So there have been a couple of good articles on dating out recently, one of which was my buddy Brad Williams’ over at Christ and Pop Culture. He knows what it is to be a weird Christian guy who doesn’t have commitment issues, but courage issues, so out of pity, he offered up a few tips and a little hope to guys convinced they’ll always be alone. It was hilarious, wise, and pretty popular. Go read it right now, if you want.
Now, in the comments on Facebook, another friend (who shall remain nameless) playfully joked something along the lines of “But where am I going to find a girl who is into: a, b, c, d, e, and f quirky particular interests that I have.” To which I responded, “The point isn’t to date yourself, ______.” Again, we were joking, but it got me thinking, “How many guys do I know that are single because they’re so busy trying to date themselves, they won’t date the girls around them?”
(Before I go on to describe what I’m talking about, hear me loud and clear on this: I am not saying that if you’re a single Christian male, you must be doing this. If you comment and complain that your situation is different, and that’s not the people you know, and so forth, I’ll nod my head in agreement and say, “Good, I’m glad. I wasn’t talking to you.”)
In my time as a twenty-something male, hanging out with twenty-something males, and pastoring them, I’ve noticed that a number of them are convinced they need to find a female version of themselves to date and that anything else is “settling” or won’t work. In their minds, dating is this project where you attempt to find your long-lost second self who shares all of your habits, quirks, taste in movies, and political views.
This is nonsense and should be dropped immediately.
Obviously, I get the desire to have a person who understands all of your loves and joys, the things that stir your imagination, and so forth. Marriage is, at least, a type of friendship. And friendships are based around common or shared joys and commitments. At some point, though, finding someone you can be friends with crosses over into finding someone you could confuse yourself with.
If I had to lay down a principle here, I’d say this: some overlap is good; total overlap is unnecessary and maybe weird. What you need is someone who is okay with you being you on the personality stuff, and willing to encourage you to stop being a sinner when you need it.
I’ll take my own marriage as an example, mostly because it’s the one I know best at this point. Beyond Jesus Christ, McKenna and I share enough things in common to make life enjoyable. There is a certain overlap in movie tastes (although we frequently watch things by ourselves that the other doesn’t want to), and music (she doesn’t like country and will listen to certain metal with me), food tastes, etc. What’s more, I know that she would never forced me to sleep in the dirt or climb a big rock, or something similarly horrible. We also have a shared sense of humor, which is important.
That said, she is by no means a theology nerd, which is probably my greatest passion and hobby in life. I mean, she knows the faith and will let me babble on about whatever I’m reading about, but she’s not pulling the latest text in trinitarian theology off the shelf to discuss with me. I on the other hand, will listen to her talk about the things she writes on for her beauty blog, used to watch ‘Project Runway’ with her when we had normal TV, and have learned the names of some important designers, but I don’t sit there looking up previews for the Fall or Spring line-up like she will. I’m a morning person, she’s a night owl. I could watch comic-book movies for days, and she likes art house films where everybody dies and is unhappy at the end. I could go on for days here, but we are very different people in many ways.
The great thing is that we’re okay with that. McKenna is happy to let me babble at her about theology, and I’m happy to let her babble about beauty stuff at me, but neither of us expects the other to be as interested as the other in those things. I mean, marriage changes you and so over time we’ve become more interested in each other’s hobbies. At the same time, we’ve become more comfortable acknowledging our differences and it’s been healthy.
Here’s the thing: happy, God-glorifying couples come in all shapes and sizes. Some seem like two peas in a pod. Others look outwardly like they’re worlds apart. Others are kind of a blended middle. While I’d suggest a certain amount of overlap of interests for a healthy friendship, don’t get caught in the trap of passing by a great girl simply because she won’t play video games with you, or whatever sine qua non you’ve chosen as your must-have quality. Try to find a girl who shares the main thing with you (Jesus), is okay with you being you, and then everything from there is gravy.
Soli Deo Gloria
P.S. Since writing this, it’s become clear that this is not simply a male phenomenon. Ladies, obviously, feel free to rework the grammar and apply this to yourselves.