Relationships


This afternoon, I finshed listening to yet another stimulating interview with–you guessed it–Lauren Winner. The interview with her was recently broadcast on Inner Compass, a television interview show funded by Calvin College that “explores how people make their decisions about ethical, religious, and social justice issues.”

The episode is called “Dating,” but Winner addresses with satisfactory depth related topics such as courtship, marriage, singlehood, and community. I found enlightening her keen observations of how societal changes have affected the phenomenon of dating over the years. As well, I particularly appreciated her attempt to debunk certain unhealthy perceptions and expectations of marriage and singleness.

If you are interested in this kind of stuff, or have relationships with youth and young adults who are very likely thinking about these things and might talk to you about them, may I recommend listening to the interview. The discussion here offers a lot of good food for thought.

Here’s an insightful article about hospitality by Lauren Winner. I particularly like her observation on the Christian value/discipline behind the practice of hospitality–that is, inviting people to where we are vulnerable, not only to take care of someone, but also to cultivate intimacy is in fact a Christ-like endeavor. She reflects:

I don’t find inviting people into my life that much easier than inviting them into my apartment. At its core, cultivating an intimacy in which people can know and be known requires being honest—practicing that other Christian discipline of telling the truth about where we live and how we got there. Often, I’d rather welcome guests into a cozy apartment worthy of Southern Living. I’d rather show them a Lauren who’s put together and serene. Often, telling the truth feels absurd … “

On hearing about my admiration for Lauren Winner’s writing, Jason recently pointed me towards an honest, enlightening talk that Winner gave last year at Calvin College’s January Series. The talk (followed by a Q&A) is called “Real Sex: The Naked Truth About Chastity,” based on her book with the same title. There’s clearly an edge in her voice while she speaks and fields questions–perhaps due to the sensitive nature of the topic as well as her determination to be personal and frank about her own experiences and to debunk bad thinking around talking about premarital sex.

Winner was invited again to speak at this year’s January Series. Entitling her talk “The Truth About Married Sex,” she explores the differences between the culture of premarital and married sex, as well as the expectations of these cultures. She invites her listeners to consider another way of evaluating what good sex is. I love her thinking in both talks. Her approach is descriptive, rather than presciptive. She is lucid, non-judgmental, matter-of-fact.

If you aren’t familar with her story and want to know more without having to read her memoir Girl Meets God (though I highly recommend it), may I suggest the following sequence of interviews with Dick Staub:

Segment 1 of 4

Segment 2 of 4

Segment 3 of 4

Segment 4 of 4

Dot alerted me to this eyebrow raising NY Times article observing that more women than not in the U.S. are now living by choice without a spouse:

For what experts say is probably the first time, more American women are living without a husband than with one, according to a New York Times analysis of census results. // In 2005, 51 percent of women said they were living without a spouse, up from 35 percent in 1950 and 49 percent in 2000. [read the rest of the article]

Some of the discussion reminds me of a conversation I had with a colleague a couple months ago about women we knew who got into and stayed in really bad marriages because they didn’t have much by way of education or workplace skills to make it on their own. To survive, they truly believed they needed to depend on their husbands, especially where children were involved. So while we were talking, I realized for the first time how blessed I am to have an education–blessed, because I get to enjoy large amounts of freedom; with the ability to be self-sufficient, I have numerous options about what to do with my life.

But based on observation of my networks of females, I don’t think this freedom is always consciously desired or gratefully embraced (e.g. I didn’t realize it until recently). Perhaps some of us don’t know any different and take it for granted. More likely, we are still brought up (and/or peer pressured) to believe that we are more of a person (i.e. not a loser) only when we have found a signficant other. I find the women who are the most at peace with being unmarried are confident about who they are. They also tend to be more experienced (and therefore, usually older) than me. Don’t get me wrong here: I do think that longing for a companion is natural and even spiritual (i.e. God made us that way). But oftentimes, the longing gets twisted into a measure of our worth, and that is a sad, crippling state to be in or see others go through.

What is interesting is that the article suggests the trend is happening largely by choice. The all-too-common complaint, “There aren’t any good men left out there!”, doesn’t express itself like a choice, but maybe it actually is, even if subconsciously. Maybe women in this day and age can (literally) afford to be more choosy in mate selection because we are in fact more free to be choosy.

It’s been a while since I last posted on this thread, so here’s the next installment finally.

To be frank, while I became more proactive in expanding my network of men this past spring, I was really cautious about online dating. I simply didn’t know what to expect. So, to manage my anxieties about the process, I established some guidelines and principles. After thinking things through carefully, I set out to prove two very specific things to myself that I felt online dating would be the best medium for (hence “the experiment”):

  1. That there are available, intelligent men out there;
  2. That I could attract these kind of men.

Also, I was curious to find out whether faith compatibility would be an issue. Paul (as in the apostle) teaches that it is, so I have generally been keeping on the lookout for men sharing the same faith. BUT, it’s an incredibly limiting criterion. There doesn’t seem to be many available Christian men out there. And although I know firsthand the stress of being brought up by parents with conflicting values, I simply wasn’t sure that I couldn’t handle the consequences of being “yoked” with someone with different beliefs. So, knowing that I wouldn’t seriously get involved with anyone I met online, I decided to cast a wider net rather than be too restrictive. Thus, my only non-negotiable filters were:

  • Male
  • Aged between 31 and 41
  • Live within 75 miles
  • Must not be looking for an intimate encounter

Some other principles I stuck to:

  1. Show, don’t tell. I put my handy-dandy language skills and aesthetics to good use in writing up my profile. Nothing makes for more boring reading than giving people a list of my traits. To start, I tried going that route, but ended up boring myself and not finding my own profile very credible! I figured if a man was able to read in between the lines and found me interesting, then he’s likely to be intelligent.
  2. Post an interesting image. Actually, if you want to get some attention quickly, it works in your favour to post a picture of yourself. But I didn’t because–well, I will be honest here. In some preliminary digging around the database of profiles, I came across some people I knew and I didn’t want to be recognized in turn 😳 . Again, I figured if someone was intrigued enough by my writing and was willing to go along with my level of comfort, then that’s cool.
  3. Simply wait for the fish to bite. I didn’t want to spend a whole of time on the computer, so I generally desisted from initiating contact unless I encountered a profile I really liked.

Sticking to these guidelines proved to be very satisfying and resulted in little repercussion. In my next post on this topic, I will get into greater detail about these “results.”

Is it me, or is there a bit of Debbie Downer here in this prognosis?!

You Are Most Like Carrie!

You’re quirky, flirty, and every guy’s perfect first date.

But can the guy in question live up to your romantic ideal?
It’s tough for you to find the right match – you’re more than a little picky.

Never fear… You’ve got a great group of friends and a
great closet of clothes, no matter what!
Romantic prediction: You’ll fall for someone this year … Totally different from any guy you’ve dated.

Which Sex and the City Vixen Are You?


Recently, a wise friend of mine mused whether people liked him for who he truly is or what he did for them.

I started wondering that for myself too. And how does one tell the difference anyway? I think it depends on the motives of the giver and the perceptions of the receiver.

Deep down, we all want to be loved for who we are, for better and worse, for our beauty and beastliness. But oftentimes and all too easily, we deprive ourselves and each other of this experience of true acceptance.

For those of us who need to be liked, we do things at the expense of who we are to secure people’s affections. But then, we do ourselves in by earning likeability. We create a situation where we become uncertain about our true worth because we got in our own way.

Conversely, we can do things for others that have nothing to do with whether we like them or not (e.g. like those of us in care-giving professions). And yet because these recipients FEEL personally cared for and loved, they may misconstrue our actions as expressions of personal affection, and value us for making them feel good. Needless to say, this misperception sets up false expectations (sometimes played out as romantic feelings), is bound to disappoint, and tempts the disappointed to devalue us. So while we can only safeguard ourselves from being misconstrued up to a certain extent, we can definitely work towards being more cognizant of misattributing people’s regard for us based on how we feel. If we are not cognizant, we may end up devaluing people when they make us feel bad or overvaluing them when they make us feel good. And that’s not loving them for who they are.

To resist earning affection and determining the value of people by how they make us feel is tough work though. It requires us to look in the mirror and see things we don’t like about ourselves. It requires self-awareness, courage, discipline, and a whole lot of honesty. This look in the mirror can be scary, especially if we’ve convinced ourselves that there is not much to genuinely like in the first place.

I’ve looked in the mirror before, survived (it feels like death), and I need to do it again, sooner than later. It’s a sucky place to be, but that’s where I’m most receptive to God’s grace and his process of redeeming the life He’s given me.

Next Page »