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The second (very long) section of this book begins with an in-depth discussion of what it means to know another person, how important that is in spotting the jerks/non-jerks, and why it takes much longer than we really think.

Dr. Epp warns against judging too soon whether you really know someone or not. Significant patterns in a person’s behavior are usually not even obvious until much later in a relationship—the third month, not the third date. We begin to bond with someone as we get to know them (not merely after), so it’s important that we’re getting as much correct information as possible, so we’re not bonding with the wrong person. We tend to feel a bond with someone about whom we know a great deal—even if all our information is false! But even if all the information we have is true, we may not really know a person just because we can recite a pile of facts like height, favorite color, and where they went to college.

I love the part where Epp says (emphasis mine):

Romantic relationships often begin in a whirlwind of excitement and passion. You see your heartthrob across a crowded room, you make that first connection when your eyes meet, and you feel electrified with the slightest touch. But the process of getting to know the person takes just as long as it would if there had been no connection at all. Once again, there are no shortcuts!

I’ve said before that I relate very much to Marianne Dashwood of Jane Austen’s Sense and Sensibility. In the film version, after meeting Mr. Willoughby, the Dashing Man of Her Dreams, she says, “Time alone does not determine intimacy. Seven years could be insufficient to make some people acquainted with one another, and seven days could be more than enough for others.”

When her sister Elinor dryly responds, “Or seven hours, in this case,” Marianne argues, “I feel that I know Mr. Willoughby already.”

Dr. Epp likes to use films sometimes to illustrate his points, but he doesn’t use S&S, much to my disappointment. Marianne and Willoughby’s relationship is a perfect example of bonding too quickly with someone before really knowing them, only to be brokenhearted and disappointed and realizing that too much trust was initiated too quickly.

While it’s true that time alone doesn’t determine intimacy, it’s a very, VERY important part.

So what’s the long-cut? Dr. Epp recommends a formula in which Intimacy equals Talk, Togetherness, and Time. This is the only proven successful combination, he says, to really know a person. I haven’t finished the book yet, but from what I’ve read so far, all the rest of his advice is based on that formula, though he may not refer to it specifically. But in every aspect of dating and of life, he reinforces the need for time to get to know a person, talking and self-disclosure, and spending time together in a variety of situations and activities. This will give a more well-rounded picture of the person one is dating.

(When you think about it, this formula, like a lot of his advice, is based on conventional wisdom.)

Now for my favorite part. Epp reveals a “dating disclaimer” that I learned all too well from the relationships of friends and family, and from being a child of divorce and subsequent blended families. Buckle up kids, because this one is a bit of a blow: The good doesn’t always last, and the bad usually gets worse. If you’re following along at home, it’s page 65 in my edition.

What he is saying is NOT 1.) the good will never return, or 2.) it’s no use to even bother with a relationship. What he says is that how a person treats his/her significant other while dating reflects how he/she will do so in marriage. This sounds like a “Duh” moment, but he explains it further. If a couple shares interests, common beliefs, effective communication, and if they feel a strong, bonding friendship with each other besides romantic affection, then their marriage has a good foundation. Although it’s not easy to “stay” in love, such a couple will definitely find it possible, even as certain feelings come and go, and conflicts will arise.

But a couple that constantly battles with trust issues, miscommunication, minimal chemistry, or any other possible relationship problems will not see these issues improve just because they’re married. In fact, they will probably get worse. Their premarital relationship wasn’t so great before, so there’s no reason to believe that marriage will set the bar any higher. Relationships have to have good communication, varied shared experiences, and oodles of time before you really know a person, and before you even know whether it will last.

That was my summary of just one chapter, but I won’t cover them all in such depth. I went on about this one at length because it establishes a foundation for the rest of the book. Plus I don’t want to tell you everything! You need to experience the book yourself!

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I hope that my future posts aren’t all about this book until I finish it. Some of the political blogs I read have done that, and I hate it.

I’ll try to keep this brief-ish.

How to Avoid Falling in Love With a Jerk by John Van Epp, PhD, is quite good so far. After buying it and beginning to read it, I was surprised that it had been in my church bookstore, since it is not written from a strictly Christian viewpoint, and definitely not targeted specifically to Christians. But based on what I’ve read, it seems full of common sense, smack-yourself-on-the-forehead insight, and suggestions for alternate ways of thinking about life and love. There is a lot of information based on scientific studies (but not presented too dryly) and on the author’s own anecdotes from his experiences in counseling.

Apparently he has developed a program called PICK a Partner, which includes the Relationship Attachment Model (RAM). The first section of the book, which I’ve now finished, consists of introductions to how he came up with his ideas for the program and why you might need it. If you’ve had problems with becoming attached to “jerks” (a term that he defines, pointing out that they can be male or female), then you’ll probably spend the first chapter of the book nodding or thinking, “Hmm, yes, so true…” He emphasizes the need to use both your head and your heart when dating and choosing a partner. This may cause you to react with some form of, “Well, duh,” but if you read this book, you might end up reading a lot that you already know, or what seems like common sense—but presented in a different and straightforward way that makes it eye-opening. At least, that’s been my experience so far.

The second chapter is when he describes RAM, and because I’m crazy about analogies, I found it to be AWESOME. Getting involved with jerks, he says, often comes from prematurely accelerating a relationship. A relationship should follow a pattern based on five dynamics, in the following order: Know, Trust, Rely, Commit, and Touch. Basically, don’t trust someone more than you know them, don’t rely on them more than you trust them, etc. etc. The analogy part is when he describes the balance of these five dynamics as a sound enhancer, in that when you rachet one quality up too far, or turn one down too low, the sound (i.e., the relationship) is out of balance, and something goes wrong.

The third chapter (the final chapter in Part One) discusses the need for emotional and mental health before an individual can be involved in a lasting relationship. Basically, fix yourself, because a relationship won’t. (Obviously this book, being secular, doesn’t discuss our completion in Christ and the gradual healing from the Holy Spirit. Those are important topics, but are not discussed in this book and must be found elsewhere.) Relationships cannot fix problems such as daddy issues, unhealthy emotional extremes, projection, and unrealistic idealism.  These things, in fact, can inflict further damage, and cause relationship history to repeat itself until such issues are addressed and dealt with in a healthy manner.

There. That’s my summary/opinion of Part One. Based on what I’ve read so far (admittedly a small fraction of the book), I definitely recommend it. We’ll see how/if my opinion changes as I progress.

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It’s been, oh, about 7 months since I wrote the fourth and penultimate segment in my “Woman’s Guide to ‘A Girl’s Guide'” series. I was bored with the whole thing, and then convinced I didn’t want to get married at all, so I didn’t have to bother reading it, and then forgot about it, and then lost my notes, and then found them again and was bored still…

Finally I decided that I just needed to finish what I started—better late than never, you know. I’m going to try to keep this short(er…ish) because there’s something else I want to talk about afterwards.

(And if you’re a newer reader, just do a search on this site for “girl’s guide” and you should easily find the past entries.)

I have just a few things, really, to stay about the rest of the chapter on Christian Compatibility.

First of all, they give some hints on staying objective when you’re dating and awash with emotion. Any attempt to stay objective in a new, exciting relationship is pretty much a good idea. I’m all for having a ready crew of friends and family who will be both willing and able to basically pull you aside and say “Hey, look, I’ve noticed some warning signs you should be careful about.” This could be the guy you’re dating, or the way you’re conducting yourself in the relationship, or a number of other issues. But the Boundless authors seem to think that this will make you stop and think rationally and objectively, and immediately put on hold all future plans for this relationship. I think—in fact, I know—that there are people fully capable of doing this. But not everyone–including me. My advice? Never stop praying for the relationship, and make sure you have friends willing to harangue you repeatedly for your own good.

The section on what “good guys” are looking for really had me chuckling. As in many areas, the authors have some good ideas and make good points, but they’re often a little off-track or unclear in their wording. The authors of Boundless generally hold to the traditional dating approach where men pursue women. I have no problem with that. But the part of “A Girl’s Guide” that talks about “good guys” and what they want is almost contradictory. I must give them credit for having a man write this part, but he doesn’t seem to be quite on Planet Earth. I will explain.

First, he discusses what guys are looking for: a woman who is authentic, secure in who she is, honest and humble, and has an adventuresome faith that is willing to follow God wherever He leads. Hey, this girl sounds awesome! And then he adds,

When a girl is willing to love the unlovely and give without thought of receiving anything in return, guys take notice.

I was baffled, and honestly, pretty angry when I read this, taking it to mean that women should be willing to love the unlovely guy who may be interested in her. Pastors, writers, comedians, etc. will often refer to their wives as their “better half” and make jokes about how much nicer, more attractive, etc. she is than he. But this is ridiculous and just completely unfair. Is he actually saying that the girl should be fabulous and willing to overlook the fact that the guy interested in her is completely not?

Upon the 50th reading, I realize that he might just be referring to a woman who loves the unlovely around her, caring for things that many people don’t, but should—perhaps making friends with the girl nobody else likes, or defending someone else’s opinion, or cheerfully giving up an hour of her time to help out when she might rather spend it elsewhere. The “unlovely” may not actually refer to the guy who is “taking notice” of her. But man, as I said, the wording is a little unfortunate.

But then, maybe my first interpretation was correct, since the author also pleads with women to be patient with men. They are works in progress, after all, and the culture is fighting against them to keep them from growing up and becoming men of God.

That’s definitely a good thing to keep in mind. Unfortunately, women don’t get such a free pass, at least in this guide. I haven’t seen any mention of how society teaches us that we have to play a number of roles to get guys’ attention–the skank, the foul-mouthed “one of the boys,” the damsel in distress, the independent woman who needs nothing, the disinterested ice princess, the fawning needy chick, the sexy nerd, or the future housewife. Even if somehow we defeat these stereotypes, we too are God’s creation, and imperfect, and still learning about ourselves, our lives, and our relationship with God. Guys need to remember that too.

The author adds,

The good guy can be like the great restaurant that only locals know about. The tourists miss it because they fall for the “traps” of the neon sign and convenient location of the franchise, not realizing that the best is tucked away just a few blocks over. The good guy is more a discovery, finding him can take more effort because you have to work your way past all the flash of the franchise guy. He could be working in the cubicle next to you, or sitting just a few rows over in class, or playing guitar in your church small group.

This is kind of the basis for my favorite fictional love story, that of Colonel Brandon and Marianne Dashwood in Jane Austen’s Sense and Sensibility. For a while, Marianne ignores the Colonel, essentially because he’s not her “type,” when he’s exactly the sort of man she needs. So, I’m completely sympathetic and open to the idea that I’m overlooking a worthwhile guy, or setting aside petty prejudices to give Love a chance.

But if this guy is so great and so overlooked, why isn’t he making a move? If he’s not demonstrating any interest, why should I? There’s a difference between blowing off a guy who is at least initially worthy of my time, and passing over a man who doesn’t seem interested in me. Marianne Dashwood doesn’t doubt the Colonel’s interest in her—she just doesn’t like it. And how do we “find” such a guy if the girls aren’t supposed to be doing the pursuing? HMMM? If this “great restaurant” hasn’t built up a customer base from word-of-mouth, then it needs to improve its advertising or rethink its business model. Because if no one is saying good things about you, if there’s no sign saying BEST FISH & CHIPS IN TOWN!!!, and if you’re huddled behind a thick wooden door in a dark alley, why should anyone choose you?

Whoa, sorry, my capitalistic side just went crazy for a sec.

That’s really all I had left to say regarding Boundless‘ “Girl’s Guide to Marrying Well.” It’s definitely an interesting read, and you should check it out. You may have a different opinion than I do. But take both the guide and my opinion with a grain of salt.

Now, on to the other thing that I wanted to talk about.

Seriously, this part WILL be brief. I wanted to talk to Bethany about this beforehand, but it’ll have to be a surprise for her, as well, since she went on a retreat this weekend and I don’t know when she’ll be back.

I bought this book at the church bookstore yesterday, and I’m going to blog about it (hopefully with greater success than the “Girl’s Guide”). The title, which is what caught my eye, is How to Avoid Falling in Love With a Jerk, by John Van Epp (PhD!). I’d never heard of this book before I saw it yesterday, but it’s something I know I need to read, sadly. I’ll save a full introduction and description for later, but I wanted to give you guys a little notice about what’s coming up. I’m quite excited about this one.

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