In the spring of 2012, I found myself walking a path I had never anticipated. I was a widower, 23, and moving back in with my parents so they could help me take care of my one-year old while I finished college.
I had walked through a year of healing and grieving since my wife died (though that process never really stops), and now it was time to start looking forward. I wasn’t getting any younger, and my little girl, well, she needed a mom.
I spent the next year or so searching, and, between you and me, it felt like I was wandering around in a dark room hitting my shins on the furniture. After a while, the lights came on and illuminated the beautiful woman I married last August.
Here are three things I learned about dating that I think will help you, too:
For me, health meant dealing with the loss of my wife and what that loss exposed in my soul. As I spent time in prayer and counseling, I realized how much I’d taken for granted. I treated my wife like a possession—something to be kept at home and brought out when friends came over for food. The real show was all about me, my dreams, my goals, my wants. Me.
Before you enter any kind of long-term relationship, you need to get rid of “me,” or at least begin to grasp the depth of your own selfishness. We’ll never fully rid ourselves of the “me” problem, but, thankfully, there’s grace, and we’re told to give grace to one another. That’s where marriage begins to reflect our relationship with God. We abide in His grace and we live in grace with one another.
You also need to rid yourself of co-dependency, and it come in two forms. One is obvious, the other is kind of sneaky.
The first and most obvious is neediness. I want to free you from a lie right now—no other person can complete you. You are made whole in Christ, as a single unit, a new creation in Christ Jesus. The gift and miracle of marriage is when God takes two independent souls and slowly binds them into one person. Marriage doesn’t look like Jerry Maguire.
The second, sneakier form is manipulation.
That seems counter-intuitive, but some of us have this raging need for control, and it means we want to control the way that others love us. So we try to control them and they begin to resent us and then we resent them because they’re not loving us correctly, and then the relationship goes into a death spiral.
Once again, we’ll never be perfect, but admitting we have these issues and submitting them to the work of the Holy Spirit is essential before we can have healthy relationships.
Understand Yourself (Don’t ‘Find Yourself,’ That’s Never Going to Happen)
In the first season on How I Met Your Mother, Lily and Marshall are about to get married after dating since freshman year of college, but Lily gets a little restless and decides she wants to go to art school in San Francisco (they live in New York). She wants it so badly, she calls off the wedding and breaks up with Marshall to go, well, find herself.
News flash—you will never find yourself. When I started college, I thought I was going to graduate and go find a job in my industry somewhere like LA or Boston. However, when I graduated, I walked right into ministry in my hometown at my home church. While I did find my own little niche of the music industry, I’m not exactly touring or working for a label. I spend most days organizing ministry volunteers, playing around with video and using photoshop.
You are not what you do, and your vocation will change. You are the summation of your character, your personality and your identity in Christ, but even that will evolve over time. So, ask Him to help you understand who you are, right now. When you’ve got a handle on that, you’re going to be a bit better at relationships, which leads me to my last point.
Date Someone You Enjoy
I really don’t understand why people go out and marry, much less date, someone that they’re just not going to get along with. Yeah, yeah, opposites attract and all that, but what you have to understand is that marriage is like baseball—it’s hours of boredom pricked with moments of abrupt chaos. Most of the time, married people are going to work, cooking dinner, watching TV or sleeping. It’s pretty quiet.
So, if you’re a person who likes to shake it up and be spontaneous, find a person who also likes to shake it up and be spontaneous. But, If you’re like me and an awesome Friday night sounds like Pabst, pizza and a good movie, find the quiet, nerdish one.
It sounds silly, but whoever you are, find someone you can bear the boredom with; it makes the highlights so much better.
Most of all, learn to enjoy the journey. I hope you find that pretty friend.
Joey is the Worship and Creative Director at Resurrection Life Church in Big Rapids, Michigan, where he also leads the church's college ministry. He loves folk music, fly-fishing and netflixing with his wife, Abigail. You can read more of Joey's thoughts at medium.com/@the_joeyc or follow him on Twitter at @the_JoeyC.