Friday, December 26, 2014

Dating Advice for the Not-Yet-In-A-Relationship

One of the things that Nan & I do with relationship seekers is to give out a list of “Must Haves” and “Can’t Stands”. It is basically a collection of both character qualities and preferences that can guide a person while “interviewing” potential mates. The instructions are to choose your top 10 in each category. 
These lists serve two purposes. For some, it is necessary to limit the choices to a realistic collection of desired attributes. That is why the choices are capped at 10. For others, they tend to set the bar so low that they need to work on raising their standards to an acceptable level. Which group do you fall into: too picky or too lax? 
There is a catch, too. You must become what you want to attract.
So many people focus on what they want from a relationship, but fail to ask the question “What am I willing to give?” I suggest making out a list of all the things you will bring to the table. Marriage is a partnership of two people willing to contribute equally to a common future. 
Too many times we have seen items on a person’s list that don’t match. 
  • “I want someone physically fit” – but they themselves are not. 
  • “I must have someone who is organized” – but their personal world is a mess. 
  • “I want someone who is ambitious” – but they have no goals in life. 
  • “I desire someone with high moral standards” – but they, well… you get the point. 
Our advice is often to back off of relationship seeking until you have made the necessary adjustments in your thinking, attitude or physicality. You are far more likely to connect with a great partner if you do. 
Are you a workaholic? Relationships require ongoing time investments. You many have to cut back from your job so you can contribute more at home. 
Are you lazy and want to be taken care of? This is a prescription for resentment to grow in your relationship. And resentment will create distance and isolation eventually. Try to match your partner’s energy. 
One other thing comes to mind. For some the quest for a relationship is fear driven. 
“I don’t want to end up alone.” 
Unfortunately, this anxiety is often palpable and obvious and may be the key reason you are not able to connect. You may exude a seriousness that makes others back off. Dating should be fun and easy, full of smiles and laughter and enjoyment – not an intense pursuit toward a goal. That comes later after you have established that the person really is a good candidate for a deeper relationship. Nan suggests a minimum of 12 dates with 12 different people in 12 months so you don’t just get stuck on the first one that comes along. 
You can make up your own “Must Haves” and “Can’t Stands” lists – but remember, you must “be” all the things on your lists.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Get Rich Quick!

One of things that I have realized over my life is that the same truths keep being recycled in each generation. They may be packaged differently, but the basic underlying principles remain.

At first, I thought “How boring. Everyone knows that! There is no need to repeat that.”

But the truth is, everyone doesn’t know that. It takes repeating and remembering for a known truth to be perpetuated. The Bible talks about this repeatedly. It is the foundational premise behind building altars and sustaining markers.

“Repeat them again and again to your children. Talk about them when you are at home and when you are on the road, when you are going to bed and when you are getting up. Tie them to your hands and wear them on your forehead as reminders. Write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.” (Deuteronomy 6:7-9)

One of those biblical truths for me has been this: Live on less than you earn.

Let me be clear. This does not include the credit available on charge cards or the minimum payments allowable. It means that if you are not able to pay off the balances each month on a charge card, you are not living on less than you earn.

It also goes for most loans (home mortgage excepted). I have bought beater cars to stay within budget, used and donated furniture to stay within budget and many other strategies so that I did not have to take out a loan. I have not always done this – I have learned by experience, meaning I have made mistakes. I have taken out car and appliance loans (even a boat loan) and not paid off credit card balances – and I really wish I had all that interest in my bank account instead of in the loan company’s coffers.

In this culture you will have many opposing voices to this basic, sound and time-tested advice. You will hear about leveraging this and strategizing that. But each one of those concepts will take away from your peace and freedom. King Solomon gives us his wisdom in the Bible.

  • "Wealth from get-rich-quick schemes quickly disappears; wealth from hard work grows over time." (Proverbs 13:11
  • "The trustworthy person will get a rich reward, but a person who wants quick riches will get into trouble." (Proverbs 28:20
  • "Greedy people try to get rich quick but don’t realize they’re headed for poverty." (Proverbs 28:22
  • "Just as the rich rule the poor, so the borrower is servant to the lender." (Proverbs 22:7

Following the ‘live on less than you earn” strategy will often feel harsh because it means embracing delayed gratification as a way of life, at least for a while. And it is definitely not the message of the greater Western culture. It is not the message of entitlement and “you deserve” thinking. Rather, it is the voice of contentment and stability.

Every new generation needs to hear this message. Smart parents will make sure that they follow this and pass it on.

Sunday, December 7, 2014

10 Things a Woman Can Do To Get and Keep A Man

For this week I am going to post an article from a former colleague of Nan’s that she wrote some time ago for a magazine. I think her observations are spot on.

What Men Want From Women – The Basics
Karen McQuade M.S.

“What do men want?” women often wonder. Although most men do think a lot about sex, and it is very important to them, they so value other things in a relationship, too. Ladies, it’s simpler than you might think.

1) A man wants a woman who is glad that he is in her life. A man wants to feel welcome in the life of the woman he’s involved with. He wants a woman who enjoys his company. He does not want to be continually criticized or corrected. He’d like to feel he pleases her. If you can’t be happy with him as he is now, ask yourself why that is. Men do not want to be your home improvement project.

2) Men want to be valued for their contributions. Men are more action-based than word-based. A man wants to hear that the woman in his life appreciates what he does. He wants his contributions to be thought of as valuable to her and to the family as a whole. Make it a habit to express your appreciation frequently for what he does.

3) Men want their efforts at change to be recognized. Men get very discouraged when they change their behavior and hear angry words like, “Now, why can’t you do that all the time?” Men would prefer, “Thank you, honey, I really appreciate that.” A man wants to know his efforts to change his behavior and to please his partner make a difference in their relationship and that she feels good about him and their relationship when he does change.

4) Men want women who understand women’s words are powerful. Women are verbally adept, and can easily hurt others by what they say. We often see men as tough, but actually men are easily hurt by words. Men want relationships with women who are conscious of the effect their words can have on others. They want caring women who take responsibility for the words and tone they use. Watch your words, and don’t be cruel.

5) Men want an activity companion. Men are doers, not talkers. To men, meaningful interaction is often what they do with others. So men want women who will spend time doing things with them and enjoy it. Men find that meaningful and satisfying, even if the two of you don’t talk much. Learn to appreciate just being together sometimes. Talking isn’t everything.

6) Men usually like their conversations brief and orderly. Men prefer that you tell them one thing at a time in a relatively orderly fashion. Write down long lists of things you want done, and get to the point before they lost or lose interest. Women usually are very verbal and don’t always talk concisely or in a particular order, which is fine when talking with most women, but is very confusing and frustrating to most men. Remember, men are not chatty, so don’t ramble too much. Condense, and get to the point. Save most of the conversational strolls into the recesses of your soul for your female friends.

7) Men want a woman who has a life. A healthy man is attracted by a woman who has a life to share with him, not by a woman who wants him to be her life. Most men get anxious around a woman who expects that merely having him will solve all her problems. To be a woman’s sole source of fulfillment and happiness is too heavy a burden for any man. Relationships require that you have a strong sense of self and varied interests in life.

8) Men want peace. Men want their relationships with women to be a nurturing, peaceful, and loving refuge from the world. Men do not want a contentious home or relationship. They want women who are not easily offended or easily upset, or impossible to please. They want positive, caring interactions to be the norm. Constant anger, discontent, and unhappiness drive men away. If you tend to be negative, discontent, or irritable, seek professional help in overcoming those tendencies. These tendencies do not work well in a relationship.

9) Men want women to know that women’s emotions can be overwhelming to men. Men do not even want to talk at length about their own feelings or to examine them in great detail. They find women stressful who love to have frequent, long conversations about feelings and the state of the relationship. Although some talk of feelings and the state of the relationship is necessary, frequent, intense conversations like this will cause men to get overloaded and shut down emotionally. If you want a companion and not a zombie, let it be a seasoning, not a main dish.

10) Men do not want to be controlled or engulfed. Most men fear losing themselves in relationship. In healthy relationships people discuss important issues, what they are doing, and how it affects the other. Spouses also keep each other informed of their schedules. However, men do not want to feel their wives or girlfriends grant them permission to do things. Healthy men do not mind working out mutual solutions to problems, but men panic and resist if they feel a woman is trying to control their every move. A man can love a woman and still need time away from her. A man needs to feels his own separateness to be in relationship in order to be emotionally intimate with a woman. Respect his separateness and his differences. Be his companion and partner, not his boss or his Siamese twin.

If you can be the woman I’ve described, or can work toward being that woman, healthy men will be very happy with you.

Monday, December 1, 2014

Sex and Guilt

“The great tragedy is not masturbation or fornication or pornography. The tragedy is that Satan uses guilt from these failures to strip you of every radical dream you ever had or might have. In their place, he gives you a happy, safe, secure, American life of superficial pleasures, until you die in your lakeside rocking chair.” John Piper – October 19, 2007 Christianity Today

I was struck by this quote on a week where I have been thinking about sex and guilt and how it is a bigger problem than people might think. I was particularly concerned because of the shame and guilt that many pre-married couples feel as they prepare to join their lives together permanently.

In the privacy of the counseling room both men and women will express regrets at having crossed over boundaries that they knew to be against their values. However, not surprisingly it is women who seem to carry a bigger burden in this area. Premarital sex and extramarital affairs seem to reach deeper into a woman’s heart. I would want this message to be especially heeded by men because they might not understand how significant “casual sex” can be for a woman.

I am not implying that women alone carry this. Many men have expressed deep sadness at the damage they have done to themselves and others. They feel unworthy in relationships and disqualified from taking an active part in ministry and leadership.

It was during our teens, twenties and thirties that the “sexual revolution” flourished (from mid 1960’s to mid 1980’s) until the emergence of AIDS slowed it down considerably. During this time, the availability of new birth control, (the pill especially) changed the sexual landscape forever. With the possibility of pregnancy greatly diminished, the old sexual taboos and restraints were largely abandoned.

I would expect that my generation, being the transitional one, would carry guilt deeper than current ones, but that does not seem to be true. The younger generations may engage in sex outside of marriage at a greater rate because of changed societal values, but the percentages of associated guilt appear to remain steady, at least within the church body.

Is guilt bad? 
  • It isn’t when it becomes a positive change agent in our lives. It motivates us to make course corrections when we are headed in the wrong direction. 
  • It isn’t when it allows us to feel empathy or compassion for others. 
  • It is if it drives us away from God instead of towards Him. 
  • It is if it keeps us stuck in shame patterns that are toxic. 
  • It is if, as the opening quote states, it kills our dreams of doing anything significant because we think we are disqualified as a result of our sexual behavior.

I am always encouraged when a weekend sermon coincides with a blog post I had been working on, like this week’s. It validates the subject for me.

This week's sermon reminded me that God has a plan for us when we have sinned against Him and others with our sexuality. We do not have to carry the guilt, but through confession and repentance can be forgiven and restored. We are then free to move on with our radical dreams.