EDITOR'S NOTE: He Said-She Said is a monthly advice column featuring a question from a Crosswalk.com reader with responses from a male and female point of view. If you've got a question about anything related to singleness or living the single life, please submit it to He Said-She Said (selected questions will be posted anonymously).
QUESTION: I'm a single Christian woman in my early 40s who has never been in a serious relationship. I've spent most of my life focused on the Lord, ministry, traveling, education, building relationships with my family, friends, and career. Because I have no husband or children, I've "occupied" [my time] by doing the things I felt God led me to do. Now (maybe too late?) I've realized that I can do both; I can live a full, interesting, godly life AND I can be open to a husband . . . but when it comes to relationships, the average pre-teen has more experience than me. I hesitate to respond to men sometimes because I wonder if they'll think I'm some sort of freak because I've not had experience in this area. I really do want to meet someone and the circumstances in my life are such that I can do that now. I am emotionally and spiritually ready. But I'm not sure where to start and how to handle the dreaded questions: "How many relationships have you been in before? What was the longest relationship that you've ever had?" Nor am I really sure where to start. I'd appreciate any advice that you can give.
HE SAID: One of the most common (non-physical) exercises we, as humans, seem to participate in is the “what if” game. We consider and contemplate all sorts of various ways a situation may turn out, oftentimes leaving us with a negative slant or a pessimistic outlook to our circumstance.
When we apply this innate response to dating, we can conjure up how an entire date “will” go, conversations included, long before we meet anyone. Oftentimes, this just leads to creating fear and doubt about ourselves.
What if he wonders why I’m not married?
What if she asks about past relationships?
What if he thinks this?
What if she doesn’t like that?
What if, what if, what if.
We can experience an entire relationship in our mind prior to our first meeting. Heaven forbid should any of our scenarios come to pass, which would only fuel our lack of confidence and, in a strange way, bolster the belief in our “instinctive skill.”
I once heard nearly 85 percent of the things most people worry about never come to pass. That percentage may even be higher when it comes to dating!
Matthew has some great instruction for all of us: Do not worry about your life (Matthew 6:25).
So you’re in your 40s and never been in a serious relationship.
Although you may see this as a drawback, it can also be viewed as an advantage, especially over those “pre-teens” you’re comparing yourself to. Their relationships are typically superficial, not based on personal qualities or eternal values, last only a couple of weeks and often end unpleasantly.
For those who have been in a committed relationship and have experienced a break-up or divorce, there may be emotional scars, which if left unresolved, can cause difficulties and impact subsequent relationships.
Before you start doubting yourself about your “dating experience,” consider there are those who would rather be with someone they can “learn” with, discover each other’s needs, and become “their only” instead of someone who has had a number of serious relationships, may be entering with pre-conceived notions and has “been around the block.”
Neither path is right or wrong, nor is there one specific way to discovering the person God wants you to be with. For some it will be their first love and for others there will be more “trial and error.”
If you look at all of the many ways in which God brought two people together, you will begin to realize anything is possible with God.
Zipporah met her husband (Moses) at a well while faithfully doing her chores, after he killed an Egyptian and fled to her land of Midian (Exodus 2:16-21).
Ruth discovered her husband (Boaz) after being widowed, followed her mother-in-law to a foreign country and resigned herself to faithfully supporting her by gleaning the fields owned by Boaz (Ruth 2).
Rebekah was chosen for her husband (Isaac) when his servants approached her asking for water and she faithfully obliged to both them and their camels (Genesis 24).
When we begin to believe God can provide the unexpected, we won’t live our lives with doubts and constraints.
A close friend of mine spent most of her life as a nanny, caring for other people’s children. She found herself in her forties never having dated. With a little encouragement from friends, she allowed herself to be set up on a blind date, dated the guy for about eight months and married him. They have since adopted a pair of sisters and the doubts and insecurities she may have once had about how to start dating are long gone.
Don’t allow yourself to get trapped into thinking and living inside of your culture-built restraints. When we can’t imagine how in the world something could ever happen, we start to believe it can’t and we stop believing God can.
Start this new adventure by putting aside your worries, appreciating all of the incredible experiences God has allowed you to have over your forty years, believing God is orchestrating your life and allow yourself to be yourself, unique in every way.
Don’t try to fit into some mold the world has told us we need to fit into. Experience your life as God created it exclusively for you, and faithfully live it out in his matchless way.
SHE SAID: I can certainly identify with you. While I may not be in your exact same boat, consider me waving at you from another neighboring vessel just a little bit downstream from you.
I have had some serious relationships over the years, but I have also had a busy career and a very meaningful personal life full of family, friends, church and hobbies. Even though I’ve kept myself quite busy, I would say that I’ve always had one eye on desiring marriage while the other eye was focused on my life as it was and still is: single and fulfilled, but ready to marry.
In your case, I wonder perhaps if God has decided that now is the right time to awaken the desire to date (and marry) in your heart. It sounds like your life has been chock full of interesting opportunities that God has placed in your path, and he has kept you focused on following him down these different avenues. In fact, who knows how many lives you have been able to reach for him in your career, ministry, traveling, education, and through building relationships with your family and friends? That’s encouraging to think about! And it’s also inspiring to see how God has brought you to where you are today. He has used all of your experiences to shape you into the multi-faceted woman who now stands ready to meet an eligible male and share life together. I think that’s great!
I understand your questioning about where to start, especially as it comes to answering questions that are sure to be asked regarding your past dating experience. And so my advice to you is really quite simple: just be yourself.
You already know who you are in Christ (since you are emotionally and spiritually ready), so remember that as you dip your toe in the waters. You are:
- Part of the body of Christ 1 Corinthians 12:27)
- Complete in Christ (Colossians 2:9-10)
- God’s workmanship (Ephesians 2:10)
- A new creation (2 Corinthians 5:17)
- The light of the world (Matthew 5:14)
- An expression of the life of Christ (Colossians 3:4)
- Chosen, holy and loved (Colossians 3:12)
And that’s just a very small sampling of who the Bible says you are in Christ. I encourage you to write these verses down and memorize them. Say them out loud. And hold them in your heart when you begin to interact with eligible men and answer their deeper questions.
Yes, of course rejection is always a possibility when it comes to dating and getting to know others—doesn’t matter who you are. Not every lid is going to fit every pot, right? But if you don’t give someone the opportunity to get to know you (and that includes answering these type of “dating history” questions), then how will that person have the opportunity to get to know you? And that’s not a trick question either. Where you have been has led you to who you are. No, your past doesn’t define you (and I’m thinking more about what the world will try to tell you or how it will try to label you negatively as someone who has little dating experience). But it has certainly contributed to the woman who is here today. God has used all of the experiences in your life (and that includes not dating, especially if you trust that that was his plan for you all along the way) to mold you and shape you.
I know they’re often used as an example when it comes to relationships, but who better to look to as two people who were perfectly designed for each other (despite appearances, ages or life circumstances) than Ruth 2? And what better example of how a man was prepared to accept, to pursue and to love a woman who thought her past, her heritage, would not be that attractive or appealing? I just love their story. It proves to me over and over how God is so much bigger than what we fritter and fret about in our day-to-day doings. He is bigger than what we perceive to be liabilities in our lives. And he is sovereign over your situation just as he was with Ruth and Boaz.
You are God’s special creation. Don't ever forget that! He has very special and specific purposes for you. Embrace who you are (lack of dating experience and all) as you’ve awakened to wanting to share life with someone else. And then ask God to guide you in the dating waters as you begin navigating your way. I’ll be waving at you!
HE is … Cliff Young, a Crosswalk.com contributing writer and a veteran single of many decades. He has traveled the world in search of fresh experiences, serving opportunities, and the perfect woman (for him) and has found that his investments in God, career and youth ministry have paid off in priceless dividends.
SHE is … Laura MacCorkle, Senior Editor at Crosswalk.com. She loves God, her family and her friends. Singleness has taught her patience, deepened her walk with the Lord and afforded her countless (who's counting anyway?) opportunities to whip up an amazing three-course meal for one.
DISCLAIMER: We are not trained psychologists or licensed professionals. We're just average folk who understand what it's like to live the solo life in the twenty-first century. We believe that the Bible is our go-to guide for answers to all of life's questions, and it's where we'll go for guidance when responding to your questions. Also, it's important to note that we write our answers separately (we think they sound eerily similar sometimes, too!).
GOT A QUESTION? If you've got a question about anything related to singleness or living the single life, please submit it to He Said-She Said (selected questions will be posted anonymously). While we are unable to answer every inquiry, we do hope that this column will be an encouragement to you.