Boundless host Lisa Anderson offers practical advice and encouragement for single adults in a discussion based on her new book, The Dating Manifesto: A Drama-Free Plan for Pursuing Marriage With Purpose. (Part 2 of 2)
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Lisa Anderson: One of the guys I dated, on our second date had a Power Point presentation (Laughter) for me of how our relationship was gonna go, complete with, I mean, it was like pivot tables (Laughter) and like algorithms and stuff, no joke. And he presented it to me and I was like, "That is a bit much."
End of Teaser
John Fuller: That's Lisa Anderson, reflecting on a date that didn't turn out so well for her and she was with us last time on "Focus on the Family." She's back today with more insights about being a single and pursuing marriage with purpose. And your host is Focus president, Jim Daly. I'm John Fuller.
Jim Daly: John, I think the conversation last time was really helpful to a lot of singles. I hope so and maybe the parents of singles to say, okay, now I kinda get a better idea what's going on. I loved Lisa's story about her mom at 86 reading the manuscript for her book on singleness saying, "There's some tips in here I might use when I start dating." I thought (Laughter) that was great. It's always good to get your mom's endorsement.
John: That's always good, yeah.
Jim: But we want to continue that discussion today and I think if you're in that spot and you're single and you don't know, "Why, God, I'm still here," I think you'll hear some things today that are gonna help. I think you're gonna hear some things today that will help you. Lisa, welcome back to the program.
Lisa: Great to be back.
Jim: Now you've chosen this bold title, The Dating Manifesto. It doesn't get any bolder than that, so what prompted you to name it that?
Lisa: Well, I think I wanted it to be kind of my statement. You know, I feel like I've told people, like I've "talked" this book probably 500 times in conversations, at dinner parties, you know—
Lisa: --for the family, conferences, that, too. And people have said, "Lisa, you gotta put this down on paper, 'cause it's really everything that I wish I'd been told about dating and relationships in my 20s, but wasn't.
And so, I feel like I learned a few things a little too late and so, I want to help that younger generation move along and say, "This is what I need to know before I get to the point where I'm frustrated and I'm upset and I feel like I've missed opportunities or whatever. So …
Jim: For those that didn't hear last time, first of all, get the CD; get the download. It was really good. It was fast-paced and you brought so much wisdom to that discussion. You head up Boundless here at Focus on the Family. That's the singles' outreach. It is under our marriage banner, because we believe in family formation as part of the marriage track.
And not everybody's gonna get married. We get that. We understand that, but it will be a small number that choose celibacy as their path. For the most part, a majority of people are going to choose marriage and that's why we want to talk about the topic today. Last time we left off (Chuckling) kind of a cliffhanger, talking about "Preventing the Dating."
Jim: I mean, that's a great title for a chapter in a book. What were you driving at with "Preventing Dating Death?"
Lisa: Yeah and I actually open up with the illustration of going to an amusement park and doing one of these sky coaster, where you're harnessed in and you get hoisted up on the … on a wire to a top of an arch. And it's like a simulated free fall (Laughter) or a simulated—
Lisa: --sky dive.
Lisa: And this idea that I didn't really know what I was in for, but at least I was harnessed in. And I looked and I said … I was with a friend and I was kinda like, okay, are we gonna do this? And fortunately, she was the one that pulled the rip cord, 'cause I was mildly hyperventilating. But that whole idea of, if you step to the edge of a plane or you know, figure out that you're gonna go for something that's risky, you need to know what the risks are. You need to know what you're doing, okay?
So, the whole idea behind "Preventing Dating Death" is going in with a mind-set that is geared toward success, that is geared towards knowing that you have stuff in place or you're getting stuff in place that needs to be in place, rather than haphazardly saying, "Well, you know, I'll go ahead and ask a couple chicks out here." Or maybe, I don't know about this guy," you know. Just very, you know, a very haphazard approach to it. So, it's really looking at it holistically and saying, "What's the purpose of dating? What's my role in dating? How do I go about doing this?
Jim: Well, let's talk about that for a minute. What are the things that a man needs to do and you know, it sounds funny, but men in their 20s, they're men; they're not boys.
Jim: And for the same for women, what do men and women in their 20s and 30s, what do they need to do to build the right situation for them to be ready to marry?
Lisa: Yeah, I think there are a number of things and I'll touch on a few of them. The first one is, especially for the Christian single adult, is to know who you are in Jesus Christ and have that be your rock-solid foundation.
So much of the craziness that we deal with in relating to other people and going through relational drama has to do with not understanding that the only relationship we'll ever have that will not fail us is with Jesus Christ. This is why we see so many singles running into bad relationships or staying in bad, go-nowhere relationship or you know, settling in many different ways that are not appropriate. We have to understand. I call it "getting tight with Jesus" and this is beyond, "Hi, I retweet Francis Chan three times a day." Or I go to my singles' group. Or I went to a retreat or whatever. This is knowing and being in an active relationships with Jesus Christ.
One other great example is like I said, to be in a position to marry and to be a grownup. Do you know what it means to be self-sustaining? Have you moved out from your parents' house? Have you, you know, take … known what it's like to manage debt? Are you, you know, living in a way that's responsible? Are you taking responsibility for yourself and for other people?
Are you in a position of leadership, wherever that is? Are you leading in areas, whether it's actively leading, being up in front of people or whether it's leading in areas of character and integrity? I think that a lot of these things come into play and the best thing about it is, they're all things that you can work on, whether you're in a relationship or not.
Jim: Now Lisa, some of this comes with a dose of humor. That's one of your great gifts. I mean, you have a great sense of humor and I would think some singles that maybe that burden has been heavy, it's hard to be funny about something so serious. "I mean, I'm 35 and I haven't found my man yet and I'm beginning to panic." The humor part of it is especially with the people you encounter, I think you told me one story about a 75-year-old man who thought he was still in top physical shape, in fact, sent you his waist size—
Jim: --to prove it. Uh … yeah.
Lisa: He was … he thought he was a potential, you know.
Jim: He thought (Laughing) he … that you gotta take with a bit of a dose of humor, don't you?
Lisa: Oh, absolutely and I mean, it's very much, you know, I think we're all out there. For those who are wanting to be married and those who are wanting to date, it's kind of assessing what your situation is.
I mean, it's … and it really is different based on stage of life. You know, I tell people and there's a section I talk about in the book, about putting yourself out there. And I … if one more person asks me, "Are you sure you're putting yourself out there?" I mean, I may just (Laughing) … 'cause I'm like, "I host an international show for single people, okay? I mean, if I'm not out there, I don't know where I'm gonna be."
And so, but it can be frustrating and this is why when I speak on college campuses, for example, I say to them straight up, "You will never be in a situation where you are with as many like-minded, headed in the same direction, got their act together, same-age, same-stage people as you are right now. Look around you, 'cause when you get in your 20s and you enter churches, some churches have, you know, young adult career groups or whatever. Some don't. When you move into your 30s, it becomes increasingly difficult.
And you know, for myself, I even say, in the book I say, it's weird to be considered a person who's an expert on a subject where my own advice has not yet worked for me. (Laughter) I am still single, you know, so it's not … it's not something again, that I can say, "I have control over this. If I just do these five steps, it'll work out." You know, there's certainly an element of having to trust God.
Jim: Well, and I appreciate that, but it doesn't diminish the power of observation. You're living it, which I think makes it even more powerful.
John: Lisa, along the way, your mom had to speak into your life. I mean, we're parents. We care about our children. My adult child is now 25. They're 30; they're 35. They haven't dated yet or they haven't found the right one. How can we, as parents of adult kids who are in that spot, speak into their lives without just crushing them? "When's it gonna be?
John: You know, "When are you gonna start delivering the grandkids?"
John: How do we do that?
Lisa: I so feel for parents and even adults in the church who are wanting to speak into the lives of young adults, because there is this fear that they're gonna say the wrong things. Or maybe some parents have already said the wrong thing and so, they're being kinda shut out.
So, I think for parents, they have to communicate their heart first and foremost, so to not approach the subject in this like superior tone, where you're just being nosy or being … or trying to play off the, you know, "How's your love life? Or kind of trivializing it.
But to really say, "I want to stand with you in prayer on this." Or where … to … to turn it around to your young adult and say, "Where's your heart in this? Is this … you know, do you want to get married? Or what kind of timeline are you lookin' at?" Or you know, and it may be parents, that you maybe don't have the capital right now or the relationship to be that person for your young adult. So, in that case, encourage it elsewhere. Encourage a mentorship within your church. Encourage a, you know, if your young adult has a coach in their life or someone who they really respect, allow that relationship to flourish and to let that person, you know, speak in. But I think it's … you know, to communicate that you're rooting for them, that if they have indicated the desire to be married, that you think they're worth marrying. I mean—
Lisa: --that is huge, that they have potential. And then just that you will support them along the way. I think that's … that goes a long way with young adults.
Jim: Let me ask about online dating, because that's a big issue in the culture. You've got all of the services out there, whether it's ChristianCafe, eHarmony, whatever the name of the group, but millions of people go looking in that space. Talk about the healthy way to look at that. Some Christians would say, it's not a good thing to do. Others would say, no; it's just a place to find community. What's your perspective on online dating?
Lisa: Yeah, I try to kind of confront the anti-online daters in the sense of saying, most of 'em are very presumptive about saying, okay, well, online dating isn't a good thing because basically what it means is, you're not trusting God. Shouldn't we all just sit around and wait for God to show us who our mate should be? And I say, you know, well, okay, but then shouldn't we be doing that for jobs? Shouldn't we just sit in our apartments and say, 'God'll bring me a job?' No, we go out and we interview and we fill our resumes and we network and stuff. Or looking for housing, you know, a similar situation."
So, I say, no. Online dating is a tool that we have available to us and in a culture that is very transient, especially with young professionals who are moving all the time for jobs, it's a great way to meet people. What you don't want to do is use it as a crutch and you don't want to go into it with this idea of, I'm gonna sign up for five different sites and just troll them indefinitely for a few hours each night and wink at people and send virtual gifts and all this other cyber nonsense and get into IM trails with people that go nowhere and deliver way too much of my heart in a … you know, in a digital format and then think that that's gonna get you towards marriage.
There has to be accountability in online dating. There has to be process. There has to be a time frame, you know. I literally know some guys that have been online for 10 years and are not married, because they're just … they're going into basically cyclical pen-pal relationships with a number of girls that just go on from one to the next.
John: And that goes back to something you wrote in The Dating Manifesto and that is, be purposeful and directional in your dating. Don't just date to date, but have an end game, which is marriage.
Lisa: --to have that in your head.
John: --well, you can get The Dating Manifesto: A Drama-Free Plan for Pursuing Marriage with Purpose by Lisa Anderson, when you swing by www.focusonthefamily.com/radio or call us and we can tell you more, 800-A-FAMILY.
Jim: Lisa, at Focus, a lot of pastors listen. I'm grateful for the pastors who listen to the program.
Jim: Speak to them about what's going on within churches from your perspective as a single and the singles that you counsel. Where is church doing well? And where is the church environment maybe letting singles down?
Lisa: Sure and actually, I'm so passionate about this topic that I devoted the end of my book to this exactly, a word to pastors, church leaders, influencers of young adults, parents of young adults. There is a word in here for you, too.
And largely, I think you know, singles get frustrated with the church because we feel like there's nothing programmed for us, which largely there isn't. I mean, you go to church. You look in the bulletin. You're gonna see AWANA; you're gonna see women's Bible studies; you're gonna see the kids' programs. You're not gonna see, "Hey, singles, here are your 12 things to choose from." So, there's frustration there.
I think pastors and influencers of young adults, those in the church have kind of succumbed a little bit to that fear, as well, because they have maybe tried to say something and then all the singles like jump on them like, well, that's not the right thing to say (Laughing) and so, they're like, you know what? I'm not gonna say anything at all.
And so, it's kind of this, you know, cart before the horse kind of thing where we're … you know, it's a catch-22. We're not really getting anywhere. And so, I think that I'm a big fan and I … I have people ask me, you know, "Well, what do you think about singles' groups?" Well, I have a love-hate relationship with singles' groups, 'cause I think that they can become a little bit insular. They can become these singles' ghettos where singles just gather and just kind of feed off one another or they become, you know, people say, "Oh, it's just a meat market" or whatever.
And that's problematic. I believe in integrated teaching and ministry. I think singles need married people in their lives. I think they need to serve within that context in the church. But I also think there's a place. Singles need relationship, as well and they need friendships. And many singles move to a city because of a job or education or whatever and they have no one from their support network there, so they need to go to church and find that.
So, I would love to see pastors and others find a way to really incorporate and envelop singles within the body of the church, within ministry, within … I mean, we should see single young adults in, you know, teaching Sunday school. We should see them in the choir. We should see them not just doing "singles' ministry."
Lisa: And then to the married people in the church, I say, adopt a single person or five in your church. You know, they may not have a place to go on Christmas or Easter or just after church on Sunday. And we need to start thinking of single young adults as adults and not, you know, I've said before here, you know, not put us at the kids' table where it's like, well, you're obviously stunted or dysfunctional 'cause you're not married, so you don't have anything to offer, when many singles are professionals who can be on committees, can probably, you know, be your great friend. And so, I think we need that cross pollination.
Jim: That is always … always puts a smile on my face. That's the traditional Thanksgiving (Chuckling) environment.
Jim: Let's talk a minute about the grief that some singles will feel, like God has abandoned them. This is a desire of their heart. The Scripture says that God will meet the desires of your heart. Marriage is a good thing. It's a God-ordained thing. Now I'm 33, 34, maybe older and I haven't … I've prayed, but I haven't received the answer to that prayer. You can start to develop quite a bit of bitterness there. How does a single person who hasn't been given that gift of marriage yet, how do they keep in a good place with their relationship with God?
Lisa: Yeah, I have walked through that season and I still enter it occasionally. You know, I tell people, I wrote this book as a single person. I am still single. I am not looking back on this season with all kinds of awesome advice for people of how I conquered my singleness or how I finally, you know, 12 steps to making it to marriage. I'm still walking this journey, as well.
And I think it's one of those things where, when we look at the grief, the first thing we have to do is name it and be okay with it. I mean, there are a lot of griefs surrounding singleness, especially if you do not feel called to singleness and you feel like this is something that you want in your own story. It's a … you know, again I come back to biblically, marriage is a good thing. God's the one who thought it up and He's the one who designed it and He's the one that is for marriage more than any of us.
And so, the single person who is not there yet and wants that, I always go to the Psalms. I tell people, you know, there's a reason why God said, "Pour out your complaint," you know. Now God wants you to pour out your complaint. The person to not pour out your complaint to is the guy that you want to be dating, but hasn't asked you out. (Laughing)
Jim: Don't be complaining.
Lisa: That's getting catty and crazy, okay. So, but God wants to hear your heart. Gods wants to hear you know, God wants to see your tears. And so, to be willing to do that, be willing to own it. Be willing to admit your desire for marriage in a very honest way, 'cause again, it is a good thing. It is normative. I think we need to take away the shame of wanting marriage. It's like become this thing that if you say you want it, you're just being kinda desperate and sad and you're not trusting God or whatever. So, I really encourage people to just … to name that.
But then there are also other things to do, as well and to look at where you are right now and to recognize, to count … to count blessings, to count … I reference sometimes a blog post that I wrote for Boundless where it was right around Thanksgiving and I wrote a post called "Thanks for Nothing." And of course, we know the phrase just means like, you know, "Well, thanks for nothing," like we weren't given what we wanted.
But I had actually gone through and chronicled a number of things that I have been denied in my life and some relationships were definitely some of them. The guy with the Power Point would be a good example. And I thought, oh, I need this in my life. This is something I need. I'm not gonna be complete if I don't have this. I won't … you know, I won't be okay.
And looking back now, I realize how the denial of those things was some of the best intervention from God that I ever could've seen and so, I think perspective helps.
Jim: It really does, but there is that need to, you know, kind of guard your heart from getting bitter toward God. I think there's nothing guaranteed in this life. I mean—
Jim: --as an orphan kid, I wasn't guaranteed parents. You've gotta kind of deal with what environment the Lord puts you in.
Jim: And I think also to understand that God feels confident that you can manage it and to take some solace in that, that the Lord knows your ability.
Jim: And so, if you're in that place of singleness right now, God knows you're there and to stay true and stay strong and keep moving forward.
Lisa: And to know that He ultimately has my story. I mean, if I truly believe that God is both sovereign and He's good, then who better person to put myself in His hands. You know, I mean, it's like, it's silly for me to think that I can be on a hamster wheel over here, thinking I'm gonna affect things in my life or change things and then completely discount God.
You know, it's one of those things where you say, "Well, I've exhausted all my options, so maybe I better pray about it." No, from the get-go, I need to trust that whatever time line I'm on, whatever story God's scripting, He's got my back. I mean, He certainly knows me better than anyone else and He is, you know, in control.
He has … you know, I tell people, I say, you know, "Go to God who knows your story and actually has the power to do something about it," You know, yet we gripe at people. We complain. We get into bad relationships. We take matters into our own hands, instead of just recognizing that ultimately our story is God's anyway and we need to ride out that path with Him.
Jim: Well, that is really strong and good and what I want to do now. We've got a few people out here in the audience and I think it'd be great to open up the microphones. I think—
Lisa: (Chuckling) Sure.
Jim: --a number of them are single and we want them to ask questions of you and you know, give them some help right here practically. So, let's go to the first person.
Man from Gallery: What's the worst dating advice you've ever received?
Lisa: You know, there's a bunch of stuff that I've received, a bunch of advice that I've had to just let go or some of it I've taken to my own demise. But I would say, one of the most pervasive comments that I've heard that's troublesome is basically a Christian variation of the, "Just follow your heart."
Being told that, you know, don't worry. All you need to do is follow your heart. You know, see where this thing goes. Don't be afraid to trust.
I mean, I think it's one of those things where we have to look at a relationship objectively and it's a hard balance to have, 'cause you don't want to be a scientist. You don't want to go sit down with your … which again, is one of my failings. You know, I host a show, so I love to go into interviewer mode and I'm on a date and I'm like, well, here are my 12 questions. Work through 'em. (Laughter) You know, no one wants to be Barbara Walters-erized or whatever.
But at the same time, you don't want to enter into this emotionally driven sense of just, don't worry, it'll all work out. All you have to do is just fol … what's your heart telling you? What's your heart … you know, we know that the heart is problematic (Chuckling) by biblical standards.
So, I think that is probably something I hear pretty often. It's again, a little "Hollywoodized" version of taking matters into your own hands.
Jim: But be intentional is what I hear.
Jim: Don't just be passive.
Lisa: Well, and have very … again, from the get-go, have very real things that you know are non-negotiables in a relationship. Like you will only date legitimate believers in Jesus Christ, who evidence their relationship with Christ outside of your relationship.
You know, dated a lot of people who are like, okay, well, now I'm dating someone, so I guess I need to start going to church. You know, or now I'm dating someone, so I guess I better join this Bible study. Or I guess I better start looking like I'm doing leadership things.
Jim: So, their faith is a means to an end.
Lisa: Right, right.
Jim: And it is to marry you or get to know you better--
Lisa: Right and many—
Jim: --which isn't healthy.
Lisa: --many young adults think that their life will start when marriage starts and I tell people, you know what? Singleness is not a waiting room for marriage. It is a time (Laughing), you know, it is a time in life. It is a season, but it is not, you know, again holiness, sanctification, service, all of these things are asked of all of us, not just married people.
Woman #1: Do you find there's danger in dating alone and how do you involve your friends and family and church in that process, so that you have someone looking out for your relationship and will ask you the hard questions? Can you speak to that?
Lisa: Yeah, I think that's great and I think it's something that's often overlooked, even within the church when it comes to dating relationships. For some reason, we have this idea that you hang out with your friends when you're single, but then when you start dating, you just become "glomed" onto this other person with no other input.
And I go so far as to say in the book that before you even start dating, you put a community in place. You get a group of friends and you know, they could be some single friends, but also I recommend a married couple, a "mentorish" type person, especially someone who has a successful marriage, who is gonna be your eyes, your ears and your objectivity.
Lisa: 'Cause when you and we just heard some of my story, when you start dating someone, it's just like your mind goes out the window. All of a sudden, you just are into this person and you're just all about them and you … my goal was always like, I want to make this a success. I don't want to be rejected and I don't want to have a broken relationship, 'cause that's gonna say something about me, like I can't do a relationship or whatever. So, I would just make it work and I would just soldier through.
And then when I talk about community, I actually say, pick three people that you know and trust, that you will say, they have complete veto power over your relationship.
Jim: Boy, that's gutsy.
Lisa: If all three of them agree that the person you're dating is a loser, you call it off, no questions asked. So, and me … they can ask you questions in the meantime. They can ask for push back, you know. They can whatever, but you know and trust them to say, I am going to listen to you, recognizing that my own heart can lead me astray, recognizing that my own circumstances, my own fears can lead me astray, I will trust you in this process.
John: And Lisa, is it my understanding that at one point, your mom was actually on your team?
Lisa: (Laughing) My mom's always on my team. You know, my mom is a prayer warrior extraordinaire. That is her gifting. She loves it. She doesn't understand why I'm still single. She basically thinks I'm still single because I've had numerous opportunities to be married, but I've turned them all down.
Not necessarily true, but what's funny is, as I've gotten a little bit older, she's just kinda like started throwing out more and more ideas for me of guys that have been in her sphere. (Laughter)
To the point where one time she called me after church and she lives several states away and she said, "Lisa, next time you're out here, you've gotta meet this guy that is new to our church." And I said, "Okay, well, cool. Tell me about him. What'd you learn? What's … you know, where is he from? What's a little of his background?" And she said, "No, I actually haven't met him yet. I just saw the back of his head during service. (Laughter)" And I'm like, okay, "Functionally, mom, you are done." (Laughter) So …
Jim: You're out of my team.
John: Off the team.
Lisa: So, my mom (Laughing), yeah.
Jim Team three; you're no longer on the team of three.
Lisa: No, all that to say, my mom, bless her heart, she's gotten a little bit desperate on my behalf and so, we need people on our teams who have discernment, who are willing to say what's what, who are willing to be that mirror to ourselves, because there are some of us that are dating that have very real things we need to be looking at in our lives that we're totally ignoring. And so, you have to find the people that love you, know you and are willing to tell you what's what.
Jim: (Chuckling) That is really good. Lisa Anderson, author of the book, The Dating Manifesto: A Drama-Free Plan for Pursuing Marriage with Purpose. It's been great to have you on the program and thanks for your thoughts and we'll be praying for you and always, joy in the single life and for that future mate.
Lisa: God is good wherever we are. Thanks, you guys.
John. Well, it has been so great to hear from Lisa today with heart and humor and we love what she's doing and I hope you're inspired by what she's shared today, to get a copy of the book, The Dating Manifesto, whichas you've heard is a step-by-step guide for your single journey and it's gonna give you practical ideas on how to live your single life with some intentionality and have some fun along the way.
Now that makes a great resource for you, for a single in your church or your family. Get a copy of that and a CD or download of this two-part conversation at www.focusonthefamily.com/radio. And as Lisa has indicated, every day our Boundless ministry is helping singles to really become who God wants them to be and the website averages over 180,000 unique visits a month and the radio program reaches a similar number of people every week.
One woman recently wrote us and thanked the Boundless team saying, "Your website post today about not giving up hope for marriage was what I needed to see. It was so affirming. At 33, I've wrestled with drifting into cynicism and giving up on hope that God has anyone out there for me. I thought I was surrendering to what I assumed was God's will for my life, but your post and the Scripture you used definitely convicted this Type A person that giving up hope is just another form of trying to wrestle control from God. He's used you to touch this heart today, so thank you.
And isn't it good to know that when you contribute to the work of Focus on the Family, you're helping us reach singles like that person and offer a message of hope and encouragement worldwide. So, please make a financial contribution today. Join the support team and have a worldwide impact when you call 800, the letter A and the word FAMILY. And today when you contribute generously, we'll send a copy of Lisa's book, The Dating Manifesto as our way of saying thanks and putting this excellent resource into your hands or perhaps for you to share with someone. Again, that number, 800-232 6459.
Our program today was provided by Focus on the Family and on behalf of Jim Daly and the entire team, I'm John Fuller, thanking you for listening and inviting you back tomorrow when we'll kick-start the upcoming school year by giving you some fun creative ways to help your child learn more effectively, as we provide encouragement to help your family thrive.
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Lisa AndersonView Bio
Lisa Anderson is the director of Boundless and young adults at Focus on the Family, and hosts The Boundless Show podcast. She grew up in San Jose, California, is a graduate of Trinity International University in Chicago, and spent a good chunk of her life in media relations before joining Boundless.