Sunday, June 24, 2012

Biggest Relationship Myths: Part 1

Disclaimer: I'm no expert on dating, relationships, and marriage. I'm just a 23-year-old woman seeking God's best for her life in all of these areas. But this list that I've created reflects "advice" and "wisdom" about these topics that are very prevalent in Christian circles (and one or two are prevalent in the larger culture as well). But I don't think that this "wisdom," while it may come from well-meaning people, is very wise at all. Many of these things I have heard from various sources since I was a child, but that still doesn't make them right. Over the past few years, realizing that some of these things are just plain wrong has been like a breath of fresh air.

So here are, in my opinion, the biggest myths about relationships (here's 4 for now, more coming tomorrow):

Myth #1: The first man or woman that you genuinely fall in love with will be your husband or wife--if it's not, then you messed up somewhere. If you have feelings for someone who doesn't end up being your spouse, it's nothing more than shallow infatuation or a "major crush"--and if you think otherwise, then you're too immature to know the difference between infatuation and love. I think that this myth reflects a completely unrealistic view of love that can be very damaging, especially to young women. Because the fact is, we live in an imperfect world, and people fall in love and get their hearts broken. People also genuinely fall in love but watch as time, circumstance, career, or God's leading in their lives pulls them apart instead of toward marriage. You can fall in love with someone that you don't end up marrying. When someone says that they fell in love with another person and continually get shot down ("it was just infatuation"), what they hear is: "You don't know the first thing about love because you're just too young and too immature. You don't know what your own experience was (even though somehow I do)." This is simply wrong. You're not always going to get your perfect fairy tale ending that goes like this: "My first real love was my husband/ wife." Sorry--it may happen once in awhile, but in general, it's not reality.

Myth #2: You shouldn't make a list of qualities you are looking for in a mate, because it is too idealistic and sets you up for disappointment. This myth comes from good intentions--trying to keep people (especially women) from having ridiculously high standards or detailed qualifications of what they are looking for in a mate, which are likely to only result in disappointment as one person after another falls short. But what's wrong with it is that I think it encourages people to never really think about, or articulate, what they want in a mate. It suggests that having anything that even resembles a " what I want in a mate" list is a bad idea. But before you begin looking for a mate, I think it is a very good idea to at least have some clue what kind of person you're looking for! And I don't think that having a list of qualities you think you would like in your mate is a bad idea by any stretch of the imagination.

Myth #3 (which follows on #2): If you do have a list of qualities you are looking for, you'll really only be satisfied with someone who has most of those qualities. People often say the "List" is a bad idea because it puts you in a box and makes you ignore any potential with someone who doesn't match up well to the qualities it contains. But the fact is, the List is a jumping-off point of qualities we think we would like in a mate; it's not a dealbreaker list such that any date who doesn't have every single quality gets written off. The qualities you look for are guidelines that are malleable by experience and by the people you actually meet; they're not intended to be written in stone.

Myth #4: If someone of clearly marriageable age does not intend to get married, they are obviously not mature enough to know what they really want and will realize how deluded and foolish they are, hopefully sooner rather than later. Or they just haven't met the right person. But here's what I don't understand. People in their early twenties are beginning careers, getting advanced degrees, joining the military, doing mission work, traveling and working abroad, starting companies, etc., and we usually don't seriously question most of their decisions in these areas. But as soon as one of those young people dares to express that they don't want to get married or perhaps don't feel called to get married, the immediate reaction is to assume that they are just being immature and will change their mind later. But not everybody is destined to get married, wants to get married, or should get married, for various reasons. And some people live happy and fulfilling lives of service as single people. Bottom line: if you're old enough and mature enough to do the things on that list above and not be questioned about them, then chances are you're also mature enough to have made an informed and careful decision about how you feel about marriage, and you deserve to be taken seriously.

Stay tuned for the rest of this list tomorrow and Tuesday!

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