20 things to spot when observing Christian relationships

** WARNING – this post may lead to introspection**

If you spend enQuick-Easy-Valentine-Day-Treatsough time among Christians, especially those who are single and dating, some of these may be very familiar:

  1. The person who needs to be in a relationship just that little bit too much. Whenever an eligible boy or girl turns up on the scene they are the first to latch onto them, in the hope that maybe, this one, will be the one.
  1. The flirting butterfly. Every person is a target, they flit from one person to the next, pulling their best moves to impress the person in front of them. When one person rebuffs them, or often before they have the chance, they move onto the next. It’s not so much a relationship they are after but the affirmation that their flirting leads to when someone laps it up.
  1. The one who leads them on. They know they’re being flirted with, they enjoy it, they are the ones who lap it up – it makes them feel good. They’ve no intention of it going anywhere, but to turn the flirter down would mean turning down the attention. So they let it carry on.
  1. The one who seems above romance and relationship. They breeze through life as though attraction and emotion are unknown, they are busy in their own life. As far as anyone can tell they are attracted to no one, and no one is attracted to them. Except the person who is attracted to them but has no idea if they even notice.
  1. The one who is waiting for God to do it. They’re not exactly content in their singleness, because they’d rather be with someone, but they are trusting in God. This means they don’t do much on their initiative and are inclined to turn down offers if God hasn’t told them that it’s the one.
  1. The amazing girl who all the other girls can’t understand why no guy asks out. You hear the gasps of exacerbation and bemusement at why such and such hasn’t been asked out on any dates recently (or at all). This is likely to come with the tacit suggestion (and sometimes explicit) that you might want to rectify this state of affairs.
  1. The guy who doesn’t ask girls out. It’s not that he’s not interested, he is. It’s just he always finds a reason not to ask out the girl who’s occupying his thoughts. After a while he tends to decide he’s not that interested, or she’s not that interested, or sees she’s now with another guy.
  1. The married to Jesus one. They are so in love with the Lord, and he fulfils all of their needs. Until hot guy asks them on a date.
  1. I need a hero! They are just desperate for someone to fall in love with. Someone who is the right height, with the perfect colour hair, that compassionate but confident temperament who will sweep you off your feet without coming on too strong. Other than that, they’re off the market.
  1. The naïve one who everyone likes. They don’t know it but they have a legion of admirers. Guy after guy has a thing for her. All the girls wait around hoping she will be the one he picks. But it doesn’t happen, they seem immune to the volley of attraction they provoke.

    © April Killingsworth

    © April Killingsworth

  1. Friendship dependency. It starts with them hanging around and becoming friends, and being Christians they know that even if they were in a relationship with someone (not necessarily the friend in question) they wouldn’t get much more out of it then they do as friends. And they enjoy their friendship and lean heavily on it for emotional support. So friendships act as a buffer making crossing the Rubicon towards a relationship that bit less appealing (you know, they might get rejected and all that). This can lead to…
  1. The couple who aren’t a couple. They are categorically not going out, they are friends, they spend time together. Plenty of people think there must be something going on, but they’ve never even talked about such an occurrence. That would be awkward, and after all they’re not really attracted to one another. Problem is, getting a plus one to a wedding is even more awkward. But this is different to…
  1. The couple that will be a couple. Everyone can see it (apart from me), the friendship, the chemistry, the attraction. But it goes unspoken. Maybe they’re nervous, fearful of rejection, uncertain of the reciprocation of feelings, but they hold back. And everyone, the everyone who sees this as inevitable, hold back because to do otherwise would be meddling. Instead they just talk about it. And when they do they either become…
  1. The couple who want to convince you they aren’t a couple. Maybe it is early days in their relationship and they don’t want to be public about their growing amorous affection. They arrive separately, are distinctly detached in the post church mingle. But it is just a little too studied, a little too planned. Or…
  1. PDAs, alternatively known as: The couple who want to convince everyone they are in love. It’s all about the Public Displays of Affection. One minute they were single and the next inseparable. I’m all about showing your significant other how much they mean to you, but in church, during the sermon on atonement, really? I don’t think that’s what ‘his wrath was reconciled meant’.
  1. The couple who were a couple. They were going out, you knew about it, most people knew about it, but now you’re not so sure. It’s been a while since you’ve seen them together but maybe that’s just because one of them has been away. But because we don’t gossip no one talks about their break up, it just glacially filters through the ecclesiological eco-system hopefully in time to cut off another awkward plus one wedding invite.
  1. The Christian festival couple. In a blaze of camping induced romance they find the love of their life. They commit to each other 4EVA. The messages pass back and forth (in my day text and email, probably fb messenger, whatsapp and snapchat these days). But slowly it fades, until they embarrassingly bump into each other next year in the same showground having not spoken for months.
  1. The girlfriend (and sorry to be gender specific) who can’t do anything without their boyfriend. Being in a relationship mutes independent thought and the previously confident lady is a shadow of her former self.
  1. The over protective boyfriend (again, see above for apology). You get within a few meters of his girl and he’ll come alongside her and bring the conversation to a close.
  1. The wannabe matchmaker. They have a pairing for everyone, they think they’ve got skills in who suits who, and want their friends matched up pronto. Except, when it comes to it, the matching plan never hatches.single contact person

What about, a friend asks, the normal Christians, who are confident, honest, and not playing games?

Married.

What have I missed? What should be in the A-Z spotters guide of Christians who are single, dating or getting into a relationship (provisional title)?

Why I write about relationships, and why I hesitate

good-relationshipsTwo years ago I started this blog with a series of four posts one day after the next on relationships in the church. For better or worse it established the foundations of what I would write a lot about, and more to the point, what I would be known to write about. I go through phases of leaving the subject to one side, letting it have a breather, but the issues do not go away and my opinions don’t always want to keep to themselves.

One of those four posts, “Why guys don’t ask girls out” gets hits every single day, and a few weeks ago I read it and winced not only at typos that continue to be read but what I said and the way I said it.

Many of the things I wrote on four consecutive days stand the test of time. There are some concepts and ideas that I articulated for the first time which had been percolating through my mind for many years, others that slipped off the fingers onto the keyboard without sufficient thought.

There are ideas I have rethought as I have written and reflected on a topic that is tender to many people. I have had to change what I do because of what I wrote, but what I write should also be affected by what I do – and too often I have written in a vacuum. Continue reading

A guide to Christian dating

© April Killingsworth

Christians need a helping hand to get on the relationships ladder, and I’m here to provide it.

I look around my church and see many eligible men and beautiful women who are not in relationships. I’m tempted to suggest arranged marriages – either by the wisdom of the elders or drawing of lots – but I suspect that my guide will prove far more productive. This is written for men (although I’m sure everyone can learn from its wisdom) but any offers to provide a companion piece for the ladies would be gratefully received.

Step 1. Find someone you like

There are plenty of girls around but making your mind up can be difficult, so here’s a little crib sheet that you can score potential marks out of ten.

  • Attractiveness – do you like the way their earlobes hang?
  • Personality – how many times an hour do they make you laugh? (laugh-o-meters are available from accredited retailers.)
  • Intellect – can they recite the books of the Bible backwards?
  • Spirituality – check out their prayers for buzzwords: propitiation, justification and atonement in the same sentence counts double.
  • Holiness – how important is God in their lives: do they carry their study bible everywhere they go? (You Version on the iPhone is indicative of a consumerist, easy, faith)
  • Testimony – will your life stories mesh together to provide a beautiful symphony of the Lord’s work?

I will leave to you what counts as a datable score in each category.

Step 2. The after church mingle and other appropriate social contexts

Once you have a particular girl in your sights the next task is to find ways of maximising social contact without disclosing your interest. The most obvious device to use at this juncture is the ‘after church mingle’, I would suggest you use this open social environment to test the waters of your potential date. If you are fortunate to attend a church with many mid-week activities you can maximise your engagement with the opposite sex, and if you diarise with skill you could scout out multiple marks at once.

A particular challenge in this regard is breaking down the inevitable cliques that develop in church. If the girl of your dreams always sits at another table when you go to the pub after church you’ll have to take additional measures. I would suggest segueing into a conversation by inquiring of them whether they enjoyed the prayer meeting last night, or other suitable occasion that provides a spiritual cover for gentle flirting. If there is an opportunity to discover where else you might happen to be in the same place together all the better.

Step 3. The pre-date

Anyone new to the world of Christian dating might be surprised by the tortured agonising that goes on before a guy asks a girl out. In the language of contemporary Christianity this is described as discernment. You have to make sure that the girl likes you before you let her know that you like her.

A decade or so ago dating was rather out of fashion, and the old fashioned notion of courtship came back into vogue. This tendency has now faded and replaced with an exhortation to guys to be direct and ask girls on dates. However, there remains a scepticism about asking girls out on a date with only a cursory post church mingle to ascertain your spiritual compatibility. This is why the pre-date is vital.

The pre-date can takes a variety of forms, the most common is the, ‘let’s meet for coffee before church’, but its more sophisticated proponents would also demonstrate the carefully orchestrated ‘walk to the station together after church’. Such circumstances are vital to ensure that you can savour a few moments of the person’s undivided company. Because of the prevalence of the pre-date and the myriad uses to which it has been put, for example providing friendship and company as well as testing out potential dates you may wish to provide an alibi for your coffee: planning an event or discussing important pastoral issues are common devices.

Interlude

At this stage in the process it is usual to participate in that vital aspect of informal church communications: the accountability partner. Through this sharing of dilemmas you can gently inform other people of your interest and if the networks work to their optimum capacity you can ward other potential suitors off before you mark is aware of your intent.

Step 4. The date

If all of the preliminary stages have been completed with due care and attention the ideal situation is that without having to disclose your interest you reach a point where your mark has provided a cast iron guarantee of their mutual desire for a relationship.

Unfortunately not all situations work out quite this well, which incidentally is the stimulus for an audit of relationships in church with the intended output of sharing good practice. This project goes by the name: Good Operations Statement of Sexually Interested Parties.

It is therefore often necessary to take the step of asking a girl out on a date. I am aware that this is an unorthodox and confusing practice so would like to off so high level guidance on how to do this. I would suggest: “Hi Gertrude, would you like to go out for dinner on Friday?” (If the girl you are interested in is not called Gertrude it might be apposite to use their name instead.)

During the date there are various things to bear in mind. It is vital to allow the direction of the Holy Spirit to function to its full degree so we would suggest not planning too precisely what you do, you do not want to be guilty of quenching the Holy Spirit. Once you have begun dating, everyone in the church will begin checking their diary is free on Saturdays nine months hence, so you don’t want to waste time dilly-dallying. Get to the core issues straight away, I would allow only a couple of preliminary questions before inquiring of the status of their walk with God. Good phases to throw into the conversation at this point include: “God’s calling on your life” or “His Will for your life”. From my vast experience I find that a simple “Tell me about your faith” works well. While prophesying on a first date may seem a little too much, if the Lord is directing you to share your vision of marital bliss I do not wish to stand in your way.

Step 5. The relationship

After a couple of walks around the park praying together and conversing with the Holy Spirit you may wish to start consider this relationship a Relationship. While you may have previously been going out with this delightful lady, only now are you ‘Going Out’. Please remember the important difference, and although you may still go on dates you are no longer ‘Dating’.

It is necessary to carefully articulate the terms and conditions of your relationship as it has been reported that some ladies are unaware they are in a relationship at this phase. One way of indicating this progression maybe through subtle physical gestures, such as holding hands, or even a peck on the cheek if you are feeling brave. As a last resort you could of course talk about the status of your relationship.

It is not essential to start scouting wedding venues as soon as you progress into this stage but depending on your timing, budget and aspirations it’s never too soon to start. As you are a Christian you clearly do not suffer with issues of lust and temptation, so it is not to dispel these urges that you might consider swift nuptials. Instead it is to honour and uphold the biblical command to go forth and multiply. Some things are a burden you must carry for the kingdom.

Step 6. Marital bliss

Once you are married all of your problems are solved.