He was tall, smart, and talented. He pulled out my chairs, cooked for me, and asked me to be his girlfriend. He was gone a week later.
I wish I could tell you this story happened only once, but it’s one that would become familiar over the years. The guys would change, but the pattern would be the same – some of the moves even repeated! (Single red rose on the passenger seat – yes, I fell for it twice.)
I spent my entire life looking for God’s love through human men.
I was a true relationship addict, never without a boyfriend or crush since the age of 13. I’ve spent more of my life dating than alone.
For years I sought every type of healing I could get my hands on – even going through a Marriage & Family Therapy graduate program myself, then practicing as a life coach. But the only thing that finally broke the chains was when I came to Christ much later in life.
As you likely know, even God’s healing isn’t always instantaneous. Sometimes the process is arduous and long. You’ll slide back into the old patterns – I still do. The devil knows what we desire, and he’ll flash it at you every chance he gets.
Dating patterns are particularly tricky – they’re so close to our hearts and so tied in with the very real love God intended us for that we often have a tough time distinguishing the true from the false.
So for all of our sakes, I’ve gathered three ways to spot an unhealthy pattern or suitor. Remember, God does not mean for you to suffer.
#1 You’re full of worry.
Most advice columns about unavailable men focus on the guy. If only! If we had the ability to distinguish a good apple from a bad, we wouldn’t need these articles in the first place!
It can be frighteningly difficult to see through the glamour of a dashing man, a charming smile, a promise of a future. So instead, turn your focus inward.
What are your days marked with – enthusiasm and hope? Or worry about when he’ll call?
Yes, we’re neurotic people and we have issues for God to heal. The man God wants for you won’t be able to fix all those issues. But he at least won’t increase those worries constantly.
Carefully consider the emotional tone of this courtship or relationship, and monitor your anxiety level – this is an early warning system built in to help you see clearly!
#2 He asks you for commitment quickly, but keeps you a secret or a low priority.
This is a painful way to find out where you stand, but better to know as soon as possible before further damage is done.
Let’s run down some of the ways this looks:
- He calls you his girlfriend but none of his friends know about you.
- He calls you his girlfriend but his life looks the same as it does when he’s single.
- He calls himself your boyfriend and even talks about marriage and children, but always has other commitments and priorities over you.
This is a classic narcissist trait – the need to gain exclusivity as soon as possible without following through with the actual commitment.
One way to discover this is to ask if he’s he’s talked about you with anyone. If the answer is “it hasn’t come up,” Houston, we have a problem.
#3 You develop emotional whiplash
Again, the ways unavailable men work are often so skillful and subtle that you can’t see them doing it – but you can catch the consequences in the way you feel. So check in again with yourself and see if you experience a distinct pulling back, or a hot and cold feeling.
Did he come on strong in the beginning with flowers, plans for the future, and grand gestures (the grander the better)?
Once he gained some level of commitment from you (or a next level of physical intimacy), did you experience a distinct level of disinterest? Were you suddenly not the shiny new thing he focused all his attention on?
With a healthy man you’ll feel a steadier – and sometimes slower – progression that, while not always linear, will nevertheless grow, not ebb and flow so much that you’re left wondering who flipped a switch and turned Jekyll into Hyde.
These are three main ways to distinguish unavailable men from the real deal. It can be hard to slow down during the rush of romance, especially when someone seems so amazing at first. The key is to regularly turn inward – checking in with yourself and with God to hear his guidance. It’s also vital that you continue to allow God to work on you.
Don’t undertake this process alone! Enlist your sisters from church, gather a team of friends to hold you accountable, and don’t be afraid to seek a counselor or other professional support. I’ve utilized all those resources myself, and continue to devour quality books, including Debra’s.
The first time I went through True Love Dates, I carefully answered every question, inviting God to go through them with me. Often I cried as he delivered me from past pain and showed me new revelations.
I’ve shed many tears, lost much sleep, and bore emotional scars to learn all this. My prayer is for you to guard your hearts with this knowledge so you don’t have to go through the pain I did. But if you do, know that you’re not alone, and God heals. I still stumble and make missteps. Just last week I opened up True Love Dates again to review the principles and keep myself on track.
We’re in this healing journey together and God’s timing is perfect. Keep turning your eyes to Him and trust that love will, in the end, win.
Sophia Chang is an aerial dancer, fellowship-winning writer, and trained coach for women. After graduating from Harvard at the age of 20, Sophia worked as a film and TV actor and became the world’s first iPod silhouette model. She currently runs a college admissions coaching company and has just finished 13 months of nomadic travel around the world. Connect with her at www.sophiachang.com – she loves to hear from readers!
Welcome to TrueLoveDates.com! I’m Debra Fileta, Professional Counselor & Author of the book True Love Dates, and I created this blog as a space to pair psychology and Christian spirituality to address all things love, dating, and relationships.
This month, I’ve invited some of my faithful TrueLoveDates readers to share their heart with the rest of our blog community for my #GuestPostSeries!! There are some AMAZING singles out there, people!!! I’m choosing 10 guest posts to share with you over the summer. I’m so excited to hear their stories and share their messages with you as well! Enjoy!! And be sure to leave them some love in the comment section below. — Love, Debra