Remember that dating is “certified lying.” You and your date are both committed to winning the other person by putting your best foot forward (if you are not you probably have some other more serious problems). Therefore, the unfiltered advice from people your date is not trying to impress will be much more objective and closer to reality. Knowing this basic truth, why is it that when people give us advice or caution us about our decisions, that we take it personal? Here are a few reasons we rob ourselves of the blessing of objectivity and wisdom.
1). We assign outside value to the things we love. Therefore when someone shares concern about a trait, it is viewed as a personal attack on our judgment or personal abilities. When a concerned counselor says, “I think you should be careful about this area.” We often hear, “You are a very stupid person.” If your response to objective or even subjective advice is so reactionary, maybe you should reconsider your emotional maturity level? Said a little more frankly, if one is not ready to receive advice, one is not ready for a relationship.
2). We have an exalted view of our judgment and discernment. Many younger dating couples approach dating like a kindergartner approaches reading, he feels confident because he knows the alphabet. Older couples have a tremendous amount of untapped relational advice that either is never used, or never heeded.
One reason the advice is not heeded from people with dozens of years of experience is that they seem out of touch. They no longer cuddle on the couch, spend excessive amounts of time staring at each other, or hold hands on a walk. It is easy to conclude that these old fogies have no understanding of the passion of true love. Love will reveal itself in long walks, and cuddling, but it is a huge mistake to think that the beginning phrases of love (physical expressions) are the only way to express love in a meaningful way. Many people show forth their unspoken belief that a couple in their twenties knows more about love than their grandparents after faithfully weathering all life has thrown at them (including cancer, childrearing, disappointment, loss of abilities, etc.) This unspoken belief is lived out by the simple act of not asking their grandparents for advice.
Another reason for younger relationships to invalidate older advice is because most people who have a close enough relationship to offer advice, are also close enough for us to see their glaring relationship faults in return. Maybe you do not want to emulate your parent’s model of conflict resolution, but that does not invalidate their wisdom in many other areas such as finances or whether or not your date is actually good candidate for a serial killer. We cannot invalidate sound advice because the messenger has warts. If their advice offends you, maybe it is time to start redirecting the “love covers all” philosophy from your unemployed boyfriend towards your counselors.
3). Another reason we have a hard time taking advice about dating is, we believe the lie that people just do not understand. What date hasn’t thought or said, “You just don’t understand her….” It could very well be that your counselor does not understand the individual person, but some things in life do not require understanding of the person to understand the signals. For example, I do not have to understand gravity to know that jumping from high places will cause painful physical reactions. I do not have to understand the person’s story or background to foresee the future painful reactions of laziness or immaturity.
4). We have no true understanding where wisdom comes from. It is true that not all counsel even from people that have been around the block, should hold the same weight. When I dated, I was counseled to kiss her to see if she was the right one. I really liked that counsel, but it was devoid of any scriptural content. True wisdom only comes from the fear of the Lord, but fools will despise instruction (Proverbs 1:7). Before I have the right to disagree with counsel, I have to have a filter through which right counsel should flow. Even if you have scriptural support for your actions, remember to keep talking to people who disagree. Rehoboam decided to stop talking to people who disagreed with him, and that decision helped split the kingdom of Israel in I Kings 12. Frankly, why would you ask advice from someone who already agrees with you?
How you determine the right actions of your relationship will show more about your character than your actions.
5). We are feeling based. Loving and being loved feels really good, but feelings are not a good basis for truth or love (just ask the married couple going through Alzheimer’s, the married war hero, or the wife after a miscarriage). Sometimes love really hurts. If you are in a relationship simply for the happy feelings, you may as well get a lawyer and pre-sign the divorce papers, because someone somewhere will make you more ‘happy.’ When someone’s advice doesn’t feel good, ask yourself the simple questions, “Why?”
6). We are scared. We often do not like to hear counsel because we are insecure in our abilities, and our observations. We want to deny what our counselors point out, because we are scared we may not get another chance at marriage. We are afraid that someone else has seen the same ‘faults’ we have, but we do not know how to change them. That is exactly what mentors and advisers are for, to help us along our road and to give advice in areas we may be lacking.
7). We often do not see the love behind the advice. Many parents have this idea that since they gave you life, clothed you, fed you, paid for you, and rocked you when you had the flu, that they have the right to advise you. In fact, some parents or counselors go as far as to believe that all of those actions, sweat, and tears, will be understood as love, and so assume they can get straight to the point. This is often perceived by younger people as an intrusion into their private lives. Give older counselors the courtesy of treating you like adults when they do away with the pleasant formalities of making you feel good in conversation and simply listen for the truth.
Even if they may not know how to be tactful, ask, “Are they truthful?”
8). We are too distracted by the obvious. We do not like to hear people counsel or advise us because it might tarnish the beauty. We look at our dates like a sixteen year old looks at sports car. All the options and whistles, and dad has to remind them of the price tag. Your date may be the homecoming queen, but someone has to remind you of the price tag of her arrogance or insecurity. When someone points out an area of concern or improvement, remember that it is much easier for others to point out the areas that need improvement. Do you really want other people commenting on the beautiful eyes of your date?
When it comes to hearing unwanted or painful advice remember Proverbs 26:12 places the one who will not listen as one step lower than a fool. “Seest thou a man wise in his own conceit? there is more hope of a fool than of him.”
Pre-empt awkward conversations by approaching godly leaders, married couples, parents, and trusted advisers and ask them for advice, before during and after dating. One of the most enjoyable conversations I have ever had was when a young man called me up and said, “Can we do lunch, I have some dating questions and need your advice.”
Prepare before you are in a relationship. Only fools jump into the lake and then learn how to swim. Read Scripture centered books and blogs, hang out with respected couples, or volunteer as a chaperone.
Set up an accountability couple who you have talked to and given permission to check up on you in your dating relationship. Think of them like personal trainers for dating.
Put together a list of Scriptural characteristics to look for in a date.
Take your parent on a date and ask them what about their dating relationship and what wisdom they would give. Make sure you pick up the bill.
These are a few starter ideas, please post any other practical advice for gaining dating wisdom.