "The conventional wisdom is that Christian women desire marriage but have difficulty finding men who do." That's true, but I think we need to keep in mind the reason for that that's given in the conventional wisdom. Conventional wisdom in the secular world is that women want to (eventually) get married, but men don't want to. Conventional wisdom in the Christian world is that women and men want to get married, but there are simply more Christian women than Christian men, so there is always a surplus of women "left over" after all the men get taken. I happen to agree with that by and large, but it seems more and more like everyone who really considered it important to get married found their spouse in college, and for the women who are left, marriage is viewed more as a "nice-to-have" rather than a "must have." I'm in a similar situation to Mike Theemling's, being from what I've been told women want a "good catch," yet still unmarried and wondering where all these Christian women supposedly so desperate for marriage are. The ones who are "left" (i.e., didn't get married or engaged in college) seem to be hyper-spiritual types who have been raised with this notion that if they don't get courted and proposed to by a Jim Elliot then it's better to just remain single because accepting a mere mortal for a husband would be "settling for less than God's best."

 
At 7:37 PM, Blogger A. LaLande said...

Thank you, Mike, for clarifying your thoughts. I appreciate that and I do agree with you. I guess what I am saying is that I want to know pretty soon that a man is serious about marriage in general, but I'd of course decidedly prefer not to be proposed to the day we met...

The way I personally would like to radically change Western Society is by having 16 children and teaching them all to love and follow Christ. (Tell me, is that going to get in the way of anyone being interested in me, do you suppose?!)

There really isn't any one "right" way to meet and marry, is there? I know from observing that there are wrong ways, however. I just pray that God will give us wisdom, which He has promised to do "generously and without reproach."

On another note - I believe that Jim Elliot was used of God, but to be entirely truthful, his courtship wasn't something I'd like to duplicate. Besides, I think most girls would much rather be wife to, say, a Jim Dobson, than widow to a Jim Elliot!

 
At 5:56 PM, Blogger Firinnteine said...

"The way I personally would like to radically change Western Society is by having 16 children and teaching them all to love and follow Christ."


Rock on... :)

 
At 9:24 PM, Blogger Jake said...

I have to echo Mike Theemling's comments about how not being able to talk marriage right off the bat is a great hindrance.

When I was in college, I really cared about "falling in love" first: going on dates, having long intimate convsersations in which we are both pleasantly surprised to discover we share some common but obscure interest, long walks down by the river with the city skyline lit up in the background as we hold hands for the first time, the whole 9 yards. At this point in my life, all I care about is that she's a Christian, I find her attractive, and I feel I can trust her to be good to me, not cheat on me, and not divorce me. These days I almost wish I could turn around during the greeting time at church some Sunday, find an attractive young woman standing behind me, start talking to her and discover that all of the above is true right then and there, and be able to say "so, you're looking for a husband? I'm looking for a wife! Let's go! We'll go find the pastor after the service and arrange premarital counseling, go out and get a ring tommorow, and set a date for 4 months from now." :)

That's definitely not what women want, though. It seems like no matter how old they get, they still want all the things I described at the beginning of the last paragraph. A few weeks ago, one of the single women in the home group I attend was talking about the man she'd just recently begun seeing. She described the importance of taking it slow at first, and was lamenting the fact that she'd probably be 30 at the least before she got married, because you need to become friends first, and date for at least a year in order to make an informed decision to get married. It struck me that someone allegedly eager to get married was uneccessary stretching things out, and it frustrates me to hear women talk that way. I'm turning 30 in 2 months, and (hopefully) starting med school next year, which may require moving away, and the last thing I want to do is have a relationship become long distance when it hasn't yet progressed to engagement. I just don't have the time or energy for the elaborate relationship women seem to want. It's times like these that arranged marriage starts to sound really appealing. :)

 
At 4:27 PM, Blogger Firinnteine said...

By and large, women don't seem very supportive of arranged marriages, either. :)

Although, come to think of it, neither do most men....

 

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