Do I see other people as having souls or do I see them as existing for my pleasure?
When seeking a relationship, it's important to find out the character and intentions of the one we are seeking. How do they treat others? How do they treat the waiter when the service isn't the greatest? Do they consider that person is a human just like they are and might be having a terrible, horrible, no good, rotten day or do they see it as an opportunity to justify leaving a smaller tip? How do they treat the cashier at the store when they are in a rush and the line moves slowly? Do they gripe about how the line is taking forever and neglect to let the pregnant mother with two anxious kids skip ahead of them? Do they try to leave places better than they found them? Do they bend over to pick up a piece of trash that they are walking past or just leave it there for "the person whose job it is?" These may seem trivial, but they are actually great ways to gauge character. Anybody can put on an impressive act when they know they need to, but it is the little moments that often pull away the curtains of the heart and reveal what is behind them the best.
One key element that I have noticed in all successful relationships is the act of service. We live in a very narcissistic society and it is quite easy to fall prey to the mindset that life is all about ourselves, but that is not how the life of a Christian should be, and it is also the breeding ground for a very unhappy relationship. The life of a Christian should be one that is outwardly focused. If we live our lives with the expectations that people should be meeting our desires, we'll miss out on opportunities to serve. And serving is what we as Christians are here on earth for. When we are falling in love and start to feel giddy, we often excuse away things that should be immediate red flags. That is foolish, and will only come back to haunt us later.
One great point that Matt makes in that snippet of his sermon is "Loneliness now is monumentally better than the loneliness of having a man in the house who has no intention of loving and serving you like Christ loved the Church...marriage is a good thing, but it is not an ultimate thing. Jesus is enough, trust Him when He says that..."
Often we get so desperate to be in love and be loved back that we become careless. God calls us to know that He alone is enough to sustain us. That doesn't mean that God doesn't want us to be in relationship and get married, but it does mean that before we head that direction, we must be confident that He alone is all that we need. If we can't cling to that, if our souls don't truly mean it, then we will find ourselves settling, for the sake of filling that void. Since God is all that can ever fill that void, sooner or later we'll find ourselves very dissatisfied. I mean, ultimately that is what divorce is all about. Divorce is becoming a pandemic in this nation, and divorce is rooted in selfishness and dissatisfaction. Sure there are situations which push relationships that direction such as abuse and affairs, but even the root of those circumstance can be traced to the selfishness of the human condition. I'm not advocating a position of staying in a relationship where a partner is abusive or a chronic philanderer and I'm not accusing victims of abuse of being selfish for leaving a dangerous and unhealthy environment. I'm simply pointing out that even when a relationship is justly dissolved, it has its roots in unmet desires.
Secondly, before the marriage day most of the warning signs were probably obvious. Most people who are abusive don't just become abusive over night, and likewise with unfaithful people. And even in most "normal" relationships that fail, all of the problems that are listed as the source of the failure are traceable to not having desires satiated. The reality is, selfishness is a learned habit and most people who are self-centered became that way by forming the habit of thinking about themselves above others, and they did so over an extended period of time. In this country we are subconsciously and consciously bombarded with the notion that the life is all about our happiness. But troubles arise when we seek our happiness from outside sources and those sources fail us.
Mandy Hale points out that "Until you get comfortable with being alone you'll never know if you are choosing someone out of love or loneliness." Again I speak in generalizations, but in most circumstance, if we take the time to objectively get to know a person before we enter into a relationship, we won't be doing so out of desperate desires, and we won't be surprised by major character flaws creeping out from the darkness. And if we take the time to really get to know a person, in doing so we'll discover not only their weaknesses, but also our own. If we enter a relationship with the idea that it is a wellspring for our fulfillment, we doom it from the start. There is no human who can meet that standard all of the time. They might do it some of the time, but life is cyclic. As the Turtles sang in their timeless song that quoted the book of Ecclesiastes , "To everything there is a season." There will be moments of pure bliss, and moments of misery. There will be times of joy and times of anger. Times of laughter and times of tears. Life contains the best of times, and it contains the worst of times and it isn't always opaque about when the going will start to get tough. We're not well prepared to weather those difficult times when we're not honest in our anticipation for them. We want to be in those times with somebody that we can confidently trust to stick it out with us. If we've been dishonest with ourselves in getting to know a person or if we've chosen to be with them out of desperation, odds are 50-50 as to whether we picked somebody who really meant their vows and is committed for a lifelong adventure.
When we know that God is enough, we'll be patient when seeking romance. We'll guard our hearts and the hearts of those we pursue. We'll take on the difficult and lengthy task of getting to know the character of a person. We'll see how they serve in the big moments and the seemingly insignificant moments. And most importantly, we'll strive to do all that we can to see them become more like Christ, because ultimately, that's what relationships are all about.