In primitive times, if you were rejected by your tribe, you would probably die Being loved by those in your tribe is a deep human need with an important survival function. It is deeply embedded in our DNA to do everything we can to be accepted. In an eternal sense, we understand that the loving ties of family are the greatest reward of exaltation.
Because of these considerations, rejection is one of our deepest fears. During my mid-single years, I didn't fear getting turned down for a first date very much, or even having a relationship end early before it really got started. However, much to my surprise, I found that the end of a serious dating relationship was just as painful for me as divorce. The pain never lasted as long as it did when I was divorced. However, during the time I was experiencing it, the pain of a breakup could be excruciating.
A couple of nights ago, Cathy and I saw a TV show where a famous dating coach started going through some hypotheticals with women about how many men out of 100 they might be attracted to. If it was 20, how many of those men might like them back? If it was even half of them, how many of the remaining 10 would have the other essential qualities they are looking for? Kind of opens your eyes doesn't it?
During my mid-single years, I dated a lot. I might have actually dated over 100 women over about a decade. How many of those did I find enough in the way of mutual attraction, shared values, and emotional connection to try an exclusive relationship? Six--and I dated more than most. I essentially selected my eternal companion from a pool of six people. Of course, I carefully selected those six from a little bit larger pool. No one has time to date the entire world and be as sure as we would like to be.
My point is that time is not really your friend, and deciding to move forward with a companion--still the biggest decision of your life--is a huge leap of faith.
Asking someone for a first date is a small leap of faith. It might mean that he or she might be one of only 7 to 10 people you will date in a given year--and that is if you date a lot like Cathy and I did. In any event, you are choosing your eternal companion from a much smaller circle of people than your brain wants to believe. And you are selecting based on inevitably incomplete information. To increase your odds, date more people more often.
So how does anyone wade through all of this, make good dating choices, and manage to make a marriage that has a good chance to be successful? You acknowledge your dependence on God, take note of your own limitations and, ultimately, make the best decision you can and take a leap of faith.
I am aware of how difficult this can feel. Odds are, the more you try to date the more you will be rejected, and we humans hate being rejected. It hurts like the devil. One mid-single friend told me that, after two failed marriages, she was convinced she had a "bad picker." She is now married to someone she knew in high school and quite happy after about 6 years of marriage.
When I contemplated marriage to Cathy, do you imagine that I saw red flags? I absolutely did. They were everywhere. Most of them were nonsense and made up by an overprotective brain. But I saw them and they seemed very real to me.
I get concerned when I hear mid-singles talk about paying attention to red flags. Most mid-singles are carrying enough trauma that they are going to see red flags in the most innocuous behavior. I am not suggesting that you turn a blind eye to genuinely abusive conduct--far from it. I did that and made an ill-advised second marriage that only lasted 6 months. I am just suggesting that you be aware that your mind will turn innocuous behavior into some kind of "sign" that portends future doom.
In the end, a lasting love is worth the risk. It is worth the pain of rejection that you might encounter along the way. It is worth the pain of disappointment. It is worth taking a leap of faith, even though the chasm beneath you seems deep and rocky.
Too many mid-singles are gun shy because they were hurt in the past, and want a sure thing the next time around. Too many of us want an ironclad guarantee that nothing could go wrong next time. Friends, there is no such thing. Trying to find love without risk is a fool's errand. It gets in the way of truly seeing people and being seen, which is what you need if you're going to make it through this process and create a happy relationship.