Category Archives: counseling

I Kissed Dating Hello

 

dating

In the Christian world, so much has been written about dating. The “wise advice” has gone anywhere from don’t do it, to only date to get married, to pedal to the metal.

I am a balanced kind of guy. I try to stay away from the extremes, considering them danger zones – just look at politics, diets, medical interventions and temperature. So when it comes to this subject, I stand back a ways and try to get a perspective.

For those who would think to avoid dating altogether, I would ask “ Do you think you can make a good choice without spending time with someone under a multitude of circumstances?” Often attraction is developed over a period of time. Your dating partner often becomes better or worse looking the more time you spend with them. They become more three dimensional as you experience their behavior and character up close.

How about those who say only date someone with the intent to marry them? The truth is, dating can be pretty stressful to begin with. When you add this dimension, the fun often goes out of the process, and so does the objectivity that is necessary. I often joke that when women (in particular) hold this position, they begin naming children and ordering wedding dresses on the second or third date. And this often sets them up for a potentially  painful break-up if they have “played the movie forward” to this extent.

At the opposite end of the spectrum is the too casual type of dating. At the extreme it takes on a hook-up and break-up mentality. I have heard it cynically or distastefully described as “hit it and quit it” thinking. There is no way to square this away with a Christian belief system. The Bible rigorously teaches on sexual purity. There is grace and forgiveness, of course, but wisdom says not to push the envelope in your dating.

Dating: A Balancing Act

So what is the balance point? In my mind it would be this: Don’t date with an intent to marry, but don’t date someone you couldn’t or shouldn’t marry. It’s easy to attach to someone if you spend time with them. A lot of the counseling we do is the result of mismatched couples ignoring “red flags” early in the relationship. Their feelings for each other were strong, but their suitability as marriage partners was discounted.

Dating should be easy and fun. When we remove as many of the unnecessary complications as possible, it can be delightful and exciting instead of anxiety producing and stressful.

Determine in advance what your deal breakers are. Don’t be afraid to voice them. This is especially important if you decide to do online dating. “I am looking for a mature committed Christian of good character, close to my age, with no addictions and financially responsible.”  There, you said it. Was that so hard? Isn’t that truthfully what you would want? So now go ahead and go on a bunch of dates and don’t be afraid to keep looking until the right one comes your way.

Living A New Adventure

Adventure

As I sit here on a vacation week on the eve of a new year, I was thinking about how new beginnings can start anytime. They are not restricted by age, stage or calendar dates. They are much more determined by attitude and intentionality.

What new adventure do you want to start this year?

For those who know us, Nan and I are definitely of “retirement age”, but not of a retirement mindset. It is not our goal to live a life of leisure, but rather a more leisurely life in some aspects of our daily living, but not all. We are excited about what God has put before us and want to take full advantage of the years we have.

For some of you, you may have been living a more leisurely life and it’s time to fire up the engine and get moving. There are many things that are much easier to start building at a younger age. For others, you have pressed the gas pedal too hard, and it’s time to hit the brakes and look around and perhaps change direction.

Both Nan and I did this early in our relationship. She shifted from teaching to starting a new direction as a marriage and family therapist. I refocused from a career as a musician to a businessman and then counselor. What have you been itching to do but need to make changes to do it?

I am not just talking about career. Have you put off friendships, relationships or spiritual pursuits because you “haven’t got the time”? I know some people have pushed these things forward expecting they will always be there when they want them. But that is not always true. We cannot depend on being able to order our world the way we want it. We can try, but there are no guarantees. It’s not bad to be impatient for the really important things.

New life skills?

I want to continue as a learner. I have always been an avid reader, but now with YouTube it is easier than ever to learn all kinds of new and often practical skills. I am not necessarily encouraging solitary pursuits – some things are best learned in community. But rather I am advocating an attitude of personal as well as corporate growth. What new life skills do you want to pick up?

How about an adventure into gratitude, generosity and hospitality? Have you put those things off for later in your life? I know I struggle to balance those things out and continue to fight to gain ground against their opposites. It seems easy for me to go negative and scared rather than optimistic and courageous. But new adventures can’t be based on fear and pessimism – at least not worthwhile ones. So join me!

Blessings to you and your adventures in the new year.

 

Ownership Is A Powerful Tool

ownership

Recently we finished teaching a six week staff group on relational health. Among the feedback we got was a suggestion that we also tackle the topic of ownership. Succinctly put, “the more people take ownership of their lives and situations (rather than passivity or entitlement) the better.” Thanks, Tom.

In a recent repost I defined mental health as the degree to which one was willing to take responsibility for one’s own life. I have been realizing that we as counseling  professionals are very good at searching for indicators that connect the past to the present and predict possible outcomes in a person’s life. However, real success in therapy comes when a person’s awareness of their underlying emotional influencers turns into positive changed behavior. And maturity comes when a person is willing to accept the realities in their lives and stop blaming others. In other words, they take ownership of their lives no matter what they were handed by their circumstances.

Ownership means abandoning a victim stance and instead adopting one of personal power and responsibility. Instead of expecting that someone else will solve my problems, I take positive action towards that end goal. If I expect that someone else should rescue me from my challenging circumstances, I am surrendering my life to a totally unknown outcome. I am at risk of becoming stuck and possibly depressed or angry. You will notice that I did not include fear as a risk. Fear and anxiety always accompanies ownership. It is a certainty.

We often talk about “family of origin” issues in counseling. Sometimes a client will realize that their emotional triggers or maladaptive behaviors come from the family they grew up in and use that as an excuse to blame and stay stuck. It is likely that they were loved and raised as best a parent knew how, even if poorly or hurtfully. There are situations where this isn’t true, but the majority of the time it is.

Suggested steps for taking ownership:
  • Investigate the major influential events in your life (“earthquake” events)
  • Connect the dots – make any necessary connections to those events (where events produced losses)
  • Decide not to surrender and be controlled by negative life events.
  • Grieve any losses and repent of any sins
  • Reinterpret your life through the lens of God’s grace
  • Activate your power in a positive manner (take action with courage)

Any thoughts?