Tuesday, September 6, 2011
Becoming a woman of high standards
Often books on relationships emphasize finding the right person to date or marry, but it’s also important to become the right person.
To have the lasting love and intimacy you desire it’s essential to identify unhealthy patterns in your own life, change what you can about yourself, and then come into greater clarity about the qualities you want in another person.
Identify unhealthy patterns. Healthy relationships grow when we know our true identity (who we are in Christ) and respect our individuality and uniqueness. They also flourish when we know and connect with who God is (His character) and how that makes a difference in our life.
We are all made with different habits, personality traits and ways of relating. However, sometimes we do things in a relationship that hurt ourselves or damage the connection and we don’t know why.
Sometimes we know our weak spots and sometimes we are blind-sighted. Beth works at a major university and she’s been a Christian believer for years. Like many women she talks with her friends about men and reads books and articles about them. She thought she had relationships figured out—and then Ty showed up. He was not on the same page spiritually or emotionally, and she knew he wasn’t right for her. Yet little by little he wore her down with his charisma and charming words.
Beth spent time with him knowing it couldn’t go anywhere and every day her heart got more and more invested in the wrong man. She also knew she was spiritually starving because she hadn’t read her Bible (her spiritual food) for months. Hungry for attention, she forgot the wise words in Proverbs 4:23 “Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life.”
Her affections of the heart were strong and were leading her down a path that only meant trouble. Although she was strong in her faith, she realized that without the firm planting of God's word as her truth, she was just as vulnerable as the next person.
She knew something had to change and over the next few months she began to remember where her true value came from; it was God’s opinion of her, not a man that really counted. As she filled her heart with God’s promises about her worth and value, and how much God loves her, Beth became stronger and was able to make better decisions about who she would spend time with in the future.
Think about your past dating experiences. What went wrong? Why did it end? It’s helpful to identify any patterns in your dating experiences that may be sabotaging the love you desire. You can start by making a list of things you’ve learned from past relationships—things you’ve done that you don’t want to do again. Here are some examples:
* stayed too long in a dead end relationship
* didn’t stand up for yourself when he hurt you with words or actions
* gave in when he wanted to go farther physically than you wanted to
* stubbornly wanted your own way all the time
* didn’t know what to do when he treated you poorly
* lived in a fantasy world of thinking one day “it will be more” when he only wanted friendship
* pursued him when you should’ve waited for him to pursue you
* rushed from one relationship to next when you weren’t ready love again.
Change your thoughts and actions. Now that you know what you don’t want, it’s time to get to make some changes. What do you want to do differently next time? Maybe you didn’t know you were being treated poorly by a man because that’s what you’ve been used to your entire life. You didn’t know “nice” men existed, or that you were worth being treated well. Maybe you’re the kind of person who breaks up because you don’t want the other person to leave you first. Or you repeatedly pick Mr. Wrong, and don’t know why.
You don’t have to stay stuck in patterns of the past. Ask yourself why you’ve made unwise relationship choices? If you don’t know, then pray and ask God to reveal to you any habits or patterns that have been holding you back.
Change doesn’t have to be scary. You can start by picking one area at a time and doing something, because small steps lead to big changes. By altering what you do, your actions, it will change how you think and feel. In his book, “Pleasers,” Dr. Kevin Leman affirms that, “When you start changing your behavior, your attitudes, emotions, and feelings will change as well.” He suggests, “Ask yourself, How would the ‘old me’ react in this situation? How is the ‘new’ me going to react?”
Be clear on you really need in a relationship. My friend Heidi once said, “The difference between the wrong man and the right man is like the difference between the darkest night and the brightest day.”
In order to make choices that lead to the love and intimacy you desire, it’s important to know the characteristics you want—and don’t want—in a man. What are your criteria for the things you look? Think about the kind of men you’ve picked in the past? What do you want now? What needs to change? Make a list of things you need in a relationship. For instance, you could list, “I need:
• to have a better idea of what I need in another person
• to learn to assess more quickly if a man is right for me or not
• to be clear with myself and the other person what behaviors I will and will not accept
• someone who is consistent in his words and actions
• to make time for a quality relationship; to feel more connected
• a man who will pursue me, be available, and treat me with respect.”
The five C’s for finding Mr. Right
There are many essential traits to look for in a date, and eventually a life partner. I have five listed here, the five C’s: Christian, Communication, Character, Chemistry, and Calling.
Christian means that he has a committed walk with God, he’s accepted Jesus as his personal Savior and Lord, and he’s on a path of growth and discovery. What else does that mean for you? Do you want someone who will attend church with you every Sunday? Do you want to pray together as a couple? Think about how you want to live out your spiritual life with another person.
Communication is key to any good relationship. It’s talking and listening, building rapport and intimacy, sharing, and more. What kind of communication important to you in a relationship? Are you comfortable going deep in conversation, or do you prefer to stay in the shallow end? What is “good communication” to you?
I remember a dreadful date with a man who did not talk to me almost the entire time we were together. Ron was a man from church with whom I’d spoken a few times. We had mutual friends and saw each other at singles events. One Sunday afternoon we drove to Green Bay for a Packers football game and he was completely silent throughout the entire game—including halftime! Even the long, soundless drive home was awful. I told myself that day that I needed a man who would not only talk with me but be a good communicator.
Character refers to his temperament, personality and moral fiber. Does he have integrity? Does his keep his promises, say what he means and mean what he says? How do your personalities mesh? Do you have temperaments that are complementary?
Chemistry is another word for attraction. Is he handsome in your eyes? Does he have qualities that appeal to you? Is there that intangible “certain something” that makes you click as a couple? Of course, chemistry and attraction are important in a relationship, but don’t let your feelings dictate your choices based only upon someone’s looks. True beauty is more than a perfect smile or fit body. It’s both inner and outer qualities, and how that person makes you feel. Additionally, chemistry is just one of the essential five C’s for a healthy and fulfilling match, one piece of the entire love puzzle.
Calling is the term I’ll use here for God’s vision for your relationship. Is it right for the long term? Has God called you to marriage with this man to be his life partner? You can have all four of the five C’s, but if the “C” of Calling is not there, it will never work.
A few years ago I met someone online and we seemed to be a very good match. We corresponded for months and emailed almost every day. I was excited when he suggested the idea of coming to Colorado over the holidays to meet. I was planning to take him downtown to see the New Year’s Eve ball drop, but what I got instead was a bomb dropped on me in the form of an email two days before he was supposed to fly here from another state. He wasn’t coming. In fact, he said he wasn’t ready for any relationship and he called the whole thing off. Just like that!
A few months later we talked, only once, and he told me he’d taken a job on the other side of the world. Then I came to realize that while Mr. Almost Perfect had four of the five C’s, he did not have the crucial fifth one: calling. God was not calling me to date or marry this man because He had a different life path for each of us.
In retrospect I could see that God was protecting me from hurt down the road since we never met in person. Of course, it still hurt to cut off all connection with someone I’d been bonding with for the past few months. But it became yet another opportunity to trust God for His best for me.
Jackie M. Johnson is an author and freelance writer in Colorado. Her hope-filled and encouraging books include "Power Prayers for Women," "When Love Ends and the Ice Cream Carton Is Empty" and "Powerful Prayers for Challenging Times." Jackie also writes the Living Single blog on Dr. James Dobson's Family Talk website.