Tag Archives: friendship

What is Intentionality in Dating?

27 Aug
"Man Tickling Woman's Nose With a Feather," by Thomas Wade c.1860

"Man Tickling Woman's Nose With a Feather," by Thomas Wade c.1860

I have a confession to make, dear reader.  Judge me not too harshly. I am only a woman, after all.  This confession involves, of course, a man.  RN to be specific.  The abbreviated version of the RN story is that for many years we were friends.  Best friends.  But only friends.  Just friends.  Just friends who happened to engage in long sessions of kissing and making out, but still, we were not dating.  RN did not have a college degree, did not earn a lot of money, did not drive, and overall did not seem to me to be suitable marriage material.  But he was very attentive, caring, funny, and deep into the things of God.  We could talk about everything with each other, and we did.  Also, he was an extremely superlative kisser.  (Well he was!)

Four or five years ago, long after our relationship had transformed into a strictly non-physical friendship, RN dropped me.  Cold turkey.  He wanted to date me and knew it wasn’t going to happen, he said.  He wouldn’t so much as return a phone call or send a Christmas card.  It was like a death.  My sense was that God was behind the dissolution of our relationship.  Too entangled.  So I released him, and reconciled myself to missing him.  Then this past March a mutual friend invited me to church to hear RN preach.  I prayed and decided to go.  After the service RN came over to me and embraced me long.  He’d missed me too.

My confession is that, between March and August, RN and I have re-established our friendship (without getting physical).  I let him know that I am dating and seeking marriage.  He let me know that he does not intend to marry.  And week by week we have drawn steadily closer.  Closer like: after prayer meeting, around 9.30pm on a Tuesday night, RN calling to find out if I wanted to grab some dinner and me saying sure and us being out until midnight.  Closer like: me going on a date with an eharmony guy and on my way home calling RN to see if he wanted to go have tea somewhere.  Closer like: RN calling me right before he goes to sleep and right after he wakes up.  Close.

Mercifully, I began to realize that all this closeness was not good.

Intentionality, living like you are planning to marry, is one of the four principles espoused in A Girl’s Guide to Marrying Well.  The principle of intentionality includes letting go of intimate friendships with the opposite sex that are not leading to marriage.  “No matter how clearly one or both of you have defined what’s happening as “just friends,” your actions are constantly saying, ‘I enjoy being with you and interacting with you in a way that suggests marriage (or at least romantic attraction),’” writes Scott Croft in A Girl’s Guide.

I think I got to this place with RN because he is a known, relatively safe, quantity.  Loving RN is not going to hurt me like loving Mr. X might.  But, loving RN will not lead to marriage like loving Mr. X might.  It’s the immediate gratification of having a limited love reciprocated vs. the risk and delayed gratification of having an enduring, loving marriage.  The root of my problem is that I have not completely believed that God has a loving marriage in store for me.  Hence, my wanting intimate friendship with a man now, as opposed to waiting for intimate friendship as part of the full package of committed relationship later.

One cannot practice intentionality, live like she is planning to marry, without fully, completely, and wholeheartedly trusting God that marriage is possible.  I am noticing that where there is doubt, there are dead-end relationships, datelessness, and worse. 

RN and I talked it over and have agreed to draw back radically.  I choose to trust God.  How about you?

Is There More to Sex and the City than Sex?

19 Aug

A month before the movie came out, one close friend expressed that she would not see this movie, as the ‘R’ rating offended her Christian sensibilities.  A week after the movie came out, over brunch, a different close friend, with embarrassment and ample qualifications, confessed that she had seen the movie.

Sex and the City seems to be one more dividing line on the holiness specturm.  Selah.

I have loved SATC since the time when I alone among my Jesus-loving peers dated, and I had no one to relate to about relationships.  I was forced to seek, and happily found, commiseration and comraderie in the dating trenches through the lives of the four heroines of SATC.   Sexual or non-sexual, sixth grade or nursing home, the dance of love has the same steps.  Since the SATC four and I were learning these steps, and my real life friends were not, these four became like friends to me.

So I waited with great anticipation to see this movie.  On opening night my wait was rewarded with more utterly enthralling tales from the trenches of love.   The movie was for mature audiences only, certainly, but more than that, it was for women who love.  For women who have been hurt, ravaged even, by love, and who dare to keep on loving nonetheless.   This was not fairytale romance, but love spelled p-a-i-n.   These ladies were not in a waltz, but a tango.

For the uninitiated the story revolves around the love lives of friends Samantha (the uber-vixen), Miranda (the career woman), Charlotte (the innocent), and Carrie (the everywoman).   Archetypes that we all know well.  I have a “Charlotte” and a “Miranda” in my circle of friends.  At the same time, I am the “Charlotte” and the “Miranda” in other circles.    I couldn’t say that I had any “Samanthas” in my life, until, mystically, when I watched the movie, I myself morphed into the character of Samantha, the almost-slut. 

How could this be??  

I related to her fabulousness.  I related to her lament over the sex that she is not having, but could be having; that it seems others are having. I related to her integrity over the sex issue.  I related to her turning to food to distract herself from love problems she did not want to face.  I related to her being unwilling to commit to the good man in her life, whom, she felt, was simply not the right man for her for now.  I related to her being alone in the end. 

There was a point in the movie when the other three friends see Samantha and observe for the first time that she has gained a significant amount of weight.  Carrie asks her, trying to get to the bottom of the weight gain, “Are you happy?”  In my seat in the theater, with my heart relating to Samantha in a way that my mind did not recognize immediately, I began to cry.  “No,” my heart spoke to me, “no, I’m not happy.  This singleness of ours is not working.  I want, I need, more.” 

I am not the only one who cried.

At another point in the movie my friend L, who was jilted by her fiancee a week before their elaborately planned wedding, cried as she watched.

My friend Amanda, whose divorce was finalized two years ago, was moved to tears at yet a different moment as she watched.  “How does love just fall apart?  So quickly, and over so little?,” her heart wanted to know.

It is a fierce, formidable, and frightening thing to be a woman who loves.  But watching this movie I realized that, like the fabulous SATC four, there is no way to live but to love, and no way to love but all-out.  I  watched four women get through their personal travails on-screen and I was encouraged that I, too, could endure the travail.  After all, the travail of living and of loving, is only part of the story.  I reflect on SATC and remind myself, as often as is needed (which is to say, very often), that this labor of loving brings with it a harvest of joy, and is well worth the trouble.

Also, I think of the four friends and their commitment to one another.   I recognize through them the equally great truth that we women cannot do love alone.  Maybe those of us who make it, who press through the introductory single-and-dating lessons, and the advanced married-with-children lessons, and the masters level betrayal-child burial-insolvency lessons,  and who still dare to love and love again, maybe we make it because we have friends who are commited to us.  Friends who kvetched with us while single, and prayed with us while mothering, and cried with us while grieving.  Maybe our strength to keep loving the men in our lives is directly related to the strength we receive from being loved by the women in our lives.

There is so much more than sex to be found in Sex and the City.