When I was about 27 or so I had been dating a woman for a several months when she decided that I wasn’t for her and that someone else was. It was a hard thing for me to take for a couple of reasons. I had waited what felt like a long time already to get married and I really, really thought she could be “the one“.
As I was processing through the “breakup” I was fortunate to have some good friends and mentors who really came along side me. But one of the weirdest conversations I had was with a woman maybe 20 years older than me said something like, “Wow it’s hard. All these years you’ve been single. How do you keep from blaming yourself? How do you keep from thinking you’re the problem?”
I gave some sort of answer to that. I don’t really remember what, but I’m sure it was good. But here’s what is interesting. In many ways I’d like to have that conversation back.
While I think that this woman was honestly just trying to be encouraging and telling me that, “Hey, don’t worry – it’s not you” maybe what I needed to hear was, “So what part of this is you?”
The reality was in that particular case, it really wasn’t me. But the fact that I made it to 41 and single – a lot of that was indeed me.
Do you remember when you were in school and you would get the school yearbook? There’d be a few pages or an insert or some other place where you would get notes from classmates. Have you ever read back over those? It’s mostly generic stuff like, “Hey bro – great time rockin’ with you in English this year,” or “J Man – thanks for keeping me sane in Chemistry.” But often we gave each other the worst advice of all – “Stay you.” “Don’t ever change.” Umm yeah – don’t grow or develop – good idea.
If I look back on mine, I could sum up the what every girl I was attracted to wrote – “J – you’re such a good friend. Couldn’t have made it without you. Don’t ever change.” I’ll come back to this in a post soon – but that right there sums up far more guys’ lives than would want to admit it.
But for today, what I want to focus on is this idea that we don’t need to change who we are, what we do, how we act, think, or live. I’m not saying people who espouse it don’t mean well, they typically do. But when it comes to most things in life, and for sure dating and marriage – it’s just simply terrible advice.
In Christianese terms it usually means that God “has someone else for you” or if you stay true to yourself, then for sure God will bring someone at the right time. It could also be that every person you’ve ever been interested in had it wrong. But the bottom line is, there is someone out there for you. And you need to just stay strong and be “who you are” and then the “right person” will love you for “who you are”.
It all sounds nice, but I’m not sure how helpful it really is.
Without even getting into the dating/single/marriage stuff, we are not called to be who we are currently. One could make a case that we are called to become who we are created to be. But that is different. Who I am right now is a flawed, broken by sin (my own and others’) individual. I’m in Jesus and He is changing me over time to become who He meant for me to be. But until I’m there – I should be changing, aka growing.
We all have stuff that we need to grow in and change. Now to be clear, I’m not saying that you have to first get all your stuff together before you get married. That’s part of the reason we have the problems we do, this false idea that i have to be “ready” to get married.
When it comes to dating, if the same stuff keeps happening over and over again, we need to look inward and ask what part of that is us. What can we do different? I think when it comes to dating, especially as a Christian guy, this seems to get skipped over.
Stuck in the friend zone over and over again? That could be you. In a new relationship every six months? Maybe you. Can’t seem to ever talk to or approach someone you are really attracted to? Might be worth thinking about.
Look at this way. In other practical areas of your life you grow. When you were a kid, you got better at sports or math, or a band instrument. You didn’t stay the same. When you get a job – hopefully over time you get better at it. Are your current friendships the same type as you had in high school? (If so, that might be a problem as well).
Relating to the opposite sex is no different. If you’re stuck, maybe it’s time to change. Maybe that means getting help -be it friends, counseling, books – you name it.
Most of the time in life, we know when change is necessary. We just don’t like it. It’s easier to say, “it’s not me” than to say, “Maybe it is me”.
Final thought and clarification. Am I saying be fake? No. Am I saying go out and misrepresent yourself? No – that’s called lying. What I’m saying is it’s ok to grow in how you relate to the opposite sex. In fact, I would suggest that if you are over 26 and single, it might be necessary. It was for me.