A Letter About Dating

Men in TuxesDear Angel,

I know our ages aren’t exactly the same (insert cough), but I think some parts of our lives are.  We both hold the distinction of being single . . . unattached . . . unmarried . . . solo.  Of course we’re approaching this from different ends of the age spectrum, but truth is truth no matter how old you are.

I hope I can help you get a handle on a few of the things I wished someone had told me about guys, dating and myself when I was your age.  Perhaps someone tried to tell me these things, but they don’t stand out in my memory.  Maybe you know all this already, but a reminder can’t hurt, can it?

In high school when I thought about dating visions of perfect hair, stunning clothes, flowers, fancy food,  horse drawn carriage rides and the theater/ballet/symphony were accompanied by a tall, handsome, attentive date.  Another dream I had was of walking around West Point with a handsome cadet in uniform before going to a spectacular ball in my gorgeous gown.  So far, I’m still waiting for a date like that—and at this point in my life the West Point thing is definitely out.  I’m old enough to be a cadet’s mother not a cadet’s date.

Anyway, those dates exist, but they’re not what dating is all about.  When I look at the previous paragraph I see lots of things about the environment, but not much about the people.  When it comes down to it, it’s really about the people.  In my high school dating imagination I was impossibly physically perfect, my date was pretty much a good-looking prop. I didn’t think much beyond that.

I think that’s part of the lies we ingest as we watch movies, read some books with unattainably perfect characters, and browse the lives of famous people on the internet and in magazines.  Their looks and accessories (material, canine, or human) are all uber-important.  Character rarely enters the picture.  How backwards we get it at times!

Character matters—both his and yours.  You’re only responsible for developing your own;  be diligent in doing that.  Don’t settle for anyone who doesn’t value your integrity and reputation or his own.  And if he doesn’t love Jesus?  Not boyfriend material—no matter how cute or kind you think he is.

There’s this interesting phenomenon I’ve noticed.  Guys who don’t seem particularly good-looking at first become more and more handsome as I see them live out their love for Jesus in very practical ways.  After a time I wonder why I didn’t think they were handsome when I met them.  Weird but true.

I think another thing we get backwards is the idea that if you’re not dating someone there’s something wrong with you.  I know this is the lie I most often swallow.  (Did you get my use of the present tense?)  I think it’s important to remember that we’re ALL in process.  We’re all (how does Aunt Tammy say it?) dirty, rotten sinners.  Some of us are just dirty, rotten sinners redeemed by Jesus.  There’s something wrong with all of us.

I know that doesn’t solve the “why not me’s” that can plague your mind.  I think the bigger thing is a tension we live with as women.  We know in the depth of our beings that we’re valuable, fun, witty, caring people who don’t need to walk around with a bag over our heads because we’re frighteningly ugly.  We’re secure in our families.  We know God loves us.  We know Jesus died for us—and would’ve if we were the only people to ever live.  Yet we want to be validated by a guy’s attention.   The rest doesn’t seem to matter some days if the right male isn’t paying attention to us.

Yeah.  I’ve been there.  Remind yourself regularly that it’s God’s opinion that matters.  He loves you more than you can imagine.  He’s not cruel.  He doesn’t withhold good gifts from you, his daughter.  Sometimes though, we think we’re asking for a loaf of bread when we’re pointing to a basket of snakes.  He can tell the difference.

Here’s the thing, dating isn’t about creating a perfect picture of who you are and who he is.  At least it shouldn’t be.  I was going to say, “At your age it should be about hanging out, having fun, learning what makes the other person laugh, what wounds their soul, what helps them heal.”  Those things are true, but they’re not age specific.  They work for me as well as for you.

Spend time with your friends—guys and girls.  Learn how to have fun together without hurting each other.  Don’t worry about being exclusive.

I think you may have it harder than many because you’re a TCK.  The lie that everyone leaves can propel you into a deeper relationship than you’re ready for.  I’ve seen it happen—TCKs who are ready for someone to be bound to them, to never leave.  They rush through dating—and it’s easy to do with another TCK because you find someone who REALLY gets you in ways that others don’t.   When you find that connection your conversations, your self-revelation rapidly deepen.

I know time is such a precious commodity for you.  Please, take time out of the equation when it comes to dating at this point in your life.  Even though it doesn’t feel like it, you’ve got plenty of it.

I can hardly wait for this fall when we’ll not only be on the same continent but in the same town!

Love you to the moon and back—


P.S. I’m claiming my right to approve of any boy who wants to date you next year.  Yes, you can approve my dates if I ever have any.  Fair is fair.

P.P.S.  If you want to read a different post I wrote about where my heart is at on this, go here.

photo courtesy of Jeremy Lusk

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Today I’ve joined the Faith Barista’s Faith Jam.  Every week Bonnie’s asking other bloggers to “jam like musicians” on a faith and life related topic.  This is my riff on “What I wish someone had told me about dating.”  I’d love to read your thoughts on the topic.  Please leave a comment or a link to your blog if you’ve jammed on this.  If you’re interested in seeing what others had to say, please follow the link over to the Faith Barista site.

20 responses to “A Letter About Dating”

  1. This is great, Sheryl. It’s a lot of the same stuff I’m dealing with right now too! I am so thankful that God is my Husband, Protector, and Comforter who has SO many good things for me. I always need to remind myself about that because sometimes I forget when I’m longing for a guy. 🙂

  2. Love this. I like what you added near the bottom about the tendencies of TCKs in romantic relationships. I’ve seen this happen too, and it’s something I’ve had difficulty getting young TCKs to acknowledge as a potential danger.

  3. Love you, Sheryl! Well said. And may I add, Sheryl is excellent at approving dates. If it weren’t for her I would have been to scared to keep Mike around and he is truly the perfect man for me (no, he is not perfect, he’s just perfect for me). I had come to the point where the man I married was going to have to “worth giving singleness up for.” Don’t get me wrong I was horrible at being single. But, God made me complete and whole in my relationship with Him alone. I wanted a glimpse of the love God has for me in human form. And that is what Mike and I have – a glimpse. God is the only true source of deep, unconditional, never dissapointing love. Knowing that is what makes marriage amazing! Until that comes, relax and enjoy life. Each day of singleness is a gift in and of itself!

  4. Fabulous! I am going to try to have all my teenagers read this…. May God bless, encourage and wrap Himself around you as you continue to heal.

  5. You are wise, you are loving, you are kind, and you are RIGHT!!
    We love you to pieces and hope you feel and know that – as you are there for people when they need you – and I pray the right people are there for you when you need THEM!!
    Much love!!

  6. Wow! Thanks for all the comment love, Ladies! It does fill my tanks more than just a little. 🙂

    Soul—I’m so glad we get to be involved with each other. I’m so thankful I have the responsibility to pray for my fairy goddaughter Sara. I’m also very thankful that she’s not old enough to need this letter yet!

    Stacie—On the one hand it’s comforting to know his isn’t an age or generational issue. On the other hand it means we don’t easily outgrow it!

    Tanya—If only they would listen to us!!! I think TCKs aren’t the only ones who face this danger, but they’re a culture that needs reminding of their tendency with this.

    Lisa—Thanks for stopping by and for the encouragement. I hope your kids don’t hate me by the time they finish reading. Healing is going well—I got my left shoe back today!!! I just have to remember how to walk. As I’m going down the hall I mutter, “Heel, toe, push. Heel, toe, push.”

    Robin—I do know that you love me! I’m so grateful that after all these years our lives are still intertwined.

  7. Ok, first I have to ask what a TCK is…I’m sure once you tell me I’ll know I knew it but can’t place the term tonight. :o)

    I love how you wrote this letter, and your advice. The funny thing is I tell my kids most of the same things all the time. About giving it time and all that.
    I love this quote from you…

    Here’s the thing, dating isn’t about creating a perfect picture of who you are and who he is. At least it shouldn’t be. I was going to say, “At your age it should be about hanging out, having fun, learning what makes the other person laugh, what wounds their soul, what helps them heal.” Those things are true, but they’re not age specific. They work for me as well as for you.

    And you’re 100% right they aren’t age specific!
    Thanks for writing this!

  8. Thanks for stopping by, Leanna!

    A Third Culture Kid is one who has spent a significant part of his/her developmental years in a country (or countries) other than their parent’s passport countries. That’s the short version. The even shorter version would be the children of missionaries, diplomats, military personnel and international business people.

    I don’t think I said anything profoundly original in this letter. I just think kids need to hear it from people other than their parents sometimes. Thanks for the affirmation that I’m on the right track. It’s good to hear—especially when I labored over this one.

  9. Oh man, did I need to read that this morning! I love how God speaks through you. Keep it coming, sister!! I love you tons.

  10. Thanks, Lib! You know—I’ve learned a lot about loving them well from watching you do it.

    Sarah—I’m humbled. I love you tons, too. Can’t wait to see you!!!!

  11. Hi, very sweet article and very soulful. I just wanted to correct your photo credit, since I took the photo. Pete Jelliffe is the tall doofus in the picture, and on his Flickr page where you got it he does credit me. If you could change the credit and link to my page, http://www.flickr.com/photos/jerinthebox/, I’d appreciate it very much.

    Oh, and good luck out there 🙂

  12. Hey, Jeremy—thanks for the 411 on the photo. I wasn’t reading Flickr very well at 1 AM. I suppose I should try to get things done earlier. *Sigh* I’ve corrected the credit and the link. Thanks for letting me use it. Thanks, too, for your kind comments on the post.

  13. Wow. It’s a party here.. wahoo!! Love this post. So creative, Sheryl. I wrote another post about why it’s okay to not be married too! Just hasn’t made it’s way to the blog yet. I am so high-five’ing you girlfriend! 🙂 Love your heart. You’re a gem! Thanks for keeping the light on for me.. !

  14. I know, Bonnie—I’m eating up the comment love! 🙂 Thanks for joining the party. You’re always very welcome here. I’m looking forward to reading the other post.

  15. Thanks, Jenny—for both the encouragement and the retweet I don’t know if I’ve ever been retweeted before . . . 🙂

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