“The greatest enemy in choosing God’s best is our own strong compulsion to choose what’s good. But not every good choice is God’s choice, and the difference can radically affect your future happiness.”

The quote above comes from a book on courtship published in 1998. Dr. Raunikar, the author, promises “no more failures” in relationships, because he’s got the perfect solution. According to him, dating is a sin and courtship is the only way to “choose God’s best.” In it he outlines a seven-phase program of courtship:

Phase 1: Identity in Christ

Phase 2: Ministry Involvement

Phase 3: Foundation Building

Phase 4: Friendship Levels (Acquaintance, Casual Friendship, Close Friendship, Intimate Friendship)

Phase 5: Courtship and Accountability

Phase 6: Engagement

Phase 7: Marriage

In each Phase, he describes the level and form of spiritual commitment, emotional commitment, physical commitment, and amount of time to be spent with the other person (phase 1 – 0 hours; phase 7 – FOREVER).

The point of this book, like so many other dating books, is control. Rauniker doesn’t like to see people get hurt, and this is his solution. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with suggesting solutions, but to outline such a rigid, formulaic process and tout it as the only solution is just nuts.

After nearly a century of substituting dating for God’s principles of courtship, we may think we’re stuck with the disastrous results; that there’s no other way to find a marriage partner. Christian singles by the millions have wandered down the treacherous streets of dating and found themselves in destructive relationships that affect their lives forever.[1]

Oh God! Not forever!

Most Christian dating book authors say something along these lines: If you’ve been hurt in relationships, you’re doing something wrong and not following God’s plan for your life, but if you follow my advice, you won’t get hurt and you’ll glorify God.[2] This approach to relationships and to teaching people about how to have good relationships is flawed because it completely ignores the facts of history, and the concepts of grace and freewill.

Dating books wax on and on about the sexual revolution and the pill and abortion and homosexuality and what it’s all done to marriage and human relationships, all the while forgetting that marriage has never been free from blemish. Polygamy, mistresses, gay lovers, and the subjugation of women have plagued marriages since biblical times. Courtship and marriage don’t save people from being hurt.

The thing I hate most of this idea that you can “choose God’s best” is that it puts too much pressure on people and on relationships. To think that all future happiness depends on one choice is the wrong way to think about it. Rauniker is setting his readers up for bitter disappointment, because no matter of planning or praying can really protect you from heartache. Bad things happen to good and bad people alike.

What’s important to remember is that God gave us free will so we could make choices. God knows that love isn’t love if it’s imposed. If you make a bad relationship choice it’s not the end of the world, and you don’t have to turn into a relational zombie, doomed to wander down streets of broken relationships for the rest of your life. Remember that with love comes grace, forgiveness and restoration, not always from the people you love, but definitely from God.

[1] Does anyone else think this needs to be a scene in a move called Night of the Living Dead Christians? An attack of bad relationships turns Christians into roaming zombies…no? Just me? Ok.

[2] All the gullible zombies just jumped off a cliff.


The Cornered Kiss

July 7, 2010

Just a caveat before I launch into my spiel: this blog post is not PG. If you can’t handle more than PG-rated movies, you might not want to read on.

It’s easy to forget yourself. Emotions take over before you even realize – it’s unconscious abandon. That’s me…maybe that’s everyone. Like Carrie and Big in the elevator in season 3, episode 9 of Sex and the City. “Kissing is dangerous.” I remember hearing little aphorisms like that growing up. Big is a jerk in this scene, in fact, in all however many seasons there are of this show – I’m pretty sure he stays a jerk in all of them (perhaps he’s got that same inevitable charm of the Duke in Rigoletto) – but he’s a particularly big jerk in this scene. He corners Carrie in an elevator when she’s trying to run away, after trying to tell him to leave her alone. I’m guessing he senses she still wants him…is still in love with him because, well, she keeps calling him back. He seizes on the opportunity of the elevator: she can’t escape. And kiss… “Fuck you!’ (she says)…kiss… “Fuck you!”…kiss……. “Fuck me.” And that’s it.

Kissing is dangerous.

Why is it dangerous? “Because it triggers and plays with your emotions.” That’s the reason I was given, but I was also taught that emotions can be controlled. Both statements are somewhat inaccurate. I forget the scientific terms for the neurotransmitters (though if you’re interested, they’re all listed in a previous blog post) that release “feel good” chemicals – but these are always at play when emotions are involved, and I’m pretty sure the only way to fight them is with medication. So when Big corners Carrie and kisses her, her head can scream “NO!” all it wants to, but her heart…she can’t really say no. Big is married, and Carrie’s got a boyfriend. It’s a messed up encounter if there ever was one, but watching it, I wonder: was there ever any doubt that Carrie and Big would wind up in bed together? and do I really want Carrie to say no?


This scene is about more than kissing and brain chemicals running amuck. “My heart,” she says, and we know she means the history, the attachment, and the desire to mend something that has been broken and lost. Carrie wants the miracle of restoration; the thought is so irresistible to her that she can’t fathom not going back. I want Carrie and Big to get back together because I want to see how the relationship will grow. I suspect that love, if given enough time will flower and blossom and bear fruit, and I want to watch it happen. I want to know what kind of fruit it will be, what scent the flowers will radiate. It’s not wrong for Carrie and Big to want to rebuild their lost mini paradise; it’s natural.

The tragedy of the final scene is that while the relationship between Carrie and Big is somewhat restored, we and they know that they’ve broken two other relationships in the process, relationships that had potential as well. Big’s biggest complaint about his wife is she likes beige too much, and Carrie says again and again that Aidan is perfect for her. This makes me think that neither giving yourself over to emotions, nor kissing, nor sex is the problem. The real problem is being far too hasty to break off relationships in the first place. The real tragedy is in planting a garden in the backyard, but moving before it has a chance to grow.

Verdi’s Rigoletto is one of my favorite operas, and I admit, that may be because I can hum or pretend to sing along with most of the songs despite my lack of knowledge of Italian. Every now and then I like to contemplate the nuances of the plot – of Rigoletto’s overbearing parenting style and how it ultimately led to the demise of his beloved Gilda.

Today I happened to have the duke’s solo “La donna e mobile” recycling inside my head. I love and hate this piece. I hate it because of its profound sexism, and love it because it paints the duke as the inevitable charmer, particularly as staged in this scene from Pavarotti’s film version[1] of the opera, where two women are fawning over him. He can sing of the flightiness of women, their constant lying and game playing and come to a “you can’t live with them, and can’t live without them” type of conclusion without exuding any trace or hint of bitterness about the situation. The attraction is his “in the moment” mentality. He lives by his passions, and this is why women are attracted to him, because he lets his passion rule his actions, and poor women are suckered into thinking his initial passion for them will lead to something long-lasting. For the duke, this in the moment way of life is invigorating and real (and maybe even honest), but when you think about it, he’s the only character in the opera who doesn’t realize he’s in a tragedy. Gilda, the heroine, is quite the opposite of everything he says about women[2] in this song. Her love for him is not flighty, not fickle, but intensely loyal. She gives her life for him, though he has lied to her, basically raped her, and though she finds him fooling around with another woman. He will never know of her sacrifice. Letting his passions guide his actions has left him completely oblivious to everything else going on around him. The real tragedy – or comedy, depending on your perspective – is that when the duke is singing “La donna e mobile,” he thinks he is singing about women, but all of his actions within the scope of the opera prove that he is really singing about himself. Now that is dramatic irony.

[1] Ok. Pavarotti is not much of an actor, but check out those eyebrows. (Heehee!)

[2] This is a partial translation. Not sure how accurate it is, but you get the gist.

Apologies for the delay in posting. I’ve been busy and sick and stressed out for a couple of weeks now, and I couldn’t have cared less about dating (or writing about it).

So we pick up with reason #7 why people don’t get married: wanting the perfect mate. This chapter is focused on Jared, a thirty-something serial dater who fell in and out of love more times than one of Woody Allen’s characters[1]. Rodgers explains that Jared allowed himself to be ruled by his biochemistry – a combination of hormones and chemicals that made him think he was in love. As soon as the effects wore off, he’d head for the (revolving) door. He was on an unending search for the perfect person, but he wasn’t going to find her.[2]

According to Rodgers, love is not infatuation, lust or chemistry, but is rather a decision and commitment. (No argument there.) She then goes on to discuss a little bit of the science behind infatuation, lust and chemistry. Dopamine is the biochemical of pleasure. It enables us to feel joy, anticipation, excitement and desire. Serotonin is the well being chemical. High doses of it promote a sense of calm, but decrease sexual desire. Low doses allow for increased sexual desire, but also anxiety and depression. Norepinepherine is associated with “excitement, exhilaration, and excessive energy,” and can make us feel superhuman. Estrogen and Testosterone: women have more of one and men have more of the other and they “work like polar magnets to bring men and women together.”[3] Oxytocin is “the bonding chemical,” or the “glue that sticks people together.” Phenylethylamine (PEA) is another chemical that makes you feel superhuman, euphoric, and unrealistically optimistic. It causes physical symptoms like heart palpitations and sweaty palms. High doses can trigger psychotic behavior.[4]

Rodgers acknowledges that each of these chemicals plays a role in how we go about the process of “mate selection.”[5] Jared’s problem was that he relied solely on the feelings engendered by these chemicals, thinking they would guide him to the perfect mate.[6] When the good feelings suddenly faded, he would abandon the relationship thinking the love was gone. Though most cases aren’t as extreme as Jared’s, Rodgers believes that “most of today’s singles put entirely too much emphasis on these aspects of the relationship,” meaning chemistry and physical attraction.

I have to wonder, though, if she’s speaking of the singles population in general, or the Christian single population specifically. I’d venture to guess that a lot of Christian singles – and maybe I should narrow this even more to evangelical Christian singles – are in an entirely different predicament. We’ve been subject to black and white thinking. For example: sex outside of marriage is wrong, and therefore to be unmarried and want to have sex is wrong, and people who spend a significant portion of their adult life unmarried end up walking around repressed and unhappy. Call me out on this if you think I’m wrong, but for several years now I’ve been suspicious that being taught to ignore and/or fear our natural desires creates more and worse problems than it alleviates. People who are not in touch with their natural desires cannot be completely in touch with themselves as human beings, and people who’ve repressed a significant part of their nature either end up either a little twitchy or a little shallow[7]. Furthermore, people who aren’t fully in touch with themselves are usually not good candidates for marriage.

That last paragraph was a tangent (and also a soapbox). Back to the main topic of discussion: here’s another idea from an article in The Daily Beast by Hannah Seligson: “The Science of When to get Married.” Seligson references recent discoveries in neuroscience about the process of decision-making. Apparently, “the rational brain can only take in seven pieces of information at one time,” and so some scientists advocate incorporating the emotional sides of our brains into the decision-making process.[8] Essentially, there is scientific evidence that knowing whether or not you’re in love or whether or not you should marry someone can’t be left to reason alone; the decision is too complicated for that. To some extent you must rely on emotions to guide you; however, that doesn’t make the decision-making process foolproof. Dr. Robert Burton, of the University of California, San Francisco advises, “Romantic decisions, like any decisions, are based on a wide variety of factors, including sexual attraction and financial security—preferences that are rooted in a subjective iconography and idiosyncrasies, and which amount to little more than a random pastiche of past experiences and pattern recognition. In other words, it’s not that you can never find The One, it’s just that you can’t be sure it’s them, even if you find them.”

The point is that there needs to be balance. You can’t rely on emotions alone to guide you to “the One,” but neither can you reason your way to love. (Wouldn’t that make a funny song?) At the end of the chapter, Rodgers enforces that “mate selection” is a combination of setting realistic standards, making a conscious choice, and finally, trusting God for confidence in your decision.

[1] Diane Keaton in Annie Hall…Diane Keaton in Sleeper…Diane Keaton in Manhattan…Diane Keaton…Diane Keaton…Diane Keaton…

[2] Again, Woody Allen. I’m reminded of a short story he wrote about a man who was infatuated with two women at the same time. One was vapid, yet beautiful; the other was ugly, yet intellectually stimulating. I’m a little sketchy on the details, but I believe he attempted to unite the characteristics he loved in a single woman by calling in a surgeon to remove the brain of each and transplant it into the other. It was all for naught, though. The now beautiful and intelligent woman left him because she realized she could do better, and the now ugly and stupid woman…well, he obviously didn’t want her.

[3] Hmm. Now I’m wondering what the LGBT community has to say about this.

[4] I’m sure many of you are going “Aha!” Still, I think Rodgers is a little too chintzy in her explanations of these neurotransmitters and their side effects.

[5] I really do hate the word “mate.” I am not a gazelle; this is not a pitch for a show on Animal Planet; and if I were an animal, I would be a giraffe or maybe a black panther.

[6] Agh!

[7] Additionally, if enough of the population is repressed, we end up with huge backlashes like what happened in the sixties with the sexual revolution. You can’t hold a pendulum at its extreme, let it go and expect it to stop at center. Nope. Physics says it will swing to the exact same height at the opposite point. Unless, that is, you’re a main character in Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead (I love this film!).

[8] Hmm – an explanation as to why women can multi-task and tend to be more “irrational” than men: they more frequently engage their orbitofrontal cortexes. Science is saying that this is a better way to make decisions, and therefore, women are obviously better than men. Hehehe…(Just kidding! I love you guys! 🙂 – Imagine this happy face batting its eyelashes at you.)

This chapter is mostly a reiteration of points on which Rodgers has touched in previous chapters. That being said, I really like it.

Rodgers opens the chapter with the story of Patti, a 39-year-old woman who absolutely refused to date or have any interaction at all with men. Rodgers quotes her as saying, “If God wants it to happen, then He will just make it happen.” This is funny to me, because I’ve heard it recently from lots of otherwise rational people. Rodgers says this attitude is like “wanting to be a pianist without ever taking lessons or expecting the perfect employer to knock on their door and offer them their dream job.” This attitude is typically guised as “trust in God,” or “having faith,” but is, in reality, irresponsible and misleading to other people, particularly younger Christians[1].

Consider James: “Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by what I do. You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that – and shudder” (2:18-19). He’s saying that having faith is more than just believing in something; it’s demonstrating your belief. The easy analogy here is one I’ve used on mission trips to Africa: you can look at a chair and believe it will hold you if you sit on it, but you can’t say you have faith until you’re actually sitting in the chair (and I would challenge that your belief is dubious).

Patti was proud of herself for living “righteously,” and angry with God for not “rewarding” her with a soul mate when other women around her who were not quite as “righteous” were getting married[2]. Of course, this resulted in her being aloof and unapproachable in social gatherings and stymied her ability to reach out to anyone else. Her hurt and resentment caused her to retreat into herself, and actually worked against God’s plan for her to be married. Patti’s real difficulty was that her motivation to be righteous was not born out of true devotion to God, but out of her fear of rejection…of not being good enough. She wanted to prove to God that she was worthy of a soul mate.

Patti eventually overcame her fear and her pride by joining a singles group and making a “conscious effort to talk to everyone – particularly the men.” For Patti, this was a way to demonstrate her faith. The more activities she participated in, the more her fear subsided, and the more approachable she became…and yes, she did eventually meet her “soul mate” and get married.

[1] Yes, I’m experiencing a moment of bitter recollection here.

[2] The word “righteous” in this context seems to be an odd euphemism for virginity. I point this out because I think that Rodgers and Patti don’t necessarily mean for this to be the case; however, the word “righteous” is in its definition so amorphous that I’m really struggling to figure out what exactly they do mean by it.

Rodgers starts off this chapter with some quotes from single guys:

“Marriage is a lot like war, except war is easier.”

“I don’t know what’s worse, prison or marriage.”

Rodgers tells us that these guys wanted to get married, but they’re negative views of marriage made them wonder what was the point. Divorced parents and friends reinforce the notion that it is better to be single, for both men and women. Rodgers notes that in American society, marriage is no longer regarded as permanent and divorce is no longer socially stigmatizing. Couples have no incentive to stay together when “times get hard.” She tells her own story of how her husband proposed, and how she couldn’t bring herself to say, “Yes,” right away. Both her and her husband had divorced parents. She says “our fear clouded our ability to trust in God and in each other for the next step.”

Rodgers also notes that “today, instead of securing land in order to make way for a family, single men are more apt to buy a new set of golf clubs or a jet ski for weekend trips with their buddies.”[1] She asserts that men don’t want to commit to marriage, because they don’t want to be bothered with responsibility. Single women, on the other hand, don’t want to get married because many of them have already established themselves in careers, procured homes and accrued wealth, and they’re either afraid of having a man lean on them financially, or losing what they have in divorce.

So the question to be answered is: Why get married?

Apparently a lot of people are asking this question. Seriously. Google it. One guy built a website warning people against marriage because apparently, his ex-wife was crazy, and the government stole all his money (some sort of conspiracy against him, and by default, all married people). No. It wasn’t a coherent argument. Another guy blogged about how he would never get married because relationships are like chess in that if you play to win, you’ll be overly cautious and lose. I guess he meant that if you get married, you’ll be so worried about the possibility of it not working that it won’t work. On the other hand, if you play like you’ve got nothing to lose, you’ll win because you’ll be daring and aggressive, and that’s how you win a chess game. (This makes absolutely no sense to me either, though the argument is definitely more coherent than that of “crazy wife guy.” Comparing marriage to a game of chess? Thank God he’s not married![2])

Rodgers suggests that we all need a more positive view of marriage. She presents evidence that married people are “happier, healthier, and better off financially than their single counterparts.” (Ok, well not much evidence.  Here’s another time she gives us just enough information to peak our interest and no more…so frustrating!) She points to a study conducted by Dr. Linda Waite and Dr. Maggie Gallagher and published in their book A Case for Marriage (another one to add to my list…sigh).[3] Single men allegedly have a mortality rate 250% higher than married men; for single women, the mortality rate is 50% higher. Apparently, single men typically engage in more risky behaviors like drinking, smoking and reckless driving (I can think of some others…) and single women tend to be more depressed. (And this leads to suicide in some instances? I don’t know…Rodgers doesn’t expound, though I really wish she would have.)

Ultimately, all these reasons for or against marriage are neither here nor there. What good is it to convince someone to get married because they’re more likely to die sooner if they don’t? People who marry for that reason will be just as unhappy as ever. Towards the end of chapter 5, Rodgers points us back to the idea of marriage as the means of fulfilling our need for relationship. “In all of the creation narrative, the only thing that God said was ‘not good’ was that man was alone.” Thomas Moore says in Soul Mates: “Without intimacy, the soul goes starving, for the closeness provided by intimate relationships fulfills the soul’s very nature. Family, home, and marriage each gives the soul the containment it requires…Marriage is holy, not because it is a precious revered way of forming human lives, but because it is a form of religion itself, a special way in which spirituality pours into life.”

It seems to me that absent laws and social stigmas that encourage marriage and discourage divorce, we have new freedom: we can choose for ourselves whether to marry or to not marry, to stick with a marriage, or to separate. It’s true that high divorce rates and broken homes are unfortunate consequences of the women’s movement and the sexual revolution; however, there were good driving forces behind these movements (life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, for instance). When it comes down to it, we’re adults, capable of making our own decisions, and to be bound by tradition or law diminishes marriage’s true worth and beauty. Consider Galatians Chapter 5, which begins, “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free,” and ends with the “fruit of the Spirit:” love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. God himself, through Christ, has called us to a more mature relationship with Him; a relationship that isn’t supposed to be burdened by commandments, rules or tradition. Isn’t it natural that he’d want us to have more mature relationships with each other? The natural outpouring of living in a relationship with God is love, joy, peace, etc. This natural outpouring can and should translate to marriage.[4] A man and a woman find they have the opportunity to act with new maturity, and they choose to sacrifice a little bit of their own independence and their own desires, not just for the sake of the other, but in order to build a relationship together.

(Note: See footnotes for some more sources of discussion on this topic. Too many good things this week! I couldn’t use them all.[5], [6])

[1] A jet ski I can live with, but to me, golf is the most heinous sport in all the world, and I vow that I will never marry a man who plays golf! (Just in case anyone was wondering.)

[2] I’ll slap any guy who comes near me and says, “Checkmate!” (You can’t win if I don’t play the game, buddy!)

[3] I can’t make much comment on a book or study I haven’t read, but here are some reviewers on Amazon.com who seem to think A Case for Marriage is smug and self-satisfied and a real downer for singles: “In their view, I’ll drop dead sooner because I haven’t taken that walk down the aisle. Gee, if that’s the case, then I guess I better start writing my will tomorrow…” Also, please visit The Art of Manliness website (I can’t stop giggling!) It contains an article that quotes from the book, and though the article doesn’t reveal much more about the details of the Waite/Gallagher study than Rodgers, I promise the site itself is totally worth a glance!

[4] Good Article! I like this idea of marriage as being a sort of divine seal on the commitment the couple is making. (This view of marriage is also a Catholic concept, marriage being one of the sacraments.) I think the Christian, or evangelical, way of saying it would be that the couple chooses to make the commitment, but only by God’s grace can that commitment withstand life’s pressures. (But why on earth the G-d? Are they trying to go all Hebrew on me by leaving out the vowels? Or are they afraid of offending someone (though, this is clearly a Jewish website, so I’m not sure who they think they’d be offending here)? It makes it look like a swear word…)

[5] Cut from the CNN Situation Room. An interview with Alex Wellen who interviewed several men on why and/or how they decided to tie the knot.

[6] Quotes and footage from a documentary on why people get married.

This chapter is about men and women trying to play the courtship/dating game today without really having a clue as to what is going on. Rodgers briefly describes the lost ritual of courtship, how the man initiated, how the woman responded, and how its primary setting was in the woman’s home with her parents, not always watching, but always nearby. A lot of people have tried to idealize or elevate courtship, particularly after they began to see that the more modern dating behaviors seemed only to lead to promiscuity and broken homes (yes, this is a broad generalization…sorry); but Rodgers is wise in pointing out, first of all, that younger generations have always sought more freedom to choose their mates and are therefore likely to resist a move toward any system that threatens to diminish their ability to do so. Secondly, she asserts that some people need to date. (Shock! Am I still reading a Christian book?) She gives examples of why this may be the case: “Painfully shy singles often need the experience of dating in order to come out of their shells. Socially immature people may need to date to learn how to relate to others. Naïve singles need to date to determine what kind of person they should marry.”[1]

            Rodgers advocates “intentional dating,” and uses seven adjectives to describe what she means.

  1. Intentional dating is healthy. By this, she means, that intentional daters are not afraid of love – they know they are made for it – and they “know who they are, like who they are and are who they are.”
  2. Intentional dating is conscious. Intentional daters are aware of their fears and relational weaknesses, but they’ve given those up to God (i.e. they don’t let their fears and weaknesses inhibit how they relate to others).
  3. Intentional dating is (okay, why did Rodgers drop the adjective thing here? HELLO. Lists require grammatical symmetry…) about mean leading and women letting them lead. That is, men are deliberate in pursuing relationships, and they initiate.[2] Women, on the other hand, let themselves be pursued without feeling obligated or like they owe something to the man.[3]
  4. Intentional dating is courageous. Intentional daters have put aside their fears of rejection and risk heartache because they have faith that God will provide someone special for them.
  5. Intentional dating is integrity of intentions (ARG! She did it again! Swearing…swearing…). This one is about taking responsibility for the tone of relationships and not leaving things unnecessarily vague.
  6. Intentional dating is respectful. Intentional daters don’t treat other people aren’t conquests or means to and end (e.g. the end of not being lonely anymore).
  7. Intentional dating is authentic. Intentional daters aren’t interested in playing games, but are honest about who they are, what they are looking for and how they feel.

So, some of those points overlap, but you get the idea. In my own experience, confrontation can be a little nerve-wracking, but is a much more efficient use of time than pulling petals off daisies.[4]

[1] For a good way to go about this kind of dating – casual, fun, and concerned with getting to know yourself and what you’re looking for (in a husband/wife) see How to Get a Date Worth Keeping, by Henry Cloud. It sounds crazy, but once you start practicing it, it starts making sense.

[2] Although a man should make the first “move,” John Gray in his book Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus, that women can actually be the initiators by their body language (I believe this is called flirting). Subtle body language can (well, should) encourage a man to come closer.

[3] Okay, even though Rodgers didn’t use an adjective for this point, it’s probably my favorite one of the seven. This dynamic in relationships is so misunderstood in Western culture today. I find it maddening when guys start flirting with me, but never actually ask me out, either because they’re afraid of rejection, or they don’t get that I’m flirting back. I mean seriously…how many times do I have to bat your eyelashes before they get the hint?

[4] He loves me…He loves me not…He loves me…

Chapter 3 Revisit

February 6, 2010

Last week I was a little lazy in my chapter analysis, as Rodgers makes a lot of provocative points in chapter 3, and I couldn’t figure out how to address them all at (I had hoped to get a little more help from my readership…hint: leave comments!). Then I got called out for leaving the water murky, and decided that I needed to make another attempt at clearing away the silt. So this week, I decided to revisit one of the especially tricky issues:

I quoted Rodgers as saying, “The familiar, unconscious desire for healing is the driving force behind love relationships.” In other words, in relationships we look for people who will heal whatever hurt (I’m thinking she’s talking about the subconscious here) we may have. This can easily lead us to “Looking for love in all the wrong places.”[1] In practice, I think this means expecting way too much of another person. I’ve been on both sides of this kind of relationship. In one relationship, I depended on the guy to be the glue that would keep my life from falling apart. In another, I was the validation for the guy’s sense of self-worth. When the first relationship fell apart, and I realized my life was still intact, I had an “oh, duh,” moment of enlightenment. In the second relationship, I had to walk away, because I was spending all my time trying to pull him out of a metaphorical pit with constant reassurance, but he was stuck, I was getting muddy, and I was starting to wonder who was going to rescue me out of the pit if I got stuck as well.[2]

Rodgers uses the “You complete me” line from Jerry Maguire to guide her discussion of the chapter. She says, “No one should have the responsibility of “completing you” but the Lord. Here is where I take issue, and where much confusion lies: there’s a difference between looking for someone to heal you, or to solve your problems, and looking for someone to complete you. Isn’t completion a Biblical concept? Genesis 2:24: “For this reason a man shall leave his father and his mother, and be joined to his wife; and they shall become one flesh” (NASB). Isn’t this why people in committed relationships are constantly referring to their “better half?” Jerry Maguire is a perfect example of how people can look for love in the wrong places or for the wrong reasons: validation, comfort, etc. etc. etc….but this one line comes at the end of the film, after the breaking point in the relationship. Dorothy has already said, “Enough is enough, I don’t want to be treated this way anymore,” and Jerry has just realized that she is his “better half,” who deserves to be treated better. Of course, this doesn’t mean that all of their relational issues have been resolved, but the one that drove them apart was their desire to be “fixed” by the other person. This desire is purely selfish and leads to the opposite of completion. I have the idea that completion in a relationship happens when two people respect and enjoy each other. In essence, it is the relationship that’s complete – not the people. Of course I don’t need a man in order to be a whole person (duh), but to have a complete relationship…that’s really what we all long for.

[1] Sing it, Johnny…and btw, can I have your hat, ‘cause it’s awesome!

[2] And yet another great hat…

Rodgers makes an interesting point at the end of this chapter: I no longer have to be enslaved to my past. This raises a couple questions in my mind, the first of which is grammatical…

What’s the difference between “enslaved to” and “enslaved by?” I googled both, and it seems they are used interchangeably. My first instinct is to say “enslaved to” is the equivalent of  “a slave to,” which is the correct way to express that sentiment, as in, “I am a slave to my work.” To “enslave” someone is to “make someone a slave,” and so to be “enslaved to my work” essentially means, “to have been made a slave to my work.” The logical question is, “By whom?”  To be “enslaved by my work” would then mean, “My work has enslaved me,” which leaves no question as to whom is doing the enslaving. This leads me back to Rodgers’s statement. When she says, “I no longer have to be enslaved to my past,” does she really mean, “I no longer have to be a slave to my past,” or rather that some entity (like Satan?) keeps us enslaved to our pasts, i.e. “I no longer have to be enslaved by ___ to my past,” or, “___ no longer keeps me enslaved to my past?” Aha! Now can all you doubters see why grammar is so important?

My second question is this: is Rodgers right? Aren’t we always enslaved to/by our pasts to some extent? How much of ourselves can really be changed…or should be? I realize that I am treading very closely to nature vs. nurture territory; never mind that I’m going way beyond the scope of what Rodgers is trying to accomplish in this chapter. Her point is that if you were hurt (emotionally) during any one of six stages of your social development, you’re going to have relational issues as an adult. I’d rather not get into the nitty gritty of each stage. Not being proficient in psychology I could do little more than reiterate what Rodgers has already said, but here’s a basic run-down of the chapter as a whole:

“Studies have shown that significant negative effects from our past are recorded in the brain and can actually be triggered in adult relationships…A soul wound is a need from childhood that was not met…there is a neurobiological reason why childhood soul wounds can haunt you in adult relationships…When a soul wound is triggered, a person typically overreacts because he is reliving or reexperiencing feelings from his past…We have an unconscious need to reproduce the environment of our childhood, hoping to impact it differently so that the outcome will change…Most of the time,  the pattern yields the same results and serves only to reinforce the original wound…The familiar, unconscious desire for healing is  the driving force behind love relationships.”

The real kicker of the chapter is that people with issues attract people with issues (only different ones). So all the hurt people end up dating each other, and all the healthy people date each other. My take away from this is: if you’re dating someone who has emotional problems, you may want to examine your own life to see if there is anything that might need to be dealt with.

So…this post is a little discombobulated. It’s been a rough week, and I’m having trouble pulling my different trains of thought together. Any thoughts from the readers?

So finally, we come to the point of chapter 2: Trusting that God will provide you a soul mate. Rodgers says, “If you desire a soul mate, God understands…” and earlier, “God doesn’t give a person the desire to swim, the resources to learn how, and the ability to do it just to send him or her to the desert where there is no water to be found…” Okay, what? From where does she get this analogy? As far as I know, it’s not Biblical. Whatever.[1]

Still, I like this idea. Action follows desire. If you want something, you can’t just sit around and wait for it to come to you. Careers don’t just happen; you have to build them. A life savings doesn’t just happen; you have to budget and invest your money wisely. Babies don’t just happen; you have to…Oh wow. Freudian slip. Oops. Hehe….

The point is that Letting God Write Your Love Story[2] doesn’t have it completely right. You have to do something in order to find a soul mate; and, as Rodgers points out in this chapter’s client example, doing is a very good way to live out faith:

Annie was a highly successful surgical resident who had a deep-seeded anger toward men. This was largely due to her father’s treatment of her mother, and lack of affirmation from him (where he gave it freely to his sons). Her negative sentiments were exacerbated by the male residents she encountered while in medical school, who made it clear to her that she would have to work harder than her male counterparts if she wanted to succeed. Her anger and resentment grew with each failed relationship, and she eventually swore off dating, choosing to spend most of her time caring for her patients. She allowed her negative experiences to narrow her perspective on men in general, and she wouldn’t trust them. Rodgers’s solution was that Annie should let down her guard, forgive the men who had hurt her in the past, and make a commitment to start dating again. Annie joined her church singles’ group, and through “sheer obedience” made herself go every Sunday, introduce herself to the men in the group, and attend the group’s social events. The story ends with her attending a football game – again, through “sheer obedience” (I’m there, sister!) – and hitting it off with a guy who had a similarly negative view of dating…that is until he met Annie. They got married two years later.

Rodgers says that “becoming and staying soul mates depends on hard work, not mystical chance.” Did you catch the becoming part? I’ve heard a lot of people talk about how marriage is hard work. Well, so are the steps which lead to marriage. I wonder…if Rodgers’s swimming analogy is correct, and God wouldn’t just send someone with the desire and ability to swim to a desert, couldn’t you also say that God won’t throw someone into the deep end without the ability?

[1] I am so over the writing in this chapter.

[2] See the “What I’ve Read So Far” page.