- Gender and Relationships
Lie #1 - Love is Uncontrollable
Society, the media, publications, everything around us is filled with lies about romance. Our teenagers are constantly being fed these lies, and end up with unrealistic expectations, distorted views of life and love, and great disillusionment when things don't turn out the way they do in the movies. The divorce rate sky-rockets. As Christians who know the truth, we must counteract these lies at every chance, and make every effort to heal the brokenness of our homes.
This first lie is one I hear repeatedly on TV, and in the movies, stated in different ways: "I didn't mean to fall in love;" "The heart goes where it will:" "I don't love you any more. I wish I did, but it's just not there;" "I can't help it, I love him." If love were merely physical attraction, chemistry, or admiration, maybe some of this could be true. But love is so much more than that.
Love is not just a feeling. It is impossible to command feelings. "Feel sad that your aunt is not coming to visit." "Feel happy that you have teeth to hurt." It doesn't work. Feelings are a response to something. They just happen, and then you deal with them. But God commanded us to love one another, and husbands to love their wives. So love must be something that can be voluntarily done. Love is a verb, an action word. Like walk, run, jump or eat, it is something that you make up your mind to do. Otherwise God would be cruel indeed to command us to do something that is not in our power to do.
So what does this mean? It means that it is possible to make up your mind to love. This means that you can decide whom you are going to love. I hate the phrase, "falling in love." It reduces love to nothing more than an accidental trip, or a car crash that just happens and we are the victims.
We are not the victims of love, we are its perpetrators! It is what we were created to do.
Therefore, when it comes to choosing someone to marry, don't wait for lightning to strike you to your knees in helpless groveling. Stand up, look for a person you respect, whom God would approve of as a mate, and decide whom you will love. This is so much stronger than physical attraction, so much more powerful than an accident, so much more enduring than a crush.
But what about the feelings? Do we completely throw out the thrill of romantic attraction? No. God created the romantic feelings for us to enjoy, to draw us together. Don't worry, when love is put into action, the feelings follow. When a commitment is made and followed through, there is a great thrill that matures into a lasting bond. I know this.
This is why "trial marriages" are not a good idea. Living together as man and wife without the commitment gives free reign to desire and attraction, without any security of knowing what this person will decide to do in the future. Keeping an "escape hatch" prevents complete giving over of one's self to the love of another, and that undermines true intimacy
Please, let's teach our young people to take control of their love life. Teach them to use their brain to make a good choice, and put into action the kind of love God made us for. Let's free them from relationships with an abusive partner with whom they feel helplessly "in love." We are not the victims of our feelings. Feelings come and go. Instead we are masters of our choices. Choose not to be controlled by infatuations, but active in home building. Choose whom to love.
Lie #2 - True Love Makes a "Happily Ever After".
We have read it in all the fairy tales. We have seen it in the movies. We have read it in books and magazines. If you can only find your "soul mate," that one true love, all will be well. If you marry the wrong one, ooops, all is lost.
What is wrong with this lie?
1. There may be several people that you could love and with whom you could have a happy life. It's not a one chance only thing. There is more to a happy marriage than having a perfect mate. Fortunately, since no one is perfect. Sooner or later there will be problems, no matter whom you marry.
2. "True love," whatever that is, is not the most important ingredient in marriage. Respect is. If you have no respect for your partner, any love there is will eventually die. But if there is a solid foundation of respect, love can always grow from that. As I said in "Lie #1", true love is a choice.
3. Even the very kindest, strongest true love cannot read a mind. Two people who deeply love one another will still find that they have different expectations and ways of doing things. Love takes work. No marriage will ever work if both partners have the expectation that the other will make them happy. Happiness only comes when each person has the goal of making the other happy, of giving more than 50%.
4. The ingredient that makes a "happily ever after" is intimacy. This is learning to communicate clearly, kindly and sincerely with each other. This means the freedom to express our real feelings and reactions without fear of repercussions. This is rooted in commitment to each other that gives a security that kills fear.
5. Good sex doesn't just happen. It is not a matter of whether two are compatible or not. It is the result of genuine caring about each other and emotional intimacy. It is the result, not of chemistry, but of real relationship.
Away with the fairy tales that set you up for disappointment. In with commitment, respect, and caring.
Lie #3 - Young Dating is "Normal"
When is the right time to start dating? Is dating even the right approach? Many parents answer with "Whenever you are ready." Well, many children in western society seem to believe they are ready at age 11 or 12 and plunge right into the dating scene. "What harm can it do at that age?"
In centuries past people married young, especially women. They typically would "come out" at age 16, and within a year or so would be married. In many cultures they would be married off even younger, What this meant was that the time a young lady was declared "available" for relationship to the time she was married was a matter of months, or maybe a year or two at most. A short enough time to be able to resist the temptation of pre-marital sex.
In western culture today I see young people starting to date much earlier, and marry later. This creates a long period of relationship in which to resist this very powerful temptation. Our young people are putting a great deal of pressure on themselves.
The natural progression is toward greater intimacy, and this is as it should be. But if the process is started too early, what happens?
Age 10 or 11 - start dating
Age 12 or 13 - hold hands
Age 14 or 15 - hugging
Age 16 or 17 - kissing
Age 18 - ???
By this time the young person has had a number of emotionally intimate relationships one after another. He or she has learned very well that if this relationship doesn't work out, you can always quit and try someone else. This is practice for divorce.
I propose that Christian young people don't start the dating scene until they are ready to look for a spouse. Take your time, and shorten the time of intense sexual temptation. And wait before indulging in any kind of physical intimacy. Protect yourself from serial wounding from broken relationships, and practice for marriage, not for divorce.