I’m pretty sure everyone is already aware that I don’t usually talk a whole lot about relationships and attraction, but sometimes you just gotta step out and do something against your grain. I just finished listening to a special Brant & Sherri “oddcast” from October, in which they interviewed Lisa Anderson, director of Boundless, a ministry through Focus on the Family that centers on helping young adults with faith, dating, and preparing to have their own family (check it out at http://www.Boundless.org!). The oddcast was very thought-provoking, even though I’m not usually interested in subjects like relationships and attraction, so I thought I’d talk a little about what I heard.
“From the first moment I laid eyes on her it was as if beauty had a new standard.” ~ Ready to Run
Attraction was not part of the oddcast, but it has been mentioned by Brant and Sherri before, and I remember just a couple of things they said about it that I found interesting. There are specific things that people seem to find attractive about the other gender in general. I will give one of each instance here.
As is appropriate, ladies first. Girls seem to be attracted to guys who are protective. A guy doesn’t have to be super masculine or a male model (which I guess is good news to those dudes that tend toward the nerdy side of the spectrum). To a girl, it’s really cool to see a guy loving on and taking care of people weaker than himself, or that just simply need help. This could be why firefighters and doctors seem to be generally attractive from a girl’s perspective.
On the flipside, guys appreciate it when a girl lets him do things for her. Guys in general like to feel needed and useful. (Maybe this is linked to their competitiveness somehow? Y’all aren’t going to see the connection I made in my head here, are you? I think it would be best if you just forget I mentioned competitiveness.) Sometimes it can be difficult for a girl to let a guy do things for her, like pay for the bill at a restaurant, because girls also like to feel independent in certain things—and in certain degrees depending on the girl—but letting him do those things for her makes her more attractive to him because it makes him feel like she needs him and wants him around.
Now, let’s bite into the real meat of this post.
All My Single Ladies
(This is a phrase that has some meaning that I don’t understand. I know it’s something of some sort of significance, but I don’t actually know what because I’m out of the loop. Maybe it’s a song?)
“All I have to do, the only thing this love requires, is to let others know they’re not alone.” ~ Heaven Is For Real
One thing I learned in the oddcast was that women sometimes deliberately squelch their femininity because they don’t want that to seem to set them apart. By that, I mean they compete with the men, or try to be “one of the guys,” because they want to downsize their need to feel special or “chosen” by a guy by focusing on something they know they can control. This was pretty interesting to me, and I agree with the idea. Sometimes a girl uses this to convince herself that she doesn’t need a man, and sort of lessen the blow of loneliness. But I’ve had some experience with attempting to deflect loneliness (in other ways), and it never really works in the end.
I’m not trying to say it’s more difficult for women to handle being single than for men, but perhaps it is more complicated, because females in general want to feel attractive, needed, and appreciated, whether they want to get married or not. I think guys know this, but don’t really know how to affirm the single girls in their lives without it being weird (whether or not the guy is single himself). But I think when it really comes down to it, girls will take it from anyone. And it isn’t always taken like an advance, which is what I think guys are the most concerned about—he’s afraid the girl will think he’s coming on to her, when he’s really just trying to make her feel appreciated or smart or whatever. But it’s actually not always seen that way, and a casual compliment like “You look good today” will make a girl feel good, and she knows there’s nothing more to it than that.
It can be even MORE awkward for a married man to affirm the single female friends in his life. Single women can be sitting in church and see all these single men around them, who have dated other women, and wonder, “Why aren’t they asking ME out? What’s wrong with me?” This can cause them to close down, because they don’t really want to know the answer. In that moment, it will be super encouraging to them to have a brother in Christ, even a married one, just say something like, “It still baffles me how someone hasn’t found you yet. You’re so awesome and fun.” That tells her that she’s not a lost cause or a freak of nature just because some guy hasn’t asked her out. It reminds her that she has value.
On Both Sides
“Nobody does it alone. You needed all of them and they needed all of you.” ~ LOST
Affirming and complimenting a person of a different gender is a complicated business, and a lot of the time that stops you from doing it, even if you know that person could really use the encouragement. One of the weirdest components is the matter of age difference. Our society is extremely messed up. A woman can’t really tell a teenage boy that he’s like a younger brother to her, when she’s got a daughter that’s his age—it’s just odd. And there’s practically a social lawsuit against any man who tries to affirm a younger woman, even if the man has a great marriage. This kind of exchange is touchy, and I think I would stick to super short, casual remarks like “You’re a super hard worker. That’s really cool,” and avoid at all costs anything that has to do with physical attributes.
Something that single people often hear is “I can’t believe you don’t have a boyfriend/girlfriend yet!” and other things like that. This can get annoying, but sometimes it’s not actually so bad for a single person who wants to get married to hear someone say, “You’re smart and funny, and if I knew a guy/girl who was also smart and funny, I would set you up.” This can be a compliment, because sometimes it’s like the person is saying, “I don’t know anyone who ranks up to your level.” That’s a really cool thing to hear coming from a friend, because your friends know where you are and where you want to go and are concerned about you, but they don’t feel like they know anyone that matches up to you.
Making Peace With Singleness
“You’ll get married because you want to spend all your time with that person. There’s something great about waiting for the person that you love. In the meantime you get to be with all the people that you love.” ~ Full House
A lot of people want to get married. That is not a bad thing. Marriage is a beautiful union between two people, and it’s blessed by God. This section is for those people who are hoping to get married someday, those who don’t feel like they’re “called to singleness,” and are willing to be set up and meet people and be “out there.”
The first thing to remember, right off the bat, is that marriage doesn’t always make you feel validated, wanted, or needed. It isn’t always that fairytale ending that everyone always hopes for. It won’t necessarily fulfill whatever you yearn for. And it’s not promised. People always tell you, “Don’t worry, your day will come,” or “There’s someone out there for you,” or “Someday somebody will come along and just sweep you off your feet” (which is something I really hate to hear, by the way!). When someone says something resembling those things, it’s basically just a well-intentioned lie. Nowhere does it say that you’re going to get married, or have to get married. Don’t live with the expectation that it will happen.
There are two fears now that I want to bring up. The first is one that I think all single people worry about at some point, and that is being alone. More specifically, growing old alone. A single person looks at his or her ailing mother, who is in a nursing home and has medical issues but is surrounded by her caring children who nurse her and supply her needs faithfully, and the single person thinks to his- or herself, Who will care for me? Will I be forgotten? Will I be cared for by the state because I have no one else? This is a huge fear, and it can lead to serious distrust in God. Because it’s incredibly difficult to overcome, it’s basically just a huge faith thing. All you can really do is love the people around you and trust that God will take care of you when you need it.
Returning to those singles who want to get married someday, one thing you can be afraid of is that you’re “pulling an Israel” and looking for someone just because everyone else is. (“Pulling an Israel” in this circumstance references that time when Israel demanded that God give them a king to rule over them just because all the nations around them had kings.) Peer pressure can be a sneaky thing sometimes, and sometimes you give in to things and you don’t realize you’re giving in to it because you subconsciously know that everyone around you wants, has, or does that thing.
But the thing is, God is not just sitting there thinking, “What am I going to do with [insert name here]? I can’t find anyone for him/her. All the other people down there are easy to match up, but not him/her.” He is not denying you a spouse just because He’s giving your friends all the available spouses and there’s no one left for you. He has a plan for you, so just trust Him. Live your life. Be who you are, where you are, as you are. Love the people you’ve got, and see what He does in the meantime.
And in the end, you can say, “This is my story. It’s not what I expected, but it’s not a bad place to be, and I’m learning along the way.”
“I don’t know what the future holds, but I know I don’t have to walk it alone. If you stand firm in your faith, anything is possible.” ~ King’s Faith