“I am your only shot. No one else is coming for you.” I remember a friend of mine recounting these words. Her sister-in-law heard them from the man she was then-dating; and, worse, her sister-in-law believed him. Before she knew it, she was his wife… and he was everything you would expect him to be: demanding, unkind, belittling, and a complete, hypocritical fraud who presented well in public and not in private.
As a teenager, I felt so sorry for this woman even though the event had occurred twenty years prior. She eventually divorced him and managed on her own with her children; but, the tale was still such a sad one. She was pretty, sweet, and had an angelic voice, yet she believed this liar when he deceived her with the manipulative words, “No one else is coming for you.”
Let the above serve as a cautionary tale: if you think you are not worth a quality spouse, combat those lies. Write down the strengths which will make you a tremendous spouse. And then, write down those areas in which you need to address and grow. Ask friends and family to help you pinpoint places you can improve as well as validating your strengths.
The Long Walk
Settling is something people far too often do. In multiple dreams, I have watched myself walk down the aisle towards someone I did not love (or even like). Many times, I have considered the terrible gnaw which brides must feel when walking towards someone they know they should not marry – as well as grooms sighing under their breath as someone “good enough” walks towards them.
You do not have to settle.
Settling for someone is not showing that person kindness.
Ask anyone who settled for someone what advice they would give a young, dating couple, and they will all say, “You do not have to get married regardless of the circumstances.”
If you are in a pattern of dating people who are “good enough” because you are lonely or feel sorry for that person, it is time to break out of that pattern. Find freedom from the lie that it is okay to settle, or even honorable to settle. Just because you do not click with someone does not mean he or she could not be a dream spouse for someone else. Never marry out of pity.
Do You Know You?
Freedom from settling comes more from knowing yourself and knowing God than from knowing the person you are dating. Consider the following:
- Know who you are. What is my personality? What is my calling? What are my passions and interests? Who did God create me to be? Too many people get married before they ever learn much about themselves. It is much harder to choose a good match when you have so many unanswered questions. Before even thinking about partnering with someone else for a lifetime, get to know yourself very, very well – the good, the bad, and the uniquely you.
- Know what you want. One byproduct of knowing yourself is knowing what you want. Have you known an older couple who met and married quickly? They say, “We do not have that much time left, so we want to spend as much time together as possible.” As true as that may be, they also feel more comfortable getting married because they are more seasoned and aware of what they really want and need. If you do not know what you want out of life and marriage, you will likely let life happen to you instead of intentionally making a life of purpose.
- Know what you need. When I thought about my future husband, I thought, “I hope I marry someone like my dad.” Dad was funny, laid back, kind to people, and he loved babies. Basically, he was Winnie the Pooh and I absolutely adored him. Part of the reason Dad and I got along so well is because we had extremely similar temperaments. We loved to lounge and watch TV while eating snacks and laughing. Tomorrow was tomorrow for a reason, and we could do all those annoying tasks… tomorrow. In hindsight, had I married someone like my dad, very little would get done. I needed someone like Eric to nudge me out of my comfort zone and to pay attention to the details.
- Know what God says you should have in your life. When believers date unbelievers, they often roll their eyes when concerned loved ones quote 2 Corinthians 6:14, “Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers. For what partnership has righteousness with lawlessness? Or what fellowship has light with darkness?” (ESV). However, the message is clear. God says His children should not be yoked with unbelievers. Additionally, Scripture praises good character, hard work, honesty, kindness, faithfulness, and self-control. “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law” (Galatians 5:22-23, ESV). Don’t ignore what God says because your emotions say otherwise.
- Think of how you would feel. Imagine you were married twenty years, you had three children, and you had spent the best years of your life devoted to your spouse. Then, one day during a heated argument, he or she turns to you and says, “I never wanted to marry you in the first place!” Imagine the knife in your heart to think this person for whom you gave the best of yourself settled for you. Would you ever want to do that to someone else?
Even on your best days, marriage is tough. Adulting is no joke. People see marriage as a long date where you never have to say goodnight at the door; but marriage is exhausting and rewarding work. Even if you found the closest match for you on the planet, marriage would still require sacrifice and labor (both physical and emotional) to make it thrive.
One tremendous blessing I feel when I have crazy marriage days (and… oh boy… have there been a few) is knowing when I walked down the aisle towards Eric, I did it with confidence. When my dad said, “Are you sure you want to do this?” before the doors of the church opened, I said, “Yes” and I meant it. In all honesty, Eric and I have occasionally wondered if we made the right choice. But, those questions come to every couple. When I look back on our dating, engaged, and wedding seasons, I can honestly say, “I did not settle for this man.”
When you think of the work, the sacrifice, and the good times of life, is this the person with whom you want to experience it all? If you think you might be settling, have you faced the reasons why that could be? We encourage you all to take a brave look at the person beside you, and if something inside is not right – not clicking or there are red flags – investigate them thoroughly and be honest with yourself.
Hearts break and hearts heal. Breaking up is never fun, but living in a dysfunctional marriage is harder. Raising children in a miserable environment is harder. And divorce is much, much harder.
Consider these words Ruth spoke to her mother-in-law, Naomi: saying the following words to your boyfriend or girlfriend: “Do not urge me to leave you or to return from following you. For where you go I will go, and where you lodge I will lodge. Your people shall be my people, and your God my God. Where you die I will die, and there will I be buried. May the Lord do so to me and more also if anything but death parts me from you” (Ruth 1:16-17, ESV). These words are often quoted in weddings and in a covenant marriage, we promise to go through life together. Could you imagine eventually (i.e., after engagement) saying these words to the person you are dating and meaning them?
One of my favorite quotes of all time came from my dearly departed Uncle Willie when he was 80, “Be careful who you marry; because the only thing worse than being lonely is wishing you were.”
Keep breaking free!
Are you settling for the person you are dating? Is continuing this relationship fair to him or her?