When Dating Becomes an Idol | RELEVANT Magazine

My favorite nickname is JHarmony, an ode to my unrelenting capacity to talk about relationships.

Some might call me obsessed. But actually its not dating or being in a relationship that Im obsessed with. Its how we navigate this area of our lives.

Whenever Im discipling young leaders or speaking to young adults, its not long before we talk relationships. The conversations are candid, even raw. We talk about dreams and disappointments, failure and frustration, hopes and heartache.

But the most vulnerable part of the conversation is where, starting with my own broken story and many mistakes, we dare to face a few inconvenient truths about what truly shapes how they navigate relationships.

Relationships dominated the conversations, prayers and hopes of my twenties. I got married at 29, but my actual turning point happened years earlier when I realized that it was time to stop ranting and whining about the lack of single men in our church and, regardless of the pain, face a few difficult truths about what shaped my attitudes and approach to relationships.

It was breaking and it was a breakthrough. It was tears, sadness, prayer and listening to wise counsel. It was letting go and surrendering my life to Jesus again. It was, eventually, freedom.

And did I also mention that it was really difficult to face the truth of how I navigated relationships? Perhaps you can relate to my approach:

We Date to Hide Our Hurt and Insecurities and Feel Worth Something

The truth is that you can live a significant, fulfilled lifewith significant, fulfilling relationshipswithout a significant other (After all, Jesus our savior and example for everyday life never married).

Still, it was a truth I had to fight to believe in my heart and live in my life. I felt that if I wasnt dating, it meant I wasnt chosen. If I wasnt chosen when it seemed that everyone else was, surely something was wrong with me. Maybe I wasnt thin enough. Maybe I was too strong, too loud, too black?

My questions triggered past experiences and deeply rooted insecurities and my singleness confirmed my worthlessness. Wounded by theses fears and lies, I idolized relationships and resented others for having the answer to my prayer. I couldnt see the beauty and purpose in the life I already had.

We Think Life Will Really Begin on Our Wedding Day

I had unhealthily placed my value and security in whether I was dating. Id also incorrectly aligned my calling and potential with my marital status. Id unhelpfully put certain areas of my life on hold because that was for when I got married.

I think I was scared that if I continued making decisions about my life, I might miss something out on importantlike a husband. Better sit still and wait … and wait.

I see this a lot. People who wont plan that big vacation. They dont go for that promotion. They wont commit to a faith community or engage with a call and vocation. They wont deal with their debts, hoping marriage will fix it (a fantasy spouse is not a financial plan. Get some debt advice). Somewhere deep inside, they believe life begins when they meet their spouse.

Your life is happening now; choose to live it now. Thats what youre actually missing out on.

We Allow Ourselves to Get Into Ambiguous, Unhealthy Relationships

Theres this girl I used to knowlets call her Betty Back Up. She was deeply involved with a guy. They shared their lives with each other. When they hung out in groups, somehow there was an unspoken code that they would be hanging out together at the end of the night. There was a unique connection, a chemistry. But there wasnt a title, a definition of their relationship. Still, Betty wouldnt, even couldnt, date anyone else. She was already committed.

Until that guy publicly declared his interest in another woman and started dating her.

Betty felt humiliated and used. She felt all the pain of a breakup but had to grieve it privately. Finally, it dawned on her. Betty was the simply the back up plan, a friend with emotional benefits. I I mean shefelt angry and bitter. Then she realized that shed done exactly the same thing with other guys. In the search for Mr. Right, shed conveniently enjoyed the affections and attention of Mr. Right Now, knowing shed no intention of ever getting together with him. He just made her feel good for while.

Ever been there? Are you there right now?

We Focus on Finding the Perfect Person

Fresh from a breakup or back up, I carefully selected the kind of guy who was right for me. His age, his height, his spiritual maturity. His style, his family, his music taste. His life and calling. He would be proactive and committed. He was amazing. Everybody would think so. And he would be worthy of the annoying lengthy wait I was enduring. Furthermore, Id never be hurt like I was before; Id not wonder where I stood again. I prayed fervently.

Is it bad to write a list, to know what you want?

For me, I realized that in a bid to guard my heart from future hurt, Id constructed a potent fantasy filtered through my longings. This idol ideal would redeem the painful past (I forgot that Jesus could do that if I let Him!).

My list was a stylish spiritual superhero. Lets hope when he made his list, he fervently prayed for a woman with a broken childhood, a rapidly slowing metabolism, and postpartum depression after their second child. No? Awkward.

One day, a blond, mountain biking, engineer, five years younger than me asked me out on a date. Im glad I ignored my list and said yes. It turned out Id met the love of my life, a fab husband and a brilliant father to our kids.

What shapes how you navigate dating and relationships?

What do you need to do about it?

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