Love is a Choice not a Feeling

It’s Just Coffee

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I had to laugh when I read this article—A Case for Skipping Starbucks: Get Better Results by Elevating Your Coffee Dates.

I might be giggling because my husband and I grabbed a Starbucks on our first date and gosh, dang it, golly…we still made it to the altar.

I understand the author’s point; although I’m not sure I agree or believe the coffee shop is the issue. The problem she identifies is really more about an attitude towards dating.

And the “it’s just coffee” mentality is often perceived as BORING.

There’s no dressing up. No excitement. No thrills and no hope for a lingering evening. It’s like an appointment at the dentist—scheduled, inflexible and straight to the point.

The “it’s just coffee” attitude hints at insecurity, barriers, time limits and a hold-back approach to dating. Caution is the name of the game and all too often folks in this environment have a hard time relaxing.

But again, I believe this has much more to do with intentionality and respect for the other person than where or what you do on a first date.

If you engage in the date, listen, act interested and smile…even coffee is romantic.

Tim and I met on Balboa Island, grabbed a cup of coffee and walked for an hour on the boardwalk surrounded by water, boats and sky. The coffee made us both a little bit talkative and we chatted up a storm.

I don’t think you need alcoholic drinks as the author suggested to loosen up. If anything, people use alcohol as a crutch in dating. You want to get to know the person without the beer goggles on.

She also suggested coffee dates after 4:00pm to make it more romantic. Again, I disagree. A morning date over coffee near a lake or park or beach is just as romantic as a dark smoky room. And honestly, you can see people better in the light—their nuances and body language.

There is evidence that first dates with a little danger increase romantic feelings. So maybe add a hike or a bike ride along with your coffee. Rent a kayak, paddle board, or even a canoe. Or simply take a walk in heels and get an ice cream cone—that’s dangerous.

I don’t think you need to spend a lot of money on a date or commit to a whole evening to have fun. But bringing an open attitude and an open heart to the date does make a difference.

If you find yourself scheduling SAFE dates, maybe it’s time to explore what’s behind your motives.

But please don’t blame Starbucks for a bad first date. It worked for me!

–Samantha

How to Get Over a Bad Date

 

Angry-DateOn some date’s, the skies part and the angels sing and on other date’s –not so much.

Oh, the date started out well enough (before her head twirled around like the exorcist because you said you ate meat) but somewhere between the appetizer and dessert it skidded to AWFUL with a resounding thud.

Another face, another wasted night…bad dates can be so disheartening.

But they don’t have to derail you from staying confident and ready for the right date to come.

(Remember it only takes one great date to make all the bad ones obsolete)

Here are a few tips to keep bad dates in perspective:

Love Sets Itself Apart

From the very beginning of our relationship, I knew Tim was different from all the others I dated before. We laughed at the same jokes, enjoyed easy conversation and reveled in each other’s company. I didn’t want our first date to ever end.

This is the exact opposite of most of my previous dates.

If you find yourself replaying conversations and kicking yourself for something you did or didn’t say on a date, then it’s probably not the connection you truly desire. The right one WILL stand out from the rest and you will know because it will be AWESOME!

Your Identity is Not Based on a Random Stranger’s Approval

If we believe our behavior, appearance or attitude should be perfect on a date and vice versa for our date, we are only setting ourselves up for failure. Learn how to relax and be yourself on a date and if the other person doesn’t’ like what you have to offer, than it’s their issue.

(Now I’m not excusing bad manners, if that’s you than it’s time for a dating makeover)

God created each of us uniquely and we come in all different shapes and sizes, with gifts and talents and abilities crafted by the King. If you know and REMEMBER that you were made in the image of God, then a stranger’s approval or disapproval will not shake your core identity.

And truthfully, when you own who you are and accept yourself unconditionally, you will be the most attractive YOU because it allows others to be themselves too.

Watch for RED Flags

If something your date says sounds bizarre, ask a few more questions.

Here’s a few items that might need more information and further explanation:

“I haven’t seen my kids in a long time.”

“About five jobs ago…”

“Actually we are separated, but the divorce should be any day now.”

“I just broke up with my ex last week.”

Listen to your intuition and be willing to walk away from a date to protect yourself and your future. Do not play mental negotiations because they are “sooo’ pretty or drive a Porsche.

Just say no to a second date.

4. Play the Movie

If your date has an annoying habit that sends you reaching for the bottle of Advil, don’t make excuses. Put this baby relationship to bed and end it now. It could be something minor or something major, and quite possibly maybe its a quirk or issue you struggle with because you are mildly OCD, but if terrible table manners or an obnoxious laugh send you over the edge, the situation will not improve with time.

Play the movie forward and imagine how their laugh or open chomping mouth will drive you batty ten years from now. If the issue is a non-negotiable for you, then don’t compromise.

Enjoy the Experience

Every date, bad or good can go into your repertoire of life’s experiences. Maybe the bad date can be redeemed as a funny story to be told at a dinner party or in later years to encourage a friend. Maybe you learned a lesson about a personality type or more about yourself on the date.

As long as you act honorably and with respect on a date, then you can part ways at the end of the evening in a healthy manner and maybe the bad date will refer you to a friend who better suits your personality.

Dating is supposed to be fun, so keep it light and take the disappointments in stride as part of the journey!

5 Ways to Improve Self-Esteem

Recently, a lovely young woman approached me after church and asked if we could hang out and discuss life.  She had some concerns she needed a second opinion on, so over a cup of coffee and many laughs, we sat down and chatted about love and dating and singleness. 

I carefully watched her as we talked and while the woman radiated joy, she also gave off an air of insecurity.  It was if she was just waiting for someone, anyone to love and appreciate her.

And it made me sad because she didn’t recognize what I saw in her.  She saw unworthiness where I saw beauty, kindness and intelligence.

I tried to remind her of her value and worth and hoped it would stick -at least as far as the parking lot.

Often in life, we are the Simon Cowell in our very own version of American Idol.  We become our harshest critic and berate ourselves, compare ourselves to others and give grace to others we don’t give to ourselves. 

And because of this we walk around feeling lonely and miserable. 

When our self-esteem drops, simple criticism from others throws us into a state of agony because we are already so hard on ourselves there is little room for more.  These toxic tendencies steal our happiness and true identity.

Increasing your self-esteem based on who God says you are can dramatically reframe your perspective on life.  This involves recognizing who God is and who he says you are, ministering to your own needs and acknowledging them, accepting your strengths and weaknesses, celebrating your positive qualities and making choices that enhance your personal wellbeing.

Here are five ways to promote a healthy self-esteem:

1. Talk nicely to yourself and be your own fan! Ditch the negative thoughts such as “I’m so stupid” or “I’ll never amount to much” and replace it with positive and encouraging statements. Find verses to memorize that lift you up and fill you with courage.  Repeat… “With Christ all things are possible!” 

2. Get off the sofa and move, move, move!  Consistent physical activity wards off depression, fatigue and sickness while lifting your mood and ability to cope with stress. 

3. Acknowledge your needs. Stop putting everybody else first! (Your boss, your kids -for all you single parents, your significant other) While God tells us to be a foot-washing and humble servant, he doesn’t tell us to be a self-sacrificing martyr (Bible heroes like John the Baptist get a pass here).  Take care of the temple he gave you.  Get adequate rest, take care of personal hygiene, carve out quiet time, set boundaries, eat healthy, and stimulate your brain by connecting with others.

4. Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff!  When feelings of insecurity plague you, you will more than likely replay old conversations and analyze and over analyze peoples motives and so on, wishing you could change something you said.   You will over think your behavior and lead yourself right down a rabbit hole into anxiety.   Remind yourself that you are human and imperfectly wonderful and then MOVE ON. If you need to apologize for an errant remark, quickly make amends and then let it go.  While it is healthy to pray and reflect for spiritual growth, it’s also destructive to beat yourself up over every little thing.

5. Be proud of who God made you to be!   Allow yourself to be an individual with unique preferences, thoughts and beliefs.  Don’t apologize for but celebrate your differences.  My husband Tim is the most interesting man I’ve ever met –a true character of sorts because he is quirky and knows exactly what he likes.  And truthfully his self confidence is what drew me to him.  (See Top 10 Reasons to Celebrate Tim Keller)

Remember, we can’t control other people’s opinions and how they perceive us but we can control our attitude.  Don’t forget who God made you to be!  He certainly hasn’t!  Be proud of your distinct YOU-ness!

 

Why You Should Date a Teacher

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It’s summertime and everywhere I turned on our recent vacation I ran into teachers having a blast–hiking Yosemite, boating, fishing, mountain-biking and celebrating life. Summer is a teacher’s reward!

Growing up with a mom and step-dad who taught high-school for almost 40 years, I know what a catch any teacher is as a parent, spouse and partner. My parents and their educator friends were some of the most intelligent, articulate and adventurous people around.

So when I saw this article on the E Harmony blog, I couldn’t resist posting!

Know a cute teacher you’re considering asking out? Do it!

Here are 15 reasons to date a teacher:

1. They’re conversationalists. All day long, teachers work to connect with students of all kinds of backgrounds, intellectual levels and work ethics.

2. Teachers can charm parents. They meet with them a lot, and know how to put people at ease. Date a teacher, and you won’t have to stress about the inevitable meet-the-parents dinner.

3. Teachers adapt quickly, whether it’s welcoming new students or embracing new curriculum. Change doesn’t faze them.

4. Teachers can explain the same thing in a variety of ways until a point is made effectively, making sure that miscommunication doesn’t hurt the relationship. Read More

My favorite is #8! Summer’s off are the bomb!

Have you ever dated a teacher?

First Date Red Flags

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Ever been on a first date where something seems a bit off?  Maybe your date started crying uncontrollably before the appetizer or licked his fingers at the table with a lusty grin.

And all of a sudden your gut instinct kicks into high gear and a nagging question is raised about their character or integrity.

When a red flag appears, take the time to ask clarifying questions, unless it’s an obvious physical  boundary issue in which case you should run! 

Ten first date red flags:

  • I’m recently divorced. 

This deserves a clarifying question.  “What is recent?”  If your date says, “two years or so,” breathe a sigh of relief, smile and move on in the conversation.  If they say “almost two months” or “actually we’re  separated, but the divorce is almost final” run for the hills.

  • “I’m not really looking for a relationship, just someone to have fun with.”

Newsflash!  You will not be the muse to make him change his ways and suddenly have a new appreciation for commitment.   If you are truly looking for a relationship that could lead to marriage, he or she is not the one.

  • “I’m in between jobs right now.”

While unemployment doesn’t have to mean throwing in the dating towel, generally during a stressful time of job transition, dating takes a back seat to finding a job.  Ask more questions in this scenario.  “How long have you been out of work? What industry are you in?  Do you change jobs often?” 

  • Constant ex talk…

If the main conversation is the ex-girlfriend or ex-husband then your date is still emotionally unavailable.  Move on to someone who is ready to pay attention to you.  Rebound dating stinks!

  • He looks at other women with obvious interest. 

If he’s checking out the options now, you can guarantee he’ll be looking later.  Flee!

  • He/she is mean to the server or tips stingily.

If your date doesn’t give common courtesy and operate with generosity to the people who wait on them, then expect similar treatment in a relationship.  Kind people are kind across the board –no exceptions.

  • They move towards sex on the first date. 

Anyone trying to get in your pants on the first date clearly isn’t thinking “long-term” relationship.  Just say “no thanks.”

  • She’s a diva. 

If she throws a tantrum, complains loudly or shows more drama than a stage production –move on.

  • They over-imbibe. 

Call it nerves (or possibly alcoholism) but if your date gets drunk on the first date they may lack self-control in stressful social situations.  Not a keeper…throw back!

  • Are they obnoxious?  Competitive?  Loud and attention-getting? 

Are you cringing in your seat tem minutes into the date?  It will not get better and unlike a pet that barks too loud, you will have to appear in public with this person (if you are in a relationship) and it will only get worse.

  • Other red flags? 

Depressed, clingy, lives with parents after age twenty-five, has small children that live in another state, works 24/7, takes calls during the date, and can’t remember your name.

Last tip…

Don’t ignore the flashing blinky signals your date is giving off –no matter how pretty she is or how wealthy he is. (We mean it!)

What are some of the RED FLAGS you watch out for?

 

 

Hiding Behind Textnology

We’ve talked a great deal about how texting is changing the dating game.  We’ve theorized on the “instant” and “false” intimacy created by social media relationships.  Well…now we have the research to back our suspicians.

Christian Mingle and JDate recently conducted a survey of 1500 smartphone users aged 21-50, who are dating or have been in a relationship less than two years and studied their texting behavior.

The results are surprising…

Among the findings from USA Today:

•Approximately one-third of men (31%) and women (33%) agree it’s less intimidating to ask for a date via text vs. a phone call.

•One in four say an hour is the longest acceptable response time to a text to someone you are dating or interested in dating; one in 10 expect a response instantly or within a few minutes.

•More men (44%) than women (37%) say mobile devices make it easier to flirt and get acquainted.

“Texting is kind of an ongoing conversation. It does make it easier to flirt. Maybe you’re talking every day,” says Alex Pulda, 27, who works in product research in San Francisco. “It’s not like text conveys a ton of emotion, but you are getting a little more comfortable with each other.”

READ MORE…

According to Ruthie Dean, co-author Real Men Don’t Text (published in September) guys use text messages to send the same message to multiple women. ‘Hey, do you want to hang out tonight.’ They’re kind of fishing for a response,” she says.

Dean, 28, notices that millenials— generally born 1982 to 2000 —have a “a huge handicap in communication. We have our heads down in our smartphones a lot. We don’t know how to express our emotions, and we tend to hide behind technology, computers and social media.”

“People are uncomfortable using the phone. A text message is easier. You can think exactly what you want to say and how to craft it. When they are face-to-face or over the phone, there’s this awkwardness,” she says.

She says telephone calls are often thought of as an intrusion, while texting affords a way of “controlling the volume,” a term she uses to describe the sense of control that text gives users that they can’t get with a voice conversation.

“We tell ourselves we don’t want to disturb someone. Sometimes it’s true, but more often, it’s because we can’t get them off the phone,” she says.

In texting, “we don’t have to talk to people or listen to what another person has to say. We decide how we want to encounter or whether we want to encounter other people. Technology gives us tools for controlling our relationships.”

How is texting changing the way you date?

Are you a Codependent Dater?

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We throw around the word “codependent” to describe the clingy couple or the woman who makes excuses for her husband’s bad behavior.  But do we really know and recognize the patterns that lead to a codependent relationship? 

What if true codependence looked like some of the bad habits we (gasp!) display in relationships?

“Though there are many different versions of codependence, they all share the same underlying problem: They try to control their partner and they aren’t comfortable on their own.”–Dr. Seth Meyers

I can hear you now…”I’m not controlling, or “I’m not a passive control freak” in dating.  And while it may not be your issue, it couldn’t hurt to ask yourself a few simple questions:

  • Were you raised with a family member battling addiction?
  • Were you the peacemaker in a family of contention?
  • Do you try to control your environment –obsessive cleanliness or order?
  • Do you find yourself compensating for other’s bad behavior?

Once we identify the red flags in our past brokeness we can change the cycles that seem to inevitably repeat themselves in each new relationship.

But where do we get started?

Dr. Seth Myer’s Love Prescription deconstructs the patterns of Relationship Repetition Syndrome -what we like to call the insanity cycle- doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.

The following article shares great insight on codependent couples and how to break these pesky and unhealthy behaviors.

Enjoy…

The term “codependent” emerged as a way to describe the relationship dynamic between an addict and his or her emotional caretaker. For example, Person A has a habit of getting too drunk, passing out, and arriving late to work the next day, so Person B tries to do everything possible to keep Person A on-track. Person B tries to control the behavior of Person A not out of spite or malice but to help keep the relationship functional. The caretaker’s fear is that, without their help, Person B will set off on a downward spiral that leads to more problems – sickness, the end of the relationship, a lost job, or even death.

In a codependent relationship, both individuals are codependent – not just one, no matter how extreme one member of the couple may seem to be. In the example above, the person who drinks too much depends on the caretaker to clean up their messes, both literal and figurative; the caretaker depends on the person who drinks too much to need him or her in order to survive. No one in a codependent relationship is truly happy. When the codependent attaches to someone and the relationship gets bad, the codependent feels unable to leave his or her partner. Instead, he, like all codependents, will stay because the alternative of being alone is too threatening.

See, the M.O. of the codependent is to avoid separation at all costs. This approach requires that the codependent abandon his own emotional needs in order to keep the relationship going. In other words, he loses himself. Over time, the term “codependent” has expanded to include couples in which there is fear around separations and attempts to control each other’s behavior. I will give you another example below of what a codependent relationship looks like.  READ MORE

–Samantha and Tim

For more resources, READ: Codependent No More, by Melody Beattie. Codependent No More is the kind of book that can become your friend, one you can keep on the nightstand and leaf through every few days for a tune-up. The book includes a chapter on anger which is especially helpful, as many codependents swallow their anger and need to learn how to express it appropriately.

Dr. Seth Meyers has had extensive training in conducting couples therapy and is the author of Dr. Seth’s Love Prescription: Overcome Relationship Repetition Syndrome and Find the Love You Deserve.

Define “Christian?”

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One of the biggest complaints we hear from daters using Online Dating Services is how the category of “Christian” can mean so many different things to different people.

Jenna found this to be true. “My spiritual beliefs and values often make dating a very risky pursuit. I’ve been set up with guys—even ones who know I’m a Christian—who expect me to go along with their lifestyle choices: sex, drugs, excessive drinking, and the rest. Other times, guys find out I’m a Christian and automatically assume I’m uptight and judgmental. The stereotypes get old.” 

Brad chimed in…“I’ve heard Christian dating advice that assumes all Christians are exactly the same. But it’s not as if every believer fits a certain profile. There’s a broad spectrum of what it means for people to call themselves a Christian—from very liberal to very conservative and everything in between. Just because a woman calls herself a Christian doesn’t mean her beliefs or lifestyle choices are the same as mine.”

Truth?  Dating is a DAUNTING adventure.  And it’s confusing and awkward and complex…AND even more so with those who have spiritual beliefs they are not only trying to safeguard but to UNIFY with another.

In a culture of Post-Christian anything goes relativity…Christians need to be pro-active!

5 Tips to Help Christian Singles Navigate Online Dating:

  • Guard Your Heart

A key biblical principle says that what is in a person’s heart determines how that person acts—all the decisions he or she makes, for better or worse. We often focus on behavior—how far is too far physically, what a person of faith should or shouldn’t do in a dating relationship, and so on. But even more important is the recognition that conduct follows convictions and actions follow attitudes.

Solomon wrote, “Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it” Proverbs 4:23.

  • Define your standards BEFORE you date

The time to think through any potentially perilous situation is before it happens. Play the movie out in your mind of possible scenarios.  Think through what hazards lay in your path.  Purity is important, and if it is important to you, take the time to identify potential pitfalls before you start dating (alcohol, late nights, sleeping over).  Fortify your convictions in advance with firm intentions, accountability and a solid plan.

  • Stand Firm

Many Christian singles are hesitant to voice their convictions for fear of being labeled “old-fashioned” or “narrow-minded.” But it’s far better to be up-front about what is and is not acceptable to you in the beginning before you head down a path of compromise.  People respect people who know who they are and who have standards.  If your date disregards your efforts to hold firm to your beliefs, then they aren’t a good match to begin with.

  • Find a Team to Root for You

When facing any obstacle, it helps to know you have support. Invite others who share your commitment to moral integrity to encourage you and check in with you. Find advocates and ask them to watch your back and encourage you to hold firm to your convictions.  They can help you to keep you moving the direction you want to go.

  • Find a Dating Mentor

Search out someone—a pastor, mentor, teacher—whose perspectives and opinions you hold in high regard. Spend time with this person and glean all the wisdom you can. Again, it was Solomon who said, “He who walks with the wise grows wise” (Proverbs 13:20). Good counsel is available to you if you’ll ask for it.

Your Christian faith defines who you are and will play a vital role in any lasting relationship. Protect what matters most to you and date with intentionality.

 (some tips adapted from Neil Clark Warren’s Christian Dating Advice)

 

Dating Tips -Single Parent Plus 4

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“I’ve decided not to tell the men I date that I have kids. What do you think about that?”

My husband and I were wrapping up a teaching series on love, sex and dating at a local Christian singles group when the woman approached me with her question. 

My mouth dropped open in shock.  “How many kids do you have?”

“Four,” the woman replied.  “But I make a lot of money and I can keep the kids in a separate residence if I have too.”

I shook my head back and forth (and tried to hide the vomit curling in my throat).  “Listen, I’m not sure you want to hear what I have to say about this, but here I go…”

DO NOT HIDE THE FACT THAT YOU HAVE KIDS

Never conceal your family from someone.  Children are not a fun surprise in an established relationship.  It’s pure deception if you choose not to tell this to a potential date.  And dishonesty is no way to build a solid relationship.

If a guy or gal is turned off by kids then move on.  It only takes one person –the right person who adores you AND your kids.

You are a package deal not à la carte!

Now, if your kids are so difficult they scare all potential suitors away, it might be time for an honest parenting assessment.  Maybe your kids need you more now then you need to date.  I know that’s hard to hear, but it might be true.

There are some seasons where your kids might need to be the priority and dating needs to take a backseat until your family is back on track.  Seek counseling.  Find healing. Get in a support group.  You only have one shot with your kids and divorce is devastating to them.  Do not minimize their hurt or be so self-absorbed you put your desires above theirs.

I shared this all with the woman and she squinted her eyes at me and looked mad (probably because I didn’t agree with her twisted scheming). “I think my way is the best,” she mumbled and stomped off. 

I felt sorry for next poor man sucked into her web of deception.  I also felt sorry for her kids. 

There is HOPE

Single parents looking for love are tasked with a far greater responsibility than most –but the right person will treasure you even more because you are a loving and genuine parent.

Be proud of the blessings God gave you choose to steward their hearts (and yours) well.

 

Photo Source: sydniewells.wordpress.com

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