His pinky finger brushes your hand. There is that roguish wink from across the room. He brings you flowers with a little note. Oh, and don’t forget that he spent three hours chatting on the phone with you about everything and nothing all at the same time.
Is this relationship material? Do you like him for him, or is it his attention that has your stomach in swirls and your pulse racing? And how on earth are you supposed to be able to tell the difference?
Relationships are no small maze to stumble through, and the worst possible scenario is that you follow your heart only to find out it lied to you. Attention can be intoxicating, and some of us crave it more than others.
So what are some good checks and balances that will help you differentiate yourself from someone who is craving attention, versus someone who is truly looking for deeper, more lasting purposes?
Here’s a little story:
There was a girl who grew up dreaming of Prince Charming swooping in. In fact, she was a rather old-fashioned dreamer, and she even went so far as to put relationship and marriage at the top of her “must-do” list in life.
Enter Prince Charming Possibility #1. He was a super nice guy. A professed Christian. He knew his Bible inside and out. He checked a lot, if not all, of the boxes she was looking for.
He was also charming, funny, known to toss a wink her direction, arm-wrap her waist in a “she’s mine” sort of gesture, and even open doors for her. Certain Prince Charming Possibility #1 was the man she would marry, this nice, dream-filled girl followed her heart.
They discussed engagement at length. And then? The relationship abruptly ended—his decision—leaving her heart-broken, questioning, and even worse, immediately open to finding a new relationship. At this point, our girl asked herself these questions:
- Why was I willing to commit my life to a man who took me all of a week to get over?
- Why did I not notice that my parents really didn’t like this guy?
- How come I never realized my friends weren’t his biggest fan?
- Was I not supposed to swoon over the guy I wanted to be with?
Our girl realized that she had succumbed to the intoxication of attention. While in and of himself, Prince Charming Possibility #1 wasn’t a wicked, bad, or even icky guy. He just was not suited to her.
Our girl’s infatuation with the attention and the fulfillment of her dreams had created a situation where she’d fallen in love with the idea and not the man. When the man left, it hurt her pride, more than her heart. She was also able to see that her parents weren’t sharing in the infatuation, her friends thought he’d be her biggest mistake in life because they were ill-suited, she had swooned so hard over the guy that her reason, logic, and intuition took a back seat, and worst of all?
She got over him far faster than our girl ever thought she would.
So, our girl did something different. She prayed that God would help her meet her significant other in a way where she would truly fall in love with the person, and not the attention and the lure of a dream. She also prayed that if God chose one specific person for her to marry someday, he would not be like Prince Charming IMPOSSIBILITY #2.
Prince Charming Impossibility #2 was exactly that. An impossibility. When our girl held up an example of everything she didn’t want in a man, he exampled it. Okay. Well, he too was a Christian, a Bible student, and—well, that’s where the boxes stopped being checked. He wasn’t funny—he was barb-sharp sarcastic. He wasn’t particularly sensitive to a girl’s needs—he was more of a “this is how it is” type of guy.
He definitely wasn’t romantic. His version of “romance” was to share a French fry from his lunch combo.
So, our girl prayed heartily, “please God. May I fall for the man and not the emotion. May he be a man after Your own heart, but not at all like Prince Charming Impossibility #2. Because that would be . . . unacceptable.”
Prince Charming Impossibility #2
Because of this, our girl let her guard down, her dreams down, and even her hopes down by spending a lot of time with him because, after all, he was safe. He would never be the one, so there was no threat in just seeing him for who he was. Because, after all, who he was wasn’t particularly intoxicating to her.
Our girl learned Prince Charming Impossibility #2 had a fabulous family. Particularly his mom. His mom was amazing. Great mother-in-law material—if only he was marriage material. Which he wasn’t. Because. He just wasn’t. She also learned that his passion for all things ministry really matched her own.
In fact, they did a lot of ministry work together because, well, there’s no threat building a relationship around ministry when you know you’re never going to be interested in the person romantically. She was rather appalled to find out he would never consume coffee—which was her drink of choice—but was also prone to bring her a cup now and then just ‘cause he happened to think of it.
No big deal. Not a very romantic gesture—it was just one of those daily “I’m thinking of you” things that has totally zero appeal. And she discovered that he was so content just being with her that...
... they couldn’t be without each other.
She asked herself:
- Why do I miss this highly unromantic, unappealing, dear-God-don’t-ever-make-me-marry-someone-like-him-guy when I can’t spend a day with him?
- When did I start to notice that my parents really, really like this guy?
- How come my friends keep asking me why I won’t admit I really like this guy?
- Wasn’t I supposed to swoon over the guy I wanted to be with?
A year later, our girl married Prince Charming Impossibility #2.
Photo Credit: ©GettyImages-monkeybusinessimages
So, what is the difference in this little story?
I like to argue the difference is FOCUS. Where a person focuses. In the first scenario, our girl was very attentive to the fairy tale of the story. The things she always dreamt of, wanted, and craved. Because of this, she didn’t step back and take a look at a few very important elements. Were they compatible? Did she like him when the fairy tale dissipated? Was their passion in life complimentary? How did the people closest to her view her love interest?
In the second scenario, she did away with the fairy tale because she never equated him to be relationship material. Maybe she needed that dramatic of a situation to get her head on straight, but she was finally looking at the guy for who he was.
Not what he represented. He didn’t represent a fairy tale—in fact, that was laughable to her. He wasn’t even her first choice for physical attraction. So if he ever winked at her, she didn’t really notice. But because he wasn’t lavishing attention on her and instead just spent time getting to know her, perspective began to shift.
Suddenly, his gift of time and attention became incredibly romantic. His support of her ministry and career pursuits became invaluable. His strength of friendship became a safety net when she fell.
Roses, music, butterflies in the stomach, and Cinderella slipper moments took a different light.
So how did she know she liked him for him and not for his attention? Because she wasn’t focused on his attention, but rather she focused on him. She focused on what God was doing in their lives instead of what magic fairy dust God was sprinkling over their romance.
Is Romance Overemphasized?
On one hand, one might argue that story sucks the romance out of a relationship and that romance is important—critical even. Sure! And, they’re right. It is important.
But romance and feelings aren’t foundational. They’re quicksand. It’s easy to get sucked in, not easy to get out, and can suffocate a relationship.
But when the foundation is one of concrete, built on a purpose, a plan, God’s guidance, and personal conviction, romance evolves and becomes the candlelight at dinner, the rose stuck under a windshield wiper, the phone call at 2AM to say “I miss you”, and the ring on a finger that says, “I take you. All of you. Even the bad stuff I never liked about you and still don’t like.”
That sort of love is romantic. That is the attention we want—even crave. It’s long-lasting.
Disclaimer: The girl in this little story was really me. Prince Charming Impossibility #2 was really my husband. Twenty years later, we’re happily married and I daresay, I still get butterflies when he winks at me. Which he does. Occasionally.
Photo Credit: ©Getty Images/clownbusiness
Jaime Jo Wright is the winner of the Carol, Daphne du Maurier, and INSPY Awards. She's also the Publishers Weekly and ECPA bestselling author of three novellas. The Christy Award-Winning author of “The House on Foster Hill”, Jaime Jo Wright resides in the hills of Wisconsin writing suspenseful mysteries stained with history's secrets. Jaime lives in dreamland, exists in reality, and invites you to join her adventures at jaimewrightbooks.com!