Ofygyft (The Scandinavian Secret to Healthy Relationships)

Posted on February 10, 2015

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**–originally written for publication on another platform.  I’m not sure if it will ever run there, so I’m posting it here so that it can at least see the light of day.  Also: I am radically unqualified to write on this topic.

Dating advice on the Internet?  Must be a day that ends in ‘y’!

I would estimate that a full 90% of the 3% of the Internet that isn’t illegal movie downloads is dating advice.  If you don’t believe me, just search ‘dating advice’ and watch as the Internet overloads and collapses on itself like a panda bear standing on a waterbed.

Taken as an entire body of research, most of what’s out there is deeply contradictory and confusing.  Fancy dinner.  No, coffee.  No, do an activity.  Don’t date at all- court!  No, that’s stupid, just date.  Be intentional!  But remember to keep it casual.  But not too casual- guard their heart!  Play hard to get.  That’s too hard, you’re not talking at all now.  Texting is a great way to flirt.  No, real men don’t text!  Be confident.  Whoa!  Too far, that’s cocky.  Curl up at his feet like Ruth did with Boaz!  Works every time!

Is your head spinning yet?  If so, stop that.  You’ll never have a healthy dating relationship if your head is rotating all the time.  It creeps people out.

This is not to say that all that advice is not also necessary.  By all accounts the Lord has pulled his common grace of game from the earth almost entirely, at least among Christians.   I have a friend- we’ll call her Roberta because that’s basically the opposite of her name- who is a smart, successful, attractive Christian lady.  Because of this, she has a storehouse of horror stories from the dating frontiers that rivals Fort Knox, only instead of gold it holds anecdotes about guys who have wordlessly caressed her sleeves for no reason at parties.

Most people are pretty much winging it out here.  Which leads me to my first point.

Nobody Knows Anything

Not really, anyway.  At the heart of dating is the question, “How do I get to know a person in such a way that honors God, respects them, but also maximizes the chance that- if I want- said person might fall in love with me and possibly make out with me in the future?” Within that question is the sub-question “Didn’t you feel weird just typing that?” to which the answer is “I did, the entire time.”

My point is, these are hard questions.  We are not often helped in navigating them by so-called dating experts.  Most of them- and I say this with all possible Christ-like charity and love- are deranged.  It takes an unbelievable amount of chutzpah to declare yourself a dating expert.  It’s basically a humble-brag about your level of personal charisma and game.  Look, I loved ‘Hitch’ as much as anyone- way more so, judging by my Netflix account- but he was both an imaginary character and Will Smith.  Most dating experts are neither, and so we should feel free to ignore them.

In fact, if you meet someone who is breathtakingly good at dating, that’s probably a yellow flag anyway.  The only people who need to be that good at dating are players and floozies.  Get involved if that’s what you want, but don’t say Taylor Swift didn’t warn you about it, along many other things including crying on a guitar and going back to December all the time.

Another way to look at it is this:  dating is essentially a survival skill not unlike building a signal fire in the wilderness.  If you meet somebody who’s good at it, great.  But if they’re *really* good at it, it’s worth wondering if maybe they just like getting lost in the woods all the time.

Boundaries.

Strong boundaries are essential to healthy dating relationships.  The concept of ‘boundaries’ was invented in the Middle Ages by monks who entered into ascetic lifestyles that called for strict vows of silence and celibacy, and thus went their whole lives without ever interacting with a woman. As a result these monks enjoyed some of the healthiest dating relationships in all of recorded history, which is to say none at all.  Not that any women complained.  If you were the kind of guy inclined to take a vow of celibacy, my guess is that you were not a hot commodity on whatever the Middle Ages equivalent of eHarmony was.**

**– SerfSeeker.com

But let’s say your mind is made up- you’re going to ignore those stuffy monks and get out there and date and have some good old-fashioned relationships!  Good for you!  We’ll just wait here to see how it goes.

You’re back!  It went terribly, didn’t it?  Of course it did!  The monks were right about one thing:  you’ve gotta have some boundaries.

For our purposes we’ll define boundaries as ‘those things about which you have decided you are absolutely not going to tolerate any nonsense’.  In healthy dating this usually means deal-breakers like physical or emotional abuse, physical intimacy, general foolishness like not having a job or constantly lying or dropping in and out of communication for no reason or being a pro Dance Dance Revolution player, etc.  It’s important to decide ahead of time what kinds of nonsense you’re going to tolerate- the correct answer generally being ‘pretty much none of whatever that was, thanks for playing’- and then enforce it.

My point in all of this being, boundaries are good and, for healthy dating relationships, you should get some massive ones with bright flashing lights that are visible from roughly Cuba.  If the FAA contacts you because helicopters are routinely attempting to land around you, you have good boundaries.

Oh All Right, Actual Advice- Ofygft

You read this far, you might as well get something.  I’ll give you one tip to have healthy dating relationships.  Buckle up.  I’m about to blow your mind, no apologies.  Here it is:

Obedience for you, grace for them.

Seriously.

I know.  It’s a bummer.  Maybe if I point out that the acronym- Ofygft- looks like the word for a Scandinavian dice game?  No?  Still not doing it for you?

I understand.  It’s not sexy advice.  But it’s the advice under which pretty much all other relationship advice can be folded.

Obedience for you.  Obedience when you don’t feel like it is called discipline, and discipline is passion that decides it doesn’t want to sit at the kids table anymore.  Because you’re reading this, I’ll assume that you love God more than anything and want to follow him.  This means that in all likelihood you have somewhere near you, right now, a Bible- a multi-thousand page book filled with God’s words that equip you to do absolutely everything you’ll need to do in the Christian life, including be a halfway decent boyfriend/girlfriend/husband/wife.

To have a healthy dating relationship, grab your Bible, start reading it, believing it, and doing what it says.  Again, it sounds like an incredibly cliche thing.  And yet I know for a rock-solid fact that the vast majority of people reading this (and, yes, writing this) studied the God-breathed, Spirit-anointed, Christ-proclaiming Word for less than 20 minutes today, and probably most other days.  Blunt, yes.  But did I say something incorrect?  I’m betting I didn’t.

The sooner you do this, the sooner you enter the crux of the Christian life which is the submission of your whole self- all of you, everything, every part of your personality and experience- to the truth of Scripture.  That submission will necessarily involve the diagnosis of a dizzying array of sins in your life- many, if not all, of which are actively impeding the health of your life in general, and relationships in particular.

Get. In. The. Word.  Be ruthless about anything and everything that blunts your passion for it.  Let Scripture crash the walls of every unrepentant part of you and knock down every impediment that keeps living water from flowing.  Then do what it says.

Grace for them 

If you do get in the Word and start trying to obey it, the first thing you’ll notice- particularly if you’ve enjoyed a few years on Christian cruise control- is that you suck at it.

This is good news!  The sooner you disabuse yourself of the notion that the Christian life comes naturally, the sooner you will be forced to wade into the vast reservoir of forgiveness that Jesus bled and died to win for you.  Once you see yourself truthfully- as a person who is trying hard but is sort of the Romans 3:23 poster child- you become a person of grace.

If you’re in any kind of relationship worth its salt, the other person will be doing the Ofygft thing as well.  Like you, they will also be terrible at it.  But hopefully also like you, they will still want to keep trying.  That mutual understanding of terrible-ness is the bedrock of grace.

So give grace.  Give it abundantly, like our Lord gladly did and does for you.  Give forgiveness as freely as possible, from one person who is in desperate need to another, and never stop.

So there’s your tip.  My made- up Scandinavian word, ofygft.  Obedience for you, grace for them.  It doesn’t sound like most of the dating/relationship advice you can find on the Internet, I admit- which is kind of the point.

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