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About the Author
Samuel Adams, Psy.D., is a licensed psychologist. He earned his master's from Western Seminary and a doctorate from George Fox University. He maintains a full time counseling practice in Austin, Texas.
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By ben young samuel adams
Nelson BooksCopyright © 2007 Ben Young
All right reserved.
Chapter OneGet a Life
It's 5:30 on a Friday afternoon, and you've got the whole weekend ahead of you. As you plop down in front of your computer to check your e-mail, your cell phone suddenly rings-it's him, the guy you've been seeing the last two months. Anticipating plans for a fun night out, you eagerly answer in your sweetest voice, "Hello?"
"Um, hey." He doesn't sound nearly as excited to be talking to you.
You exchange small talk about the day, and then he proceeds to tell you that he's going to play basketball with some of his guy friends tonight, and that he'll try to remember to call you tomorrow.
"What do you mean 'you'll try'?" you fire back. "Anyway, I thought we had plans for tonight!"
"Listen, I'm pretty busy these days, and ... well, I just don't know if I have time for ... us. Maybe we should think about just being friends."
"Whatever ... I'm busy too. Have a nice time with your friends." You hang up on him, hoping you left him thinking that you couldn't care less what he does with his life or who he spends it with. But inside, your heart sinks into your stomach as you realize that this person, in whom you've invested so much time, energy, and emotion, has just put an end to something you hoped would last forever-well, at least longer than two months. You sit there, staring at your phone, thinking, He's gonna call back any second and want to talk it out. You keep staring at it as seconds tick by. Nothing. You feel hurt, rejected, mad, and all alone.
You spend most of the weekend on the couch, watching reruns of That '70s Show. By Sunday night, you don't feel any better. In fact, you are still stuck in the same emotional ditch you fell into Friday when you got the call. You replay the conversation over and over in your head and ask yourself, "What went wrong?"
Finally, a startling truth begins to emerge. You had told him you have a busy life too, but suddenly you realize that just isn't true. The truth is, you don't have a life. This person was your life. Your entire self-worth was wrapped up in someone else. You now see how you had put your life on hold-your education, career plans, family, interests, friends, and even your relationship with God. And now that it's over, you have nothing to sustain you-no one to call, nothing to do. Without your sweetheart, you have no life.
Okay, so maybe this illustration is a bit depressing, but believe us, we have witnessed far too many scenarios just like it. Thousands of people make bad relationship choices and end up with a lot of unnecessary pain because they ignore this first and foundational dating step: Get a life!
You may be thinking at this point, But I have a life! I am busy all the time. Are you sure? There is a huge difference between filling your life with busyness and filling your life with meaning. People who are living the un-life have one thing in common: they have put their lives on hold. They have become so consumed with finding (or keeping) someone to meet their needs and give them a sense of significance that real meaningful living has taken a backseat. They have convinced themselves that life isn't worth pursuing with any sort of passion if they don't have someone to share it with. Whether they are obsessed with finding The One or are completely jaded to the thought because their hearts have been broken, these are the ones who have contracted the fatal disease of the un-life. Here are the most common symptoms, the four Deadly Ds.
A desperate person has a sense of urgency about finding someone to go out with. He is starving for someone to fill the emotional hole in his soul. Desperate people go places only to meet the opposite sex. Unfortunately, their urge-to-merge strategy inevitably hits a dead end: they end up using people, having a miserable time, developing a bad reputation, and scaring off the person they hoped to attract in the first place.
Dependent people have difficulty making decisions and taking responsibility for their own lives. When a dependent person enters a relationship, he usually sucks the lifeblood out of the other person like a tick on a dog. Of course, as humans we all depend on others to some degree for certain needs. This is normal and healthy. But a person infected with the un-life will be excessively dependent on the other person to meet most of his or her needs and provide a sense of identity and significance.
3. Depression and Loneliness
Feelings of depression and loneliness are the number one complaint of people who buy into the notion that someone else can make them happy. This can take many forms, but generally it is a condition that affects the whole person: physically, emotionally, and spiritually. Most people living the un-life will experience such conditions as unhappiness, gloom, lack of energy, and withdrawal from others. It is also not uncommon to experience a significant drop in self-esteem.
The danger in depression and loneliness is that it may begin a downward spiral. In other words, the more depressed you feel, the more likely you are to withdraw and exacerbate the situation. Eventually, this can lead to an even worse condition-clinical depression, which can involve symptoms such as loss of appetite and sleep, difficulty with concentration, problems with normal functioning, and feelings of hopelessness. This more severe form of depression calls for professional intervention such as counseling or therapy, and possibly medication. The good news is that even in the downward spiral a person can be treated and begin a reverse spiral back to having a life.
Descriptions like "isolated," "withdrawn," "lonely," and "plays Xbox 24/7" describe someone who has disengaged himself from life. The desire to spend time with friends, get involved in the community, or serve at church and form other vital social relationships has vanished. It's okay to have some silence and solitude-everyone needs that now and again-but healthy, "have-a-life" people are engaged with living and forming relationships with others.
HOW TO GET A LIFE
Most of us have descended into the un-life at one time or another. The good news is that you don't need to call a doctor or go to a miracle crusade to be healed. If the four Ds describe you, then the way to a passionate, fulfilling life is through the antidote of the four Gs.
1. Get Grounded
Getting grounded is the foundation for getting a life. It is all about having a solid identity and sense of self. This includes everything from recognizing one's worth to feeling confident and secure. Individuals with a solid identity can't be shaken or devastated just because they don't have someone to date. They know who they are and don't need another human to make them feel complete.
The dominant view in our society is that human worth, value, and happiness are obtained through tangible achievement and performance. In other words, if you have money, popularity, prestige, good looks, and intelligence, then you have worth. The message is, "The more you have, the greater your self-esteem." This formula can literally ruin your life.
Self-worth is not something you go out and get. Self-worth is not something you buy, achieve, or obtain. It's something you already have. Getting grounded means embracing the fact that you are created in the image of God and have worth and value simply because you were born. Worth, based on being made in the image of God, does not fluctuate; it does not change regardless of your personality, performance, or possessions because it's based on the immutable character of God.
2. Get Grouped
Psychologists say that one of our deepest needs is to be connected with others in a meaningful way. You were created by God with the desire to be in relationships with other people, and when this God-given desire goes unmet, you will suffer. You will experience an emptiness and longing that can only be filled when you are associated with others. Getting grouped is all about developing healthy relationships. It is being involved with others beyond superficiality. It is about being in deeper relationships where there is trust, safety, and vulnerability.
We don't think it is a coincidence that the men and women who are passionate about life are always involved in some sort of group. It may be a service group, Bible study, or some sort of sports team, but the bottom line is that they are connected with others on a deep level. You are not an island or a Lone Ranger. You were designed to be with others!
Are you committed to a local church? Are you part of an accountability group or support group? Are you a member of a sports team? Do you participate in community service projects? Do you have people in your life who encourage you and, when necessary, graciously confront you? Do you have friends who listen to each other and can, over time, reveal their deepest concerns? If not, take this step today. Get plugged in with people in your church, college, workplace, or community, and this will help propel you out of the un-life into having a vibrant life.
3. Get Giving
Most people who are depressed, detached, or desperate usually don't even consider this next big G. Think about it-when you're feeling this way, your tendency is to focus only on your own needs and wants. In this age of self-indulgence, it seems radical to tell people to focus on someone other than themselves. The truth is, the key to a life of misery and loneliness is seeking only to please yourself.
Giving is about meeting the needs of others on a practical level. Do you ask, "What can I give to this relationship?" and not just, "What can I get from it?" People who are grounded and grouped are also seeking to serve and meet the needs of others. They get outside of themselves, take interest in others, and lead a rich life in the process.
4. Get Growing
In all aspects of life, things can be stagnant or growing. If you are not growing, expanding, or improving your life, you may be stagnant. You would think that almost everyone wants to be fully alive and passionate about life, but some people are little more than walking corpses because they have stopped growing. Growing requires the willingness to learn, improve, explore, discover, and sometimes to reach out and "boldly go where you haven't gone before."
How do you grow? It's simple. Ask yourself, "What do I have a passion for?" or "What are my skills and gifts? What am I interested in doing with my life?" For many of you, this is no problem because you are already involved in various activities that meet this requirement. However, if you are not, then plug in to some endeavor: art, drama, music, sports, volunteer work, or something else that you are interested in. Certainly, one of your most important areas for growth involves spiritual maturity-study, prayer, and church group affiliation for starters.
You may be thinking, Wow. This sounds risky. What if I fail? So what? Even failure is a learning, growing experience. Success comes from good judgment, good judgment comes from experience, and experience comes from making mistakes. The key to growing is risk.
FINDING SOMEONE ELSE WHO HAS A LIFE
So now that you know the first step of dating is to get a life, you may be thinking, How can I meet other people who have a life?
Great question. Unless you believe that God is going to supernaturally bring someone to your doorstep, then you must take responsibility to place yourself where there are people worth dating. Here are some ideas for expanding your playing field and finding a pool of potential dating prospects.
When you meet someone at church, the chances are much greater that you will share a common spiritual bond. You already know this person either is seeking a relationship with God or has one already. Your views on morality and the sanctity of marriage will more likely be similar. Your circle of friends will also be similar. You will have a built-in support system with ministers and others who should encourage and train you in the process of building healthy relationships.
Don't fall into the trap of church hopping. Many single people are like little bees buzzing from one flower to the next, never landing in a particular church home. If you are always buzzing about, you will never stay long enough in one place to build deep friendships and you will never be a contributor to the work of God.
If you are not an active member of a local church, then get busy and find one. And don't just warm the pew, but start asking other members how you can get involved. When you are plugged in, as you will quickly discover, not only is it a great place to serve others, but it is also a target-rich environment.
We don't recommend fishing off the company pier to everyone because of the obvious inherent risks of experiencing sexual harassment suits or falling in love with your boss. However, according to a recent Fortune 500 survey, the workplace is rapidly becoming a dating hot spot. Where did multibillionaire Bill Gates meet his bride? In the marketing department at Microsoft. People are working longer hours than ever before, so work has become a natural place to meet someone to date. Most companies are taking a laid-back approach to office romances.
One big advantage of meeting someone at work is the possibility that you could have a similar background. Education, socioeconomic status, and life aspirations are just a sampling of common interests you may share with a coworker. The upside of finding love at work is tremendous, but so is the downside. Let's look at some basic "9-to-5" love rules.
Rule #1: Never date someone you report to or someone who reports to you. This rule should be self-evident, but some people still don't get it.
Rule #2: Consider the outcome if your relationship doesn't work out. Would you still have to see the person all the time? Could you handle it? If an office romance goes sour, will that force you to find a new job?
Rule #3: Don't ever pursue a relationship if it is not mutual. Getting slapped with a sexual harassment suit is no laughing matter.
Friends and Family
According to surveys (our own and many others), the vast majority of successful married couples meet their partners by networking through friends and family members.
Don't be afraid to ask your friends if they know of any available guys or gals. Chances are, if your friends connect with them, then you will probably connect with them as well. Be sure to coach your friends as to what you are and are not looking for in a mate. If you don't want them involved in this process, politely tell them so.
Believe it or not, family members can be a big help here. Your family knows you better than anyone-the good, the bad, and the ugly. So when they have a potential candidate for you, don't roll your eyes and brush them off too quickly. You could be missing out on a great opportunity.
Many moons ago, I thought dating services were only for desperate people with absolutely no social skills. I was wrong. More and more singles are bypassing the often laborious dating scene for these types of services. They offer complete confidentiality and the ability to sort through hundreds of potential dates before you ask one out. Some organizations specialize in setting you up for lunch dates only-a quick, safe way to meet dating prospects (not to mention a lot less expensive).
Before joining such an organization, check it out thoroughly. Some of them are about as trustworthy as used-car salesmen at the end of the month. Many are merely out to take advantage of your fears and prey upon your pocketbook. Others are solid organizations run with class, discretion, and professionalism.
There's no doubt that the Internet is the fastest-growing place to meet your mate, in spite of the inherent dangers. Since computers are all about speed, this form of connecting seems to share that same cyber-obsession for instant love. The Internet offers hundreds of different online venues to meet members of the opposite sex, from dating services and chat rooms to simple personal ads and high-dollar clubs. This is not the ideal place (the chat-room approach being the worst), and at the very least you run the risk of entering into a virtual relationship without the benefits of a real relationship. However, we realize many of you use the Internet anyway. So, if you do explore love online, be sure to obey the following guidelines by America Online:
Even though you may feel you've come to know that "special someone" through online interaction, DO remember that the people you meet online are, in fact, strangers.
DON'T give out your phone number or address. Guard your personal information.
DON'T believe everything you read. It's easy for someone to misguide you via online correspondence. Remember that the people at the other end may not be who they say they are.
DON'T respond to correspondence that is lewd or crude or in any way makes you uncomfortable.
If you choose to meet someone offline, use good judgment and common sense: DO meet in a public place and in a group setting.
Excerpted from DATING 101 by ben young samuel adams Copyright © 2007 by Ben Young. Excerpted by permission.
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