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Posts Tagged ‘Dating’

Disclaimer: I discuss my political beliefs in this post more than usual. I’m not trying to argue any of them, I’m just using them as examples and illustrations and, as always, you are all totally free to disagree with me.

This is one of the few posts that I wrote for my personal blog that, after it was published, I thought, “Hey, I should share this with more people.”

If you’ve read my sometimes-sensical ramblings for a significant length of time, you know that I’ve waffled over the will-I-won’t-I get married, or do-I-don’t-I-even-want-to. After several church sermons, some prayer, and reading How to Avoid Falling in Love With a Jerk, I’ve decided that I do want to get married … eventually. Not next week, obviously. Not even next year. But definitely some day in the however-distant future.

This has had an interesting effect on my prayer life, how I see guys, how I see myself, my spiritual desires, and what I think I’m looking for in a life partner.

For one thing, after mentally rejecting a guy who is my polar opposite when it comes to politics (and economics), I began to wonder, Am I being too picky if I reject guys who significantly differ from me when it comes to politics?

I’ve casually mentioned before that I am really into politics and economics (especially the theoretical/principle side), and I have always been especially attracted to guys who share my libertarian ideas. And if they’re libertarian Christians, then hooooo boy—instant chemistry!

Now, I am particularly extreme in my libertarian ideas, and many of my beliefs are rare in general, and especially so for a Christ-follower. So if a guy who is extremely different from me when it comes to economics is still interested in me, should I just shrug off such differences and say “Well, we can agree to disagree?”

After thinking about this for a while, I came to several conclusions.

First of all, let it be known that I do not expect to marry someone who is as extreme as I am. I know that such people are relatively rare, and I’m completely reconciled to the idea that I’m not going to marry someone who agrees with me 100% when it comes to politics/economics. I’m not saying it’s impossible, I just know it’s improbable enough not to expect it. (Also, I’m not trying to be like, LOOK AT ME AND WHAT A SPECIAL SNOWFLAKE I AM! I HAVE NO EQUAL! BWA HA HA! Well, I mean, in a way that’s true, but … look, I’m just not trying to brag about it.)

I also know that a lot of people aren’t that interested in politics and/or economics. Which is also fine. And there are people who ARE interested, but not in a way that affects how they see the world. I am perfectly willing to concede that two people with vastly different political beliefs could create a very happy marriage, depending on how deeply those beliefs run.

However, my political and economic beliefs are right up there with my faith in shaping how I view the world and how I live.  Therefore, I can’t imagine being happy with someone who significantly differs from me when it comes to those things, because it affects so much about me—how I take in the news, how I perceive society, what I consider a social right/wrong, how I like to spend my time. This is one of those things where a little difference is well and good, but a lot of difference makes for complete incompatibility.

Allow me to excessively drive my point home by creating a secular, hypothetical example. Let’s say we have a casual vegetarian—maybe for her health or simply for taste preferences. That person is more likely to tolerate a common omnivore than, say, a strict vegan who is so because of her beliefs regarding animal rights. The strict vegan may cultivate a lasting relationship with someone who is a casual vegetarian, but she probably wouldn’t be able to marry, say, a hunter. They could say that they’ll “agree to disagree,” but ultimately these differing beliefs affect so much of their lives—not only what they eat, but what they wear, how they see the world around them, and how they spend their time. It’s unlikely that they can be easily reconciled. The more casual vegetarian, however, may be perfectly willing to accept hunting and meat-eating, because their “brand” of vegetarianism is not a deep-seated part of who they are.

Let’s say, metaphorically speaking, that I’m the meat-eating hunter—I may be able to forge a lasting relationship with a casual vegetarian, but any further differences beyond that is probably just not going to work, based on my set of values.

Maybe Hypothetical Future Husband Guy believes that government should be tiny, but should still have more powers than I think it should. Maybe he likes Sarah Palin way more than I do (read: at all). Maybe he believes in a Fair Tax, or that certain people should be restricted from owning firearms, or that some drugs should not be legalized. As long as we can agree on major things—smaller government = better, and free-market capitalism is the best economic system available—even if he’s not as enthusiastic as I am, that’s a better recipe for success than someone who subscribes to Keynesian economics and believes in high corporate taxes and strict gun control.

My conclusion: While “agreeing to disagree” on politics is the best approach when it comes to coworkers, friends, and family members, I don’t think it’s the proper stance for me when seeking a future life partner.

So no, I’m not being too picky. Well, I am, but reasonably so.

So what about you? Are there any non-negotiables or barely-negotiables that sound superficial but may actually be fundamental for a future relationship? Think about what’s really important to you—in a godly way.

I’m sure there are plenty of people out there who have real-life examples that would shoot down my inexperienced theories. I’m just waiting to hear someone comment with, “Actually, my uncle is a meat-eating hunter who runs down roadkill for fun and his wife is a raw-food vegan who doesn’t wear leather and they’ve been happily married for 30 years.” If you know of a couple like that, please share. I would love to hear that story.

Additional disclaimer: Just so we’re clear, I’m only talking about non-salvation related issues that truly are a matter of opinion, biblically speaking. Obviously there are things that the Bible makes perfectly clear are non-negotiable, such as the Christ-follower’s calling to marry only another believer and not be “unequally yoked.” I’m not talking about anything quite that serious and deep-seated. This is just good, clean, hypothetical fun.

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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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I was thinking about saving this for Friday Frivolity, but I don’t think it’s really all that frivolous.

I was cruising through my old Facebook “notes” (which are pretty sparse, considering how long I’ve been ON Facebook) and found this. It’s a copy of an email I sent to my mother years ago, when I was in college, after she claimed to have “given up” in trying to fix me up with someone.

I love my mother, but, contrary to the advice of many Christian resources (I’m looking at YOU, Boundless), I wouldn’t trust her to fix me up with anyone. Not that I don’t believe she has my best interests at heart, just that … look, it’s a long story, OK?

Anyway, we’ve had issues in the past with her trying to fix me up. Sometime in my senior year, she tried to talk up one of her nursing students, and then an employee of my stepdad’s car care center. At one point, I received this email from her:

Hi Em,

I have learned my lesson big time when it comes to trying to “fix you up”. So has Aunt Mar. Unless you send me a notarized statement saying it is Ok, I am out of the “fixing up” business. Love Mom PS, He is so dang cute though, and by the way, Jeremy at the Lube, is staying on to help when he is not at his new job. 🙂

After some thinking, I came up with a lengthy response.

From: Me
To: My mother

Subject: A Sincere Response, in the Style of Jane Austen

My Dearest Mother,

I sincerely and humbly thank you for your claiming to have learned this “lesson” as you refer to it. However, I feel the need to relate some details to you that may help to further clarify my frustration with previous matchmaking attempts.

While I, as much as any young woman, would not like to spend the rest of my earthly days with a man of unattractive features and slovenly dress, I am fully aware that this is not the first priority one must have in mind when selecting her future mate. Several things, for me, take precedence over physical appearance. The most important, with which I hope you agree, is that he be a sincere and practicing Christian. Due to the fact that Aunt Marlene cares little for the spiritual aspect of life, and is, in fact, quite hostile to it, I am sure you understand that because of this one criterion alone I feel I must disregard her opinion when it comes to single men. Though I treasure her as a close relative, I am inclined to ignore her when she serves as a judge of character, and am a bit relieved that she has given up her own matchmaking attempts and now, I’m sure, considers me a lost cause.

That being said, my second requirement for a good match would be one of at least average intelligence. However, a certain level of emotional maturity must also accompany it, for during the course of my education, I have encountered many young men who easily fulfill the first requirement, yet are alarmingly lacking in the latter. While I would also prefer to not be overwhelmed by the sheer genius of my gentleman caller / betrothed / husband, neither would I enjoy the feeling of knowing that I possess a mind far superior to his. This, of course, would breed contention and disrespect, neither of which are desirable in a marriage for anyone.

Yet another very important characteristic would be a kindly attitude toward his fellow man. An intelligent, virtous man may have a tendency to look down on others and consider them beneath him, or unimportant, and thus sink to rudeness and crassness of word and behavior. This is not to be borne, and thus I require a man of humble yet steadfast and sympathetic character. Found in this category, as well, must be a good set of manners–perhaps not always impeccable, but certainly gentlemanly.

Last of all is that infamous desire of any young woman to be matched up with a man of handsome features and excellent taste. (It is, of course, a desire not restricted to the feminine sex, for it is well known that men, on their part, prefer a lady of grace and beauty, as well.) This, however, must not be the first priority, and is only to be examined once the above characteristics have been achieved. Such proverbs that warn against judging “a book by its cover,” or the biblical verse of looking into a man’s heart rather than his “outward appearance,” have been proven time and again throughout the ages, and I believe it is not something to be ignored today. Of course, a man I may find physically mediocre is entirely different from a man I consider disgusting and repulsive, and that is something to be kept in mind. Very specific physical features, such as dark hair, generous height, and green or blue eyes, are merely what we call “perks” and not necessities.

In conclusion, I wish to say that should you find a single man possessing these above-mentioned characteristics, I would willingly consider him for a future, more intimate relationship. However, the use of such lifeless and unspecific adjectives to describe him, such as “nice” and “cute,” will always arouse my suspicions that he may indeed be those things—and nothing else. My list of traits is not exhaustive, and is certainly subject to differences in situation and opinion. I have not listed other important characteristics, such as the kind and quality of an eligible man’s family. Though important, such things are difficult to discern upon only a few meetings. All in all, I trust that you understand (and agree) that your daughter is a very special young woman, and as such, requires a similarly special match.

With All Love and Sincerity,
Your Daughter,
Emily

And after several years have passed, I’m happy to see that these views have largely remained unchanged.

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I’m doing a classroom-style Kay Arthur Bible study at my church on Sunday nights. So far it’s been educational, exciting, overwhelming, and challenging, and tonight I learned something at the class that was unrelated to the lesson. Actually, it was something I overheard the instructor telling another young woman as we waited for the class to begin.

She was telling my classmate about a man who was praying to God about the “future wife” he was looking for. But he eventually came to the conclusion that he first needed to pray about whether or not it was even in God’s plan that he marry at all–which would change his perspective on dating and the kind of woman he sought. It was only a snippet of a conversation that I overheard, but it was enough to turn on a light bulb in my head. Here was something, I realized, that I needed to be doing as well.

Lately, I have really been questioning whether God even has it in His plan for me to be married someday—but I haven’t been praying about it seriously. This hasn’t changed my desire for a boyfriend, or heck, a date next Friday. But I have been learning a few things about myself that have made me question if I’m supposed to be married someday.

For example, I am an introvert who needs alone time to recharge her batteries and stay sane. This doesn’t necessarily mean I am shy or that I have no social skills, but I do thrive on alone time. The #1 thing I hate about living in the DC metro area is that it’s too expensive for me to have my own place, because I desperately want to live alone. Although I have friends that I treasure and I absolutely love to make new ones, I’m not really a people person in general. And my things that I enjoy about being single haven’t really changed. Also, I don’t really want to have kids, and 99.99% of Christian guys that I have met … well, they want them.

And yet I have some qualities that seem ideal for being married someday. Firstly, if I may be honest and yet put it lightly, I’m not crazy about the idea of lifetime celibacy. Aside from that? Well, I may hate sports, but I like sports bars (mmm, bar food) and I wouldn’t begrudge a man his Sunday-night game (unless that interfered with church, and God gave us Tivo for a reason). I couldn’t care less which way the toilet paper comes off the roll. I don’t need jewelry or flowers, I can carry my own purse, and I would never ask, “Does this make me look fat?”

Some people know that they will get married someday, it’s just the when or to whom that remains to be seen. Other people, as Paul writes in I Corinthians 7, know that they are called to a life of celibacy and singleness. I’m in a strange state of limbo and could see myself going either way. Hence the need for serious prayer about this issue. In the past, when I said “IF I get married,” or “IF I find someone,” it was followed by a wistful sigh of self-pity. Now I use “if” seriously, genuinely not knowing that marriage is in my future. Sadly, some people, who have been conditioned to do so, jump at the chance to say things like, “Of COURSE you’ll find someone! Don’t be silly! Guys are just stupid and don’t know what they’re missing.” Then I have to correct them and say, “No, really. I really don’t know if I’m going to get married!”

So, all my single ladies: Do you know for sure you want to get married and that someday, somehow, you will? And if you are, what are you praying? Perhaps that God will not only prepare your future husband for his new life with you, but that you will be prepared as well. And for those of us who don’t know, are you praying for God’s wisdom, that He will show you what you are to do and be? I think in either case, it’s also good to remember to pray for patience, and for the peace to be content in our current circumstances, whatever they are.

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According to Bethany, my spiritual gift is Ranting. Hence, this letter.

Dear Valentine’s Day:

There is no sense in denying that, for years, we have lived with a powerful mutual loathing. Although I have been long resigned to this state of existence, I am aware that it was not always so. In my childhood, you were simply a random day in the middle of winter reserved for wearing pink or red, eating chalk-flavored candies with “Fax Me” printed on them, and cutting out hearts with red construction paper. Maybe there were cupcakes or cards from Grandma, but that was the general gist of it.

Upon entering middle school, however, these relatively pleasant memories were corrected, to be replaced with memories of adding to the usual 12-year-old angst reminders that I was an unpopular outcast, when I witnessed my classmates pair up to “go out” with one another (to where? McDonald’s?) and send the pretty, more popular girls carnations—with the number received clearly illustrating one’s middle-school social caste.

Sadly, this tradition was carried on into high school, though we were mature enough to at least pretend to laugh it off, and perhaps send carnations to our most beloved, still-single friends in an act of solidarity and mutual comfort. This comfort was particularly critical for the high-school spinsters who clutched the carnations to their bosoms as they rushed between Spanish class and choir practice, dodging through the obstacle course that featured more than a few couples engaged in the infamous hallway-make-out sessions.

With the progression to college, it was hoped that such unseemly acts of immaturity would be left behind in an environment of education and openness. However, the act of Flower-Based Social Stratification remained, especially perpetuated by young women whose eyes glinted like Tiffany diamonds and whose fangs dripped with brownie batter, hoping to impress the guy in the dorm across the street so that the lyrical vow of “Ring By Spring” would be honored. Such women sneered and taunted those who dared to defy the spirits and deities of Valentine’s Day by wearing any color that was not red or pink (with mercy given to those who wore white, but particular woe upon those who dared to wear black!), and rolled their eyes at those who postponed a day of celebration to take advantage of candy sales on Feb. 15.

Unfortunately, my dear Valentine’s Day, even in the “real world” after the bubble of college, I cannot escape your hatred, and you continue to cultivate mine. Although I am known as a staunch libertarian and defender of free-market capitalism, you are, with very little doubt, the one result of true capitalism that I despise over every other.

I hate everything you stand for: overpriced greeting cards, low-quality chocolate, candy message hearts (which STILL taste like chalk), shallow sentiment felt only because society has told us that it MUST be felt, pointless traditions (as no one really knows which St. Valentine is being honored on 2/14), the color pink, obligations to celebrate (much like New Year’s Eve, Mardis Gras, St. Patrick’s Day, and the U.S. Fourth of July), the societal requirement either to feel bad about being single or to celebrate singleness as a way to overcompensate, bad romantic comedies, and disrespect for the (possible) death of a martyr—especially one who (may have) died in defiance of one of history’s greatest tyrannies.

This year, I was about to declare a truce and say that perhaps this year it will not be bad after all, since a dear friend will be in town to visit, and another dear friend who already lives here will be around. But now this dear friend is sick, and the flight has been canceled, as we are currently buried in several unprecedented feet of snow, and I am unable to even see ANYone, but must remain in my small and drafty apartment, without even the comfort of booze or chocolate to sustain me.

I wanted to think better of you this time, Valentine’s Day. I was ready to offer the olive branch, the white flag, but then you decided to pull this charming little stunt. And for that, I feel obligated to keep on hating you, until I am a shriveled old spinster living with my hypoallergenic cats and throwing chalky candy hearts at passersby.

With All Sincerity,

Me.

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I know that we said we would try to be better about posting, and I did intend to post an FF last week. (And I actually do have two new posts in progress.) But sadly, in the span of exactly one week, Bethany and I both experienced family tragedies. Needless to say, these events put neither of us in the mood or state of mind to post anything new. I hope this can be rectified in the coming weeks. But don’t cry for me (Argentina), and enjoy your Friday instead, starting with this (admittedly small) FF revival!

(Based on my own personal experience, this looks pretty accurate, actually.)

Happy Friday!

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