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Lori Gottlieb’s book and Christian maximizers.

27 Mar

I recently read Lori Gottlieb’s book Marry Him:  The Case for Settling for Mr. Good Enough.  Because of the title, the book has been criticized for telling women to take whomever will have them just so they can be married.  Having now read the book, I can definitely say that this isn’t what the book advocates.  Rather, it reads like a cautionary tale not to let excessive pickiness keep you from getting married, or, as Gottlieb points out in the book, if you let an 8 go in hopes of snagging a 10, you’ll most likely end up with only 5s as your options.

In a way the book had a dual personality.  On the one hand, it was a sort of quasi-memoir where Gottlieb portrayed herself as a delusional elitist who couldn’t accept that as a 41-year-old single mother (by choice through artificial insemination), her dating prospects, especially in L.A., were rather limited and that her options from professional matchmakers and dating websites generally were balding divorced men.  On the other hand, it was like Gottlieb stepped outside of herself to offer an objective voice about her situation.  I would like to believe that Gottlieb actually, genuinely learned from the experiences chronicled in the book, but she IS still unmarried, so….I don’t know if that’s because she’s older, or because she fell back into the bad habit of wanting AMAZING CHEMISTRY!!11 from the get-go.

While reading the book, I found myself wanting to shake Gottlieb for being so unreasonably picky.  She would discount men for the most insignificant reasons, like naming a movie she didn’t approve of as his favorite.  She basically had it in her head that she could only relate to and be attracted to men who fit a very narrow profile (basically that of a fashionable, sophisticated, secular UMC Jewish SWPL with all the “right” tastes who still had his hair and wasn’t more than a few years from her in age).  With her discounting men for the slightest of reasons, it was no wonder she had gone through life without ever marrying.  Actually, what I found the most disheartening was not that she had dated a bunch of guys that were not marriage material – it was that some of them HAD been marriage material, but she dumped them for not fulfilling her ideals.  It would have been one thing if she had only dated cads – but she didn’t.

As I grew frustrated with Gottlieb’s bullheadedness, I started thinking that modern Christian women have been taught to think like Gottlieb – to be what she calls “maximizers”:  people who will only accept the absolute best.  The fear of settling for a less-than-totally on fire for God man is implanted in Christian girls from at least junior high on, both in church and in Christian media.  How many times have Christian girls been warned not to marry a man who doesn’t TOTALLY LOVE JESUS WITH ALL HIS HEART, with dark implications or outright warnings that life will be TERRIBLE otherwise?  How many times have Christian girls been told that the man must be the Spiritual Leader, with the implication that if he’s not leading the charge to go to Sunday School and lead devotions and pray all the time, that he must be disqualified as a potential husband?  Conversely, how often have Christian girls been told to give Christian men encouragement to grow in their faith and to have patience with them if they weren’t as “strong” in the faith as the women?  The bar has been raised so high that hardly any Christian man can be marriage-worthy.  (See:  The Earl of Piety.)  And it’s common enough that even my readership has experience with this.

It’s not that Christian singles don’t get married.  Christian singles generally marry younger than the population at large, or at least the college-educated population at large.  But it’s obvious that there is a significant percentage of Christian singles who are having trouble not just getting to the altar, but getting to a point where getting to the altar is even a consideration.  The problem isn’t solely the fault of the women – but the church really needs to calm down with the ON FIRE FOR GOD GUY standard, and encourage women to consider men who are not so obviously on fire for God but still take God seriously.  I don’t know if this would work, since it would require people giving up hope that they will be an exception to the rule, or at least giving up enough hope to act pragmatically, but it really seems that the church has screwed over young women by telling them to hold out for God’s best and making it seem like God’s best is some SUPER ON FIRE FOR GOD GUY when in actuality, God’s best might be a low-key guy who happens to believe in Jesus.

P.S.   Gottlieb never instructs her readers to settle for a guy to whom she has zero physical attraction.  She only asks them to expand their definition of what they find attractive so that they can end up with someone instead of no one.


Boundless commenters can’t decide if it’s biblical for men to pursue women, unintentionally extend singleness for life.

15 Feb

Boundless reader Steve Bierfeldt tried.  He wrote an article for Boundless entitled “Being a Man is Worth Losing a Friend,” with the subheader on the main page “Real men go after the things they want, period.”  In the article he describes how he and a good female friend with whom there was mutual attraction lost their friendship because he told her he found her attractive and liked her more than other girls.  As a result, she never spoke to him again.  Bierfeldt then says that he doesn’t regret his actions, because real men are willing to take risks, and urges young men not to listen to our culture of passivity but to God’s Word and to be bold.

Apparently this was too much masculinity for Boundless readers, because the very first comment blasts Bierfeldt for believing that the Bible calls men to make their intentions known and for women to respond, because, apparently, male initiation is merely a cultural aspect.  A few commenters stepped in and thanked Bierfeldt, but the comments then quickly devolved into stuff along the lines of “girls who wait for men to make moves waste a lot of time” and “the Bible isn’t a rule book” and the ultimate bitch comment by a girl who I will assume ought to remain single for the rest of her life because good men don’t deserve this kind of attitude, “Women are not things, period.”  Then some super-sperg shows up demanding Scripture references for where the Bible says that men should initiate.

It really seems like Christian singles want every marriage to be an actual miracle that defies the laws of nature.

Blind dates and set-ups: yay or nay?

12 Nov

I recently was talking to a male friend about how I had tried to set up a female friend of mine with a male coworker.  The male friend said that he did not like blind dates because he felt they were artificial and too pressured.  He said he would prefer to meet someone in a group setting without knowing the inviter’s intentions, and have it be “natural.”  He also said that being the matchmaker has too many risks of backfiring.

I have the opposite view.  I don’t mind blind dates because I don’t feel pressure from them.  The probability that you are going to hit it off with a stranger, even a preselected stranger, can’t be that high, so you might as well just be normal and let the chips fall as they may, instead of gearing yourself up to put on a show for a complete stranger.  I also don’t think that most of the time, your relationship with the matchmaker is going to be ruined, unless the matchmaker has such horrible taste that you have an awful, unforgivable time (but wouldn’t you know in advance if your matchmaking friend had terrible taste?).  At least SOMEONE thought of you and was trying to help you.

So, readers:  blind dates – yay or nay?  Weigh in in the comments!


Do people even want to date anymore?

3 Oct

By “date” I mean “want to meet someone of the opposite sex for a potential romantic relationship”.

Obviously, I can only speak anecdotally, but I feel like there’s this weird lethargy among singles.  Each side CLAIMS to want to date, but there’s like zero sexual charge in any co-ed interactions.  Guy are terrified of contradicting a woman or telling her anything, while women wander around cluelessly, waiting for Some Guy to come along and sweep them off their feet.  Or, they try to take matters into their own hands and get burned by a bunch of guys who don’t actually want them.  Then they go on Facebook and complain that men are shallow and don’t realize that the confident, beautiful, successful women already in their lives have A Lot To Offer.

I mean, I don’t roll with a club crowd, and maybe that’s where all of these Horny Singles stories come from, but in day-to-day interactions, young guys just seem weirdly uninterested in women.  I can only imagine that they go home every night, having talked to zero women during the day, and fry their brains with Teh Pr0n…but how does a decade or two of doing this help ANYONE?

It’s impossible to eliminate all risk in any human interactions, especially with dating, but I feel like that’s what the current generation of singles is trying to do.  No one wants to ask for a date until they’re ABSOLUTELY SURE that the other person will ABSOLUTELY say yes…but then people want to wait for like five years and attempt cohabitation to be ABSOLUTELY SURE that ABSOLUTELY EVERYTHING is EXACTLY to their liking before even THINKING about marriage.  (Except that Athol Kay wouldn’t have a business if premarital sexual activity was a perfect predictor of marital sexual activity.)  But without risk, there can be no excitement or real romance to anything.  No girl wants to find out that the guy who asked her out first polled five of her closest friends for assurance that there was zero possibility she would say no.

I don’t know, maybe in different social strata, the patterns are different.  But as far as I can tell, the college-educated set just don’t seem all that interested in making real connections.


The quest for the Earl of Piety.

16 Jul

The “quest for the Earl of Piety” is really just (my fanciful) name for Christian hypergamy, which in my opinion is the culprit of many Christian women remaining single unnecessarily long.  As much as the manosphere likes to complain that even church girls are OMGSLUTS!111!!1!! (and I’m not denying that there aren’t a bunch of those out there), there are also a lot of Christian girls who (typically) have grown up in the church, taken all of the teachings about virginity and purity to heart, and have never fallen off the wagon, so to speak.  They want to be wives, they want to be mothers, they want to serve God, they’re serious about ministry and having quiet times…and they can’t find a Christian man who’s good enough for them.

Case in point:  Amy Seed of Boundless.

In a recent perusal of the bloggift that keeps on giving, I came across Seed’s article, “A Revealing Question for Dating.”  In it Seed describes how she was in relationship exclusivity negotiations** with a presumably Christian man she was attracted to and had gone on several dates with.  After those several dates, she still wasn’t sure that he was relationship-worthy, so she asked him, “What do you picture your household being like when you’re married?”.  (**I know this sounds horribly clinical, but Boundless-style courtship resembles taking inventory for retail.)

Not realizing this was his Last Chance with this girl, Prospective Boyfriend failed the answer for not “sharing her vision.”

In the initial blog post, Seed did not describe what exactly this dude said to merit failure.  However, she did specify that her future husband should not only share her vision, but also presently display the various characteristics necessary to fulfill that vision:

I know I desire a home filled first and foremost with the peace and love of God, followed closely by joy and laughter. I want it to be continually filled with the praises and worship of God. I want my home to be a haven for those who need rest, guidance or simply a friend. I want a marriage and home atmosphere where imperfection might be obvious, yet shines with evidence of the Holy Spirit at work.

In order to make this vision a reality, my potential spouse should be a spiritual leader and a man in pursuit of holiness and goodness. He should be someone who can lead children by example in the Lord and not just by authority. The right man will be humble and hospitable so people feel welcome in our home and not as though they’ll be judged for sharing their struggles.

Once we know what we desire in marriage, we should strive to date people who not only share our vision but display the characteristics needed to fulfill it.

Several readers thought that Seed was being too judgmental against the guy, so she provided a more complete answer in the comments:

Don’t get me wrong, he had a great answer. On the surface, we were looking for the same things. But on a deeper level, there were things missing. He believes in God, but he wasn’t at the same place spiritually where he was striving for closer communion with Him. I know those things can change, but we also had a lot of lifestyle differences. Asking him that question was kind of just a matter of confirming whether or not things that are very important to me are things that even mattered to him without me in the picture.

In answering my question, he didn’t mention anything about leading a family spiritually or God being central in the marriage. He might not have opposed those things, but they didn’t seem to be on his radar either. The fact that he didn’t hold faith in God and serving God as important as I do is something I foresaw leading to a lot of problems. I didn’t want to go into a relationship that was dependent on him working toward those things because of me instead of naturally wanting them himself. He was making a genuine effort, but that was just for me and while he was with me, not the rest of the time.

She later added:

He was intelligent and sweet, and he treated me well. He was someone I could joke with one second and then have a very real, serious conversation with the next. He asked about my boundaries and was extremely respectful of them. I figured that since he was making a genuine effort, was seeking marriage and was being intentional with me, I would give him a chance. I was hesitant for certain reasons, and he was very aware of those. But as time went on, I discovered the words didn’t quite match up with the actions as far as seeking God and pursuing a lifestyle pleasing to Him.

So what we have here is a generally good guy, considerate and respectful of Seed’s physical boundaries, who had good chemistry with Seed and who began dating her KNOWING that she was a Christian whose Christianity was a priority in her life, get shot down for not, in Seed’s opinion, sufficiently seeking God.  I don’t want to knock someone for not dating someone where there was genuine incompatibility, and it does sound like Seed gave him a fair shake, but situations like this are a recipe for prolonged singleness for Christian women.

Not knowing more than what Seed wrote, I’m sorry this happened.  The truth is that many Christian women, if they want to marry a man to whom they are attracted, may have to settle for a man who is not as “spiritually advanced” as she is.  Just look at the male-female ratios in many churches, and look at the pickings.  The ratio is not advantageous to women, especially the ones who aren’t drop-dead gorgeous, or at least reasonably cute and perky and have that future-youth-pastor-wife personality.  But just because a man doesn’t say that his first intention is to spiritually lead his family and grow closer to God and provide a safe haven for joy and laughter or whatever DOESN’T mean that he’s not going to grow spiritually, or that he won’t grow with his wife’s encouragement.

In a later comment, Seed wrote that the guy admitted that he acted more spiritual around her but had a secret non-Christian side that he wasn’t apologetic over, and that is how she knew it would NEVER WORK.  Maybe she’s right – but I’ve seen a lot of guys – guys who are good at heart – go through a wilder phase in their 20s and then come back to the fold after they got married.  It’s why so often, writing off an otherwise attractive man for “insufficient spirituality” in the hopes of snagging the Earl of Piety is such a fool’s mission for the average Christian woman.  There just aren’t enough of those guys for every girl who wants one.  I mean, it’s one thing if the guy is adamant that he wants nothing to do with God or Christianity (or is actively professing a different faith), or has unequivocally stated that he has no intentions of ever exploring his spirituality, or that he genuinely believes he’s good with God right where he is and doesn’t have any interest in going any further, but that wasn’t the case here.  Nor did Seed indicate that she had a specific calling to missions or other sacrificial calling that would make any union with a less spiritual man genuinely problematic.  Again, not knowing the situation personally, I can’t say with confidence that Seed made the wrong choice…but it really does sound like this guy got the boot for a potentially fixable problem.

I get where Seed is coming from; I used to think the same way.  I grew up in the church convinced that I had to have a “spiritual leader” for a husband, who wanted to attend small groups and Be Involved and lead in prayer and want to do family devotions and the whole kit-and-kaboodle.  I was convinced that those were the ingredients of a good marriage, and if a guy wasn’t showing those attributes at, say, age 22, then he had effectively removed himself from the running.  Well…quick guess as to how many of Earls of Piety I’ve come across in my life, and who have been single, and who were attracted to me, and to whom I was attracted back.

As I have gotten older (and remained single), especially in the months since my dad passed, I’ve begun reevaluating what I thought were the “essentials.”  My dad, at the time he married my mom, was not a model Christian man.  He had grown up in a Christian home but was caught up in a lot of typical young man behavior.  He knew my mom was a more serious Christian than he was, and he was fortunately wise enough to recognize that if he married her, she would help him grow.  And she did.  My dad never became an Earl of Piety – it was not in his personality – but God became a priority in his life.  In the later years of his life, he ended every day on his knees next to his bed in prayer.  If my mom had judged my dad by Seed’s criteria, there would never have been a marriage.  (Fortunately, my mom was CRAZY about my dad and also naive enough to believe that because they grew up in the same denomination, their marriage would be much like her parents’.  Ha!  She definitely experienced a rude awakening.  But back then, young women didn’t enter dating armed with a 463-bullet point evangelical checklist full of things like “must enjoy discussing theology,” “only listen to Christian music,” and never telling a crude joke.  (These are all things that Seed mentioned as must-haves for her happiness in a relationship.))

One other comment:  Seed talks about how this guy didn’t “share her vision.”  Her whole decision-making process centered around herself and her own ideas about marriage.  I think it would be beneficial for single women to frame it rather as “can I share HIS vision?”.  Because ultimately, that’s what you’re signing up for in a marriage, Christian or not.  You’re signing up to be this guy’s first officer (to use an Athol-ism), or to be the COO to his CEO, however you want to put it – the point of you is not to set a goal and wait for him to meet it, but to look at his goals and see if you can be a part of them.  Women who are waiting for a man who can meet their lofty standards are usually destined to wait a loooooongg time.

Christians who don’t promote young marriage don’t actually care about chastity.

29 Jun

Reader Nate Winchester sent me a link to this article from The Catholic World Report: “Should We Bring Back Young Marriage?

It’s a longer article, but it’s a good read.

My take on the issue of young marriage is that if Christians are actually serious about chastity, then they HAVE to support young marriage.  And it seems to me that Christians at large are not serious about chastity.  All of the “True Love Waits”-style campaigns, purity rings, abstinence education – all of that means NOTHING in the face of biology…or at least it ends up meaning nothing if you’re alone with your boyfriend in your apartment at night and you’re in love with each other, or at least happen to think each other is hot.  I mean, what do parents REALLY THINK is going to happen?  Maybe not the first time, but given ENOUGH time.  That they’re just having Bible study at 1:00am?

Are adult Christians just stupid?

Is it not obvious to anyone with half a brain that human beings were not designed to delay sex for two or three decades after coming to sexual maturity?  Yet we have Christians not blinking an eye at full-grown adult singles waiting until age 35 to marry for the first time, because that was just God’s perfect plan or whatever.

Maybe these Christians (because THEY married at age 21 or 22 and never had the delightful experience of having unfulfillable sexual desires for 10 or 20 years) think that anyone can wait because THEY were able to wait for, like, five years.  Maybe the only singles they know at church are low sex-drive 2s, or girls who became chubby single cat ladies by age 26 and are totally content to serve in the nursery at church while patientlyyyy waiting for Mr. Right that everyone knows will never arrive – isn’t it obvious that waiting is a realistic and achievable goal?

Or maybe it’s that as long as the couple weren’t cohabitating before marriage, then we can totally assume that they weren’t having premarital sex, right?  Even though they dated for five years!

I think some of it is that there are a lot of married Christians in the church these days who had premarital sex, and they just don’t want to address it, because then THEY might have to come clean about their own fornication, and nobody wants to go there because (A) no one else’s business, and (B) awkward.  So everyone just turns a blind eye to what they know is going on, and it’ll all work out because we’re all forgiven and everybody makes mistakes and no sin is greater than any other sin.

Until someone gets pregnant.  But even then, everyone rallies around the brave single mother (no abortion = hero for life) and volunteers to babysit.

We hear a lot these days from pearl-clutching Christians about how evil the world is and how depraved the culture, etc.  If Christians are really serious about changing the culture for the better, then they need to get serious about promoting young marriage and stop telling singles (either explicitly or implicitly) that they have a long time to find someone and it’s better to go off and have adventures while they figure out who they are.  And they also need to stop telling people that the 20s are a “season” in which you can work on yourself to become closer to God and therefore marriage-worthy or whatever.  By the time you hit your 20s, you should already be well-formed enough to be a good candidate for being a spouse.  That has not so much to do with how many various experiences you have in life but very much to do with your fundamental character.  Marriage shouldn’t be about bringing two “experts in life experience” together but rather about bringing two young people who may be inexperienced in life but of solid character together.  All the life experience in the world means very little with no character.  Age 22 is not a good age at which to BEGIN to develop character.   Yes, it’s a good thing to have done some introspective thought about who you are and what you want, but this idea that we have to be practically irrevocably formed before even entertaining the thought of marriage is wrong-headed.  If anything, too much formation makes it that much harder for someone to get married and stay married.


Meg Jay: Why 30 is not the new 20.

12 Jun

In case this video hasn’t made the rounds to your internet neighborhood yet –

Meg Jay is a clinical psychologist whose practice focuses on 20-somethings.  In this TEDtalk she discusses why now is the time to invest in your life, rather than believe your 20s are a ten-year freebie pass to mess/wander around because life and direction are just going to be there for you at 30.  I think she is actually the first person I’ve heard who tells people that the decisions you make today can cut off possibilities for your future (such as the ability to have a family when you want one).  Even church advice is typically of the “get married young, but if God doesn’t bring your mate into your life in college, just keep hoping and praying – God’s timing is perfect!” variety.  Meanwhile, girls are turning 30, dressing frumpy, and waiting for that sacrificial leader to walk in the door on Sunday and choose them.  Good luck with that!

Jay’s talk is important because a generation of young people has been raised to believe that they can have whatever they want, whenever they want – they are just that special, and all they have to do is wish hard and it will happen.  Especially now, with the ubiquity and immediacy of texting, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, and other social media, you can get stuck in a bubble where reality doesn’t intrude – where you don’t (and don’t have to) contemplate reality.  This makes getting hit in the face with reality even worse, AND you’re totally psychologically unprepared to deal with it.  While Dr. Jay does not give Christian advice, she does hit a lot of the same areas that the Boundless types are always harping on, except Dr. Jay does it in a way makes a lot more sense and is far less annoying.

Also, although Jay focuses on twentysomethings, her advice is good for any age.  Now is always the right time to take stock of your life, get focused, and do things that will help you get where you need to go.

Should Christians EVER go on dates with (presumed) non-Christians?

2 Jun

For those of us who have grown up in the church, probably the cardinal rule of dating that is hammered home again and again and AGAIN is to never date an unbeliever.  This is because if you date an unbeliever, you will have premarital sex, never go to church again, and basically ruin the rest of your life.

When you’re in high school, or even college, this seems like pretty solid advice.  For girls, you are advised to keep holding out for that ambitious young man who loves Jesus and is a spiritual leader and material provider who will love you sacrificially and be a good father to your children whom you will raise in the faith, trusting God every step of the way as this young man challenges you to grow in your faith and prays for you to love Jesus even more as you have your couple devotions which he leads.  You know this guy is out there, because God is writing your love story and you are using this season of singleness to fall in love with Jesus even more in anticipation of the spiritually appointed meeting of this young man, who is also using this season of singleness to grow into the strong, faithful leader that God intends him to be.  Sure, you’re frustrated because the guys in your youth group seem immature and only interested in the popular girls (which you are not one of), but you can hold out, because you can’t imagine your life beyond age 25 and by then you’ll surely be married.

I’m not sure what the equivalent advice for guys is, but I’m guessing it’s some combination of never looking at porn, confessing your boners to other men, and praying and averting your eyes when you feel temptation.  Also, praising God for redeeming the precious young women in the group who had been deceived by men who only wanted to use them for sex.

And again, all this seems like a solid game plan……..provided you’re married by age 25.  It’s just – what about the rest of us for whom that cutoff point passes, and we’re still single?

By this point, you are:

  • out of college
  • in the workforce, full-time
  • starting to feel uncomfortable in “college & career” settings
  • but too young to be part of the “dregs of the church SMP baby mamas/broken divorced people singles” scene at church

The young married people you know have fallen into the Young Marrieds Abyss, where conversation now revolves around mini-vans, preschool, coupons for Kohl’s, and recipes on Pinterest.

The older married people you know don’t know any young singles to introduce you to, or if they do know anyone unmarried, that person would not be a good match for you.

As a good Christian, you do not troll bars, and if, on the off-chance, you happen to go to a bar with some friends (where you feel very uncomfortable), you are DEFINITELY not there to meet men, because good men don’t go to bars – especially not to bars with the goal of meeting chicks, because everyone knows that girls who go to bars are trampy sluts – and a marriage-worthy Christian man would NEVER look for wife material at a bar – and so you know going in that you have already written off every man in the bar, full stop.

So you go through some very long dry spells where the most male attention you get is from a 44-year-old church creeper from the singles group, but there’s a kind of cute guy at work who probably is not a Christian, and you know this because he sometimes drops the F-bomb, but he’s nice to you and you think that sometimes he’s sort of flirting with you, and after a while you start wondering…….would it really hurt so much to go on a date with a non-Christian??  I mean, a date is not a proposal, and you’re 30/32/35/38/41/43 and not getting any younger.

At this point, Christian advice tends to bifurcate.  On the one hand, you have the hard-liners who feel that The Bible Says, and if you never go on that first date with a non-Christian, you will never have to deal with all the problems that come from Unequal Yokeage, which is the whole point of The Bible Says in the first place.  Plus, where is your faith?  God can work miracles.  Keep hoping and praying for your miracle.  Everything God does is perfect and in His own time – there will be so much greater and more rejoicing as you look back on this season and recognize His faithfulness to you.  And if you never meet anyone, then that is God’s plan for you and you can serve Him so much better as a single person, anyway.  Those people who have to spend time with their children?  They can’t serve at church potlucks and crisis pregnancy centers the way you can.

On the other hand, you have the people who approach dating slightly more recreationally.  These people don’t see the harm in going out with someone because it’s Just A Date, and Just A Dates don’t have a lot of big-picture significance.  Why not spend some time getting to know someone else?  It’s just a date, and early dates are casual.  No harm, no foul.  Plus, if you start to get a reputation for saying no to those who ask, eventually NO ONE will ask.

The two positions, as far as I can tell, are irreconcilable.  If you go to a church full of The Bible Says-ers, you will be frowned upon if word gets out that you went out with a non-Jesus-lover.  (You can tell if you attend such a church, because if you mention a young man to the women at church, the first or second thing they will ask about him is if he is a Christian.  If you say “no” or “I don’t know,” they will immediately advise you never to date a nonbeliever.)  But – are you doomed to zero dates over the course of a decade or more, potentially turning down a number of men just because they swore in front of you?  Is it really worth being alone all the time?

I don’t know what the answer is.  I just feel frustrated with the state of things.  And I feel despair when I read comments like this one from MontanaMoxie at Boundless:

I enjoyed listening to the panel discussion on 2nd dates. It sounds like CO Springs has a pretty great Christian singles dating scene.  Maybe I ought to move there!  Just kidding, of course…but I’ve been a little discouraged this weekend.  I’ll be turning 33 years old this week, and I haven’t ever been on a first date as an adult, let alone a 2nd date.  I don’t know how I’ll get to marriage someday (something I highly value, study and prepare for, desire, respect, etc.) if I can’t even get to a first date.  I suppose I’ll keep asking God to work a miracle, because I think that may be what it will take!

Really?  REALLY??  I know the Christian wing of the manosphere loves to focus on tearing apart and mocking the Saved Single SlutMoms, but there are a bunch of MontanaMoxies in churches, too – girls who have been churchpilling all their lives and have gotten nowhere romantically by doing so.  They’ve been told to trust God, and fall even MORE in love with Jesus, and to stay chaste, and to look for that Strong Leader Guy, and to IKDG and not date casually, and to keep hoping and hoping and hoping and praying and praying and praying – and the clock keeps running.  Meanwhile, guys feel like they’re at a job interview when they go on Christian Dates.  In the same thread at Boundless, Corwin aptly sums up the Christian Dating Problem from the male perspective:

I’ll be completely honest with you, I hate Christian dating, haven’t been on a date in well over a year, and have little interest in dating a Christian girl ever again because it often seems like first and second dates are more like a driver’s licence exam than a social evening. Did he show ability to take risks by asking me out in person? Nope, he used Facebook — two demerits. Did he show ability to provide by jumping up to pay for my $3 coffee? Nope, he was in the bathroom when I ordered, so I had to pay — three demerits. Did he show leadership by picking a venue conducive to conversation? Nope, he took me to a crowded place that he should’ve known would be too loud to talk deeply — six demerits…and that’s a fail for this dude’s godly husband potential.

Of course I’m exaggerating, but I really have found that the expectations and judgements that are made on Christian first dates are quite extreme. I really don’t think you can accurately assess anyone’s leadership or provider or parenting potential the first time you go out with them. No one is truly themselves on a first date either due to nerves or trying to be impressive, yet statement like “if he can’t lead a first date, he can’t lead your children” make it sound like it’s totally legit to give guys one high-pressure shot to prove who they are to women.

Christians love to talk about how “the world” is so messed up and “worldly” dating is so messed up – maybe they should look at the church, because as far as I can tell, it’s not any better inside the church.

Sorry if this is a downer, guys – just feeling frustrated at the moment.

Reasons you might still be single despite your plentiful inner beauty.

17 Feb

I was talking with a coworker recently about the single women we know, and we came to the conclusion that it’s not a lack of “good person”‘-ness that’s an impediment to finding a spouse, but rather that “something is missing” that is a necessary component to being good marriage material.  We all know good people with generous, kind, servant hearts and the best of intentions…who, deep down, we know have an uphill battle to find someone who will commit.  There’s just something missing.

I think this is what I find frustrating with Christian and mainstream advice – the focus on “be an amazing person!  you’re amazing!  own your amazingness!”.  As I said in my previous post, there is a practical, mundane component of marriage, and that is having to actually live day-in and day-out with another person.  Being an amazing person doesn’t mean you’re automatically amazing mate material.  Many people with impressive accomplishments and character traits still get passed by for marriage because they’re not so amazing at the relational component of relationships.

Below I have listed ten things that I think can be hold-ups for otherwise functional, intelligent, accomplished adults (which means I have excluded obvious things like “is fatty fat fat,” “is a slutty slut slut,” and “life is a drama-filled wreckage”).  List also applies to men, though I was thinking of women when I compiled it.

1.  You don’t listen.  In conversation, especially when trying to build rapport, people want to feel that the other person is listening to them, not merely waiting their turn to start talking again.  If you’re not giving signals in conversation that you have heard and understood and empathized with the other person, you’re going to have a hard time convincing that other person that they should keep you around.

2.  You talk AT people, not TO them.  This often correlates with point #1.  Good conversation is largely about empathy.  If the other person doesn’t think you’re relating but rather just waiting so you can unleash your (superior) point of view on them, it’s not going to bode well for a relationship.

3.  You’re always trying to get in the last word/one-up other people.  In college, there was always that annoying person in class who always had his hand in the air, DYING to impress the professor with his vast knowledge and proof of having done the reading.  If you made a good point, that person had a BETTER point to follow up with.  It was annoying then, and it’s annoying now.  Let other people be the ones to shine sometimes, even if you have a legitimate claim to the spotlight.

4.  You don’t pull your own weight in conversation.  Relating to others is a give-and-take.  I get that there are a lot of shy and/or introverted people out there, but if you are depending upon the other person to be the entertainment, that’s going to get really old, really fast for that other person.

5.  You lack a sense of humor.  If everything offends you, or you can’t delight in absurdity, it’s going to be hard for you to find someone who wants to be with you for life, because so much of life is offensive and absurd.

6.  You don’t read social signals well (or at all)/you don’t observe social graces/conventions.  If you can’t tell when it’s time for the conversation to move on, or the other person is trying to bow out gracefully, or you’re constantly hijacking someone else’s project or idea, or you’re always saying the wrong thing at the wrong time, it’s going to be harder for you to find a romantic partner.  Most people only have so much graciousness for social awkwardness.

7.  You’re a complainer.  I can’t stand to be around complainers.  My free time is precious; why should I spend it with someone who gets off on griping about everything?  How is that beneficial to me?  The occasional venting session is one thing, but people who always have something to complain about are just not worth the time.

8.  You’re too social.  Being social and having your own life going on is good for singles, but not when you’re so social that other people aren’t sure if you have room for them in your life.  If you’re constantly fielding text messages and coordinating activities with friends and ALWAYS have something going on, a new person might decide you’re not going to be able to prioritize a relationship – that getting on your schedule is going to be too much of a hassle.

9.  You haven’t cut the cord with Mommy and/or Daddy.  It’s good to have a relationship with your parents when you’re an adult.  It’s bad to be so close to them that their presence in your life is a disincentive to find a mate.

10.  You don’t dress the part.  Everyone knows at least one single person who wants a top-drawer caliber mate, but the person dresses frumpy/is overweight/is poorly or boringly groomed/doesn’t dress at the level of their target.  Now, how does this person think he or she is going to attract sexy people of the opposite sex?  What are those sexy people going to notice first, the hardware or the software?  See where I’m going with this?  Your appearance brands you.  If you want a certain kind of person to pick you up and take you home (METAPHORICALLY SPEAKING, THIS IS A CHRISTIAN BLOG AHEM), then you need to look like the kind of product they’ll be attracted to.  Sure, you can pray that the Holy Spirit will open their eyes to your inner beauty, but in most cases it’s a lot easier to just look better.

A good personality is not enough.

14 Feb

I was thinking recently about the emphasis on personality/character by Christian (and mainstream, for that matter) advice-ists.  Usually this emphasis is framed as “looks fade, character is forever.”  Well, yes, there is a lot of truth in this statement, and it makes plain people feel better, but the more I look around at the single women around me, the more I feel that the emphasis on personality uber alles does everyone no favors.

You can be the nicest, friendliest, most thoughtful person in the world, but if you don’t have any (or many) practical life skills, you’re digging yourself into a hole when it comes to snagging a mate for life.

By life skills, I mean the actual skill set you need to function in the world as a productive adult.  Marriage, to a large extent, isn’t just about enjoying each other’s company.  A lot of marriage is two people being a functional unit of society.  So…can you budget your money?  Can you restrain your spending and be able to pay for needs before wants?  Can you cook (from scratch)?  Can you put on a dinner party?  Can you clean well enough so that someone doesn’t want to come in after you and re-clean?  Can you decorate/make an abode look homey?  Do you know how to dress and behave appropriately for different occasions?  Can you show genuine interest in other people?  Does your life look like a tornado hit it, or would people enjoy coming to your place to relax and connect?***

Basically:  what are you bringing to the table?  If it’s primarily your personality, that may not be enough to get the type of man you’d really like to have.  If he’s going to make a life with you and not just enjoy coffee and movies with you, he’s most likely going to want to see some indication that you can give him the type of married life that he envisions for himself.

I’m not trying to shake my finger at anyone or pile on any “you must be PERFECT!” pressure with this post; it’s just that of the single women I know, I sometimes see the life skills issue impacting their dating prospects in various ways.

***Not every man is going to have the same standards for what constitutes an acceptable set of life skills (SES/education level/demographics play into this a lot), but they all have a standard set somewhere.