THE DREAM OF A LIFETIME RELATIONSHIP! Chances are good, since
you’ve picked up this book, that this is your single greatest
longing. It certainly was for me as a young single man. And most
singles whom I talk with admit that the hope for a good marriage is
their most burning aspiration—far ahead of anything that’s in
In generations past, most who wanted to be married enjoyed
vastly greater family and social support in finding a spouse. Most
married young and, compared with challenges today, suffered minimal
struggle in finding a mate. Times, of course, have changed, and they
have changed drastically; today most of us largely have to fend for
ourselves in seeking to fulfill this greatest of our life’s dreams.
Even with today’s challenges, some do have the good fortune
of finding marriage almost effortlessly. A serious relationship
develops spontaneously with a friend or acquaintance while they’re
young, moves naturally to marriage, and they truly do live happily
ever after. Yes, it happens.
But not frequently—even though such examples stand out and
catch our attention, and too often become the ideal for how we imagine
our own journey to marriage should take place. Yet in reality, most of
Challenge for Women
My role as a Christian teacher and counselor brings me into
contact most frequently with Christian singles and the special
challenges they face in finding someone to marry. If you’re not a
Christian, or aren’t certain, please don’t put this book down.
You’ll find most of its discussion relevant to your own search for
marriage, I promise you. But I want to begin by addressing Christians
specifically, for so many of them tell me they are deeply frustrated
in seeking marriage, and I intend this book especially to address
their needs and concerns.
Arlene, whom I met this past week when speaking to a Christian
singles group in
Several things were striking to me about Arlene and her
predicament. She is attractive, vivacious, bright, and clearly a
big-hearted person. In addition, she works at the White House—one of
the most prestigious workplaces in our city, and one where many other
singles are employed. It is, in short, a better job setting than most
for her to meet someone, and the
Yet in spite of these strong advantages, she isn’t dating,
and doesn’t see anything obvious she can do to improve her options.
She did try a popular online service for a few months, but
unsuccessfully, and she was uncomfortable with its anonymous approach
to getting acquainted. The situation is no different for many of her
Christian female friends, she added, who have so much to offer the
right man, but aren’t getting noticed, and seem destined to stay
single for ever.
Arlene and her friends could be postcard children for
countless Christian women today. So many I speak with would dearly
love to be married, and are so ready for marriage and have so much to
offer, that they are overqualified, if anything. Yet they’re at
their wit’s end about how to find someone suitable. Many, like
Arlene and her friends, are in churches and social settings where they
have plenty of opportunity to meet single Christian men in their age
range. Yet these men might as well be on another planet as far as
these women are concerned—for as year drifts into year, none are
showing romantic interest in them.
Arlene voiced a further frustration, which gets to the heart
of the problem for so many women: She feels there is little she can do
as a woman to initiate a relationship. It’s the man’s
responsibility to show initial interest, and then to take the first
steps toward getting a relationship in motion. It would be so much
easier if she were free to do more initiating at these early stages of
getting acquainted and dating.
I find that most single women, whether Christian or not, share
Arlene’s frustration. They may be strong self-initiators in other
areas, like education and career. Yet they feel their hands are tied
when it comes to launching a relationship. And so their frustration is
compounded: not only is their love life without momentum, but they
feel helpless to change things. Singleness is like a prison, where
their only hope is that some man may care enough to pardon them.
While the fear of never marrying is felt acutely by many
single women as they pass into their thirties and beyond, a surprising
number of younger woman carry a similar sinking feeling that their
options are running out, and they feel powerless to change their
destiny. I recall a long chat with a woman who deeply wanted to be
married yet feared the opportunity had passed her by. Many of her
friends had married, and the one relationship that held hope for her
had ended. She wondered if God was indicating through it all that she
should abandon her hope of marrying and set her heart on staying
single. She was twenty-two.
Challenge for Men
But here’s the biggest surprise—at least for women who
think that men hold all the cards in seeking marriage: A surprising
number of men are just as frustrated in their search, and feel just as
powerless to do what is needed to spark a serious relationship. And I
mean wonderful, well-qualified men. In my years of ministering with
singles, I’m certain as many men as women have confessed to me that
they have no dating life, and that marriage seems forever the
I’ve known countless single men who would make terrific
husbands and fathers, but, lacking confidence, rarely date at all.
Many are simply shy; they’re so traumatized over the possibility of
rejection, that they never take the first steps to break the ice with
women who interest them, even though they dream about doing it a lot.
Others aren’t as phobic about rejection, yet still are
stymied by assumptions of failure. They always conclude that someone
they want to ask out won’t be interested, so they don’t bother to
try at all. Negative thinking keeps them stuck in their inertia, even
in the face of opportunities where they would, in fact, succeed.
For many others, the main problem is a lack of focus and
know-how. Some have concentrated so strongly on their education and
career that their relationship life has never had a chance to blossom.
These men may be brilliant professionally and highly successful. Yet
their social life hasn’t kept pace, and they’ve never been coached
on the most basic points of dating. Some feel awkward even striking up
a conversation with a woman who attracts them romantically, let alone
asking her out. And some Christian men are uncertain if they should
take initiative, even in the face of an obvious opportunity, or just
leave it to the Lord to bring about marriage for them in his own way
Just recently, a college student e-mailed me, asking my
advice. A woman he has liked for some time has broken up with her
boyfriend, he explained. He then asked me two questions: Is it worth
the risk to ask her out? And, if so, how should he go about developing
a relationship with her?
Most interesting is that he was asking me, a total
stranger, for this counsel—apparently uncertain where else to turn
for it, or embarrassed to admit to his friends that he needs this
Dating 101 advice. You would be surprised how many men of all ages
have asked such questions of me, and how many are held back by such a
lack of basic know-how.
the Race but Never Winning
Countless women and men who are eager for marriage long for
some momentum toward their dream. Their relationship life is at a
standstill, and they don’t know how to get it moving. For them, just
to gain a serious dating relationship would a gigantic step forward.
Many others are at the opposite extreme. They have plenty of
momentum in their relationship life, even abundant opportunity to
date, but none of it is leading to marriage. Some bounce from one
dead-end relationship to another, while others enjoy a number of
promising relationships that in the end never progress to marriage.
Others are more at a mid-point in their relationship search.
They refuse to sit with their hands tied waiting for their prince or
princess to come, and they take plenty of initiative—but it rarely
succeeds. Some men are not at all shy and will ask a woman out at any
opportunity, but for various reasons usually get turned down. If they
do get the date, they seldom get a second or third, and their hope for
a real relationship is constantly disappointed.
While some do succeed stunningly with Internet dating
services, many fall into a rut with them. Some rarely get beyond
exchanging e-mail with their online contacts, yet they try and try
again. One woman I know has been “closed” more than 150 times at
this stage, yet she continues to take the same basic approach, hoping
it will eventually work for her.
It’s especially easy with online services to fall into
self-defeating patterns that you never recognize nor correct. If you
make an obvious blunder in real-life socializing, it’s always
possible a friend will notice and care enough to point it out to you.
But because you pursue online connecting in private, no one is there
to spontaneously offer such coaching. And the extreme convenience of
the Internet, and the ease of making initial contacts (vastly simpler
than getting dressed up, traveling to a social event, and mingling for
hours—instead just log on anytime 24/7!), can leave you vulnerable
to repeating the same unproductive patterns over and over.
if God Wants Me to Stay Single?
People are hindered and frustrated in their search for a
spouse for many different reasons. But one thing Christians share in
common is confusion over what God is saying through it all. Most begin
to wonder at some point if their failure to find someone to marry
means God wants them to let go of their hope for marriage and set
their heart on staying single.
A thoughtful Christian man, Mike, asked me this question
recently, and if anyone has the right to ask it, he does! At 48, he
has been through more promising relationships than he can count. “In
the last one,” he explained, “the woman told me that I have every
manly quality she is looking for; she also praised me to her friends,
and they told me so! Yet she just couldn’t get her heart to tell
her, ‘Yes, marry this fellow.’ I was extremely disappointed once
This led him to ask me what God may be indicating through
these repeated failures. “Could he be telling me that marriage just
isn’t in his plan for me? But then why this incredible desire? Or
could he be telling me to wait? But what if God is saying no? If he
is, I swear it would be disappointing, but it would also be an
incredible relief knowing this. Then, rather than concentrate my
prayers on asking him to bless me and show me his will, I would
concentrate on asking him to give me the peace and strength to accept
reality and take a new direction. And possibly at that point I could
change my life and thinking so as not to dwell on this hope daily.”
Mike’s concern with God’s will at this point in his
experience is so understandable, and he couldn’t possibly
have raised the question in a more reverent and thoughtful way. The
problem, though, is that once you even start musing about this,
finding the heart to continue searching for a spouse becomes more
difficult—and Mike’s motivation is clearly wearing thin.
If you truly want to be married, God never wants you to
conclude that he wills for you to stay permanently single, no matter
how many disappointments you experience. The proper question to ask in
the face of repeated failures isn’t “does God want me to
quit?”—but “why are these setbacks occurring?” When you
look carefully, you often find that, without realizing it, you’re
doing certain things that are sabotaging good opportunities. By
changing your attitude and approach in certain ways, your chances for
success greatly improve when you try again.
It’s here that modern Christian teaching often makes it very
difficult for the single Christian. The notion that God may be calling
you to remain single even though you want to be married, is often
taught in singles literature and proclaimed by Christian teachers and
preachers. More often than not, it’s the prevailing philosophy in
singles ministries, both within churches and without. And it’s too
often the advice given to lonely and discouraged singles who seek
counsel and encouragement from Christian leaders and friends.
While such counsel is usually well-intentioned, it misses the
heart of biblical thinking drastically, as I’ll stress below. And
it’s a major reason why the search for a marriage partner often is
more difficult for the Christian than it is for others.
Goal of This Book
It should be just the opposite! We have the power of Christ
within us and the guidance of God in our lives. And we have abundant
evidence in Scripture that God wills for most people to marry, and
extends special help to those who draw upon it in seeking a partner
For the longest time, I’ve wanted to write a book giving
encouragement and direction to those who seriously want to find
someone to marry. A previous book of mine, Should I Get Married?,
helps you decide whether to marry once you are in a serious
relationship. This current book provides much more of a map for
finding that relationship in the first place. As in that earlier book,
I’ll stress that friendship, more than romance, provides the best
basis for a happy, healthy, enduring marriage. Yet I’ll look closely
at how appreciating this principle is stunningly helpful in looking
for the right person—sometimes simplifying your search considerably.
It can keep you from spinning your wheels in a dead-end relationship,
or from wasting time pursuing an enticing relationship that just
isn’t right for you. And it increases the chance you’ll see the
treasure in someone you might be overlooking.
While I’ll look at this friendship factor from many angles
in this book, I’ll also offer much practical guidance about how to
find a special friend to marry. We who long to be married need
abundant practice advice about how to get off ground zero and proceed
with our search in a manner that is both honoring to God and
productive. I’ll offer the best counsel I possibly can on all the
how-tos, in order to point you toward steps that will help you
succeed. I won’t be suggesting a “one size fits all” strategy, I
assure you, but will help you determine approaches that are right for
you, in light of who you are and the circumstances in which you
find yourself. While online dating services may work well for friends
of yours, for instance, you may do better to invest your time in
certain social activities, and to seek a relationship there.
We who are looking for a spouse also need motivation—and we
need it desperately. The single greatest deterrent to finding someone
to marry is discouragement. It’s tragically easy to lose the heart
to continue the search for a mate—which almost always will succeed
if you persist enough. So I’ll do everything I can to boost
your optimism about succeeding. I’ll look also at the importance of
simply wanting to be married, and at what you can do to keep
your desire to marry strong—for insufficient desire can keep you
stuck in the inertia of singleness, even when you would be truly
happier married. I’ll provide as much encouragement as I can
throughout this book to stay in the fight—strongly believing that
with the right spirit and approach you will succeed!
That conviction is fueled by the examples of countless people
I’ve known during four decades of ministering to singles who have
found outstanding marriages, many at points where they were tempted to
give up hope. And it’s fueled by abundant evidence in Scriptures
that God is on our side as we seek a mate, and that we have strong
reason to expect success if we take proper responsibility and move
forward in faith.
I’ll never forget the exuberant comment a woman I once
counseled made repeatedly to me.
Nathan, as I discovered—this man who was so
well-preserved—had enjoyed only one brief relationship in college,
and since had scarcely dated at all. Yet at 35, he was mature, deep,
and caring, and a perfect match for
If you’ve long wished to be married but have lost your hope, it’s time to revive it! Let Nathan and Nancy’s example inspire you as you move into this study, along with many other encouraging examples we’ll look at in the pages ahead. And it’s my sincerest hope that the day will come for you—and sooner than you expect—when you also will say with stunned gratitude, “I just can’t believe God has preserved this wonderful person for me!” That, my friend, is a most reasonable hope and goal for you to embrace—for above all else, God’s hand in your life is not shortened (Is 59:1).
Excerpt taken from Marry a Friend: Finding Someone to Marry Who Is Truly Right for you by M. Blaine Smith. Copyright 2011 by M. Blaine Smith. Used on this web site with permission from SilverCrest Books, P.O. Box 448, Damascus, MD 20872.
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