Thursday, June 25, 2009

I text you, I text you not.

First I must confess my personal bias on this topic due to my texting illiteracy. I can send a short message when absolutely necessary, but please do not expect capital letters or punctuation of any type. (I think sometimes my kids text me just so they can poke fun at my replies.) I have failed Texting 101 twice and I've been asked not to register for that class again.

Being the mother of two young adults and in the relationship business, however, I have come to observe the general unhealthiness (that is a word - I just checked) of texting as it pertains to relationships. This is especially true for those who are dating. We all know that communication is key to any relationship. May I be so bold as to propose that texting does not qualify as communication?

Although a huge fan of texting with friends, my 23 year old daughter has repeatedly voiced her disdain at guys who send her text messages when a phone call would be much more appropriate. Please hear me, guys. If you are seeking the company of a special gal, the way to her heart is not through text messages. She will be much more endeared to you if she can at least hear your voice. We feel that guys these days are hiding behind their cell phones and not taking their pursuing roles seriously. Casually sending a text, asking her to hang out sometime does not carry all that much weight - sorry. Whether you like it or not, the majority of women I speak to want to be pursued ... the old fashioned way. Just a little tip: give her a call. You'll be way ahead of the competition.

This goes for the back end of a relationship, too. I can't tell you how many failing relationships have roughly skidded through and crashed via text. When things get sticky, it is especially important to be as personal and include your voice tones and body language whenever possible.

This is not to say there is a time and place for appropriate texting. Short messages sent to confirm arrangements or to send "sweet nothings" are perfectly acceptable. Also, there are times, I suppose, which sending a message is the only viable alternative. But please do not have any type of conversation or fight via text. Not good.

Addicted to texting? I know. I myself am addicted to my laptop. After spending a weekend with my daughter and having her constantly interrupted by the "beep-beep-beep" and ensuing texts flying, I realize there is a time to just put it down. It is not fun trying to talk to someone, be it a short comment or an actual conversation, when they are distracted by an electronic gadget of any sort. Let's all do ourselves and our loved ones a favor and find the balance!

One last note: do not text your friends while on a date, unless you are certain you don't want to date this person again. It can kill the mood faster than saying, "Let's split the check."

Monday, June 15, 2009

"Authentic Dating" by Dr. Stephen W. Simpson

The nighttime wind off the Pacific was cold but invigorating. Sitting next to me at the end of the Santa Monica pier was a girl with dark eyes and long brown hair. She had just asked me an important question. My answer would affect both of our lives. I breathed deep and gazed down at the dark waves below. Then I turned to her and smiled.

“No,” I said. “I don’t like country music. In fact, it makes me kind of nauseous.”
Her eyes exploded in surprise. A moment ago, she told me that she went country-western dancing every weekend. When she asked if I liked country music, a pivotal moment had arrived. I could tell her the truth or I could soft-peddle my answer in hope of keeping the relationship alive. I’d done the latter too often and gone through too much misery as a result.

By my twenty-sixth year, my dating life yielded results so preposterous that I had no choice but to take a break from the romance rat race. My first date after a two year break wasn’t going well. Our differences extended well beyond The Toby Keith Problem. We had significant differences in theology. Our life goals and priorities didn’t match. She also didn’t get my sense of humor, which meant she must have some neurological damage, because I’m really funny. Though nobody said it aloud, we both knew the relationship wasn’t going to work. After my revelation on the pier, we cut the night short and I took her home. I kept my distance as she entered her apartment, sparing her the awkward pause on the doorstep.

Though I’d driven away from lousy first dates before, something was different this time. There was no anxiety, no dread of being alone for the rest of my life. I felt disappointment, but not despair. During my two years off from dating, I’d focused on my relationship with God and my own sense of purpose. I developed a life that was meaningful and fun. I strengthened friendships instead of searching for romance. As a result, I enjoyed being me, girlfriend or no. Leaving a woman at her doorstep and returning to my own life had never been so easy.

After that night, I embarked on a string of first dates. Every woman got the genuine Steve. I wanted to share my life with someone, and misrepresenting that life defeated the whole purpose of dating. I was honest about controversial opinions and didn’t work so hard to hide my shortcomings. Authentic dating was much more fun than the anxious hemming and hawing that once dominated my romantic pursuits.

Six months after that awkward first date by the ocean, I met the woman who would become my wife. We met at a U2 concert, and she never asked if I liked country music
I would love to give you Five Simple Steps to Authentic Dating, but it doesn’t work that way. The process of building authenticity and self-esteem is complex and ongoing. Below are a few principles to get you started, but they all require patience and constant attention to your relationship with God.

Get a life. Authentic dating requires a serious commitment to Christ and a sense of meaning and purpose in your life. Without these things, you’re more apt to believe that finding the perfect mate results in a perfect life. Not only is this untrue, it raises the stakes ridiculously high. Your future is on the line every time you go on a date. If your life already feels exciting, however, riding the romance rollercoaster won’t be nearly as frightening. It might even start to be fun.

Tell the truth. Getting your smooth on only has short-term benefits. Be honest about your opinions, tastes, and life goals. You don’t have to be abrupt or rude, but don’t present yourself as your date’s dream partner, either. “Be yourself” isn’t just good advice when it comes to dating; you have no choice in the long run. The truth will come out sooner or later. The later it comes out, the more damage it will do.

Assess before you impress. Don’t become so focused on impressing the object of your affection that you ignore your own feelings. You know that woman or man who flees a relationship as soon as the other person expresses serious interest? They do it because being loved is more important to them than sharing a life with someone. They don’t take a good look at the person they’re pursuing until it’s too late.

Don’t lie to yourself. A buddy of mine fell hard and fast for a woman who wanted to be a missionary. He convinced himself that a life in the mission field would be exciting. They ended up dating for over a year. When he realized that she was determined to be a missionary and he had no desire to follow her, he broke up with her. Infatuation can make you capable of great change and sacrifice in the beginning. This can breed resentment and heartache once the fires cool.

Remember your first love. Christ is the only one who can provide the fulfillment you’re looking for. Philippians 4:19 says that God can meet all our needs. Asking someone else to do that makes him or her an idol, one that will topple once you realize he or she is weak and imperfect, just like you. In Hebrews 13:5, God promises never to leave us or forsake us. Your dating journey might not always be easy, but you’ll never be alone on the road.

Stephen W. Simpson, Ph.D. is the author of What Women Wish You Knew about Dating and Assaulted by Joy: The Redemption of a Cynic. He is a clinical psychologist and a professor in the School of Psychology at Fuller Theological Seminary. For more articles, visit