My brother once showed me a website where I could tell Santa what I wanted for Christmas. All I had to do was type my wish in a little box, and voila! Santa would produce a picture of my gift.
Being a single woman, I typed in "husband." Within seconds, the virtual St. Nick reached into his bag and pulled out a picture of my mate. He was handsome and dark-haired; unfortunately, he was also asleep. I almost laughed myself off my chair, then jokingly told my brother, "What does Santa's choice say about the single male population in my age range?"
If I had visited Santa's website ten years ago, and if I had the chance to give him a list of specific requirements for a mate, he probably would have written me back to tell me to seek a therapist. Why? Because my list of requirements for Mr. Right was longer than Santa's gift list.
What causes someone to idealize love, romance and a mate? When I turned 32, God helped me learn the answers to this question.
I Idealized Love, Romance and a Mate Because of Fear
When I lost a man I loved while in my twenties, I was certain I couldn't handle any more heartbreak, so I unwittingly created an ideal picture of my Prince Charming. Can you guess what happened with the next guy I dated? Instead of seeing what was good about him, my mental doodling highlighted only his imperfections. In an effort to guarantee a life without emotional pain or romantic regret, I instead lost out on some good relational opportunities.
If you're acutely aware of others' flaws like I was, perhaps you need explore the motivation behind your ideals. Is it faith (because you feel led by God) or fear (because you're terrified of "settling", or being abandoned)? Saying no to fear and unrealistic standards doesn't mean giving up all standards. Instead of focusing on whether a person is just the right height or weight or is equally organized, we need to focus on how patient, gentle, humble, kind, generous and Godly our date is.
I Idealized Love Because of Society's Messages
I wonder how many times I've heard, "Don't marry someone you can live without," "Don't settle," or "God has the perfect mate for you." Messages like these, (which are often perpetuated by well-meaning Christians), coupled with the media's lies about love, can lead singles astray.
Some of our culture's lies about love include:
- Sex won't be good unless you're married to someone with a spectacular body.
- Sex isn't as good if you're old.
- Good-looking people make better mates.
- True love means a lifetime of fireworks.
- If it takes effort, it's not love.
- The right person will complete you.
- People who are a good match never argue.
- Real love happens instantly, rather than developing over time.
Certainly, we should show wisdom and avoid choosing a mate who is abusive, deceptive, jealous or controlling. But when I allowed God to transform my expectations, I discovered I can be attracted to many different kinds of men. Your fear about whether a future mate's "what-ifs" should not prevent you from experiencing a Godly love with that person.
The Upside of Less-Than-Perfect
I no longer believe that finding someone perfect will keep me from heartbreak. Instead, I've accepted pain as a part of even the best relationships. I also know that God's best for me can be less than perfect.
Some time ago, while reflecting on how God has freed my heart, I wrote the following reflection in my journal:
Love does not come to dwell in perfection, for no one is perfect. Love dwells in the unlovely, the imperfect. My love for another is not produced by the object of my love. It exists in me when I choose to love all that is unlovely and imperfect; and I thereby receive the love I need by being the lover first. Love is the "bond of perfection" (Colossians 3:14).
Christ died and placed the love of His heart into mine so that I can love with His unconditional love. He loves the imperfect; He loves me."