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THE TEN COMMANDMENTS OF DATING
By Ben Young Sam Adams
Thomas NelsonCopyright © 2007 Ben Young & Sam Adams
All right reserved.
Chapter OneCOMMANDMENT ONE: THOU SHALT GET A LIFE
It's 5:30 on a Friday afternoon, and you've just put in another forty-hour work week. You grab a Twinkie and a Coke and plop down on your couch with your laptop. Shuffling through the spam, you scroll past the eight "Make Millions While Working from Home" subject lines and suddenly smile at one from a familiar e-mail address. It's an e-mail from your sweetheart of more than a year.
You double-click and dive into the e-mail. The words, "I don't think we should see each other anymore" explode off the screen and fling themselves into your heart like pieces of hot shrapnel. This is a letter bomb, not a love note! Your heart sinks into your stomach as you realize that this person in whom you've invested so much time, energy, and emotion has just put an end to something you hoped would last forever. After you get over the initial shock, you check your voicemail to see if there is a message from your sweetheart about reconsidering-or at least something to ease the blow. Nothing. You feel deeply hurt, rejected, and all alone.
Several months pass and, for some strange reason, things aren't getting any better. In fact, you are still stuck in the same emotional ditch you fell into the day you got the e-mail. As you continue to work through the pain, you replay the relationship in your head over and over. You ask yourself, "What went wrong? Who's to blame? Why did such a good thing go sour?"
Finally, a startling truth begins to emerge, and you realize why this relationship fizzled: you simply did not have a life. This person was your life. Your entire self-worth was wrapped up in someone else. You now see how you had put your life on hold-your career, interests, friends, and even your relationship with God. Thus, you had little to give to the relationship. Since the relationship has ended, you have nothing to sustain you. Without your sweetheart, you have no life.
Sadly, we have witnessed far too many scenarios just like the above illustration. Thousands of singles booby-trap their relationship or never even begin them in the first place because they ignore this first and foundational love commandment: Thou Shalt Get a Life!
Years ago the woman of my (Ben's) dreams dumped me twice within a six-week period. Although it felt like she had torn my heart right out of my rib cage, it turned out to be one of the most valuable experiences of my dating life. It was through that double dumping that I learned that the most important thing a person could bring to a relationship was a life. A real life! When you invest all your energy and self-esteem in getting a date or having a relationship, you don't have a life.
People with lives are not sitting around waiting to be swept off their feet. People with lives do not make "getting married" their ultimate goal. People with lives do not always have to be in a relationship or on a date to feel good about themselves. People with lives are not church-hopping, barhopping, or consulting phone psychics in hopes of finding The One. Relationships and marriage are important goals (why else would you be reading this book?), but they must be kept in perspective. When romantic relationships become an obsession or they are elevated to prime importance, you've got a problem.
Here's some sobering news: if you don't have a life of your own, you won't be happy even if you date, fall in love, and get married. Why? Because you will have nothing to give to the relationship, and you will drain your dating partner (or spouse) completely dry. Inevitably, you will put extraordinary expectations on the other to fulfill you, complete you, entertain you, and soothe you. No created thing-certainly no human-can perform up to those outlandish expectations. Only the Creator who made you can do that, and He made you to ... get a life!
Before you ever go out again or say "I do," please follow this first and greatest commandment to Get a Life. If you are wondering what a real life looks like or how to get one, read on. But first let's see what can happen when someone decides to rebel and break this first law of relationships. We call it the un-life.
People who are living the un-life have one thing in common: they have put their lives on hold. They have become so consumed with finding someone to meet their needs and give them a sense of significance that real living has taken a backseat. Some un-lifers just withdraw completely and give up. They have convinced themselves that life isn't worth pursuing with any sort of passion without a partner. Whether they are obsessed with finding The One or they have given up, these are the ones who have contracted the fatal disease of the un-life. Here are the most common symptoms of the un-life, known as the four Deadly Ds.
A desperate person has a sense of urgency about finding a mate. He is starving for someone to fill the emotional hole in his soul. I (Sam) will never forget Mike, a very successful thirty-two-year-old real estate broker who had come to see me because he had recognized that he was running off women right and left. We soon discovered that part of his problem was his tendency to try and close the deal by the third date as if it were some kind of real estate transaction. His urgent need to fill a void kept him from going slower in order to allow a more normal, natural process of bonding to occur. Mike had a lot of assets, including money, prestige, and good looks, but he did not have the inner strength necessary to stave off his desperation. Mike eventually learned to slow down but only after he had deliberately invested time and energy into filling that void. He changed his priorities and became a more balanced person with other passions in life.
Desperate dates are sometimes found lurking around certain milestones, such as graduation from college, a fortieth birthday, or wet ink on divorce papers. Unfortunately their urge-to-merge strategy scares off potential mates instead of attracting them. Take some advice from Confucius: "Desperation produces perspiration and perspiration stinks on anybody."
A dependent person gains a sense of significance and security through others. He must be attached to someone in order to feel good about himself. We've seen countless men and women hang on to sick relationships, even emotionally and physically abusive relationships, for this reason. Kristen called Ben's radio show, The Single Connection, one night to discuss her relationship with Carl; she was separated from him and seemed to be unable to make decisions for herself without him. To top it off, she confessed that Carl was aggressive and violent toward her and was thrown into prison as a result. He was to be released that weekend. Unbelievable as it may seem, she called the show to ask, "What should I do?" We have tremendous compassion for people like Kristen, and we hold out much hope for those who acknowledge their difficulty and seek help.
Dependent daters have difficulty making decisions and taking responsibility for their lives and their own decisions. When a dependent person enters a relationship, he usually sucks the lifeblood out of the other person, like a tick on a dog. Two dependent daters face an even more impossible situation: two ticks, no dog! Of course, as humans we all depend on others to some degree for certain needs. This is normal and healthy. But a person infected with the un-life will be excessively dependent on the other person to meet most of his or her needs and provide a sense of identity.
3. Depression and Loneliness
Feelings of depression and loneliness are the number one complaint of singles who buy into the notion that someone else can make them happy. This can take many forms, but generally it is a condition that affects the whole person: physically, emotionally, and spiritually. Most people living the un-life will experience some feelings of depression, which may include such characteristics as unhappiness, gloom, lack of energy, and withdrawal from others. It is also not uncommon to experience a drop in self-confidence or self-esteem.
Reggie attempted to begin a relationship with several different women, and things just didn't click. After three failures and steeped in loneliness, Reggie began to lash out verbally at the women in conversation with his small circle of friends. Immersing himself more and more in the Internet, Reggie cut off normal conversation with his peers and turned his room into a cave. Rage and distorted views of reality ensued, so that when Reggie made an occasional step back into the real world, he was a social black hole and even fewer people wanted to be around him. This only worsened the condition, and soon his life consisted mostly of surfing the Internet and watching television. Reggie exploded on his remaining friends, and he sank deeper into the abyss.
The danger in depression and loneliness is that it may begin a downward spiral. In other words, the more depressed you feel, the more likely you are to withdraw and further exacerbate the depression. Eventually, this can even lead to a more severe form of depression (clinical depression), which can involve symptoms such as loss of appetite and sleep, difficulty with concentration, problems with normal functioning, and feelings of hopelessness. This more severe form of depression calls for professional intervention such as counseling or therapy, and possibly medication.
The good news is that even in the downward spiral a person can be treated and begin a reverse spiral back to having a life. Reggie, after a violent episode, was directed toward a counselor. It took time, but eventually Reggie became a delightful person who cultivated numerous healthy relationships with folks who sought out his company. The un-life discarded, Reggie now experiences the fruits of having a real life in which he brings joy to those around him.
"Isolated," "withdrawn," "lonely," and "watches the Jerry Springer show" describe someone who has disengaged from life. This person has detached himself from vital social relationships: the desire to spend time with friends, get involved in the community, or serve in a local church has vanished.
Linda, a vivacious woman in her early twenties was one of the most outgoing people you could ever meet. However, after a series of hurtful relationships, she began to withdraw to protect herself. Unfortunately, her well-intentioned plan backfired. Linda gained a lot of weight (which she admitted was a defensive, self-destructive move), sabotaged old friendships, and distanced herself from family members. In short order, Linda completely isolated herself from others. I'm sure Linda did not intentionally set out to withdraw so completely, and yet it can be easy for anyone to do once they start down this path.
Coping with the Un-Life: Media-Bation
In our high-tech society today, one of the biggest dangers for un-lifers is the tendency to use certain forms of media to cope with the isolation. This is what we call media-bation. People who look to the media as their primary (or only) source for meeting emotional and relational needs definitely need to get a life. They rely upon the TV, radio, video, or Internet for fulfillment. Media-bators spend all their time in front of a computer, TV, or game screen. A vast subculture has arisen in which people hide out on numerous satellite channels, the blogosphere, chat rooms, games, or even in an alter ego of an avatar. We are blown away by the sheer number and variety of software and hardware gadgets, games, and controllers-all the tools used by media-bators to escape life into the un-life of perpetual cyberdistraction.
At some point, all of us have descended into the un-life. The good news is that you don't need to call a doctor or go to a Benny Hinn Miracle Crusade to be healed from the un-life. If the four Ds describe you, then the way to a passionate, fulfilling life is through the antidote of the five Gs: You must become Grounded, Grouped, Goal-oriented, Giving, and Growing.
HOW TO GET A LIFE
1. Get Grounded
Getting grounded is the foundation for getting a life. It is all about having a solid identity and sense of self. This includes everything from recognizing one's worth and value to feeling self-confident and secure. Individuals with a solid identity can't be shaken or destroyed by dateless droughts or unceasing wedding invitations in the mail. They know who they are. They are complete and whole within themselves.
The dominant view in our society is that human worth, value, and happiness are obtained through tangible achievement and performance: if you have money, power, prestige, good looks, and intelligence, then you have worth. The message is, "The more you have, the greater your self-esteem." This formula can literally ruin your life.
Judging by this arbitrary standard, celebrities, star athletes, and supermodels should be the most centered, self-confident, grounded people on this planet. They have talent, money, power, and millions of fans who love and worship them. What a tragedy it is to watch these talented "role models" turn to substance abuse, eating disorders, and extreme behaviors. In one sense, they have it all, but on the other hand, they have nothing. They don't know who they are because they are not grounded.
Many of us are more like these celebrities than we realize. We are busy working on the externals-our hair, face, body, clothes, possessions, and career-to give us a sense of self-worth. It's like putting a small band-aid over a huge wound.
I (Sam) counseled a young lady recently who seemed to have it all: great looks, stylish clothes, a new Lexus, her own business, and a wealthy, handsome man to boot. Yet she was miserable and lonely. Why? She had focused on the externals to try to fix the internals. There is nothing wrong with working out, dressing well, and pursuing a career; but if you look only to those things to give you a sense of self-worth, you'll always be searching.
Self-worth is not something you go out and get. Self-worth is not something you buy, achieve, or obtain. It's something you already have. Getting grounded means embracing the fact that you are created in the image of God and have inherent worth and value. This value is unchanging and complete. It's not something you can get more or less of depending on your achievements. Worth, based on being an image of God, does not fluctuate. This intrinsic worth does not change regardless of your personality, performance, or possessions, because it's based on the immutable character of God.
Think of it this way: God Himself made you, and He made you in His image. That is, we are stamped with His image. We speak of money as coming in different denominations such as a dime, a quarter, a $5 bill, or a $100 bill. Each coin or bill has two things: an imprint of an image (like George Washington or Abraham Lincoln) and a specified value. A quarter is stamped with the image of George Washington and is worth twenty-five cents. You are denominated by God's name, you are stamped with His image, and thus your "coin" is of priceless value. Can you put a price on the value of God Almighty? No, and since you are stamped with the image of the Priceless One, you also are priceless. That is self-worth. Accepting this is the key to being grounded.
In light of this reality, Dr. Peter Kreeft, in Knowing the God Who Loves You, says,
Accept yourself. Love yourself. Respect yourself. This is good advice properly understood. But why should I accept myself if I don't feel like it? What is the rock-solid, inescapable objective foundation for my self-love? If it is only my feelings or perceptions or my psychologist's perceptions, then my house of self-esteem is built on sand. When the rains come, my house of self-esteem will fall and it will be a cataclysmic fall. But if my house is based on God's Word, then even when the rains of bad feelings and self-doubt come, my house of self-esteem will stand firm because it is built on the rock of God's unchanging truth, not my ever-shifting feelings about myself. Self-esteem is necessary for all psychological health, and there is no absolutely sure basis for self-esteem other than the assurance of God's love for me.
When you see yourself the way God sees you, you will be free from insecurity and fear. What you believe about yourself and your core identity determines how you behave. Getting grounded is ultimately about being established in the rock-hard reality of God's love for and favor toward you.
Excerpted from THE TEN COMMANDMENTS OF DATING by Ben Young Sam Adams Copyright © 2007 by Ben Young & Sam Adams. Excerpted by permission.
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