The Search for a Worthy Love - Part Two
- Tuesday, March 25, 2003
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."
A Big Cover-Up
Obviously, most people don't go to Emily's extreme, but many give up on finding lasting satisfaction in relationships. They desperately want intimacy but don't know how to get it. Other singles focus on romantic, superficial relationships for all their satisfaction and fulfillment. They have read or heard that romantic, sexual love is the ultimate answer. But when they get involved in that part of the relationship, they fail to experience lasting fulfillment. They think that if romance is in their lives, they will be happy. But relationships don't work out that way. One person, even a spouse, can't fill all your needs and never was meant to.
A search for romance and sexual involvement is often a cover-up for hurt and an inability to get close to someone mentally and emotionally. Sometimes those who seek fulfillment in superficial liaisons have had painful relationships in the past:
* A potential love relationship ended in disappointment and broken dreams.
* Just when needed, a close friend rejected them or didn't care to understand.
* They were physically or sexually abused.
* Their parents were unhappily married or got divorced.
* No one at home seemed to reach out or care for them as children.
A person who has experienced these kinds of losses and hurts is less likely to reach out to others, fearful of ever being close to anyone again. In some cases, the person never learns how to have a deep relationship with someone else.
The Pain of Rejection
For many years, my friend Brad was unable to relate with anyone in a caring way. He only wanted to use other people to meet his own needs. He remembers watching television one evening at the age of nine while hearing the familiar sounds of a parental argument in the next room.
This time Brad also heard doors slam. Finally, his father marched through the living room carrying two suitcases. Brad ran to his dad, clung to him, and tried to pull him back from the door. "Get away," his dad shouted. "I've got to go. I refuse to live with your mother any longer!"
For years after his dad walked out, Brad felt only hurt and pain. He thought that if his father would leave him, other people would, too. In high school and college, Brad used women for his own selfish desires, never letting anyone get close to his sensitive heart. He never wanted to be rejected again.
A lot of years passed, but slowly Brad began to trust people again, to open himself to others whom he found to be trustworthy. He is still learning how to be intimate with others. Now over 30 years old, he has hopes of finding that certain someone with whom he can trust his whole self for a lifetime.
Alison was 47 years old when she got married. For many years, marriage never seemed desirable. Every marriage in her immediate family had been an unhappy one, some ending in divorce. Since childhood, the happiest family member she had known was an unmarried aunt. While Alison had a poor view of marriage, she did have a role model for happy single adulthood. So although friends encouraged her to marry, Alison decided to find happiness as a single person, like her aunt. Determined that she could be both single and fulfilled, she set out to prove it.
Did it work? Yes, until the right person came along. But it was after God had shown Alison many happy marriages among her Christian friends. Then she discovered that a fulfilling marriage was not only possible, but even possible for her. She had not been raised to know how to find fulfillment in close relationships. But over her long years of single adulthood, she did learn, through the Lord's guidance, how to relate to and trust friends, relatives, and coworkers in ever-deepening friendships.
Alison's first priority in intimacy is now her husband, but those other significant relationships make her marriage all the more fulfilling. They fill up the areas that her marriage relationship wasn't meant to fill. They were the training ground for the deep fulfillment in love and intimacy, through being both a friend and lover to her husband, that she has found in marriage.
Intimacy Includes Risk
If love and intimacy are so fulfilling, why do so many married and single people have difficulty finding them-not just male-female love, but love between close friends of the same sex, love between siblings, love between parents and children? What is so attractive and yet so fearful about loving people? What is the difference between loving a sport, loving a car, loving a pet, or even loving God, and that kind of love between persons that deeply satisfies our hearts and souls?
The difference has to do with emotional intimacy and the risk of rejection. You don't need to worry about rejection when you love something that is as impersonal as sports or your car. Impersonal things won't turn on you or misunderstand. Only in our imaginations can a love relationship with another person be without risk of rejection and loss.
When we face reality, we know that the love of another person involves risk. C.S. Lewis describes two basic kinds of love: need-love and gift-love. We need the love of others. But we also want to give love to others. Both types of love involve the danger of being rejected. The other person can accept our gift-love but refuse to love us back. In this way, he or she refuses to satisfy our need-love. The other person also can grant us need-love, but have such a sense of self-sufficiency that he or she refuses to allow us the satisfaction of gift-love.
We Need to Love and Be Loved
We all need to love and accept the love of other people. Even though we talk about being self-sufficient, we are made by God with a need to connect with others. You can be deeply involved in your job, become successful, and increase your income and status. At the same time, if you only experience loveless coexistence with others, the satisfaction you might have from your job or other endeavors is spoiled.
Why do we search for intimacy, for closeness and oneness? The answer is that we want to share ourselves with someone and to be accepted for just who we are. We are inadequate to rely totally upon ourselves. Intimacy is more than loving and being loved; it also helps us grow and develop as persons.
At times, I desperately yearned for this type of closeness. During one cold January I became so anxious to get married that I lamented, "If I don't find a woman I want to marry by the first of September, I'm going to explode." The closer that date came, my frustration level increased. Finally, it was August 1, then August 15, and still there was no potential Mrs. Purnell on the horizon. September came and went. I felt empty and bewildered. What is the solution?
As a single person grows older, more of his or her friends drop out of the single world into marriage. This can make a person feel desperate enough to try crazy things.
I came to that point. I was scheduled to speak at a series of meetings in Dallas, Texas. About a month before my arrival, I phoned my friend Andy, who lived in the city. "Do you know a woman I could date for a big event on my day off?" He suggested we get two other couples to join us. It sounded like fun. We eagerly planned the night of nights.
When I arrived, Andy told me the woman he had in mind couldn't make it, but his girlfriend Jenny volunteered to find someone else for me. Immediately I was skeptical. I've always ended up disappointed with blind dates arranged by women. "She has a great personality" was usually the kindest thing that could be said about the arranged matchup.
My skepticism turned to horror when I discovered that Jenny didn't even know the woman she had gotten as my date. A friend of Jenny's had recommended her. The situation looked bleak indeed. To break the tension, Andy and I joked about how miserable my evening was about to become.
That night three couples and I piled into a large SUV and drove to the condominium where my blind date lived. I had everyone line up at her front door, with me standing in the back. That way, while she met the other people, I'd check her out and decide what I thought the evening was going to be like.
When the door opened, there stood an attractive blonde. Brooke, a flight attendant for a large airline company, was not only good-looking but interesting to talk with. I'm sure the other guys were jealous of me that night as Brooke and I talked and talked. I was thoroughly excited about the evening and showed it. Meanwhile, I thought, This is it-the first time ever that a blind date has worked out for me! I asked her for another date, but she was already tied up. Several times during the next few days I asked her out, but she was always busy. I never got the hint.
On my speaking trip the following month, I spotted Brooke in the Atlanta airport. She didn't seem to show much response to my greeting. Of course, she was busy working at the time, but it took a while for me to realize that Brooke really didn't want to go out with me again. When it finally hit me, all my dreams of dating and developing a relationship with this exciting person went out the window. I was blind to her disinterest. Some dreams die hard.
Missing the Point
Like others, I had such a desire for intimacy that just a glimmer of hope had caused me to pin all my dreams on one meeting. When it didn't work out, I crashed.
Later on, I realized I needed to learn how to develop and sustain a love relationship. I had missed the whole concept of friendship! No one ever told me! Having close friends eases the pain of the search for that potential love. Then, when that person does come along, we've already learned how to develop a lasting, fulfilling relationship. When many of our needs are met through other relationships, we will not expect that individual to meet more of our needs than one person is capable of doing. Our experience in developing closeness with our friends will make the building of a quality love relationship with a person of the opposite sex less stressful and a lot more rewarding.
This book is written to help you develop a close, exciting friendship with someone of the opposite sex that will become the basis for a lasting love.
Unfortunately, our society has changed the word "lover" to refer often to someone who sexually excites you, especially a person with whom you are not married. I prefer to define a lover as a person who has founded a quality love relationship on biblical principles-a relationship filled and overflowing with the dynamic love that only God can give a man and woman for each other.
Click here to read Part One 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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