I invited my dear friend, Charissa, to guest post here this week because she has so much wisdom to share about dating- both in actively pursuing change and cultivating resiliency. She and I lived up the single life together for quite some time, and just last weekend she got married! I thought you might enjoy hearing about her dating experience since it is all very recent and fresh in her mind. Plus, she is technically my first professional dating coaching success story, so read on to hear more about that from Charissa…
Hi friends! Laura and I have been friends for almost ten years, so I had a front row seat to the changes she made in her life to pursue dating and marriage. Our stories are similar in that we were both passionate teachers with full lives, and successful dating required both of us to step back from some responsibilities in order to pursue marriage as a goal. Teaching, friends, and church involvement consumed most of my energy for my 20s, and I LOVED being single – until I didn’t. I also went through a couple of relationships where both of us were working hard, but it just wasn’t a good fit, and those break ups took some time for recovery.
I’m still a passionate teacher – now 36 years young and married to a wonderful man as of last weekend (more about that later), but the path to get here was sometimes arduous. It involved deconstructing some common advice to Christian single people that I found well meaning but unhelpful. Laura’s process was instrumental in changing my ideas about marriage to match the principles we use to advise people desiring any other life change.
So for example, imagine that you have decided you want to pursue a new job. The conversation with your friend or mentor might go something like this, “You want a new job? Fabulous! Of course we want to make sure that you’re not expecting a new job to fix all your life’s problems – but if this is a healthy desire, then wonderful! What are you looking for? Has someone helped you with your resume? Did you tell all of your friends about this and start using your network to pursue that?”
It would be silly to advise someone, “You will only find a new job when you find complete contentment at your current one.”
Or “Just pray, and the Lord will bring you the perfect job in His perfect time.”
Or “The perfect job will only fall into your lap when you stop looking.”
Moving from singleness towards marriage is one of the only life changes where Christians regularly approach God’s sovereignty as if it means I should pray for him to drop my desire on my door step, and I don’t need to do anything.
The reality is God COULD work that way. He could send me a husband just like he could have some random person email to offer me the perfect new job I want, but that’s not typically how God works. Usually we work actively to change the things in our lives we want to change while we pray through those desires. When my contentedness about being single started to shift, I knew I needed to reorder my priorities to pursue a new goal.
I started by reading some books about how to intentionally meet more people, and that led to starting a dating program – with Laura as my coach. I sat her down one day and asked if I could pay her to coach me because 1) I LOVE her passion for this area and 2) for me, part of deciding this was important meant choosing to spend money on it. This isn’t a plug for Laura as a coach, though she’s amazing – but more an encouragement that if you want to change how you think about pursuing a desire for marriage, reading one of the books she recommends and considering finding a coach are both great first steps.
Laura asked me to talk a bit about ways I was able to keep my motivation going when dating seemed fruitless and the wait seemed long. The story of every individual walking this road is different – so I can only speak to my own experience, and if your dating life is painful right now, I’ve been there, and I know how difficult that can be. Prolonged singleness often involves a particular kind of grief that can at times feel deeply lonely, and I’m so sorry you’re experiencing that pain. At the same time, if I had not implemented the changes Laura helped me to make, I would not have found the joy of companionship with a man who is so deeply a good match for me. So I hope my story can be of some encouragement to those of you still in the trenches of dating.
The process of dating is often hard partially because it’s a means to an end. The reality is that when I started a dating program I didn’t really want to spend my free time on random dates or sorting through sometimes creepy online messages. I wanted to come home to a person I loved, debrief my day with him, and enjoy being together. But I knew that if I really wanted something, I also had to choose the process of getting there. Saying I want to lose weight won’t mean much if I don’t also choose to eat differently and exercise more. This analogy is overly simplified given the nuances and uncertainty of dating (and weightloss actually); nevertheless, I realized that because of my life stage I was unlikely to meet a husband unless I intentionally reached outside my normal circles. In order to do that, I also had to find a way to make the process of dating work for me. I needed to acknowledge that I’m passionate about many things in my life – teaching, teenagers, church, friends. Sometimes I didn’t enjoy the way dating required me to give up time doing things I truly loved in order to work a dating program that felt somewhat uncomfortable, but I asked Laura to help me push through that discomfort. I’m a high school teacher who sees 180 teenagers every day – and I’m an introvert. I LOVE my job, but after all that energy output at school, the last thing I wanted to do was go to a big event and meet lots of new people. To make dating sustainable I needed a coach to help me work a dating program that would work WITH my personality and the other important things in my life, so that I could keep persisting at it long enough to meet someone I really wanted to be with.
To stay focused during the part when dating meant a lot of online looking, continually talking to people about dating, and many not-so-great dates, I needed to change my mindset. I had to get to the point where even the terrible dates STILL counted as success in order to reach the point where I met my husband.
And how did we meet you ask? Well, I chose to do a workout program on Facebook with an acquaintance I respected from high school – partially because I thought the actual workout group would be fun and also because it would give me a chance to ask a lovely well-networked person if she knew any great single guys to set me up with. =) After getting reacquainted a bit through the workout group, I emailed Kelly and asked if she knew any quality guys I could meet. She did! Her husband has been friends with my husband, Rey, since high school. Rey and I actually attended the same high school, but never met until we were set up by these mutual friends. We count this couple among our good friends now, and Kelly was a bridesmaid in our wedding. I’m 36, and my husband is 38 – so there is hope, friends! But enduring the dating desert can be difficult. If you want to hear more about a few more of the specific changes that helped me in the more challenging seasons, click here for part two! =)