The Search for a Love Worthy of Your Life
- Friday, March 21, 2003
When I wrote the first edition of this book (titled Becoming a Friend and Lover), I began by telling a story about Mark, a friend of mine who dated a lot but was becoming frustrated trying to find the right woman. In the 1980s, Mark fit perfectly into the dating scene-years ago, people actually went out on dates. These days, dating looks quite different, and for many singles, the dating scene is frustrating for a completely different reason.
Courtney is a single woman in her mid-20s who says the idea of two people going out on a real date has ceased to exist in the twenty-first century. Instead, the dating scene involves "going out, meeting someone, going home with them, and then...well, you know," she says.
Has dating really reached so low? Are the opportunities to form meaningful relationships really being replaced by meaningless physical encounters?
In a USA Today editorial, writer Laura Vanderkam pointed out that the custom of "hooking up," defined as any physical encounter without expectations afterward, "pervades college culture" and that dates are "passé" She bases her opinion on a study by author David Brooks about the dating scene among college kids today at Princeton University. According to him, this generation is full of what he calls "organization kids" -people whose parents have so flooded their lives with scheduling, pressure to succeed, and extracurricular activities that "they no longer have hours to spend wooing a lover." Instead, they hook up, and as Vanderkam points out, "hookups do satisfy biology, but the emotional detachment doesn't satisfy the soul."
Something seems to have gone very wrong somewhere along the line. Mark would probably be shocked. According to Courtney, despite her desire to date someone, few people are actually dating. "It's very exciting when one of my friends meets someone and has a date! It's a privilege!" she says. Single people today still desire to be valued and cared for by someone special and, ultimately, to have a committed, lasting relationship.
"Commitment is important to me, and I think to probably everyone because everyone wants someone to be committed and faithful to them. We all want to be loved," Courtney says.
If you're like Courtney-an adult, not married, and possibly not even dating someone seriously-it's hard to feel fulfilled. I know. I was single until the age of 42. Married people constantly told me that I needed to get married and settle down in order to find fulfillment in my life. Yet when I looked at the married people around me and their problems, I knew that marriage didn't automatically bring lasting satisfaction. It took something more than a wedding to do that.
So for years, I tried to ignore all the good-hearted encouragement to marry. During that time, I dated several women, but I was so involved in my work that I didn't feel an overwhelming desire to marry any of them and face the potential of trading one set of problems for another. Although my work gave me great satisfaction and I saw no immediate reason for marrying, I did sense a desire to open my life to someone. I wanted to find out what another person was like and to have that person to know what I was like. But did I dare open myself to another person and risk my future happiness?
In my late 20s, I began to experience deep struggles and frustrations about being single. At times I would open my heart to a woman, but if the relationship didn't go anywhere or broke apart, I felt betrayed. I had given out personal information about myself, but the other person had walked away from it, not wanting to know more of me. Rejected again. At times, I was afraid that I might never find someone to love and that no one would ever love me.
Like me, many single adults want to develop an intimate relationship that won't fail or break up. Nearly half of all marriages end in divorce-who wants to become a part of that statistic? Some divorcees, after having tried to make their marriage work and failed, sense such a deep insecurity that they may feel incapable of developing another serious relationship.
You approach someone with subtle attempts at conversation. Instead of responding, the other person uses your remarks as an excuse to voice his or her own opinions. Two people merely talking without communicating from their hearts-a good definition of "boring." Words without a heart. You turn away, thinking, Oh, what's the use? and that's that. Superficial conversations at parties, clubs, work, and church leave you empty.
Sometimes you just sit at home alone, feeling unloved and unlovable, convinced that you are incapable of any type of significant relationship. Maybe you even go through the pity-party syndrome.
Recently I counseled a girl named Taylor about her longings for an intimate relationship with a man. While on a trip, she wrote to me, saying, "Unless I'm dating a man seriously, I don't feel much like a person. Oh, I know my parents and friends love me, but I want something much deeper. I see my friends walking arm in arm with their boyfriends, but all I can do is appreciate such romantic scenes from a distance. I have never experienced that closeness and joy, that electrifying oneness. I need a sense of hope and courage that someday I'll have that, too."
Some singles live with a lack of hope, a feeling that an enjoyable, fulfilling, committed marital relationship is impossible. They have seen or experienced the devastation of divorce. Where can you find quality love that lasts until death separates you?
After I spoke at a conference in Washington, a man said to me, "You advocated building love on a strong foundation of commitment. But what is commitment? I have a hard time committing myself to someone for even one date! Whenever I'm on a date, I keep looking around at other women and become dissatisfied with the one I'm dating."
Often singles project their past or present failures into the future. They think, I've had other relationships that have failed. I guess my future relationships won't last either. So, although they have a desire to relate intimately with someone, they give up.
This was the case with Emily, a young woman who was being treated for depression and was convinced that beginning a relationship was futile.
"Why should I try to start a relationship?" she asked. "It will only fail, end, and hurt."
Don't miss the rest of Emily's story - and others- tomorrow, in Part Two of "The Search for a Love Worthy of Your Life."
Excerpted from Finding A Lasting Love by Dick Purnell. Copyright (c) 2003 by Harvest House Publishers. Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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