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Life has many blessings, but few of them are as fun and challenging and wonderful as having a daughter who exceeds all expectations. This is true of my blessing, Madeline Victoria. (I'll put her up against your kids any day, even if you don't have any yet!)
When Madeline stepped into her teen years, I was one very proud dad. My cute little girl was morphing into a beautiful young woman right before my eyes. Apparently, I wasn't the only guy who noticed the transformation. She began saying things like, "Daddy, there's a boy at school who wants to take me on a date." And, "Daddy, when can I start dating?" Like a lot of protective dads, I quietly hoped I could stall her interest in boys for a little while — like into her twenties or thirties! Actually, I wasn't that paranoid, but I was in pain over the prospect of my baby girl being on a real live date once she turned sixteen.
"D-Day" — if you will — came for Madeline a lot sooner than I was ready for it. I squirmed a little inside every time a guy showed up to take her out. I was convinced no boy on God's green earth was good enough for my sweet girl. I wished I could invisibly accompany Madeline on her dates so I could nail any gorilla-armed guy who laid a hand on her. But I was, at the same time, happy to be launching my wonderful girl into a fun and potentially rewarding time of her life.
As it turned out, I got through Madeline's early dating years just fine. But in her later teens, when the same guy kept showing up three or four dates in a row, I really started getting nervous. And when words like "going steady" or "my boyfriend" or "kinda serious" popped up in our talks, my anxiety-o-meter started cranking up toward panic. It was all coming into focus for me. At some point Madeline's dating would end, and one of her young men — maybe one I had already met — would become her husband. Was she ready to make that choice? When I first started thinking about it, it gave me the willies. Now, she's such a mature young woman with the kind of character I never had when I was her age. I believe with a little help from Dad she will make a wise choice.
But my greatest fear in those early days of my daughter dating was that Madeline would marry a real jerk — someone who used her, abused her, broke her heart, or crushed her spirit. And I dreaded the possibility that she would end up the victim of a devastating divorce. I wasn't about to let that happen on my watch. I wanted to do what I could to protect her from the devastating divorce process too many go through.
My fears grew out of personal experience, not as someone who counsels hundreds of men and women torn apart by divorce, but as someone who has been there. In my late forties, around the time Madeline began thinking about junior high boys (she's now in her twenties), my own storybook marriage ended in a betrayal I never suspected and a terribly painful divorce I never thought would happen to me. I was determined to do anything I could to prevent that from happening to my daughter.
And since you're likely in the same situation as Madeline (not married and dating), I have similar feelings about you. Many of your peers are married or thinking about marriage, but you're single. Maybe you're madly in love and wondering if this wonderful person in your life is "the one." Or perhaps you're still hoping and praying to meet the love of your life. Wherever you are in the wide world of searching and dating and waiting, I'm writing this book for you. Despite the tragedy of divorce experienced by so many couples, you have every reason to anticipate an awesome marriage with a wonderful partner, a marriage that will last a lifetime.
Let me tell you why I'm so hopeful for my daughter and for you.
A Strategy for Dating Wisely and Marrying Well
Several months ago it was plain to see Madeline and her boyfriend were getting serious. They stopped dating other people and spent more and more time together. They were beginning to talk about long-term plans for their life together.
My daughter is a young adult, so I have no legal right to tell her whom or when to marry, and I don't intend to. But I love her deeply and want the very best for her. So seeing the glimmer of marriage in her eyes, I issued a dating challenge to Madeline and her boyfriend. I knew my plan would give them the maximum opportunity to avoid the regrets and "if only's" that can lead to divorce.
I am issuing the same challenge to you. I call it the Ten – Date Challenge, and it's a big part of Is this the One? Now, if the idea of a challenge turns you off, please know this book is about much more than accepting a challenge. It's about changing the way you think about dating. And it's about changing what you do on dates by trying some of the fun dating ideas in these pages even if you don't want to get involved in the Challenge.
However, if you do accept my challenge, I am confident it will work for you as it is working for my daughter. Why am I so confident? Because a similar challenge worked for me following my divorce. Here's the story.
After about six months of big-time pain and isolation, I was finally able to get my chin off the floor and sense hope that life was worth living. I knew I wanted to marry again at some point and possibly have more children. But the thought of getting back into the dating scene left me cold. Having already been rejected and betrayed by more than one woman, I cringed at the prospect of revisiting those feelings with every date that didn't work out. All I wanted to do was to meet Ms. Right quickly, settle down, and leave the single life and all its drama behind. That's not what happened, but I sure wanted it to be that way, just like thousands of other singles I have met over the years.
As the host of New Life Live, a daily radio call-in program, I am privileged to work alongside two of the wisest men I know — Henry Cloud and John Townsend. But I don't just work with them; I seek their advice and allow them to speak truth into my life. I have never once regretted going to Henry and John with my struggles and needs.
Having walked with me through my divorce and being aware of my aversion to dating, Henry and John said, "Steve, if you really want to marry again, you have to get out there and meet some eligible women." Then they laid down a challenge and called for my commitment to follow through on it: "We're asking you to date at least twenty different women before you narrow your focus to just one."
It was a staggering thought, like being challenged to climb Mt. Everest. Twenty women meant twenty possible rejections, and the very idea made me cringe. But I trusted Henry and John's wisdom, so I agreed to follow through. (Well, I kind of agreed. Some of those dates were actually just conversations with women I met at Starbucks, but I counted them as dates because I have had dates where there was no conversation at all.)
My quest got off to a shaky start. Date Number One accused me of being "emotionally unavailable." Ouch! There I was, starting out on a very scary journey, and there she was representing her entire gender. Couldn't she be nice to me for just 30 minutes? The ridicule and rejection threw me back into a loser mentally. It was only one date, but I was ready to quit. Henry and John wouldn't let me off the hook.
After I got over Date Number One (and it wasn't easy), some fun and amusing dates followed. When I told a very wonderful woman she was Date Number Thirteen, she replied that since she was the horrific number thirteen it probably wouldn't go well for her. She was right, so we made a quick date. Another amazing woman I dated was one I had almost married twenty years earlier. It seemed as if we were meant to be but we parted after dating, convinced we still weren't right for each other. (If I had not agreed to the Twenty-Date Challenge I most likely would've married her and missed the incredible life and wife I have now.)
I completed my dates with twenty different women over a period of two years. The twenty dates ranged from sipping coffee at Starbucks to a dress-up night at the opera. It was a difficult process because I had been out of the dating scene for more than twenty years. But I was committed and I persevered. And the process was rewarding because it led me to Misty, the woman I eventually married.
Henry and John continued to hold me accountable during my courtship with Misty. They coached me through getting to know my new love deeply and preparing for our life together. It was a long, thorough process, but I'm so glad my friends held my feet to the fire. Today I cannot put into words the absolute joy Misty has brought to my life, including the thrill of bringing a new son and daughter into the world together. I not only have a wonderful wife with whom I am raising a combined total of five kids, but I am free of the "if only's" and "what if's" that haunt so many who marry without truly knowing their partners or others that might have ended up being partners. I am quite secure in knowing I made a magnificent choice. And the last time I talked to Misty about it, she said she made a good choice too!
I want this same joy and fulfillment in marriage for Madeline and my other children. That's why I challenged Madeline and her boyfriend to accept my Ten-Date Challenge and begin their serious quest for the marriage of a lifetime. Here's how it works.
The Dating Challenge in Three Phases
PHASE ONE — Take-a-Break Dates
My first challenge to Madeline and her boyfriend was to take a break (taking a break is not the same as breaking up) from seeing each other and date at least ten other people. (I told them they were lucky because Henry and John made me date twenty different women!) I didn't ask them to break up, just to take a break for the purpose of gaining clearer perspective on each other and where they were headed together. It was a tough thing to ask and even tougher to do, but they worked through the request and accepted my challenge.
Your own quest for the marriage of your dreams begins the same way. Whether you're in a serious dating relationship with one special person, in a casual dating relationship with several people, or not dating at all, I challenge you to take a break. Get out there, meet a bunch of new people, and date at least ten of them. If you're already dating someone, each of you could date at least five people, so there would be a total of ten outside dates between the two of you.
There are many reasons to take the Take-a-Break Challenge, and I will give you more as you read, but here are a few for now:
Reason #1. If this is the only person you've ever dated and you want to avoid the regret of never having been on a date with someone else.
Reason #2. If you have been dating each other so long, the break would make sure you're not just so used to each other that you're mindlessly moving toward marriage.
Reason #3. If you have some doubts that need to be cleared up before you can move forward.
Reason #4. If a parent hands you the book and requires you to do it to obtain the "parental blessing" and all of the benefits that come with it.
Reason #5. If you meet someone that just might be more right for you and this is a safe, non-confrontational way to take a break and take the date without deception.
Reason #6. If you feel so confident in your future partner you want to take the Challenge to prove it is as strong as you believe.
Reason #7. If you are going to be geographically distant and you want the freedom to at least get coffee or go to a movie with someone else during the separation. Remember, it is not breaking up; it is simply taking a break.
"But," you say, "I don't even know where to start with this taking a break thing." No worries. Part One of this book has everything you need to successfully complete Phase One of the Ten-Date Challenge, including how to meet and connect with new people, fun ideas for Take-a-Break Dates on any budget, and tips for making the most of the time you spend with each new person.
PHASE TWO — Agenda Dates and holiday Dates
If my daughter and her boyfriend made it through Take-a-Break Dating and still wanted to be together, I was okay with that. But at that point I would ask them to step up to the second stage of the Dating Challenge. I had two major ground rules for this stage.
First, I wanted them to continue dating for a minimum — and I'm talking a bare minimum — of one year before they got serious about becoming engaged. If you get only one concept out of this book that you totally commit yourself to live out, here's the one worth the full retail price and a whole lot more: Before you say "I do" and take that first bite of wedding cake, you must without exception date that person for at least one year. A year-long commitment to purposeful dating allows all the aspects of each person's character and personality — including quirks, habits, traits, tics, and flaws — to be experienced and known by the other. A commitment to date through the happenings and holidays of all four seasons ensures nobody will be rushing you or pressuring you to marry too quickly. Yes, I've heard of couples who dated for only two hours (okay, maybe two weeks or two months) and were happily married for eighty years. But such marriages are very rare exceptions to the rule — rarer than tidy hogs. So say it with me this time: Before I say "I do" and take my first bite of wedding cake, I will without exception date that person for a least one year.
Second, in addition to anything else they did together during this time, I wanted my daughter and her boyfriend to include two specific kinds of dates. I would ask them to go on ten dates that have specific built-in agendas or assignments. The purpose of Agenda Dates is to help them get to know each other in different settings. For example, one devious Agenda Date I had in store for them was to spend a day or an evening together doing something that one of them enjoys and the other one hates. They would never come up with a date like this on their own. But this Agenda Date was going to provide great insight into their levels of tolerance and patience with each other. (Continues...)
Excerpted from Is This The One? by Stephen Arterburn Copyright © 2012 by Stephen Arterburn. Excerpted by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Preface: Dating to Beat the Odds 7
1 Date Wisely, Marry Well! 13
Phase 1 Take-A-Break Dates
2 Ramping Up to Take a Break 29
3 How to Make Your Own Breaks 43
4 Red-Flag People to Avoid Dating and Marrying 63
Phase 2 Agenda Dates and Holiday Dates
5 Put Dating into Your Agenda… and Vice Versa 85
6 Agenda Dating Takes a Holiday 115
7 When to Say "Not You" or "Not Now" 139
Phase 3 Premarital Counseling Dates
8 How to Be Sure You're Marrying the Right Person 161
9 10 Final Dates before "I Do" 177
10 10 First-Year Dates after "I Do" 203
Afterword: So Are You Ready to Say "I Do? 231
Posted June 10, 2012
As a life long marriage counselor, Steve Arterburn developed this book to help people find their mate and develop a solid relationship that will last a lifetime. This is not a book of lists that couples work through so that they get to know each other better, this is a series of dates for the couple to go on where they learn more about each other. He begins by suggesting that the couple look around at others prior to making a commitment, to make sure that they haven’t just fallen into a relationship by just getting comfortable with each other. He suggests ways to meet new people, and activities, calling these meetings Take-A-Break Dates. He says that a person should date at least twenty people before making a commitment to one person. He gives a list of the type of people you should avoid when dating. Then once you have decided on a particular person, he moves to ten dates with a specific agenda. Each date ‘gives you and your potential mate a change to experience each other in not-so-ordinary settings that provide extraordinary insight into each other.” The dates occur in different settings that allow the participants to have experiences that potentially duplicate stress situations that might occur in a marriage and potentially cause a rift. This way, the couple encounters problems prior to marriage.
I love this book. I will definitely purchase one for my daughters. I think that if a couple seriously commits to working through this book, they will develop a stronger marriage that has a greater potential to last a lifetime. Every person that would like to have a lifelong committed relationship should read this book.
Galley provided by NetGalley.
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