Inching Toward Marriage
About the Guest
Lisa AndersonLisa Anderson is director of young adults for Focus on the Family and host of the popular weekly radio program and podcast “The Boundless Show.” Her writing is featured in newspapers, magazines, and at Boundless.org. Lisa is a frequent guest on radio and TV, and speaks around the world on relationships, faith, and the many challenges facing today’s young adults. She lives in Colorado Springs, Colorado.
Lisa Anderson gives singles advice on how to make their marriage dreams come true.
Inching Toward Marriage
Bob: Is there a reason why people are delaying marriage later and later these days—a reason why there are so many more singles? Lisa Anderson thinks there is.
Lisa: Here’s what I hear every time I go out and speak—the biggest complaint from women is: “The men around me are so passive and they are so lame. They don’t know what they want, and they are not doing anything with their lives.” What I hear about the women is: “They are so catty. They are so crazy. They are so controlling. How in the world could I ever lead any of these women because they want to totally take control?”
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Monday, October 3rd. Our host is the President of FamilyLife®, Dennis Rainey, and I’m Bob Lepine. Is there really such a thing as a drama-free plan for purposefully pursing marriage? We’ll explore that today with Lisa Anderson. Stay tuned.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today. Thanks for joining us. Think we’ve got a feisty one here today; don’t you think?
Dennis: I think we do. [Laughter] She works for Focus on the Family®, and—
Bob: They teach feistiness out there.
Dennis: They do.
Dennis: They do. They’re feisty for the family. [Laughter] Lisa Anderson joins us on FamilyLife Today. Lisa, welcome to the broadcast.
Lisa: It is great to be here!
Dennis: We’ve got a lot of listeners on the Front Range.
Lisa: Yes—that’s great!
Dennis: So, a lot of them are your friends.
Lisa: They are—they are.
Dennis: And they are going to love what you talk about today. I love the gritty, feisty nature of the title of your book—it’s called The Dating Manifesto. You just kind of threw the gauntlet down on this puppy.
Lisa: Well, I kind of tell people that this is the book that I wish I had read in my 20s. So, I told people I wanted this to be everything that I wish I had been told in my 20s about dating relationships but wasn’t, even by well-meaning people in the church.
I’d wished they had spoken up and given me a few things I needed to know.
Bob: You’re saying we are all too silent with our single friends?
Lisa: I think so—yes. So, I’m blaming you, Bob. [Laughter]
Dennis: He’s an easy target.
Lisa: Let’s start out the gate with that. Yes; exactly.
Bob: You know—here’s the thing—you’ve got somebody coming to your church, who is 26 and single. You don’t want to be the person who is saying, “So, are you dating anybody?”
Lisa: I know.
Bob: I mean, everybody tells you to back off from that and give them some space. You’re saying almost the opposite.
Lisa: I am. Intent is important; but delivery is also important.
Lisa: I think that’s where, you know, some of my married friends just need to be instructed a little bit in how to affirm singles and how to help them along the path to marriage. What’s interesting is—everyone says—and this so true, Bob / I know you’re saying this—people are like: “Don’t interfere in my love life,” and “Stop talking about dating,” and “Stop talking about…”—but over 90 percent of single adults want to be married someday. So, why don’t we just talk about the elephant in the room and help them get there?
Dennis: Well, we rushed by what you do at Focus on the Family.
You are the host of The Boundless Show, which is both a podcast and a radio broadcast; right?
Lisa: It is—yes. That’s correct.
Dennis: And you give leadership as the director of young adults. I’ve got one issue to take with your [book] cover.
Dennis: It makes a promise—
Lisa: It does.
Dennis: —that I just kind of wondered—I was just looking forward to asking you this. I’m glad you’re so feisty because this is—it says: A Drama-Free Plan for Pursuing Marriage with Purpose. Do you really believe that?
Lisa: Yes. What it isn’t, though—I can’t say that it’s a promise to get you married. [Laughter] I’m saying it is a plan to help you understand a good, intentional, biblical way of heading down that path.
Dennis: But can you guarantee a drama-free plan? Now,—
Dennis: —think about human beings at this point—I mean, really.
Lisa: Right. Well, the plan is drama-free. It’s just when you put two people in there that—[Laughter]
Bob: It’s the execution—
Bob: —that’s the issue. [Laughter]
Lisa: Exactly. Maybe, that’s where it is.
Bob: Lisa, let me ask you—and you don’t hand this out on first dates; right? When you go out with a guy for the first time, you don’t say: “Hey, I wrote this book. You might read it before you the second date”?
Lisa: No; maybe, I should—I’m going to start trying. [Laughter]
Bob: Let me go back to that dynamic of us married people and our single friends. Coach us on how we can have the right tone / have the right approach so that we can be helpful. I mean, those—my wife and I are proponents of marriage / we’re fans of marriage. When we meet single friends, we kind of want to help them: “Come join the club. It is fun in here!”—right?
Bob: What can we do?
Lisa: Well, I think the most important thing is to be in relationship with single people. I feel like the church—not that there isn’t a place for single groups in churches—I have a love/hate relationship with them. I see them as necessary because many single folks have landed in a city because of education or a job. They are apart from their families; they’re apart from their original community / the people that they love.
So, there are going to be attracted to like—they are going to look for other single folks for community / for social stuff—all of that.
That’s great; but we need to integrate the church more, where single people are in the lives of married people—specifically, older generations—because I always say, “Why be the blind leading the blind?” If you want to be married someday and have a family, why not then, be in the sphere of married people who can model that for you—
Lisa: —who can counsel you in that direction? So, that’s kind of one of my charges to single people; but at the same time, I kind of see marrieds kind of going off into their own little cloisters as well. I think we’re all kind of doing a bad job of it.
Bob: Well; and there are a lot of singles, who would say: “Every hour I spend with my married friends from church is an hour I’m not getting to spend dating somebody or finding somebody,” or “C’mon! I only have so much time.”
Lisa: Well, I think the married people could definitely help in that direction.
I mean, if you’re—I’m a big fan of the setup. I think we need to start relieving ourselves of the stigma of being setup. Now, I’m not saying just go and willy-nilly set everyone up with everyone. I had to—for example, my mother—bless her heart—has tried to set me up. She’s not the greatest. [Laughter] My mom is a prayer warrior, but she called me one day. She actually, now, lives with me; so, now, I’m really going to be sunk.
But she—when she was living in another state, she said: “There’s a new single man in my church. When you come and visit, you need to meet him.” I said: “Well, what’s the story on him? What’s the—where does he work? How did he come to the church? What’s his background?” “I do not know. I’ve only seen the back of his head so far in the sanctuary, but I know…” [Laughter] I’m like: “Really? Has it come to this, Mom? That this is now—this is the lowest common denominator here?”
Bob: He’s single, and he’s got a decent hairline. [Laughter]
Lisa: Yes—“I have seen the back of his head.” [Laughter]
I had to fire my own mother from my boots-on-the-ground dating team; because she has no discernment on my behalf. She’s now still in the prayer sphere, but that’s it.
Find people who legitimately know you, care about you, and are great—are a great set of eyes. You know—not just anyone—but you want to find those, because who better to help you find—
Lisa: —a potential mate than the people who know and love you best—
Lisa: —and are willing to put their own reputations on the line to make that happen?
Dennis: Yes; no doubt about it. In fact, married people really want to help their single friends; but I think a lot of married people today are looking at singles, going: “They’re waiting until later, and later, and later in life to get married. A lot of them are cohabiting.” Have singles given up on marriage, because they don’t know a married couple that’s happily married?
Lisa: I think there’s definitely a generational-thing going on—specifically with millennials because millennials are the product of the largest divorce generation in history, which are the Boomers. Most millennials—and sorry Boomers but that’s true—
—most millennials have not grown up with a great picture of marriage in their own lives. They grew up with absent dads, largely in a single-parent home, a lot of fighting in the home—or whatever.
Lisa: They believe in marriage as much or more than the Greatest Generation, which is pretty unbelievable. They want marriage / they believe in marriage. They love the idea of family as much as their grandparents. They don’t believe that they can do it well or do it successfully.
So, what they are going to do is—they are going to practice at it for as long as they can, hoping that they’ll get all the skills they need. As a result, they are delaying marriage; and instead, they are settling for go-nowhere relationships, bad relationships, cohabitation, other things they think are going to get them going the distance; but in fact, it’s actually working cross purposes.
Dennis: As I was reading your book, I was thinking, “I wonder how she would describe single men today?”
Lisa: [Laughter] Is that a setup?
Dennis: It is. [Laughter]
Dennis: It really isn’t meant to be a negative setup. I genuinely want to hear what you think about single men, because you have been single for a number of years; plus, you’ve given it a lot of thought, here in your book, The Dating Manifesto.
Lisa: Yes. So, here—let me start by defining both men and women by the stereotypes that the opposite sex will give them. Here’s what I hear every time I go out and speak. The biggest complaint from women is: “Men around me are so passive, and they are so lame. They don’t know what they want, and they are not doing anything with their lives.” What I hear about the women is: “They are so catty. They are so crazy. They are so controlling. How in the world could I ever lead any of these women, because they want to totally take control?” So, it’s absolutely—
Dennis: Whoa! [Laughter] That makes for a great match; doesn’t it?
Lisa: It’s basically a painting of the fall and how this is played out in relationships, with men and women, and everything that’s going on. There are no surprises there. We’re seeing it because we—I mean, you see it play, not even in just relationships.
For example, in the world of education, women are far outpacing men—
Dennis: Oh, yes.
Lisa: —in universities, colleges, education, getting a college degree, and then, succeeding in the workplace.
Dennis: Six out of ten graduates are women.
Lisa: Yes; exactly. And they’re finding—I mean, unless you go into, specifically, the engineering degrees or other related sciences and stuff like that—you’re finding women way—I mean, the percentages are just huge in that sense. So, we’re seeing that.
Women are starting to believe that. Women have been fueled by the feminist gains of the ‘60s, ‘70s, and ‘80s. We’ve been told, “Pull yourself up by your bootstraps.” I mean, I am a product of the California public schools. It is a wonder that I can put a couple of sentences together. [Laughter] I had teachers in my school, who said, “Lisa, all your”—because I grew up in a Christian home, I saw great marriages / my parents had a wonderful marriage—but I also was under teachers, who said: “Lisa, no one is going to take care of you.
“You go out there. You get your education. You start succeeding in your career. You become what you want to be. Then, later on, on your timetable and your terms, you tack on marriage if you want to because what a sweet, little idea that is—if you want to add that to your own story, then, fine.”
But never was marriage a central story that was told as a good thing for me—as something that was a worthy pursuit / something that was primary for my life. That’s, I think, the script that were losing.
Dennis: And I couldn’t agree more, and I’m glad you’re taking that approach in your book. I want to go back to my question, because I don’t think you quite got there in describing—
Lisa: Was I dodging it?
Dennis: You told us what it wasn’t—you said there are some stereotypes that are unfair for both men and women.
Lisa: Yes; yes.
Dennis: So, how would you describe men today, as a single woman?
Lisa: Well, I’m not even convinced that they are that unfair. I mean, I think they are deeply felt.
I would say today’s men—it depends on where you are in the age spectrum and, certainly, in the faith spectrum for this.
I think one thing that Christian men today are struggling with is an identity issue of: “Who are they in Christ?” and “How does that play out with the available roles that they have in our culture today?—especially when women, even Christian women, are trying to compete with them, whether it’s in church, or in the workplace, or in the home.”
I see a lot of guys—like young men—I’ll talk to college-aged guys, who are all about marriage; because, for them, the world is open to them. They are not risk-adverse—they think that they can fail / they will bounce back. They are like: “Whatever. If this girl doesn’t say, ‘Yes,’ I’m sure this one will. I’m probably pretty great.’”
Then, you see guys—as they move into their late 20s, early 30s, mid-30s—it’s about managing the risk: “What are they going to have to give up in order to get this story now?”—because now, maybe, they’ve built a portfolio; maybe, now, they’ve been rejected a number of times; now, they’ve accumulated their baggage to the point where all of their issues with their dad, growing up, have come to the surface.
They realize that there are things about themselves that they may need to actually work on. You see more somberness or more sadness in men as they age and realize that the things that they wanted they’re not quite getting, but they don’t know how to go about doing that.
Dennis: I really like what you said there. If a woman can understand what you just said, in terms of a man needing a woman to believe in him, help him, shape his identity—
Bob: Call the leader out of him.
Dennis: Yes; yes. I mean, it’s powerful. You write in your book, “Men need to be needed.” That’s true in marriage / it’s true for single men. A woman cannot use that in a manipulative way; but she can use that in a way to truly be attractive to another guy, I believe.
Lisa: Yes; and it’s also—it’s not about—and I’m all about guys loving the Lord, and being spiritually mature, and all that; but I think women have done ourselves a disservice by having access to and almost putting on a pedestal these outliers.
I have young women, who come to me and say: “Lisa, I’m not going to settle. I am holding out for a John Piper.” [Laughter] I’m like, “Well, okay,” because—
Bob: Let me tell you how many of those there are.
Lisa: —and let me tell you that John Piper wasn’t John Piper when he was 23 years old.
Bob: That’s right.
Dennis: No doubt about it.
Lisa: John Piper grew into who he is in Christ and, largely, because of his wife Noël.
Bob: That’s right.
Lisa: So, “What does marriage do to a man? What does marriage do to a family and to the wife itself?” We have to look for what I call trajectory: “Who is this guy going to become? What can you see in him? What can you build into him? Does he love the Lord? Is he growing in his faith? Is he willing to take responsibility? Is he trustworthy?” That’s a guy you can hitch your wagon to and, then, move forward in life together with, rather than waiting for this end product that has arrived.
Bob: Do you think one reason that there are a whole lot more of 28-, 29-, 30-year-old single guys, who are kind of wondering, “I don’t want to think about marriage,”—
—do you think one reason is because they have access to either porn or girls who will have sex with them? As long as they got that, the urgency to get married has been diminished a little bit?
Lisa: Yes; absolutely. I mean, I think that plays into it; absolutely.
I mean, it’s so funny to me; because I have people talk to me about: “I remember growing up in youth group and the whole era of the purity pledges. You’d have the youth group talks; and it was all about ‘sex this and sex that.’ It was ‘Don’t; don’t; don’t.” I’m like, “I remember hearing that in junior high and high school, but who is talking to the 20- and 30-somethings now?” because the expectation is that you’re going to get this talk in high school; and then, now, you’re going to make it to 29, 30, 31, 32, not having had sex?
Yet, we’re being told by many well-meaning Christian parents and Christian leaders:
“Don’t worry about marriage. Just wait—someday. You will have plenty of time. Have fun now. Do what you want to do now.” So, this generation of young adults are like: “I’m supposed to hold out for 10, 12, 15 years on that front, when all of my friends are having sex / when everyone has normalized porn, and that’s just the thing to do? And I’m just supposed to live in this weirdo Christian script of: ‘Oh, no; that’s not okay.’”
That’s where I say: “Let’s start talking up marriage and talking up the greatness of that—not that we don’t talk about—I mean, chastity is for everyone, even within marriage.” I think it’s also false to say, “Oh, just get married and then you won’t be sexually tempted or you won’t have any issues.”
Lisa: I mean, that’s also nonsense; but don’t denigrate the value of that, because it’s huge.
Dennis: I couldn’t agree with you more. I think purity and the character quality of chastity, as you’ve spoken here, is powerful.
What do single men need to know about single women?
There are some misconceptions there—you write about it in your book. If you had just coffee with a guy for five minutes, and you had to say, “Hey, I’m going to need you to just know these three things…” or “…these couple of things,” what would you share with him?
Lisa: Yes. I would tell him—first of all, that they need to cut out all of the Hollywood ideals they have been delivered. Guys, for example—most men, I think, know this innately—but guys want to be part of a big story, and they want to rescue. They want to be a rescuer. It’s why we see guys so attracted to things like video games, to blockbuster movies, to that—they want to be in a big adventure—but what we’re seeing is—we’re seeing them play act in that sense rather than getting into something true and something real.
I would like to tell them that, if they are willing to fight for something big, if they are willing to start small—and just even where God has given them / entrusted them—
—something in their lives, whether it’s a committee at church, whether it’s helping out kids in the inner city, whether it’s—that is something that they can grow in and show themselves in a way that women will stand up and take notice.
So many guys tell me: “Oh, women—they just don’t like the nice guys. All they want are these bad boys. All they want…” Women want men who are strong—but strong of character and confidence—guys who know who they are and aren’t going to budge based on what their buddies are telling them / based on what the culture is telling them. Women want guys that they know they can trust and that will stand by them.
Dennis: And it sounds like you’re talking about a man who is on mission too.
Lisa: Absolutely; yes—and one who is not going to sit around and wait to be told what to do. It’s not about whether or not you are an artist or whether you ride a Harley. It’s not about this stereotype of masculinity—it is about owning who you are, taking responsibility for your actions, choosing to stand for truth and justice, to fight for things that are right and for real.
You do that, and you’re going to set yourself apart from like 85 percent of the guys that are out there.
Bob: And I don’t want to put words in your mouth; but I think you said this: “If the guy you’re talking to, over coffee, is a 6, quit waiting for a 10”; is that right? Isn’t that what you’d tell them? “If you’re a 6—
Dennis: Well, she does in her book.
Bob: That’s what I thought! Isn’t that what you say?! [Laughter]
Lisa: All the guys that are out there, waiting—like the gentleman I mentioned in my book, for the woman who is a 10, you might need to be told that you’re a 6.
Bob: You might need to look in the mirror; huh?! [Laughter]
Lisa: So, again, it’s—and I think that all comes into the whole idea of growing into someone. You are not the person now that you will be in 20 to 30 years. Neither is your future spouse—so to understand that—to look for a woman of character, you—this is like: “Hello, this is what you guys always talk about—a woman of character / a woman of companionship. I mean, this idea that you’re going to marry”—and I mention this in the book—
—“a supermodel, who writes Bible studies / who is like”—I don’t know that woman! She’s not in my friend group. That’s not me. I don’t know that she exists.
Lisa: So, you’re going to be single for a very long time if you’re looking for someone who doesn’t exist. [Laughter]
Dennis: If you are a single guy, I just want to tell you where she got her stuff—it’s
1 Corinthians 16, verse 13: “Be watchful,”—that means, as a man, you are looking out for others—“stand firm in the faith,”—that means you know where you stand with Jesus Christ / you’re maturing, you’re growing, and you are on a mission—“act like men,”—Paul says—“be strong. Let all that you do be done in love.” There is the tough / there is the tender side of a man that a woman is attracted to.
Bob: A guy who is doing that—you’d go out with a guy like that; right?
Lisa: I would! Absolutely!
Bob: Second time?
Lisa: Maybe, a second time.
Dennis: I think if you want to set a single woman up with a guy like that, that will work.
Bob: Yes; know more about him than just the back of his head. [Laughter]
Bob: Let me just say—
Dennis: Let me just say to Lisa’s mom, “Thank you for listening to FamilyLife Today.”
Bob: That’s right.
Dennis: We just invited her here to be on the broadcast.
Bob: And we didn’t know she was going to rat you out like this. [Laughter]
We do have copies of Lisa’s book—it’s called The Dating Manifesto; and the subtitle says: A Drama-Free Plan for Pursuing Marriage with Purpose. Yes; we’ll see about that. You can order the book from us online at FamilyLifeToday.com, or you can call 1-800-FL-TODAY to get a copy. Again, the website is FamilyLifeToday.com; or call 1-800-358-6329. We also have a link to Lisa’s website on our website. If you’d like to follow her, and get more information about what she’s doing, and her work at Focus on the Family, go to FamilyLifeToday.com and look for the link.
Speaking of dating and marriage—
—it was 34 years ago, yesterday, that Roger and Jean Zook went from dating to marriage. They became husband and wife back in 1982; and yesterday, they celebrated their 34th wedding anniversary. The Zooks work as group coordinators for our Weekend to Remember® marriage getaways. In fact, I have run into the Zooks many times when I’ve been up in Pennsylvania. They live in Hollywood, Pennsylvania. “Congratulations!” to Roger and Jean and to all of you who are celebrating anniversaries today.
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Now, tomorrow, we’ll continue our conversation with Lisa Anderson. We’re going to talk more about dating, and singleness, and marriage, and how all of that works together or doesn’t work, and why it doesn’t work when it doesn’t work, and how you learn to be content in whatever circumstance you find yourself. We’ll talk about that tomorrow. Hope you can be here with us.
I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, along with our entire broadcast production team. On behalf of our host, Dennis Rainey, I’m Bob Lepine. We will see you back next time for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
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