Attraction Is Not A Choice

In Christianity we are pretty good about telling people how to work in a relationship and marriage.  This is a great thing.  We know how to help you when you are married or considering it.  Now that doesn’t guarantee success, but at least we know what to tell you once you are there.

But we are terrible about helping you get from single to dating.  We say that we want everyone to be married, but we don’t help anyone figure out how to get there.

Here’s the truth, you could learn more about attraction from one online seminar by a secular dating “expert” than you could from 20 years of attending church, reading Christian authors and being in small group. Worse, half of what you would learn in those 20 years would be ineffective.  I know, because I lived it.

The first thing we have to understand is this:  Attraction is not a choice.

I can see the red flags rising.  But it’s true and we know it.  What I mean is that initially you don’t choose to be attracted.  You either are or you aren’t.  As David DeAngelo (secular guy – look out!) writes, “A woman doesn’t start talking to a man and say to herself, ‘wow, this guy seems very smart and funny. . . just the type of guy that I’ve been looking for. . . I think I’ll feel attracted to him.”

Attraction is much more basic than that.  It kind of just happens.  Now a couple of caveats just to calm everyone down.  No you will not always be attracted your spouse – I get it. We’ve heard you, ultra wise Christian married person.  And that is really, really important. Marriage is about love and commitment.  However getting a date in the first place is about attraction.

I’m not even talking about being perfectly attracted or attractive.  That’s not realistic.  What I’m saying is that when you meet or approach someone, initial attraction is key and one of the problems a lot of us singles have (especially men) is that we don’t understand attraction, or why we are, or are not, attractive.

Now, all sorts of things can affect attraction – on both ends.  In other words things in my life can make me more or less attractive, and can affect how attracted I am to certain people. But we have to begin to understand this and work on being attractive and attracted in the right way.  Attraction is not a choice – but what we do with it, how we handle it, amplify it, or crush it is.  But we can’t do any of that if we refuse to deal with the reality that it matters – immensely.

This is where we have to toss aside our excuses, hiding places, and “help me sleep at night theology”.  What do I mean?  Things like:

“I just want someone to like me for me.”  To some degree this is actually true.  What we really mean is, “I want someone who I’m attracted to who will like me for me.”  So we have to watch the double standard.  Also we have to be careful not to use this as an excuse to not become a better person.  The best me is yet to come.  Thank goodness.

“If God wants it to happen it will.”  This just drives me crazy – and I used to say it.  It sounds holy.  But the problem is that we don’t do it for any other area of life.  “If God wants me to lose 10 pounds then I will.”  Yeah, no need to work out or change your diet.  Yikes. At the very least spin this into fearlessness instead of laziness.  Go ask out everybody. Why not?  God won’t let you end up with the wrong person right?.  Go in full confidence.

“I have this friend who wasn’t attracted at all to her spouse but she eventually became attracted and they now have a great marriage, 100 children who are all missionaries etc.”. Two thoughts.  First was she really not attracted or was other stuff in the way?  I once dated a girl who was always talking about this other guy she was not “romantically” attracted to.  Then she married him instead of me.  Secondly, this sort of thing can happen.  And my Missouri Tigers can win a football conference title.  It’s happened before, as recently as 1969.

The truth is, we are afraid we aren’t attractive or that we can’t attract the right person.  But that’s a lie.  That’s not from God.  However, we have to engage this to fight through the lie. What is attractive?  What about me is attractive?  How do I lead with that and lean on that? How do I create attraction?  How do I handle myself when I’m extremely attracted?  How do I build on initial attraction?

Lots more to talk about here and we will.

How do you view attraction?  Your attractiveness?  Your ability to create it?

The Myth Of The Christian Soulmate

This last weekend my fiancee and I were discussing our attempts to read Christian Fiction. First, what does that even mean exactly?  Fiction written by Christians?  Fiction about Christians? Is it always about white people living in the old west?

At any rate, one of the biggest genre is the Christian Romance Novel.  So I decided to go to my favorite resource for books, Amazon.  Wow!  Ok, here we go.  For starters apparently only Christians can write “religious fiction”.  Anyone else I guess either never writes fiction or they just don’t get a section.  Then we get to the breakdown of different types of “Christian Fiction”.  There are 183 books under Biblical fiction 3700 books under historical fiction and . . . wait for it. . . almost 8000 books under Christian Romance.

Moving past the fact that most of these appear to be about Amish people let’s get to why I’m bringing this up.  The Christian culture has been inundated with a false sense of romantic love.

It’s not really about the books which even most Christians don’t read.  It’s about the fact that we play along with what the world says and just Christianize it.  The world says that I have to have another person to be complete, that there is someone out there for you who is exactly right for you.  We say, God has someone for you.

This reminds me of back when Christian rock was getting started.  Here was the sell.  “Hey man did you hear these guys?  They are just like Metallica man – except Christian.” Really!?

One of the things that drives me the most crazy about all of this is we are never first. Never. Everything we do is a freaking reaction to what we see as “wrong” with culture.  There’s hard rock music, let’s make a Christian version.  There’s romance novels, let’s make a Christian version.  Ahhhhh.  The latest is of course, there’s online dating so let’s make a Christian version.

The truth is we should have thought of most of these first.  But we didn’t.  Worse though, most of the time “our” version isn’t as good, and we end up preaching mostly to the choir. The most effective way to make a difference as a Christian artist – don’t get labeled as one.

But here is my point today.  We have invented what I call the “Myth Of The Christian Soulmate.”

It’s everywhere.  Christian Mingle’s about section reads, “The ideal place for Christian men and women to find friends, dates, and even soulmates.”  I can’t count the times in my 20 years of singleness that someone has said something to the effect of “God has someone for you” or “God just hasn’t brought you the one yet” or “Make sure you wait for “the one” God has – don’t settle”.  What could be more paralyzing than that last one?

All of this is some sort of weird cross between romance novel, misplaced Calvinism, and what I call Help You Sleep At Night Theology.  And it is no where in the Bible.

In an attempt to encourage the hurting and lonely, as well as be protective (and often controlling) of the flock, we end up giving platitudes that aren’t really helpful in the long run and just aren’t true.

There is nothing in the Bible about soulmates.  Nothing.  It is not there.  There is nothing about how to find someone to marry.  There are some, and I mean only some, principles for marriage and getting married.  But there are no promises about God bringing you a spouse, let alone a perfect one.

The soulmate idea is bad for a lot of reasons.  The idea that I’m incomplete without someone and if I just find this other person I will be whole.  No person can fill that role. We need to be complete in Jesus.  That doesn’t mean that because we have Jesus that we shouldn’t want a spouse.  But a spouse (real or wanted) should not be put in the savior role.

It can make us mad at God.  If He has my soulmate and hasn’t brought them to me, then it’s His fault.  This is also a convenient way to avoid any responsibility what so ever. Perfect.

Finally, judging every encounter through the soulmate lens pressurizes the whole process. Some of us can never even get into a relationship at all because no one “meets” the soulmate criteria.  Others think everyone they fall for is their soulmate and then when it doesn’t turn out they have to either try desperately to hang on or beat themselves up for “missing it.”

As I’ve said before, I believe that God can and does send people into our lives.  But guess what, we get to choose what to do with that.  And isn’t that what we want anyway?  Isn’t it more romantic to be chosen than to be destined?

Religion And Dating Don’t Mix

When I look back at my twenties and dating I just kind of cringe.  I think a lot of people probably do.  But the reason I cringe isn’t because I slept around, or dated all the wrong people.  It’s because I was too religious.  Religious dating can really screw us up.

Here’s what I mean.  First of all there is this idea that there is a “Biblical” way to date.  As I’ve mentioned in a different post, this is utter nonsense.  No where in the Bible is there any sort of guide of how to get married, let alone date.  Nothing.  Nada.  Zero. Ok, moving on.

There is also the idea that because you should only date to get married that you shouldn’t go on a date unless you know you will marry them.  Which again makes no sense. First off there is a big difference between going on a date and “dating” someone.  I agree that main reason to date is to try to get married, especially the older you get.  But the idea that you should only go on a date with someone you know you can marry is crazy.  It can be paralyzing.  Especially when you pair it with the next religious dating ideal.

There is the idea that we need to guard the other person’s heart.  This one isn’t even possible.  It starts with the right idea of not leading someone on.  I want to talk more about this later but I agree we need to be careful.  If we aren’t interested we shouldn’t date them. We shouldn’t make promises that we aren’t ready to be committed to.  We should never lie.  All those things do guard everybody’s heart but thats just called honesty.  But the idea that I don’t want to ask someone out in case it doesn’t work out and they get hurt is delusional and probably a little arrogant.  It assumes I’m the one controlling the relationship.  I’d be the one to end it.  I don’t want them to like me too much in case I change my mind.  Really?!

The truth is even if my intentions are great, I can’t guarantee that if I ask someone out that it will go somewhere.  And I think we need to give our ladies a little more credit.  Adult women are capable of dealing with hurt.  They can handle it.  I once had a woman flat out tell me, “Hey, it’s my job to guard my own heart.  We can’t find out if it goes somewhere if we don’t go forward.  I’m ok with the risk.”  She was exactly right.  Really, if she wasn’t mature enough to be ok with the risk, then it probably wasn’t going anywhere anyway.

The final problem is if you do go out with different people you can get labeled as a serial dater.  Now I’m certainly not suggesting using no discernment and just dating anyone at any time.  I’m also not suggesting dating just to date or asking out anyone just to get a rush or because you need approval of women.  Motive is everything here.  I’d also say that if you have lots of fairly long relationships that always fail, you need to check yourself and what’s going on.  There could be a fear of commitment.

But it can be a double standard.  Why aren’t you dating anyone?  Why aren’t you married?  There are lots of great women in our church – but you’d better only ask out one, because if you ask out more than one, everyone will think that you just want to serial date our church.

I big timed lived in this stuff in my twenties.  I WAY over thought potential dates.  I’m not talking about people that I didn’t really want to date, I’m talking about people I thought I could be interested in but wasn’t sure.  How the heck were you supposed to find out?

In an effort help people date right (or court or whatever), Christians have unintentionally made it harder to get married.  We are helping to paralyze people from actually pursuing relationships.  We end up over thinking, over analyzing, and over spiritualizing the whole thing.  We end up with guys who have no idea how to actually pursue someone when they DO want to because they can never be sure if they SHOULD.

Non-Christians make it way less complicated.  Like someone – ask them out. We could learn some from that.

We can’t date constantly worried about choosing wrong, trying to protect everyone, worried about what everyone thinks.  We can’t date in a context that says, don’t try, don’t risk, don’t touch, don’t mess up, don’t hurt anybody.  God’s grace is bigger than that.  We need to walk with Jesus but we need to free ourselves from a made up “Christian Dating” culture.

Has “Religious Dating” held you back?  Has it stifled your path?  Has it messed you up.