Singleness and Dating
About the Guest
Author Lisa Anderson, director of young adults for Focus on the Family, fields questions from Bob Lepine, revealing what it's like being a Christian single woman trying to date in this culture. Ron Deal, director of FamilyLife Blended®, also joins in the conversation, giving advice to those who have been previously married and are ready to date again.
Lisa AndersonLisa Anderson is director of young adults for Focus on the Family and host of the popular weekly radio program and podcast “The Boundless Show.” Her writing is featured in newspapers, magazines, and at Boundless.org. Lisa is a frequent guest on radio and TV, and speaks around the world on relationships, faith, and the many challenges facing today’s young adults. She lives in Colorado Springs, Colorado.
Ron DealRon L. Deal is one of the most widely read and viewed experts on blended families in the country. He is Director of FamilyLife Blended® for FamilyLife®, founder of Smart Stepfamilies™, and the author and Consulting Editor of the Smart Stepfamily Series
Lisa Anderson reveals what it’s like being a Christian single woman trying to date in this culture. Ron Deal gives advice to those who have been previously married and are ready to date again.
Singleness and Dating
Bob: Are you a single person who would like to maybe someday be in a relationship? Lisa Anderson says, if that’s the case, you have to be ready at all times for whatever comes your way.
Lisa: I had a guy ask me out in WalMart®. I could have probably gone to coffee with him; but I just panicked and I was all freaking out, because he was really smooth. He was like, “Can you help me find a card for my mom?” I’m like, “Of course, I’ll help you find a card for your mom, you precious man. [Laughter] Do you want me to get flowers and a time-share for her too?” I mean, I just thought it was so cute of him. And then he was like, “Well, hey, do you want to grab dinner?” I was like, “That is so smooth.” I do this full-time, and I wasn’t prepared for that. [Laughter] So I just panicked—I panicked and fled; you know?
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Tuesday, February 14th. Our host is the President of FamilyLife®, Dennis Rainey, and I'm Bob Lepine. How can singles make themselves ready for a relationship that has yet to happen?
We’ll talk with Lisa Anderson about that today. Stay with us.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today. Thanks for joining us on the Tuesday edition. I’m sure some of our listeners will find it a bit ironic that we’re talking about singles, here on Valentine’s Day; but there are some singles, who are probably listening on Valentine’s Day, and don’t have any plans for tonight. We ought to talk about that; don’t you think?
Dennis: We are really for single people. We have a number of single staff members, here at FamilyLife, who work here. It’s too bad, Bob; but we used to host a singles conference, not on Valentine’s weekend, but on Thanksgiving weekend. We had 400 to 500 single people—
Bob: —from around the country.
Dennis: Yes; Keystone, Colorado. We called it The Keystone Caper. Chuck Swindoll spoke, Bill Bright, Josh McDowell—a number of Christian leaders—Elisabeth Elliott.
Bob: Any marriages come out of that?
Dennis: I think several marriages came out of it.
We’re not trying to fix people up at that point; but we do want to honor where God has them, and want them to know that God has a plan for their life, and they’re loved.
Bob: Well, last fall, we had the opportunity—you and I were together out in Colorado Springs, meeting with a group of blended family leaders. In that context, at a two-day event designed to help equip them to more effectively minister to blended couples and to stepfamilies in their local churches, we also talked about the needs of singles.
Lisa Anderson, who works at Focus on the Family®, who’s written a book called The Dating Manifesto, spoke about how churches can more effectively minister to singles in their congregation. When she was done, Ron Deal, who gives leadership to our blended family initiative, here at FamilyLife—Ron and I had the opportunity to do some Q&A with Lisa, and talk with her about her message, and talk about how it really does connect with what’s going on with blended families.
Dennis: That’s right, Bob. She was a great speaker, but I really enjoyed your Q&A that you had with her. Both you and Ron asked her some pretty gritty questions, as a single woman.
Bob: I love the fact that the starting place for you on this subject is how people are thriving, spiritually, apart from their relationships—that’s true, whether it’s blended families; it’s true whether it’s first marriages; it’s true of singles.
Bob: If that foundation is not in place / if you’re trying to build healthy relationships on weak spiritual foundation, you’re going to have relationship problems; aren’t you?
Lisa: Yes. Well, honestly—I mean, I tell people this: “That if we don’t start with the gospel—and start with an understanding of who God has created us to be and what our eternal destination is—everything I have to talk about is just tips and tactics. You could go onto Yahoo.com, or iVillage, or whatever and get all of that; but it is the transformational power of the gospel that grows us, that encourages us, that gives us a hope to even move forward. [Applause]
Bob: The summit on stepfamily ministries. Why did you want somebody here talking about singleness?
Ron: Well, because we’re spending some time focusing, this year, on pre-stepfamily preparation and helping people think. We had to back all the way up to dating. We said: “You know what? We really need to spend some time thinking through dating and helping people date well and the process there. What’s going on with singles?”Who, better than Lisa, to give us a pulse on that?
Bob: Lisa, you’ve had dates; right?
Lisa: One or two.
Bob: Okay. [Laughter] If somebody comes to you and says: “I have the perfect guy. I want to introduce you,” and you find out that person has been previously married, does that change the way you think about what that date might be like, versus, “He’s 42 and he’s never been married”?
Lisa: Yes; it could. I think, either way, I do reconnaissance on the frontend. You know, I always joke—I tell people, when I was in junior high, I was told by a well-meaning youth group leader to write down my 50-point list of qualities I wanted in a future mate, tape it on my mirror, and pray about it every day, and that’s what God was going to do deliver me. I did that, and He did not deliver.
So I tell people: “Now, your list needs to be short, but it needs to be legit. It needs to have important—you know: ‘Is this person a solid follower/disciple of Jesus Christ, who’s growing in their faith, who is humble and teachable, who is in a position to marry?’” I think that’s the reconnaissance piece that I would do: “What’s this guy’s story? Where is he? How far has this been? What are the circumstances surrounding the divorce or whatever?”—I would use. If this guy has a solid group of men around him—that can vouch for him and speak to that—that says a lot.
Bob: So, if a guy asks you out, and you don’t know much about him, do you say, “Yes,” and then do reconnaissance; or do you say: “Give me a couple days. I’ll get back to you”? What do you do?
Lisa: My answer to this has changed about 20 times in the last 5 years. At this point, my current answer is, “Yes; I can do coffee with anyone.”
I had a guy ask me out in WalMart. I could have probably gone to coffee with him; but I just panicked and I was all freaking out, because he was really smooth. He was like, “Can you help me find a card for my mom?” I’m like, “Of course, I’ll help you find a card for your mom, you precious man. [Laughter]Do you want me to get flowers and a time-share for her too?” I mean, I just thought it was so cute of him. And then he was like, “Well, hey, do you want to grab dinner?” I was like, “That is so smooth.” I do this full-time, and I wasn’t prepared for that. [Laughter]So I just panicked—I panicked and fled; you know?
I think you could do coffee. I don’t think we need to sit there and be like, “Do they agree with the five points of Calvinism?” and start going into weird doctrinal stuff before we can do coffee; but I would say, “Yes.”
I’m not just going to go out trolling bars, either, to find someone.
Bob: Ron, if somebody is like Lisa, and she gets asked out by a guy who’s been previously married / has two kids—she doesn’t know a lot about him—she’s wondering, “Is it safe or not?”—how would you counsel her? What kinds of questions should she be asking? What kind of recon-work should she be doing? What would you say?
Ron: I really like what she said so far. I mean, engage in dialogue in the beginning; but if you date again, and again, and again, then you get more and more intentional about life, and circumstances, and history, and what’s happening now, and watching—you know, watching their relationship with their children / watching their relationship with their ex—and taking that in and being objective about it; right?
I mean, I think the biggest thing that people do is—they blindfold themselves to those things when they look at it and go:
“Oh, it’s not that big of a deal. It’ll be okay,” and just minimize something that—you know, if you asked a hundred people in the mall, “What would you think about this?” “Well, I would think that might be problematic.” So just try not to be blinded by your own love and romance. But the further the relationship goes, the more intentional you get. The point is—make observations: watch, look, listen.
Lisa: Well, and to that point, I just want to say one other thing about dating.
Lisa: This is why I’m so passionate about needing to have other eyes on your relationship, because I have been in this space. I do a talk that’s called “Five Reasons Your Love Life’s a Disaster / Doesn’t Exist”—it’s a chapter in my book—because, when I start dating—and those of you that have done the Myers-Briggs, I’m an EMTP. My “T” is off the charts; I’m a thinker extraordinaire. I thought that meant that I would be super rational about relationships and no one would be able to get anything past me.
No; I am crazy when I get into relationships.
I have dated guys—I had to sit with my friends, who were trying to do a full-on intervention with me about this guy. I’m defending him up and down, because I just thought, “Oh, you know, you just don’t understand him,” or “You just don’t—if you only knew him the way I knew him.” My friends have been in this space, too, who—they get to a certain point with a guy—they’ve shut out all their friends / they’ve shut out their mentors—get so into this guy—they’re like saying they love him. By the time they let some other people in, it’s like this guy could be Satan and they’re not going to dump him; because they’re so into him.
I tell my single friends—I say, “You pick three people in your life—no-nonsense types—who are willing to tell you what’s what / who have biblical wisdom. You tell them that, if all of them agree that the person you’re dating is a loser, you break it off, no questions asked,”—because we have to have—we get crazy when we start dating. We have to have objectivity in there.
Ron: That’s good. [Applause]
Bob: So, if coffee goes okay, and dinner goes okay, and now he calls and says, “Hey, I have tickets for a show,” and like this is your third, “Yes,” is there a point, where you go, “If I say, ‘Yes,’ again, I’ve said more than just, ‘I’ll go out this night,’”—how do you calibrate where that point is and what to decide?—because dinner’s one thing, but a fifth “Yes,” is something else.
Lisa: Yes; yes. I mean, at some point—and this is why I’m a big fan of, throughout a relationship, having what many people call DTRs, “Define the relationship.”
Ron: I was just going to say that very same thing.
Lisa: I think the very first DTR has to happen on the first date / after the first date—and that is, “Do you want to go out again?” I mean, you don’t leave people hanging in cyber-space of: “Let’s figure it out,” or “Let me call you in 12 weeks and see if you’re still available.” I mean, total nonsense goes on; okay?
So say, “Do you want to go out with this person?” If he asks and you don’t want to go out, you say: “Thank you so much, I appreciate that. I think you’re a great person. I just don’t see us being a great fit,” or “I’m not interested in dating you anymore.” Let him go!
But, if you’re in date five and it’s going well, at some point—and I don’t want to say it’s after date five or whatever—and encourage you all to encourage the men in relationships to lead on this front. I think guys could really win if they started leading here—at some point, you need to determine: “Is this moving towards exclusivity? I mean, where do we stand? What does this look like?” Always ask for the other person’s feelings on the matter, because I remember I had—it was a second date, folks / a second date with a guy—and he had a PowerPoint presentation for me—
Bob: —about the relationship? [Laughter]
Lisa: —yes; about our potential—yes! [Laughter]
He had a—this is in my era of too many chances, where I’m giving guys a lot of chances—PowerPoint presentation for me that detailed the calendar of where our relationship was going to go and on what time-table, including engagement. I knew him from church. This guy seemed, otherwise, totally legit. I’m just like a deer in the headlights as he’s walking through this with animations, and pivot tables, and all this. [Laughter] It was like he had picked an engagement point! I was like: “Dude, this is a second date. I’m not really comfortable with talking about that right now.” He says, “Oh, yes; okay; whatever,” and just acted like it was totally normal.
I remember talking to my pastor about it. He was like: “Yes, Lisa; I’m all about men leading, but they need to look behind them and see if someone’s following them; okay? [Laughter] I mean, clearly, he did not do any recon on where you were in this situation,”—so just my point.
Bob: We’d also say: “If it’s date 12, and he hasn’t brought up, ‘So where’s this thing heading?’ that should be kind of a flashing neon light too”; shouldn’t it?
Lisa: I would say, “Yes.” I mean, you know, say you’re a few months in—again, you should know where this is heading. You should know his feelings on the matter. It’s not like, again, showing all his cards, “I feel like we’re going to be married,” or something; but just: “I see this is going well. Let’s start having other conversations. Let’s maybe involve some other folks in our relationship as far as this is going.” I think, “Yes; you need to know.”
Ron: Here’s the elephant in this conversation: “Where are the kids?”—right? Let’s assume one or both people have kids. At what point does the conversation shift from just about you and me to about, “What about this whole big family picture?”—right?
Ron: In my workshop on pre-stepfamily preparation, I talk a lot about, “Coupleness does not equal singleness,”—it’s not the same thing. They’re two different processes; right? When couples only attend to their coupleness process, and don’t also attend to what’s going on with children and the whole idea of us being a unit, then they totally get skewed.
That’s why, for many people, they get married and then they get slapped in the face so hard; because they never even thought about: “What’s going on over here?”—so, the suggestion is: “DTR about the children as well.”
I talk about “What if…” conversations—you know, so the parent says to their child: “Hey, what if I were to continue to see this person again? How would you feel about that?” Even before dating: “How would you feel about me dating?” Now, I’m dating: “How would you feel about me seeing this person on a regular basis? What was your last occasion with him? How’d that go for you?” You’re looking for information / you’re drawing them in.
That’s part of the process. You’re trying to gauge the rockets and maybe move them together and see if they even can. If children have a need that’s taking you in a totally different direction, you have to slow that rocket down and attend to this, and then, also attend to that. It can be a very complicated process. I think, as the church, we need to call people to understand those two things that are going on, and help them do a better job attending to the children.
Bob: If somebody has been previously married, they’re thinking—this is to the heart of your book—they’re thinking about, “Okay; it’s time to open this up again and maybe think about dating.” Is there a way they can self-assess, “I really am ready, emotionally/spiritually, to do this again,” or “I’m not”?
Ron: Yes; you’re going to love my answer: “Yes and no.”
Ron: Yes; you can. People around you, that you trust, help speak into that. Yes, look in the mirror and do a hard look on your pain: “How much is pain driving me towards this relationship because I just hate being alone?” You have to find rest in your aloneness; otherwise, you’re not in a good place to be discerning about a relationship. So “Yes”; in that sense, you can.
But here’s the “No.” None of us can know what love would require of us until we get into the middle of it. A number of years ago, I went scuba-diving and had an accident and almost died; okay?
That was a really bad day. Seven years later, I get back in the ocean, and have a panic attack. I was pumped, ready to go—I love scuba-diving—I’m back in the water. As soon as I hit the water, [gasp] fear hits and it’s crazy; right? I had to totally deal with that.
The same thing happens in relationships, especially if you’ve been burned and hurt in a relationship. You can heal, you can do divorce care / you can lead it, you can have come a great distance and really feel like you’re in a good place—others speak into that—you’re in a good place. And as soon as you date, and it begins to deepen, and the water looks really, really deep, and you’re out in the middle of the ocean, fear can hit. You won’t know until you are there—I mean, that’s one of the insidious aspects of it.
So what do you do about that? Well, you deal with it! You just deal with it! You couldn’t anticipate it—it’s alright. Now, you’re there. Now, what do you do? Start breathing—calm / slow yourself down—get help from other people. My master diver came and got right here, in my face, and stared at me and said: “Look at me.
“Slow your breathing.” We spent ten minutes on the surface of the water, just trying to figure out how to get calm. Then I was able to dive. You work through that fear, and you push yourself through. That’s how you move past it.
Bob: You may have had friends in this situation, where they were dating—all of their friends said: “You’re going too fast. You’re going too fast. Slow down.” They come back and say, “We’re engaged!” You go, “This is too fast”; they say, “No; it is real.” They get married and then they go, “We went too fast, and now we don’t know what to do.”
Ron: You say, “I told you so!” [Laughter]
Bob: Yes; that’s—
Ron: Maybe not—maybe we shouldn’t do that.
Bob: What should you do to that couple that said: “You tried to warn us. We said, ‘No.” Now, all of the stuff that you warned us about is coming true. We were clouded to it. What do we do now?”
Ron: You say: “We love you, and we’re here with you. Yes; live and learn.
“Now, let’s just talk about what we’re going to do about it.” You just come alongside them—just overwhelm them with love. Inside, you’re going: “I told you so! I told you so!” but you don’t say that.
Lisa: Yes; I had a friend in that situation, who—there were several of us, who kind of went after her with some counsel, and she didn’t take it. Really, at that point then, when the ring’s on the finger, we became rooters—advocates for / supports for marriage. We didn’t want to see another broken marriage.
Really, in talking amongst ourselves, it was: “All we know—I mean, we said what we could say. All we know is that God can do whatever He wants with this relationship. God could use this relationship to do much-needed work in either of their lives. It doesn’t mean that it’s going to be easy. They may have actually both signed up for a very hard road.” They did, now, in retrospect; but it could be exactly what God uses to draw them closer to Him.
Bob: You said, “When the ring’s on the finger, you become rooters. Is that the engagement ring, or is that the wedding band?”
Lisa: I would say I was meaning the wedding band, meaning that: “Now, there is a marriage that we are preserving, and protecting, and honoring, and all of that.” I think—I mean, there’s still a certain amount of open season on engagement. I mean, I’m all out to just break those things off. [Laughter] No; not at all! But I do believe there’s still time—is why I’m a big fan of pre-engagement counseling—because you have to get those questions answered when you still have clarity in that space.
Bob: Pre-engagement counseling.
Ron: It’s a good idea.
Bob: It is a good idea.
Lisa: Yes; I mean, once you’re picking out dresses and cakes, you’re not really thinking about hard questions.
Ron: Yes; the train’s going a hundred miles an hour at that point—you’re trying to say, “Stop!”—No; it’s when the train is beginning to build momentum—that’s when we need to be pouring into people.
This brings us full circle to where Lisa started.
The church needs to be more involved and more active in pouring into singles—in connecting them to other people and exposing them to married couples doing well and couples maybe struggling—just being a family with one another, because we’re constantly teaching and training through that process. Hopefully, that translates into slowing the train down—having it be more led by God, and Spirit, and things that are eternal rather than things that are temporal. Everybody wins.
Bob: Well, we’ve been listening to a conversation that took place, back last fall, as I spoke with Ron Deal, who gives leadership to the blended family ministry, here at FamilyLife, and Lisa Anderson, who heads up the Boundless ministry of Focus on the Family and has written a book called The Dating Manifesto. We were talking about singles and single-again people and ministry in local churches—and how churches can help folks who are in non-traditional family settings.
Dennis: And Bob, I think it’s a ministry that must happen today.
A lot of folks are disconnected from the church, who are single. Also, there are a lot who are blended families and stepfamilies that need to be brought into the church as well. In fact, I think it’s a point of evangelism to be able to share Christ with those in blended families. It’s why I’m excited about the live-stream event we’re going to do next April, where we are going to minister to blended families/stepfamilies about how they can thrive in the local church and make their marriages and families go the distance.
Bob: Yes; this is a free event. It’s going to be held in local churches. It can be live-streamed in your home if you want to. It’s on Saturday, April 29th. If you’d like more information about how your church can host an event, or how you can tune in to view the Blended & Blessed™ one-day live event, go to FamilyLifeToday.com for more information; or call us at 1-800-FL-TODAY.
By the way, you can also order a copy of Lisa Anderson’s excellent book, called The Dating Manifesto: A Drama-Free Plan for Pursuing Marriage with Purpose.
We have copies in our FamilyLife Today Resource Center. Order from us online at FamilyLifeToday.com; or call 1-800-“F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then the word, “TODAY.”
A quick reminder for those husbands, who are listening, where it’s not yet registered that today is Valentine’s Day. Before you get home tonight, you might want to think about something you could do to acknowledge your love for your wife so you don’t forget it. This is a good day to express love to one another in a marriage relationship. Here, at FamilyLife, we believe that love ought to be expressed regularly in marriage. In fact, the covenant that we made with one another when we were first married is a covenant that ought to be renewed and revitalized, regularly, in marriage.
Our goal, here, with this daily radio program is to provide practical biblical help and hope for marriages and for families.
We want to see every home become a godly home. We’re grateful for those of you, who don’t just support us in that mission—you really partner with us and make the work of FamilyLife Today possible. In fact, when couples are being reached with God’s plan for building a stronger marriage, you’re the ones who are making that happen as you support this ministry.
Right now, if you’re able to help with a donation, we’d love to say, “Thank you,” by sending you Dennis and Barbara Rainey’s devotional book for couples called Moments with You. It is 365 daily devotions that you can read throughout the year. It’s a way to keep your marriage focused on God and His Word—keep you praying together, as a couple, and keep you pursuing oneness in your marriage. Moments with You is our gift to you when you go online and make a donation at FamilyLifeToday.com or when you call 1-800-FL-TODAY—make your donation over the phone.
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Tomorrow, we’re going to introduce you to a couple that Ebony magazine called “one of the coolest black couples in America.” They have created a new video on blended families. We’ll let you meet Lamar and Ronnie Tyler tomorrow, and we’ll hear about the work that they’re doing. I hope you can be here for that.
I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, along with our entire broadcast production team. On behalf of our host, Dennis Rainey, I'm Bob Lepine. We will see you back next time for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
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