I have been married for little over a month. Although I have been married to two other men previously, this is the first time I have had a truly God-honoring marriage. My marriage is a new adventure every day, and each new hill and obstacle shares a novel scenic view and picture-perfect moment. I am unfortunately too familiar with the steep hills and dark valleys of dating as a single parent. Throughout a year of dating my now husband, and now more often as his wife, I find myself wishing I would have known then what I know now. As the peaceful days and weeks pass by in serenity as a married person, I find myself mourning over all the time lost on worry and unrest while struggling to create happiness in earlier unhappy dating relationships. I remember believing wholeheartedly that if I could just manipulate a few things about myself, simply change a few unhealthy expectations, I could achieve the joy that I now have in marriage. The sad truth is that this kind of joy can only be achieved when you are married to the person that God has chosen for you. Until you enter the right relationship with God and the other person, you are simply cramming a pair of size 9 feet into a pair of size 7 pumps. Those shoes may look pretty to everyone else, but you will always feel the pain of deceiving yourself.
I have single friends who share their dating stories with me, and I find myself encouraging them from my own place of regret to resist settling for relationship mediocrity. The other day, I recoiled in shock as I realized the truth of my statement to one of my closest friends. “It is so hard to watch you live in pain, while you believe that it is paradise.” I recalled the voice of Jesus saying these words to me and imagined how many times He had said them while I was crying over the wrong guy, wondering, begging what I could do or change about myself to make this relationship work. As I mourned all the time lost pining for a man who was not my prince, I vowed to share what I learned with other women in the hope that they would not fall prey to the same untruths.
1. Instant chemistry is a lie, and you do not have a “type” unless it is “man of God.”
As a single woman, I must have said it a thousand times. “Well, he seems really nice, but he’s not my type.” Another one of my favorites was, “He was really sweet, but we just had no chemistry.” When I think about the times that I said those words, I want to press rewind, go back in time, and slap some sense into myself. Seriously. I am glad that my poor judgment brought me to my current husband, but I couldn’t have been more wrong. The lies of “chemistry” and “type” are just that, fallacies that keep us from finding the true love that God wanted us to experience. In 1 Samuel 16:7, it says, “Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The LORD does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.” At the end of my first date with Mike, I messaged one of my closest friends and told her that I would probably never see him again. I may have typed out one of the sentences above about him not being my type with my own fingers. I thought Mike wasn’t my “type.” I wasn’t instantly attracted to him.
Later, after the first few dates, God spoke to me. He revealed to me that what I thought I was attracted to in other men was the alluring seduction of abuse. I was addicted to the pattern of being drawn in by their charm, and the “love bomb” of attention that they gave in the beginning of a relationship. The early dating stage of every relationship would feel so intoxicating and romantic, almost like a movie. Unfortunately, it would all eventually dissolve into a pile of Kleenex and Ben and Jerry’s when the same man who seemed so enamored with me that he couldn’t breathe without my attention didn’t call or text for weeks.
Ladies, your type is a man of God, who can’t breathe without God’s attention in his life. Do yourself a favor and let every other “must have” fall by the wayside, at least temporarily, while you get to know this man’s true character.
2. If you’re not growing, he should be going.
So many of my romantic relationships were characterized by constant disagreement, miscommunication, and drama. Not one of my relationships prior to the one with Mike could be characterized as peaceful, let alone stable. I was always on my bare feet, walking through a room full of broken glass. Because of this constant struggle and desire to right things emotionally and bring the relationship to a peaceful state for both of us, I rarely had time to focus on any of the other relationships in my life. The constant demands on my attention took a toll on my relationships with friends, family, my own children, and even my relationship with God. I was still attending church during most of my relationships, but that was as far as my spiritual life went. When I met Mr. Right (who was actually Mr. Christian), our relationship was characterized by a peace and stability that I had never known in a romantic relationship. If I needed reassurance that we were okay, or that his intentions were good, I simply needed to ask. No tantrums or emotional outbursts needed. My remaining emotional energy was spent on my family, especially my children, who had been starved of my attention while I tried to navigate multiple bad relationships. I had prided myself in the fact that my children had never been involved in my romantic dramas because they had never been introduced to the men in my life. But, they had been inadvertently involved through my emotional unavailability during one traumatic relationship after another.
Once I was in a God-honoring relationship, I found that I had more time to speak to God and invest in that all-important relationship. I felt my spirit open and bloom like a flower. My family noticed the change in me, and they too began to relax, knowing that I was in a safe relationship. In response to Mike’s positive influence in my life, my mother even began going to church with us.
3. The break up and make up cycle is not a diet and exercise program.
Women are programmed at a young age to believe that romantic relationships are characterized by drama and instability. This is true in worldly relationships governed by societal customs and traditions. In relationships governed by biblical standards where both partners are seeking to honor God in their relationship, this couldn’t be further from the truth. When people seek to serve God, they honor one another and love one another. This love looks much like the love described in 1 Corinthians 13. It is patient, kind, does not envy, does not boast, is not proud, does not dishonor others, is not self-seeking, is not easily angered, keeps no record of wrong, does not delight in evil but rejoices in the truth, always protects, hopes, trusts, and perseveres.
I am reminded of when Joseph was told by Mary that she was pregnant while he was engaged to be married to her. Instead of thinking of himself, and how upset he was at finding out this news, he began making plans in his mind to quietly divorce her. In one of his most human and vulnerable moments, where he felt that he had been harmed, he did not seek to harm another person. None of us are without fault; we will all make mistakes in our relationships. But, if you are in a relationship and you are breaking up and making up time and time again, it is time for you to step off the exhausting hamster wheel of drama that you are on. It is not good for either partner to be experiencing a roller coaster of emotions with each break up. This type of relationship does not characterize the type of relationship we are to be having with one another, and if this is what you are going through, it might be good to take some time off dating to heal and strengthen your own relationship with Christ. Remember that the on again, off again romances that you see in movies and on TV are not real, and they are not what you should be trying to achieve in your own life.
4. If you are having sex before marriage, he is NOT for you…and you are not for him.
It is common knowledge that the Bible clearly says that sex is for married people only. Why, then, do single Christians not apply this principle to their dating lives? Why is this principle not discussed openly without shame more frequently? When I was single, I would sit in church on Sunday mornings and listen intently to everything the preacher said. However, whenever the preacher mentioned anything about sex, I would tune it out as not applying to me. I mean, I was over 40 and divorced. Was I really supposed to WAIT until I got married to have sex? That seemed a bit unrealistic to me. And honestly, if I could wait, would I ever succeed in finding a man who would also abstain from sex until marriage? I knew it was in the Bible, but I reasoned that God would give me a pass on this one.
Single (including divorced) people are SUPPOSED TO WAIT UNTIL MARRIAGE TO HAVE SEX. If you cannot control your physical desires enough to wait until marriage to have sex, then you should prayerfully consider whether you have enough self-discipline to be in a serious relationship. Women, if you are concerned about whether a man exists who will be willing to wait until marriage for sex, I am here to tell you that if there is not a man on the face of the earth who will accept this challenge, then you will want to go ahead and remain single. LADIES, YOU DO NOT WANT A MAN WHO CANNOT DELAY HIS GRATIFICATION UNTIL MARRIAGE. What you truly want, and what your heart desires, is a man who is so in love with Jesus that he would not and could not betray Jesus by defiling and abusing His precious daughter. Wait for that man, and I promise you, you will NOT be disappointed. To the Christian couples who are currently having sex, I encourage you to break up and spend time apart from each other to examine your relationship with God. I wish I had spent more time understanding the weaknesses in myself that allowed me to have such a lack of self-discipline and self-respect that I would both engage in those activities and accept someone who did not value me enough to abstain.
5. Don’t waste your time on a fixer upper, your Mr. Right will come straight from the factory perfect for you.
I have spent countless hours discussing relationship issues with my single women friends, and they have spent just as many hours counseling me. We discuss a variety of issues like, “Am I asking too much of him when I say that I don’t want him going to bars with other girls?” and, “I am concerned about how much alcohol he consumes, but he says that I am being too picky.” Ladies, these are not minor, fixable problems. These are problems that hint at a man’s character, and they tell you more about who he is than anything he can say. If you remain in a relationship with a man who is consistently doing things that make you feel uneasy and uncomfortable because you feel that they are ethically and morally wrong, don’t spend time asking him to limit or curb his behaviors; just leave. This advice works for men who have moral and ethical issues with a woman’s behavior as well. If the person that you are in a relationship with doesn’t feel conviction from God about a specific behavior, then they probably aren’t in as close of a relationship with God as you think they are. Be patient and wait for someone who is spiritually and emotionally mature, and make yourself spiritually and emotionally mature while you wait. You will not regret investing this time in yourself while you wait for the person that God has chosen for you. There are many times that I regret wasting so much time disagreeing with a person I was dating. I wish I would have let that person go. I know I could have better spent that time and energy working on and strengthening my own relationship with God as well as serving God in the ways that He saw fit.
When Mike came into my life, I can honestly say that he arrived at that first date exactly perfect for me. I do not spend any time thinking about how I wish he would do anything differently. We have not had discussions or arguments about things that I would like him to refrain from or change. I remember telling him that the only thing that I wanted him to change was his location, because he lived 115.6 miles away from me, and that was too far. I believe that he initially felt the same way about me.
If I could change one thing about the way that my single friends date and enter relationships based on my own experience, I would change the amount of time they waste on unnecessary drama and disagreement. If you are dating someone and spend time and emotional energy upset, or wondering what you did wrong, or how he feels about you, and so on, you are wasting precious time that you could better spend strengthening your relationship with God and furthering His Precious Kingdom. Now that I am where I am (by the grace of God, and not through anything I have done because I clearly was not blessed with this dating wisdom on my own), I am deeply grieved by the time that I wasted and the regretful choices I made while dating people who were not meant for me. My deepest desire is that you strong, wise, amazing people of faith do not do what I did. Do not waste years finding your “soul mate” only to realize that you were diverting your attention from the true lover over your soul, Jesus Christ.