Finding “The One”
About the Guest
Love is a dance. Sometimes it's a waltz and sometimes it's a bunny hop-but either way, the key to making love last is finding a dance partner who shares your rhythm. Clarence Shuler talks about his sometimes-rocky courtship with his now-wife, Brenda. Clarence encourages singles to enter a relationship with their eyes wide open and their hearts guarded until they know for sure that they've found the one.
Clarence ShulerClarence Shuler is the President/CEO of BLR: Building Lasting Relationships. Clarence is a counselor, speaker, and author of several books, including Winning the Race to Unity: Is Racial Reconciliation Really Working?, Keeping Your Wife Your Best Friend and Single and Free to Be Me. He and his wife, Brenda, live in Colorado Springs and have three adult daughters. For more information, visit clarenceshuler.com.
Clarence Shuler talks about his courtship with his wife. Clarence encourages singles to enter a relationship with eyes open and hearts guarded until they know for sure that they’ve found the one.
Finding “The One”
Bob: We’ve all heard people, in the early stages of a romantic relationship, talk about being “head over heels” for someone else. Dr. Clarence Schuler says singles need to make sure that their new romantic relationship doesn’t crowd out their love for Jesus.
Clarence: If He’s not number one, you’re not going to your best in that relationship. It’s going to cause problems down the road. So, I try to affirm with them—not preach at people right away / you know, give some distance—but: “Does God really love you? Does God really want the best for you? It could be that He’s protecting you. You know, sometimes He’s just protecting us from ourselves because we don’t really know. And, then, it’s not so much that God is holding out on you—maybe He’s holding His best for you.”
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Friday, December 19th. Our host is the President of FamilyLife®, Dennis Rainey, and I’m Bob Lepine. We’re going to talk to Clarence Shuler today about singles navigating the sometimes treacherous waters of dating relationships. Stay tuned.
Bob: And welcome to FamilyLife Today. Thanks for joining us. Do you remember back, when you were dating in high school or in college, and some girls would say, “Let’s just be friends”? Do you remember that?
Bob: That was always the worst; wasn’t it?
Dennis: It was! [Laughter]
Bob: That was the worst. What that meant was, “If I never see you again, I would be okay with that.”
Dennis: That’s exactly right! It’s like: “This is not going anywhere. You need to go somewhere.” [Laughter] Well, this happened to a friend of ours, who joins us on FamilyLife Today. Dr. Clarence Shuler joins us again on the broadcast.
Bob: Well, it happened many times to you; didn’t it? [Laughter]
Dennis: You share a story in your book—I couldn’t believe you were this honest—but you dated, in and out, and you had this girl—that you said, “You know, I just want to be a friend with you,”—and then you did the unthinkable.
Tell our listeners—go ahead! Tell them how this came about and then what you did. And this is so typical, folks—this is how we, as young men, think. We just don’t—
Dennis: —at all. We don’t get it!
Clarence: This is my last interview! [Laughter]
Bob: So was this while you were in college or when?
Clarence: No, it was after seminary. Brenda and I had actually broken up. I had moved to a new place and—
Bob: Brenda is the woman you went on to marry, eventually.
Clarence: That’s my wife; yes.
Bob: You dated her for how long?
Clarence: We dated for a semester and then broke up.
Bob: Then broke up—why did you break up?
Clarence: She wrote me a “Dear Clarence” letter.
Dennis: Oh, she’s the one who said, “We just need to be friends.”
Clarence: No, she didn’t say “…be friends,”—she just broke up. [Laughter]
Bob: You would have taken “friends,” at that point.
Clarence: Well, I felt like God had told me, on the third date—that she was the one I was going to marry.
Clarence: And so, she broke up with no reasons why. I am like, “Did I miss hearing God?” I mean, I was in love with her; and it just blew me away.
That was it. She was still in seminary—I had taken a job because I had graduated—I went to Oklahoma.
Bob: But you met somebody else, and developed a friendship, and said, “I just want to be your friend”; right?
Clarence: Yes, that was so cold. I met this girl and—to protect myself from getting hurt—I said, “We’d just be friends.” To protect myself, I said, “Hey, what are the ground rules here?” I said, “Is kissing okay?” or whatever. She would say, “Yes.” I would say, “Are you sure?” She would say, “It doesn’t mean anything to me.” I would say, “Okay; fine.” That’s about as much of the benefit as I had. I developed a relationship with this girl and—
Bob: Let’s just be friends, but we’ll kiss?
Dennis: —with benefits.
Clarence: That was the benefit, but we didn’t go any further than that. We dated for a while, and I would be at her house a lot. Her dad is a pastor—her mother’s great. This thing started getting more serious than I anticipated.
Clarence: You know? The dad would start calling me “son” and kind of looking at me. I was kind of just uncomfortable—I felt that they wanted it to go somewhere.
She was a great girl, but I just knew I wasn’t going to marry her; you know? I just—one day, said, “Hey, you know, I think we need to kind of stop seeing each other.” She just broke down and she said, “Well, didn’t all of our kissing and stuff—didn’t that mean anything to you?” You know, it didn’t—it was just physical.
Dennis: Well now, wait a second. It wasn’t a handshake kiss.
Dennis: It wasn’t like it was a peck on the cheek.
Clarence: It was not a peck on the cheek.
Dennis: You were protecting yourself.
Clarence: Yes, yes.
Dennis: But you hadn’t protected her.
Clarence: It didn’t cross my mind because, when she said that, I felt okay. Then I learned afterward—unfortunately, a painful lesson for me and more for her—that the physical does mean a commitment.
Clarence: Especially for girls—it really is more of a commitment.
Clarence: But I did not know that.
Bob: And even if she says:—
Clarence: Even if she says it—doesn’t mean anything.
Bob: —“We’ll just be friends—it doesn’t mean anything.”
Clarence: It meant something.
Clarence: And that was something I’m not proud of.
Bob: But you did, eventually, reconnect with the woman who had written the “Dear Clarence” letter to you.
Clarence: [Laughter] Yes, I did—yes, I did.
Bob: How did that happen?
Clarence: I still had friends in seminary. One of my best buds—I went down to see him, periodically. It was springtime—school was almost out. I was with him. Brenda and one of her friends walked by and said, “Hi.” You know, we were casual—I’m not even sure how it came out that we were going to go out. So I really don’t remember asking her—but anyway.
Dennis: Clarence! [Laughter]
Clarence: Ya’ll shut up! This is my story! [Laughter]
Dennis: This is our program! [Laughter] Don’t start pushing back!
Clarence: That was a bad move! But anyway, I go to pick her up that night; and she’s dressed to kill—but I don’t pay any attention because we broke up and hadn’t really talked much. We go see a movie—which I paid for and I take her to dinner. I’m going to pay for that because I’m working. She said, “Well don’t pay for dinner because I don’t want you to spend all of your money.” I said: “Well, you’re in school—I’ve got a job. This is probably the last time I’m ever going to see you, so what’s the big deal?” After that, she said—
Dennis: Now wait a second.
Dennis: Did you really think—
Bob: Were you fishing when you said—
Clarence: No—no, I was not. You know, God had shown me some things that we both needed to work on during this thing, but I didn’t think we were going to get back together. I just felt that, in my mind; but then, after dinner, she said, “Will you come back to the house?” I went back to the house and she said, “You know, God has shown me some things that I needed to work on.” Everything that she said, God had shown me. And she said, “Can we start seeing each other again?” I said, “Well, you know, I’m in Oklahoma—you’re here.” I had a lot of mothers in the church—so she stayed with a couple I knew—she would stay when she would come up, and we would talk, and I would go do ministry.
Bob: And the rest is history.
Clarence: And the rest is history; yes.
Dennis: Now I don’t want it just to be history—I want to know how you asked her to marry you. Given the go/stop/go again—did you do it right?
Clarence: Well, I don’t know if I did it right or not; but I did it.
Bob: It worked. [Laughter]
Clarence: It worked. [Laughter]
But she was really frustrated with me because I hadn’t asked her to marry me—she really felt it was there. When God just really confirmed, “Yes, you need to do that,” I went down to Fort Worth and got with her and got my ring—really small ring because I had a really small salary. [Laughter] I sat down and—I mean, she knew I loved her / she knew we were in love with each other. I asked her if she would marry me. It was very simple—not a lot of fanfare. She said, “Yes”; and I was a happy camper.
Bob: Clarence, one of the issues that—as you talk with singles—one of the issues that continues to emerge for them is an issue you’ve just described for us—and that’s the issue of heartbreak.
Bob: The issue of being in a relationship—becoming emotionally-connected with another person—and maybe there’s been some physical interaction. In fact, in today’s world, it’s more likely that there has been physical interaction. It’s more likely that it’s gone farther than just kissing.
Bob: And then something happens. I was at breakfast with a young man, recently, who told me that he had gotten a call from his girlfriend. She had said, “I need to talk to you.” He could sense, on the phone, what was coming. He said: “Here’s what I’m feeling like. I’m feeling like I’m just going through this terrible pain. I want to go share it with my best friend, and my best friend is the person who just broke up with me.”
Dennis: Right; right.
Bob: Can a single person protect himself or herself from that kind of pain? Should they try to? How do they deal with it when it does happen?
Clarence: Well, you said two things—one, if they’ve been friends for a long time and started dating, it’s a little bit of a different situation than if they’re just friends. But if they’re in a relationship, and they’re—what I call: “seriously in like”—and they think they’re heading somewhere, and one of them breaks it off—what I recommend to singles is that it’s really important to have a support system. That could be their family. If they don’t have a great family, it could be a close friend—it could be a combination—
—where they can sit down and talk to them and just kind of—I won’t say that vent is the best word—but kind of rehash what happened.
Clarence: So they can process and stuff like that. Then, as they process that, I think the support group has to have the relationship where you can say things they don’t want to hear but need to hear—I think that’s really important.
I was with a FamilyLife staff who picked me up from the airport. He was saying that his daughter is starting to date somebody, but one of the sisters/siblings didn’t necessarily approve—or two of the siblings didn’t approve. So they’re kind of at crosshairs, trying to figure it out. Your support group can help you say, “This is a good person,” or “…not…” Like I think I was saying on another program—my mother and sister kind of vetoed the girl I was dating.
Clarence: So you’re still going to have the pain of feeling rejection; but, as you begin to work through and process that, I think it kind of helps you.
Bob: Are you saying here that it does take a community?—that you shouldn’t be in relationships without there being a broader community engaged?
Clarence: Well, yes. I think the Bible is all about community, and accountability, and responsibility. I recommend, if possible, to even have a couple you’re accountable to while you’re dating—if it’s not your folks—about who you’re dating and kind of what’s going on in the dating relationship so you have some kind of help because we don’t know how to really do all of this by ourselves.
Clarence: I think it’s really important. And that support group can begin to help you with that process. They can say: “What happened? What did you think happened? How did you guys communicate?—blah,blah,blah…” Because, sometimes, we think it’s the good ol’ days and the good ol’ days weren’t all that good. They can maybe help you see that this is a good thing or “We don’t understand what happened, but it’s not the end of the world.”
Dennis: Yes; and here’s the thing—if you do involve others, you have to maintain a teachable heart—
Clarence: That’s true.
Dennis: —to hear what they say and their observations about the relationship—about how you two are getting along / the other person—and their observations about the young man or the young lady.
You can’t turn a deaf ear because of people saying something you don’t want to hear. Some are in love with love and don’t want to hear anything. They are about to make the biggest mistake in their lives.
Clarence: Well, you need someone to encourage you; but again, a trust factor is really important. When people don’t have that accountability, they tend to get more physical. What people don’t often realize is that the more physical you get before marriage—it’s almost the beginning of the end of that relationship—the consequences are really great.
Dennis: It confuses the issue.
Clarence: Well, it does because you can’t make an objective deal because you have this feeling—if you’ve been sexually intimate—“I enjoy this,” so you can’t really be objective about, “But is she or he the right person?”
In fact, one of the things we talk about at the Weekend to Remember® is that the whole idea of communication—you avoid conflict so you can be intimate. You may be physically intimate, but you’re not emotionally or spiritually intimate. So, you get married and you really don’t know each other.
Dennis: I want to make sure we come back to this subject—but you hit on something I want you to comment on because you’ve spoken at nearly 100 Weekend to Remember marriage getaways over the past 14 years. Talk to the singles, who are listening right now, about how important it would be, from your perspective, to attend a Weekend to Remember with their fiancé or with someone they’re in a serious dating relationship with.
Clarence: Well, I think going to a FamilyLife Weekend to Remember conference, as a single, with someone that you’re dating very seriously or you plan to marry—there are two sessions designed, just with you in mind. One is where you’re just with women and you talk to the female speaker—you can ask any kind of question. The other is where you’re in a co-ed situation. The whole conference on communication, conflict, sex—all of this is really important to help you see, “Is this where we really want to be?”
I tell them that the conference, for you, is to confirm: “Hey, you guys really should go ahead and get married,” or it’s to confirm: “This is the right person, but you need to wait,” or, for some, it can confirm: “You guys really should not get married.”
It is better to break up than to get married and get divorced. So, I would encourage everyone to come. Most of the premarrieds who come say it’s priceless.
Clarence: In fact, I’ve actually met premarrieds who’ve come, you know, before they are married—then, I’ve met some again after they’re married—it’s a whole different perspective—it helps them because now it’s a whole different deal.
Dennis: And I’ve had couples come up to me and say, “This is my second Weekend to Remember—the first one I came to with the wrong person.”
Clarence: I’ve heard that too.
Dennis: “We broke up. Thank you for what you teach because you gave me the wisdom of Scripture and coaching to enable me and to encourage me to break it off.”
Bob: Well, I think the point here is that a lot of singles get in relationships where the relationship is isolated from everything else that’s going on in their lives. They’re not talking with their friends about, “Here’s what’s going on in the relationship.” Or they’re not getting wise counsel from other people who know both of them.
When that happens, you’re really limiting what kind of objective input can be brought in. You’re left to take your clouded emotional view of the relationship and try to discern, “Where should we go with this?”
Dennis: You know, my kids told me this—they had “heard all of our stuff.”
Dennis: Yes. So when they were getting ready to get married, it wasn’t that Barbara and I sat our kids down, one by one, as they decided to get married so they could hear our stuff again. [Laughter] We sent them to the Weekend to Remember where they could hear our stuff from somebody else—it wasn’t a conference where Barbara and I were speaking.
I tell you what—I don’t know what they would consider their best wedding gift—but I have to believe that for couples, who invest in getting the right blueprints from the Bible, at the front-end of the relationship—
—while they’re dating, maybe while they’re engaged / before they tie the knot—getting those blueprints and knowing them—both as male and female / as future husband and future wife—hearing those and having those to build your home from. That doesn’t guarantee you won’t become a statistic, but I have to believe it diminishes and decreases the chance of you becoming a statistic because of not knowing what God expected.
Clarence: When I used to work for the African American Healthy Marriage Initiative that the government had going, one of their research statistics showed that premarital counseling of some kind increased your chance of staying married almost 75 percent.
Clarence: So, I say you can actually use the Weekend to Remember as that or in addition to it because it asks you tough questions you’re not going to ask each other.
Bob: Clarence, let me go back to the break-up scenario for singles. If you’re sitting down with a young man or a young woman, who’s in the midst of the heartache—the break-up has happened and the loneliness, and desperation, and the “What’s wrong with me?” kinds of questions are starting to pop in—
Bob: —what kind of counsel do you give that young man or that young woman?
Clarence: Well, depending on the relationship, I say: “I understand you have the pain. I’ve had it—not that I know how you feel—but I understand rejection and breaking up from someone. But there are a couple of things I want you to process,”—especially to a Christ-follower—“It’s easy for me to say, right now, but it’s really true—I want you to see what God thinks of you.”
Clarence: I take them to Psalm 139, verses 13-16: “In the New Living Translation, when it talks about God creating us, He calls you ‘marvelous.’” I say, “Think about it—the God of all creation calls you marvelous in the midst of your pain.”
Clarence: I say: “And in the last verse, it talks about how God has planned out your whole life. He has a destiny for you.” And I share a little quote—I say, “Listen, don’t let the pain of your past punish your present, paralyze your future, or pervert your purpose because God has a godly destiny for you.”
Clarence: I say: “Now, we’re going to have to work through the emotional pain of this, but consider that that person who broke up with you was not God’s best for you. Consider that you were probably not God’s best for them. So, if you really cared about this person that much, I think God may very well have somebody even better for you.”
Clarence: “But I want you to understand how God sees you. You’re not ‘less than.’ There’s not something wrong with you—that you have value. So, during this time, as you process this, take some time for self-discovery. What do you think—not that you did something wrong—but what do you think God may be trying to teach you through this? What are some take-aways from that?
“Now, you’re no longer dating that person; but that person, while you were dating them, did they help you become more Christ-like? If so—how? Were you able to help them? Do you think dating that person made you better for your future mate?” So there are just a lot of questions that we go through like that and, you know, those are important questions. Some, though, struggle with letting go.
Sometimes the “being in love/being in love” becomes—the relationship becomes idolatrous because it’s actually more important than their relationship to God.
Clarence: Another thing—if He’s not number one, you’re not going to be your best in that relationship.
Clarence: It’s going to cause problems down the road. So, I try to affirm with them—not preach at people right away—give some distance—but: “Does God really love you? Does God really want the best for you? It could be that He’s protecting you. You know, sometimes He’s just protecting us from ourselves because we don’t really know. And, then, it’s not so much that maybe God is holding out on you—maybe He’s holding His best for you. God can see things we can’t see.”
As they begin to process some of that, they can begin to say, “Oh.” It’s not right the next day—it may take some time until you walk with them and let them work through their wounds. As they begin to take time and the healing begins, then you can begin to talk to them and meet them where they are and kind of walk them through it; you know?
Clarence: Then, at my conferences, what I try to tell people is: “You know, marriage is not utopia—the goal in life is not getting married. The goal in life is your relationship with Jesus Christ,”—
—which can include that—but I just think it’s important for people not to feel “less than” because people will say, “If I just get married, everything is going to be perfect.” Well, at the FamilyLife conference, we say: “Hey, being married doesn’t make you perfect. You’ve still got to work at this thing.”
Dennis: Now, marriage is between two imperfect people who, hopefully, know the Savior and have His blueprints for how you build a successful marriage and family. There is hope.
Dennis: There really is hope if you have that. You know, there’s one last point I want to make on today’s broadcast; but I want Bob to make sure and tell listeners how they can get a copy of your book, Clarence, and then I want to come back and make a comment.
Bob: And about how to get more information about the Weekend to Remember marriage getaway as well, where Clarence and his wife Brenda are among the couples who speak at these events. Whether it’s for singles or for couples who are already married, the Weekend to Remember getaway gives a couple a great opportunity to focus on God’s design for marriage and understand the biblical blueprints for building a stronger marriage.
Whether you are considering marriage, as a single person, or whether you’ve been married for decades, the Weekend to Remember helps you refocus and recalibrate on God’s design for the marriage relationship.
I was talking to our team recently and I said: “Is there a way we could make a special offer for some last-minute Christmas gift-buyers—where they could get a gift certificate to attend a Weekend to Remember and give it as a Christmas gift—either to a couple they know who are dating and thinking about marriage or planning a marriage in the spring—or for themselves, where a husband and wife can get away for a great weekend together?”
Our team decided to put together a two-day special, and today’s the last day for this special. So, if you’d like to give your spouse, or your fiancé, or a couple you know who’s planning to get married—if you’d like to give them the gift of a Weekend to Remember as a Christmas gift—go to FamilyLifeToday.com. Click the link at the top of the page that says, “GO DEEPER.” You’ll find information about the special offer that we’re making for a Weekend to Remember gift card to be used as a Christmas gift.
Again, today’s the last day for the special offer—so if you want to take advantage of that, go to FamilyLifeToday.com.
And, if you’re interested in a copy of Clarence Shuler’s book, Single and Free to Be Me, that’s available on our website as well. Again, it’s FamilyLifeToday.com. You can order from the web or you can call 1-800-“F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then, the word, “TODAY,” to get a copy of Clarence Shuler’s book.
And, finally, a quick reminder that, two weeks from now, it will be the new year. I know some of you have been thinking about—maybe even praying about—the possibility of making a yearend contribution to support the ministry of FamilyLife Today. If God has used this ministry in your life—in your family / in your marriage in some way—in the past year, would you consider making a yearend contribution to support the work that we are doing into the new year?
Right now, would be a very strategic time to do that because we’ve had some friends of the ministry who have put together a matching-gift fund. They have agreed to match every donation we receive, between now and the end of the year, on a dollar-for-dollar basis, up to a total of $2,000,000. So we’re hoping we can take full advantage of that matching gift. We need to hear from you if that’s going to happen.
You can simply go to FamilyLifeToday.com to make a yearend contribution. Click in the upper right-hand corner of the screen, where it says, “I Care,” and make an online donation. Or call 1-800-FL-TODAY—you can make your donation over the phone. Again, it’s 1-800-358-6329. Or you can mail your donation to FamilyLife Today at PO Box 7111, Little Rock, AR. Our zip code is 72223.
Dennis: Well, it’s been our privilege to have Clarence Shuler, a good friend, here with us this week. Clarence, I want to thank you for your work. I mentioned I had one other comment. I’ve got a couple of comments for the listeners, here, as we close the broadcast. First of all, I want you to know that this kind of broadcast—this is what we’re about—we want to help single people build on the right foundation with the right blueprints. That’s what FamilyLife is all about, as a ministry.
Bob: We want to help married folks continue to build on that blueprint; right?
Dennis: That’s right—and, in the process, be transformed. When you give to this ministry, financially, you keep us on the air doing that. I want to tell you—I think it’s important. I think single people today need to hear these broadcasts.
The other thing I wanted to mention is—I just wanted to mention something we haven’t talked about today that I just feel impressed to share, here, at the end of the broadcast. The Scripture really warns us against marrying somebody who is not in the family—who is not a personal follower of Jesus Christ.
It talks about being “unequally yoked” in Scripture. I want to tell you—you may think you’re in love / you may think you can march off across the most romantic vistas you’ve ever imagined and off into the horizon with this person because you two will not be like anybody else—but I’m going to tell you something—if you haven’t settled the issue—together, as individuals, and then corporately, as a couple: “Who’s the Master? Whose blueprints are we going to build according to?”—if he’s building off a different set than you are, then you’re headed for real trouble.
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