Guest Blog: Deb Bostwick
According to the 2017 census, 45.2% of the U.S. population was single. Today, it’s likely even higher.
When I was in my twenties, I knew he was just around the corner. The next date, the next guy could be him. I even took a class to create a dream board for the perfect guy. My own personal Prince Charming. It would be so easy. Make a list of everything I wanted, needed or thought I deserved and ‘Poof’ he would appear. Of course, the teacher had an amazing, romantic story of finding her perfect partner who was, of course, perfect.
I got crickets. It took six months or so, but my dream board hit the trash. Why couldn’t I find my dream guy? At 34, I “finally” married, which was a good thing because my relatives in Missouri were beginning to wonder what was wrong with me. At 34, I decided to get married, the next guy in the door asked and I jumped. I jumped against my mother’s quiet but well-delivered warnings. Yes, he was an alcoholic, but I figured I could “fix” that. Short version – the marriage fizzled in a world of his alcoholism and infidelity. Eight years and the marriage was no more. Short version.
A few years after I divorced, I started walking with the Lord. I learned a few truths. I share this because I can now see the mistakes I made, both in setting high, unrealistic standards (the vision board) and in settling (ignoring red flags). In neither case did I listen to the Lord or allow room for His guidance and never did I consider the possibility that single was ok. Here are a few things I learned:
- Your dream guy (or gal) doesn’t exist.
- Let me repeat that; your dream guy or dream gal does not exist.
- You can make all the lists you want, but God doesn’t bring the “perfect person” into our lives.
- He brings in someone to help us grow and to help mold us to be more like Jesus.
- He brings someone that we can help mold to be more like Jesus.
- Marriage is not designed to make us happy, it is designed to make us more holy.
- Our expectations of “perfect” limit our ability to experience what God has for us.
- We all innately have a hole in us that needs to be filled; a place in our heart that feels empty and hollow.
- It comes from our fallen world.
- No earthly man or woman can fill that space, can satisfy you or complete you (sorry Tom Cruise).
- Imagine, for just a minute, the pressure that expectation creates!
- The void can only be filled by God.
- By knowing that you are God’s child and He alone fills your heart.
- Once you recognize and truly remain in that, then there will be room for a partner to walk alongside you.
- While we can set expectations for ourselves, our relationships become unhealthy and potentially even destructive when we create expectations for other people.
- It is fine to expect your partner to treat you well, to make you feel special and to accept you for who you are as a person—but never expect your partner to be perfect.
- Unrealistic expectations lead to disappointment and disillusionment.
- Love often comes from unexpected places.
- Because we have written these vision boards or ongoing lists in our head of who and what we deserve, we often miss who God puts directly in our path.
- My mother used to say, “Be friends first, everything else can spring from that. And, during the hard times (which there will be) you better have a friend at your side.”
To finish the short version of my journey. Yes, I remarried. After divorce, I focused on my growth, my business and my God walk (not necessarily in that order). I had no interest in dating and certainly no interest in marriage. I was in the process of pursuing God and understanding why God pursued me. When I met my husband I had NO interest in him. He is far from perfect, but we grow each other well. We shore each other up. We hold each other accountable. We challenge each other and we love each other. We keep God as the center of our relationship. He does not complete me – God does. He does not fill my soul – God does. Because I remain in God’s love, I have room for my husband. I have learned that every day, every single day is a choice. I wake up – I choose to love and abide in God, and I choose to love my husband.
How to Use Your Season of Singleness Well:
- Focus on your walk with God and serving Him
“…godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come..” 1 Timothy 4:18
Focus on God now. It’s the best possible thing you can do to create an awesome and Godly relationship in the future.
- Choose God’s Will.
“In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths.” Proverbs 3:6
Never settle for less than God’s plan and purpose for your life. Don’t focus on the life YOU want to have… Focus on the life God wants you to have and then be determined to follow it.
- Pray About Your Future
“Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.” Philippians 4:6
If you make it a habit to pray about your future, God will be faithful in providing direction and clarity for big decisions – like a future relationship. Pray for wisdom, pray for guidance, pray for clarity and direction.
- Understand your Role
Whoa – this is a hard one. God has designed specific roles for both the husband and the wife. It is extremely important to understand what the bible says. Become familiar with the passage in Ephesians 5 that speaks to husbands and wives, and their specific roles. You wouldn’t want to just “wing” brain surgery, in turn, you don’t want to just “wing” marriage. Enter a new relationship knowing your role.
- Understand the Concept of Love and Respect
“ However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband.” Ephesians 5:33
It’s real and plays out in every aspect of love and marriage. Men want respect and women want love. Although the book is incredibly boring, it is well worth the read. Love & Respect by Dr. Emerson Eggerichs.
- Learn How to Communicate Well
“Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.” Ephesians 4:29
Communication is everything. If you can’t communicate well, if you clam up, have trouble sharing … or if you over-communicate – now is the time to work on it. Take classes, read books, listen to podcasts. Without great communication, relationships fail.
- Focus on others
There is so much power in being single. You can serve, love and encourage others. You can focus on where God sends you and who He places in front of you. You can SERVE well.
No one wants to be in a relationship with a self-focused individual. Learn to focus on other people. Yes, sometimes we have to train ourselves to be genuinely interested in others.
- Don’t Set Your Expectations Too High (or too Low!)
Set high standards for Godly character, leadership, values and integrity … but throw the rest of the list out the window. On the flip side, listen to the Holy Spirit’s promptings. If you sense a red flag, pay attention, and seek wise counsel
- Be Happy!
“Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!” Philippians 4:4
Want to be attractive to the opposite sex? Be joyful. A happy, joyful spirit will bring life and energy to any relationship. Happiness and joy are choices you can often make with just the slightest adjustments to your attitude. But the effects can be enormous!
- Change Yourself Instead of Others
We cannot change other people. If you meet someone you would love to change – don’t even try, you will only get frustrated. God changes people – we don’t. You can pray for, encourage and motivate others… but you will never change them. Never.
Instead, build your character. Where is the Holy Spirit prompting your personal or spiritual growth? What do you need to change about yourself to be in a better position to walk alongside a partner?
In his book titled, The New Rules for Love, Sex and Dating, Andy Stanley famously shares that we should ‘work to become the person who, the person you are looking for is looking for.’
Preparing yourself for a godly relationship takes work. But so does a great relationship. If you can learn these things now, you will be more prepared for a successful, Christ-centered relationship later.
(Deb Bostwick is a long-time North Coaster. She is a Life Group leader and worked at North Coast in both Life Groups and Assimilation for many years. She currently volunteers in helping with the Singles Ministry’s website and the weekly newsletter)