Editor's Note: Do you need sound, Biblically-based advice on an issue in your marriage or family? Dr. David will address two questions from Crosswalk readers in each weekly column. Submit your question to him at TheRelationshipDoctor@gmail.com.
I am a 23 year old man who finds meeting women to be very difficult. I want to be in a relationship, but dating has never come easy to me. I’m shy and an introvert, and am not sure what to do. I used to attend the Singles program at our church, but gave up after a while. I’ve tried online dating, but didn’t have any success there either. I don’t seem to attract any women, though I can see nothing wrong with my appearance. I’m wondering if God wants me to remain single since things have never worked for me. I watch my friends, who are more social than I am, and many of them either have steady girlfriends or have gotten married. I’m envious of them and wonder what is the matter with me? Can you help? ~ Discouraged and Lonely
Dear Discouraged and Lonely:
I cannot answer definitively whether or not God wants you to remain single, but can say that discouragement often comes with the territory of dating. It often appears to be much easier than it actually is.
Let’s face it: dating can be hard work, especially for an introvert. Putting yourself “out there” for someone to critique is risky business—but there are rarely any shortcuts.
While I’m tempted to reassure you that there is “nothing wrong with you,” I cannot say that. In fact, there may be character traits that need attention. Women and men are often attracted as much to personality as to appearance, and you may have aspects to your personality that need changing. Dating can be a perfect opportunity to discover character traits that need to be addressed.
What have you learned thus far in your dating? Have there been any consistent themes? Have women found you to be boring, insensitive or awkward? If so, you’ll need to address these personality issues. Perhaps they sense your insecurity, and this turns them off. While there may be “the perfect person” out there who will respond favorably to your unique traits, it may also be that you’ll need to strengthen your low self-esteem before giving dating another chance.
You said you gave up on your church single’s program. Why? This would seem to be the perfect arena for finding camaraderie, spiritual support as well as an outlet for gaining social skills. As you increase your social skills, your self-esteem will grow. There’s nothing like a little success to raise our confidence. While you may not find the love of your life there, church single’s programs can offer support while going through the awkward phases of dating. After developing some close friends, you can ask for critical feedback about areas of your personality needing attention. Risky? Yes. However, infinitely rewarding as well.
Before we can attract a “major leaguer,” we must be a “major leaguer.” Therefore, any efforts you put into making yourself an attractive, caring and loving individual will pay rich dividends later. Any groups you can join which will give you needed experience in interacting successfully with women, as well as men, will be invaluable in the dating arena.
Dear Dr. David:
I am a 40 year old Christian woman and have been married for 19 years. I recently overheard a woman’s voice on my husband’s cell phone voice mail. When I asked him who the woman was, he hesitantly told me her name and said he had been speaking to her on the cell phone for 4 months. He called her a good friend and a distant cousin. Though he has never known her as a relative, he dated her briefly 25 years earlier, before I knew him. He had at least one scheduled meeting with her that he later told me about that got canceled. If I hadn't heard that voice message, I am convinced the relationship would have gotten physically intimate. As it is, he was furious that I asked him to have no further contact with this woman. He says I’m crazy and that she is just a good friend. I can't seem to get over the fact that he has secretly made and received phone calls to this woman for 4 months, made plans to meet with her, even take her son fishing and never tell me about it and then call me crazy when I find out and tell me it's not what I think. Do you believe she was just a good friend or do you think there is more to this relationship than he is confessing to? ~ Insecure
Where there’s smoke, there’s often fire. This seems like one of those cases. Even if his intentions are pure, as he asserts, his secretiveness is most concerning. The fact that he wants to hold onto this relationship, keeping details of their liaison a secret, is most troubling. The situation can only breed contempt and resentment in you, thereby negatively impacting your marriage.
His anger about you insisting on no further contact with her also indicates a deeper problem. The Scriptures encourage us to be open with one another, sharing concerns, questionable activities, as well as sharing our burdens. (Galatians 6: 1-2) I have said before that we need to lead lives of purity—even regarding the appearance of impropriety. If you feel insecure about this questionable relationship—and you clearly do—then your husband should be sensitive to your feelings and do what he can to help you feel secure. No one would consider you out of line for making such a request, and you need not feel badly about doing so.
Finally, it is important that you look deeply into your marriage to discover other unresolved problems between you and your husband. While it is appropriate to pray for a hedge of protection around him, and anyone who might seek his attention, (Hosea 2: 6) it is also important to work at eliminating problems within the marriage where he wants to seek other female attention. Sit down with him and talk frankly about your marriage problems, which need to be addressed, and ways to reignite the marital spark.
David Hawkins, Pd.D., has worked with couples and families to improve the quality of their lives by resolving personal issues for the last 30 years. He is the author of over 18 books, including Love Lost: Living Beyond a Broken Marriage, Saying It So He'll Listen, and When Pleasing Others Is Hurting You. His newest books are titled The Relationship Doctor's Prescription for Healing a Hurting Relationship and The Relationship Doctor's Prescription for Living Beyond Guilt. Dr. Hawkins grew up in the beautiful Pacific Northwest and lives with his wife on the South Puget Sound where he enjoys sailing, biking, and skiing. He has active practices in two Washington cities.