Archive for June, 2011

This week we’ve been walking through Palmer’s Rules for dating. I began with the need to be clear and then moved on to The SoulMate Myth. I realize that The Rules, and the idea that there are any rules seems like they diminish romance, curtail chemistry, and remove spontaneity. That is one way to look at. I prefer to see the rules as practical steps and decisions, gleaned from the successes and failures of others, that will lead you to the person with which you can maximize romance, chemistry and spontaneity. While thinking and practicing The Rules, it won’t always feel romantic. Somewhere in inside you, you want a movie-style romance. But, in truth, those movies are a kind of emotional pornography; unrealistic, sensational, and intended for emotional gratification rather than lasting value. We see these emotional pornography in the oft-suggested notion in movies that one you find your partner or soul-mate that that person will somehow “complete you.”

You seen it in movies, and it was famously stated in one in particular. The “complete” narrative goes like this:

Someone is somewhat happy but there is something lacking in their life. Through a confluence of events they meet someone they think they want to spend forever with. Some obstacle to their love is introduced or highlighted and then the obstacle is overcome allowing the couple to “live happily ever after.” The hole that existed in their lives has now been filled; everyone has a new lease on life and all will be well.

But have you ever thought about all of the poor assumptions wrapped up in that narrative? Let’s ask some questions:

  1. What If You’re Happy Already? Where is it written that singleness is a curse and should be avoided? As a matter of fact, the Apostle Paul directs us in the opposite direction. Not everyone should be married, which, if the Bible is to be believed, suggest that you don’t need someone to “complete you” whether you get married or not. Truth is, only God can complete you — something the Ecclesiates writer discovers after trying absolutely EVERYTHING else!
  2. How Poorly Do You Think About Yourself? The idea that there is another person that has the ability to “complete” you means that you somehow see yourself as incomplete. That’s an awful lot of power and dependence to give to another person. What happens to your sense of self if, God forbid, your completer dies early? And what happens if your competer strongly disagrees with you about something major? If you allow someone to complete you, you will always be dependent. Once a teenage girl told me about how important it was for a girl to have a boyfriend to feel good about herself. She got pregnant her senior year in high school. The guy split and her life was altered in a way, if thinking clearly, she would not have chosen.
  3. How Poorly Do You Think of God? If the Biblical narrative is true, one of the recurring themes is that God alone is enough. Enough for salvation, enough for sustained growth and relational intimacy; God is just enough and to live otherwise is a denial of that truth. Of course there is a relational component, people need other people, yet it is the spark of God in one another, His image, to borrow the language of Genesis. If You need someone other than God to complete you, you may be granting a person god-like power. As far as I can tell, this is idolatry.
The bottom line is simple: Another person cannot complete you. They really can’t even come close and it’s inappropriate for you to ask hem to. You’re putting extreme pressure on your relationship and marriage when you approach it that way. And trust me, there’s enough pressure in married life – money, kids, not having kids when you want them, time, sex, etc… – that you don’t need a serving of idolatry on the side.
He or she won’t complete you. Either you’ll be made whole through a redemptive relationship with God or you’ll reject that relationship. There’s no other path to wholeness.

Yesterday, I began a series on Palmer’s Rules For Dating. The Rules are generally, but not totally, geared toward young women and are designed to produce a healthy dating life, which will hopefully become a fulling, life-long marriage. Yesterday we talked about young men and today we turn our attention to a powerful impediment to healthy dating: The SoulMate Myth!


Perhaps the most insidious idea in the dating world is The SoulMate Myth.

Here’s how the soulmate myth goes: There is one person that God has uniquely designed for you to meet, date, fall in love and live happily ever after with. When I was in school at Abilene Christian, girls shared an old-wives tale about an artery in your ring finger that lead to your heart and that’s why you wore your wedding ring on that finger. The boy who placed the ring on your finger was the one person God meant for your heart. 

Hogwash! I’m not a doctor or the son of a doctor (unless a Ph.D, counts), but I really hope all my arteries wind their way back to my heart!

More to the point, and to be clear: You don’t have a soulmate! There’s is not one, single person carved out in the universe custom made for you. Just because nearly everything in America is customizable, it doesn’t mean people come that way.

Just think about the anxiety you would feel if you really believed that! Did you meet them in elementary school and put sand in her hair? Was he or she sitting next to you at a concert and you never managed the courage to speak to him or her? Were you supposed to meet them at that Sunday night youth devo that you skipped because you were trying to finish your homework? With 300 Billion people in the world, you’d have to wonder about a God would send you looking for that small a needle in that large a haystack. As a matter of fact, a God who did that might be described as kinda cruel. And if you had to go on a hard target search like that, what time would you have for anything else? I mean, how much time can you spend on

Yet people believe it. They walk around thinking they’ve married their soulmate or “the right person” and they’re happy about it…until they’re not. They get married, hit some bumps in the road, find comfort in the company another man or woman, or in just being alone and suddenly they say to themselves, “I married they wrong person.”

The truth is that there is no single right-person. Instead, you should be looking for the right-kind-of-person. This right-kind-of-person is found in 1 Corinthians 13. Rochelle and I enjoy a great marriage, but both of us acknowledge that either of us could have had a great marriage with a number of people given that those persons were committed to the same things we are committed to; faith, hope, love, divorce never being an option, and the primacy of Jesus. Certainly it would be different, but marriage isn’t sustained by chemistry; it’s sustained by commitments. In turn, commitments give rise to chemistry, but what many people call chemistry is pretty much lust! As Rochelle’s father told me during my engagement, “If you stay committed to Jesus, you’ll stay committed to Rochelle.”

So, how do you find the right-kind-of-person? It’s simple. You become the right-kind-of-person! Psalm 42 reminds us that “deep calls to deep;” like things are drawn to like things. If you want a person who is patient, kind, not envious, isn’t jealous, etc…you need to become that kind of person. So guess what, if you’re dating a jerk…look in the mirror.

You have think about your own behavior and character like a virus, a good virus. Some people will be susceptible to the virus, they’ll be open and non-resistant to the right kind of love and care. Other people’s system will fight the virus, reject it. Let them. If you’re becoming the right kind of person yourself, the right kind of person will be inspired and drawn to you (this works for friendship, as well). The wrong kind of people will try to inject their antidote of impatience and selfishness into your system. Get rid of them! Quickly! They are a cancer that will eat away at your own health unless you eradicate it!

Ghandi said, “Be the change you want to see in the world.” When it comes to dating and marriage, I say, “Be the person you want to spend the rest of your life with.” There’s not haystack that way.

Last week I sat with my summer interns, both female college students and outlined “Palmer’s Rules for Dating.” The rules aren’t actually rules, but rather guidelines that, if followed, increase one’s chances of healthy dating and healthy marriage. The Rules have been gleaned largely from my experience as a youth worker watching high-schoolers and college-aged kids go about the task of finding a mate in the most disasterous ways. Since several people have e-mailed and facebook messaged me about The Rules, I thought I would share them here.

A few things to understand first: (1) These rules exist in the world of typical young adult dating. There are no “I Kissed Dating Goodbye”-ish type rules. I don’t have a problem with the book, I’ve never read it. However, these rules are aids in the world of dating that is familiar to most of us; (2) In nearly 15 years of working with students, the vast majority have been girls. Therefore, The Rules, are typical aimed at girls and designed to help girls; and (3) Some of The Rules are serious, some of The Rules are funny (or I think they are), but all of The Rules are true.


Rule #1: Boys Are Clueless!

I’m serious. Young men don’t think much, there’s not much going on upstairs. In fact, young men are very, very simple creatures. This means, whatever you’re doing to get his attention; He won’t notice. Don’t waste your tears crying to your girlfriends that he “doesn’t know I exists.” He knows, he’s just thinking about football.

A few years into my marriage, Rochelle shared with me that when she first became romantically interested in me, she started to hang around outside my classes, and sit in my vicinity  in chapel. This was completely lost on me. If a young woman wants to get a guys attention, she’ll need to do something just a little shy of  clubbing him over the head! You’re going to have to think like a guy. Think about it. What movies do guys like? Adam Sandler movies, The Green Lantern, Transformers; these are movies with horrible scripts, the storyline spelled out for a nine year old and more explosions than thinking. Subtlety won’t get you where you want to go. I would have never asked Rochelle on a date had not a mutual friend visited me one afternoon and brought a club with her.

We’re just wired to think differently.

For example, a young woman is driving with a young man. He’s quiet. She says, “What are you thinking?” “Nothing,” he replies. Suddenly her mind starts spinning: “What’s he thinking that he doesn’t want me to know? Is he going to break-up with me? What secret is he keeping? Maybe it’s the outfit I’m wearing? He doesn’t like it. Is my hair okay? Does he like someone else?” On and on it goes. And what is he really thinking?


He’s not lying. He’s simple.

That means if you want to date a boy, if you want something particular out of relationship with a boy, or if you want to get rid of a boy, you have to be crystal clear about your expectations. No beating around the bush. No hints. No suggestions. No “he’ll pick-up on my vibe.” To make him play a guessing game is a prescription for frustration for the both of you.

Movies will tell you that once you’ve found your “soulmate” (a topic we’ll discuss later), then he will automatically know your favorite color, when you’re discouraged, what flowers you prefer and when to give you a foot massage. Uh-uh! Won’t happen!  Remember, romantic comedies are written by women. They are the projections of a dream world. Real life isn’t like that. Like everything else in life, people don’t know things until they’re taught things.

And if you think that it should happen and that if he loved you, he would know these things, then you’re going to frequently feel unloved. Yet, you’ll know you’re loved, when he knows what you want and need and then he gives it to you…whether he wants to or not. These are things that a good young man will learn and learn to do over time, but he won’t know to do them initially unless you tell him.

I know, I know. This doesn’t sound so romantic. Well, get over it. I’m trying to set you up for a successful dating life, which hopefully will turn into a fulfilling, life-long marriage. The Rules create fertile soil for romance to grow. Stay tuned….

Get Some Education…For People Who Need It!

Posted: June 5, 2011 in Uncategorized

Matt Worthington is good friends and teacher at MacFarland Middle School in the Washington DC Public School system. As you know, schools everywhere, especially urban schools, are in a financial trouble. Teachers, somehow, have become the new enemy, but as the son of a career educator I know first hands that the men and women teaching in inner-city schools deserve combat pay rather than disdain (my father once had a parent pull a gun on him!!). Plus, if your’e the kind of person who still believes that education in the best social, cultural, and financial elevator, I have great opportunity for you.

Matt and his students at MacFarland are in a contest to win $50,000 for an Apple Mobile Learning Lab through the Pepsi Refresh Everything contest and they NEED YOUR HELP!! After logging onto the site you’ll be able to read more and ask Matt any questions about McFarland and urban schools. You can also vote by texting “107022” to 73774 to vote for Matt and McFarland. Matt and the McFarland crew are currently ranked 32 out 258 contestants, but in order to get the grant we have to rank top 10. We need you, this blog community and my friends, to make this happen!

Here’s three ways MacFarland Friends and Family can vote everyday:
  1. Register to Vote & Vote Here Everyday
  2. Text “107022” to 73774 (NO REGISTRATION REQUIRED)
  3. POWER VOTING at our profile page using 10-digit codes found under Pepsi Bottle Caps and other Pepsi Products.