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Marry a Friend
Finding Someone to Marry
Who Is Truly Right for You

M. Blaine Smith ~ SilverCrest Books ~ 2011

Chapter One
An Achievable Dream!

THE DREAM OF A LIFETIME RELATIONSHIP! Chances are good, since you’ve picked up this book, that this is your single greatest longing. It certainly was for me as a young single man. And most singles whom I talk with admit that the hope for a good marriage is their most burning aspiration—far ahead of anything that’s in second place.

In generations past, most who wanted to be married enjoyed vastly greater family and social support in finding a spouse. Most married young and, compared with challenges today, suffered minimal struggle in finding a mate. Times, of course, have changed, and they have changed drastically; today most of us largely have to fend for ourselves in seeking to fulfill this greatest of our life’s dreams.

Even with today’s challenges, some do have the good fortune of finding marriage almost effortlessly. A serious relationship develops spontaneously with a friend or acquaintance while they’re young, moves naturally to marriage, and they truly do live happily ever after. Yes, it happens.

But not frequently—even though such examples stand out and catch our attention, and too often become the ideal for how we imagine our own journey to marriage should take place. Yet in reality, most of us in America today suffer plenty of struggle and disappointment in searching for a spouse, and the process takes years for many people.

The Challenge for Women

My role as a Christian teacher and counselor brings me into contact most frequently with Christian singles and the special challenges they face in finding someone to marry. If you’re not a Christian, or aren’t certain, please don’t put this book down. You’ll find most of its discussion relevant to your own search for marriage, I promise you. But I want to begin by addressing Christians specifically, for so many of them tell me they are deeply frustrated in seeking marriage, and I intend this book especially to address their needs and concerns.

Arlene, whom I met this past week when speaking to a Christian singles group in Washington , is a good example. My topic was the importance of pursuing your personal dreams, and it spurred her to speak with me afterwards. Arlene told me she has long been discouraged about being single, and asked how she might put her dream of getting married on the front burner. She’s in her mid-forties now and rarely gets asked out, she explained. She fears the opportunity to marry may have eluded her for good. Men just aren’t taking initiative, and she wonders if she can do anything to improve her prospects.

Several things were striking to me about Arlene and her predicament. She is attractive, vivacious, bright, and clearly a big-hearted person. In addition, she works at the White House—one of the most prestigious workplaces in our city, and one where many other singles are employed. It is, in short, a better job setting than most for her to meet someone, and the Washington area in general offers outstanding opportunities. On top of that, she belongs to a large, dynamic church that many singles of all ages attend.

Yet in spite of these strong advantages, she isn’t dating, and doesn’t see anything obvious she can do to improve her options. She did try a popular online service for a few months, but unsuccessfully, and she was uncomfortable with its anonymous approach to getting acquainted. The situation is no different for many of her Christian female friends, she added, who have so much to offer the right man, but aren’t getting noticed, and seem destined to stay single for ever.

Arlene and her friends could be postcard children for countless Christian women today. So many I speak with would dearly love to be married, and are so ready for marriage and have so much to offer, that they are overqualified, if anything. Yet they’re at their wit’s end about how to find someone suitable. Many, like Arlene and her friends, are in churches and social settings where they have plenty of opportunity to meet single Christian men in their age range. Yet these men might as well be on another planet as far as these women are concerned—for as year drifts into year, none are showing romantic interest in them.

Arlene voiced a further frustration, which gets to the heart of the problem for so many women: She feels there is little she can do as a woman to initiate a relationship. It’s the man’s responsibility to show initial interest, and then to take the first steps toward getting a relationship in motion. It would be so much easier if she were free to do more initiating at these early stages of getting acquainted and dating.

I find that most single women, whether Christian or not, share Arlene’s frustration. They may be strong self-initiators in other areas, like education and career. Yet they feel their hands are tied when it comes to launching a relationship. And so their frustration is compounded: not only is their love life without momentum, but they feel helpless to change things. Singleness is like a prison, where their only hope is that some man may care enough to pardon them.

While the fear of never marrying is felt acutely by many single women as they pass into their thirties and beyond, a surprising number of younger woman carry a similar sinking feeling that their options are running out, and they feel powerless to change their destiny. I recall a long chat with a woman who deeply wanted to be married yet feared the opportunity had passed her by. Many of her friends had married, and the one relationship that held hope for her had ended. She wondered if God was indicating through it all that she should abandon her hope of marrying and set her heart on staying single. She was twenty-two.

The Challenge for Men

But here’s the biggest surprise—at least for women who think that men hold all the cards in seeking marriage: A surprising number of men are just as frustrated in their search, and feel just as powerless to do what is needed to spark a serious relationship. And I mean wonderful, well-qualified men. In my years of ministering with singles, I’m certain as many men as women have confessed to me that they have no dating life, and that marriage seems forever the impossible dream.

I’ve known countless single men who would make terrific husbands and fathers, but, lacking confidence, rarely date at all. Many are simply shy; they’re so traumatized over the possibility of rejection, that they never take the first steps to break the ice with women who interest them, even though they dream about doing it a lot.

Others aren’t as phobic about rejection, yet still are stymied by assumptions of failure. They always conclude that someone they want to ask out won’t be interested, so they don’t bother to try at all. Negative thinking keeps them stuck in their inertia, even in the face of opportunities where they would, in fact, succeed.

For many others, the main problem is a lack of focus and know-how. Some have concentrated so strongly on their education and career that their relationship life has never had a chance to blossom. These men may be brilliant professionally and highly successful. Yet their social life hasn’t kept pace, and they’ve never been coached on the most basic points of dating. Some feel awkward even striking up a conversation with a woman who attracts them romantically, let alone asking her out. And some Christian men are uncertain if they should take initiative, even in the face of an obvious opportunity, or just leave it to the Lord to bring about marriage for them in his own way and time.

Just recently, a college student e-mailed me, asking my advice. A woman he has liked for some time has broken up with her boyfriend, he explained. He then asked me two questions: Is it worth the risk to ask her out? And, if so, how should he go about developing a relationship with her?

Most interesting is that he was asking me, a total stranger, for this counsel—apparently uncertain where else to turn for it, or embarrassed to admit to his friends that he needs this Dating 101 advice. You would be surprised how many men of all ages have asked such questions of me, and how many are held back by such a lack of basic know-how.

Running the Race but Never Winning

Countless women and men who are eager for marriage long for some momentum toward their dream. Their relationship life is at a standstill, and they don’t know how to get it moving. For them, just to gain a serious dating relationship would a gigantic step forward.

Many others are at the opposite extreme. They have plenty of momentum in their relationship life, even abundant opportunity to date, but none of it is leading to marriage. Some bounce from one dead-end relationship to another, while others enjoy a number of promising relationships that in the end never progress to marriage.

Others are more at a mid-point in their relationship search. They refuse to sit with their hands tied waiting for their prince or princess to come, and they take plenty of initiative—but it rarely succeeds. Some men are not at all shy and will ask a woman out at any opportunity, but for various reasons usually get turned down. If they do get the date, they seldom get a second or third, and their hope for a real relationship is constantly disappointed.

While some do succeed stunningly with Internet dating services, many fall into a rut with them. Some rarely get beyond exchanging e-mail with their online contacts, yet they try and try again. One woman I know has been “closed” more than 150 times at this stage, yet she continues to take the same basic approach, hoping it will eventually work for her.

It’s especially easy with online services to fall into self-defeating patterns that you never recognize nor correct. If you make an obvious blunder in real-life socializing, it’s always possible a friend will notice and care enough to point it out to you. But because you pursue online connecting in private, no one is there to spontaneously offer such coaching. And the extreme convenience of the Internet, and the ease of making initial contacts (vastly simpler than getting dressed up, traveling to a social event, and mingling for hours—instead just log on anytime 24/7!), can leave you vulnerable to repeating the same unproductive patterns over and over.

What if God Wants Me to Stay Single?

People are hindered and frustrated in their search for a spouse for many different reasons. But one thing Christians share in common is confusion over what God is saying through it all. Most begin to wonder at some point if their failure to find someone to marry means God wants them to let go of their hope for marriage and set their heart on staying single.

A thoughtful Christian man, Mike, asked me this question recently, and if anyone has the right to ask it, he does! At 48, he has been through more promising relationships than he can count. “In the last one,” he explained, “the woman told me that I have every manly quality she is looking for; she also praised me to her friends, and they told me so! Yet she just couldn’t get her heart to tell her, ‘Yes, marry this fellow.’ I was extremely disappointed once again.”

This led him to ask me what God may be indicating through these repeated failures. “Could he be telling me that marriage just isn’t in his plan for me? But then why this incredible desire? Or could he be telling me to wait? But what if God is saying no? If he is, I swear it would be disappointing, but it would also be an incredible relief knowing this. Then, rather than concentrate my prayers on asking him to bless me and show me his will, I would concentrate on asking him to give me the peace and strength to accept reality and take a new direction. And possibly at that point I could change my life and thinking so as not to dwell on this hope daily.”

Mike’s concern with God’s will at this point in his experience is so understandable, and he couldn’t possibly have raised the question in a more reverent and thoughtful way. The problem, though, is that once you even start musing about this, finding the heart to continue searching for a spouse becomes more difficult—and Mike’s motivation is clearly wearing thin.

If you truly want to be married, God never wants you to conclude that he wills for you to stay permanently single, no matter how many disappointments you experience. The proper question to ask in the face of repeated failures isn’t “does God want me to quit?”—but “why are these setbacks occurring?” When you look carefully, you often find that, without realizing it, you’re doing certain things that are sabotaging good opportunities. By changing your attitude and approach in certain ways, your chances for success greatly improve when you try again.

It’s here that modern Christian teaching often makes it very difficult for the single Christian. The notion that God may be calling you to remain single even though you want to be married, is often taught in singles literature and proclaimed by Christian teachers and preachers. More often than not, it’s the prevailing philosophy in singles ministries, both within churches and without. And it’s too often the advice given to lonely and discouraged singles who seek counsel and encouragement from Christian leaders and friends.

While such counsel is usually well-intentioned, it misses the heart of biblical thinking drastically, as I’ll stress below. And it’s a major reason why the search for a marriage partner often is more difficult for the Christian than it is for others.

The Goal of This Book

It should be just the opposite! We have the power of Christ within us and the guidance of God in our lives. And we have abundant evidence in Scripture that God wills for most people to marry, and extends special help to those who draw upon it in seeking a partner for life.

For the longest time, I’ve wanted to write a book giving encouragement and direction to those who seriously want to find someone to marry. A previous book of mine, Should I Get Married?, helps you decide whether to marry once you are in a serious relationship. This current book provides much more of a map for finding that relationship in the first place. As in that earlier book, I’ll stress that friendship, more than romance, provides the best basis for a happy, healthy, enduring marriage. Yet I’ll look closely at how appreciating this principle is stunningly helpful in looking for the right person—sometimes simplifying your search considerably. It can keep you from spinning your wheels in a dead-end relationship, or from wasting time pursuing an enticing relationship that just isn’t right for you. And it increases the chance you’ll see the treasure in someone you might be overlooking.

While I’ll look at this friendship factor from many angles in this book, I’ll also offer much practical guidance about how to find a special friend to marry. We who long to be married need abundant practice advice about how to get off ground zero and proceed with our search in a manner that is both honoring to God and productive. I’ll offer the best counsel I possibly can on all the how-tos, in order to point you toward steps that will help you succeed. I won’t be suggesting a “one size fits all” strategy, I assure you, but will help you determine approaches that are right for you, in light of who you are and the circumstances in which you find yourself. While online dating services may work well for friends of yours, for instance, you may do better to invest your time in certain social activities, and to seek a relationship there.

We who are looking for a spouse also need motivation—and we need it desperately. The single greatest deterrent to finding someone to marry is discouragement. It’s tragically easy to lose the heart to continue the search for a mate—which almost always will succeed if you persist enough. So I’ll do everything I can to boost your optimism about succeeding. I’ll look also at the importance of simply wanting to be married, and at what you can do to keep your desire to marry strong—for insufficient desire can keep you stuck in the inertia of singleness, even when you would be truly happier married. I’ll provide as much encouragement as I can throughout this book to stay in the fight—strongly believing that with the right spirit and approach you will succeed!

That conviction is fueled by the examples of countless people I’ve known during four decades of ministering to singles who have found outstanding marriages, many at points where they were tempted to give up hope. And it’s fueled by abundant evidence in Scriptures that God is on our side as we seek a mate, and that we have strong reason to expect success if we take proper responsibility and move forward in faith.

Moving Ahead

I’ll never forget the exuberant comment a woman I once counseled made repeatedly to me. Nancy was engaged, and astounded at her good fortune, for she had suffered disappointment in several previous relationships. She had nearly lost hope that God intended her ever to marry, but now at 33 had found Nathan. And over and over she exclaimed, “I just can’t believe that God has preserved this wonderful man for me!”

Nathan, as I discovered—this man who was so well-preserved—had enjoyed only one brief relationship in college, and since had scarcely dated at all. Yet at 35, he was mature, deep, and caring, and a perfect match for Nancy —who had every right to be so jubilant over God’s extraordinary provision.

If you’ve long wished to be married but have lost your hope, it’s time to revive it! Let Nathan and Nancy’s example inspire you as you move into this study, along with many other encouraging examples we’ll look at in the pages ahead. And it’s my sincerest hope that the day will come for you—and sooner than you expect—when you also will say with stunned gratitude, “I just can’t believe God has preserved this wonderful person for me!” That, my friend, is a most reasonable hope and goal for you to embrace—for above all else, God’s hand in your life is not shortened (Is 59:1).

Excerpt taken from Marry a Friend: Finding Someone to Marry Who Is Truly Right for you by M. Blaine Smith. Copyright 2011 by M. Blaine Smith. Used on this web site with permission from SilverCrest Books, P.O. Box 448, Damascus, MD 20872.

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