Want more marriage encouragement? Hear about different ways to connect, grow together, and enjoy marriage the way God intended with the Loving Well podcast. Listen at FocusOnTheFamily.com slash LovingWell or wherever you get your podcasts. The best piece of dating advice that I have received in the past was to always have good communication. I would say that being open to new experiences and dating would be really helpful. Well those are a few dating tips that you might have heard at some point in your life and today we'll hear some great dating advice from our guest on Focus on the Family. Thanks for joining us. Your host is Focus President and author Jim Daly and I'm John Fuller. John, of course the producers want me to talk about what great advice did I give Trent and Troy?
Oh yes. I think the great advice was to not have too much advice as a parent in this area. But we did talk about the order in which it should work which is you know you're gonna date, hopefully school will be somewhere underway if not finished, get married, then have children. That's kind of a plan. I think that's a good way to go.
But in terms of the dynamics, I always aim for the heart. You know for them to have good hearts and to be good toward people and I think that's not a bad way to go. I guess I'm looking forward to finding out. It sounds like a good plan, the time will tell. Well you never know but it's certainly difficult. I think dating and family formation generally in our culture today is very different from when you and I were doing this.
Absolutely different. And you know I'm looking forward to talking about it because we do as parents particularly. It's good to know if you're teen and 20-something how they're doing in this arena and what should you say and maybe what you shouldn't say when it comes to helping them with dating. You know in the scripture in Psalm 119 at verse 105 it says, your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path. That can apply to so many things but one of the critical things, man there's so many important decisions being made in your 20s that you want to be following the Lord in those really big decisions like who you may marry and you know what's the way forward and what's your vocation and I just think having that foundation spiritually of knowing the Lord and trusting the Lord, following the Lord is so critical. And reading the scripture, that's the word, the lamp unto our feet.
That's also very very crucial. Well joining us today Deborah Faleta is a licensed professional counselor. She specializes in relationship issues, marriage, dating. She is the host of the Love and Relationships podcast and the founder of the Deborah Faleta Counselors Network. Deborah and her husband John have four kids and she's been here before. She's the author of a number of books.
The one that forms the foundation of today's conversation is called True Love Dates, Your Indispensable Guide to Finding the Love of Your Life. And of course we have copies of that here at the ministry. Stop by the show notes to get yours or give us a call. We'll be happy to tell you more. 800 the letter A and the word family. Deborah welcome to Focus on the Family. Thank you. It's good to be here.
It's good to be here again. Yeah and man it's pretty funny how what we just talked about John and I when you look at especially as parents with kids that age, the dating scene, it changes from generation. Dating changes over time and it's funny you say that because a lot of people ask me to give them a biblical approach to dating.
Yeah it didn't happen in the Bible. Well you probably don't want a biblical approach because it would include a dowry. Arranged marriage. Arranged marriage of some sort.
Camels, donkeys, you know because culture changes and with that dating changes. Yeah. Let me ask you, you had a funny story in the book where I think it was you and John getting married. Yeah. You had a little mishap with which hand the ring goes on.
What happened? Yeah so on our wedding day we just said our vows and it was time to put the ring on. Well I didn't remember which hand to put the ring on.
That's pretty funny. And John didn't either so he gives me both hands. No help there.
Absolutely no help. So I just grab a hand, I'm like nobody will notice. But my rambunctious family, somebody notices and they yell out, wrong hand. And so in the middle of our sacred wedding day and I had to think quick so I said wrong hand but at least I got the right guy. That is good.
And you know it was probably the highlight of my comedy career because everybody laughed. But I think there's so much truth to the idea of finding the right person to marry. And I think sometimes when it comes to weddings we get so caught up with the details of wedding planning that we're not even focused on whether or not we are marrying the right person for us. Well we want to talk about that and how you know that you're as assured as possible that you're marrying the right person. There's no guarantee obviously but it takes work. You put work into it and hopefully the Lord kind of reinforces for you that person that you're desiring to marry.
But let's kind of talk from the beginning. What have you seen in some of those relationships that you've counseled with these pre-married couples? What are some of the negative things that you're hearing about and seeing and some of those experiences in the dating realm that would give you concern as a counselor? Well I do think people are getting married later and later and I don't necessarily think that's a concern. I think it's a change of culture but I think what the concern is is that we have a long list of things we want in a partner but we don't necessarily turn that list around on ourselves. And I think I see people who are in one unhealthy relationship after the next and they think that the main problem is everybody else.
But human beings are magnetic. We attract and engage with people on our level of health. So as we get healthier as individuals the people that we date become healthier as well because we're now attracting a different type of people as well as repelling the ones that aren't healthy. I'm sure someone's out there going that can't be true every time but you're talking about probably like the old 80-20 rule.
I mean there's going to be exceptions to that of course. When you see a general pattern in your life of unhealthy dating relationship after unhealthy dating relationship at some point you have to stop and ask, Am I the common denominator here and what do I need to do to become a healthier person? You know Deborah and I appreciate the cultural sensitivity to that that maybe this is just a pattern of marrying later. Dr. Al Mohler who's the president of Southern Seminary was once on the focus board and we've had many discussions about that. His concern as a seminary president was young people are waiting too long that the you know just the normal drive, sexual drive is something that can be difficult to contain if you don't get married especially in a Christian context where you want to follow the Lord. And he encourages people to marry younger you know rather than risk falling away from the Lord in that physical intimacy space.
Do you have any thought on that? Yeah I hear that a lot and sometimes people ask me is it better to marry older or younger. I think it's different in every situation because you can be 40, 50, 60 year old and still not have the spiritual, emotional, mental maturity that you need to have a healthy relationship. So I think it's less about age and more about preparation.
Interesting that's good. You explained three important stages of dating that you need to commit to in order to have a healthy relationship. So let's get into those three. Yeah so in True Love Dates I talk about three different areas. The first is dating inward which is all about getting to know yourself. How healthy are you standing alone? The second is dating outward and that's all about the health of your interpersonal relationships. What are you looking for? What's healthy in a relationship?
How do you protect yourself in those interactions? And thirdly dating upward. Our relationship with God matters and bringing him into the picture of our dating life is a crucial component to healthy dating relationships.
Yeah those are three good ones. Let's dig into them a little bit. When you look at the I thing I think in Christian understanding we're very sensitive to the I word because we don't want to be selfish. We don't want to put too much attention on ourselves. We need to be looking at others etc. That's what we're taught in the Christian ethos and it's right. But you also say there's significance of I. What do you mean by the importance of I?
You know going back to that analogy that human beings are magnetic. You are 50% of the equation of a healthy relationship and I think sometimes we're so focused on them. What are they going to be like? What are they going to bring to the table? And we don't take enough time to focus on our individual health. What are we bringing to the table?
What's our communication like? What's the baggage that we bring from our past? What are the hurts and wounds and struggles and sins that we carry with us? Because you're going to carry that stuff into relationships. So it's important to really take the time to get to know yourself your identity and God's calling on your life. Because if you don't know yourself you don't know the kind of person who matches your life from the kind of person who doesn't. Well it can become so simple I just like hanging out with this person right and that becomes the definer which is not necessarily the only thing.
It's a good thing but it's not the only thing. Now being an author of this book True Love Dates which the reason I chuckle is because of the play on two true love weights right. So that is pretty funny but in that context you put some of your own story in there. And when you were dating before you met John and married John what was happening there that I think in many ways helped form some of these positions that you have in the book. You know I came from a culture that a lot of people can relate to where dating was kind of seen as the bad guy. Dating was inappropriate and we were encouraged to kiss dating goodbye. Get away from dating altogether just leave it alone don't touch it. And so when you come from that culture and then the world on the other hand is telling you oh just date hook up it doesn't matter.
As a Christian the other extreme the other extreme you don't really know who to turn to which side where do I belong. And I think before John I dated the wrong guy. I spent a very long season of my life dating somebody that wasn't a good match for my life. Because it ended up being the first person I dated and I thought okay I'm dating somebody well I better marry them. There's a lot of pressure here you know you can't just date for fun.
Let me ask you about that because that's so helpful I think particularly so many women but men too that fog of dating. You know you think that especially if you're coming from a Christian home that has had that kind of position. Right. And that's what you've been taught you know date only the person you think you're going to marry. Right.
Which you know that's pretty. It's a lot of pressure. You know so how do you know if you don't know anybody else in that way just personality mix and all that. So in that context when you you know speaking to the broader culture you know what what are some of the things you go into in the dating situation.
And how do you extricate yourself. What happened with you trying to get out of that relationship when you're thinking after two years three years whatever it was that this isn't the guy. Right. Well it was a really hard breakup.
Let's just put it that way because it's all I knew. And you almost feel like a failure because you're supposed to date to marry. But when all these yellow flags and red flags are coming to the surface you realize it's not about marriage as the end goal. It's about following God's best plan for my life and I knew I wasn't in that. And so I took a season of stepping back from dating because I realized that I didn't know who fit into my life because I didn't know who I was. I needed to get my identity right and what I was looking for so that I could find somebody that matched what God was doing in me and through me. So I took a season of just dating myself dating inward getting to know myself and I advocate before you jump into the dating world to take a season of dating inward. Get to know yourself first. What does that look like.
Well let me tell you what it doesn't look like. One girl on Twitter said does dating inward mean I take myself to a movie or to a restaurant. Right. And it's not about taking yourself out on dates. I think it's more about doing the internal work. The purposes of a man's heart are like deep waters but one who has insight draws them out.
That's what scripture says. It takes work to draw out the deep waters inside of us and for some people maybe it looks like counseling. For some people maybe it looks like getting a mentor. Understanding my likes and dislikes facing my struggles and my weaknesses and taking ownership of my communication and all of those things are part of the process of getting to know myself so that I know who fits into my life. Yeah and true love dates you mentioned three questions that I think probably emerged out of this exercise that you did.
What are the three questions that you encourage dating people to ask of themselves. The first question is where do I come from what is my past and how has my past shaped who I am today. The second question is who am I today. What is my identity. What do I believe about myself and what do I believe about myself in Christ. What are the lies that I believe about myself. Who am I today. And then the third question is where am I going. What is the future have for me what is God's calling for my life because you need to know where you're going to understand whether or not this person is coming along with you if they're on a completely different direction a completely different trajectory. The dating relationship might not work out right. That identity piece you know we talk a lot about it in the Christian community your identity in Christ so how where did you come to the place in your dating years where you figured that out and what did it look like when you said OK now I know who I am in Christ.
And how did that play out in your dating relationship. You know I see the process of becoming healthy and getting to know yourself more like stepping onto a moving walkway and less like getting on an elevator because some people are like well what floor do I get off how do I know I've arrived. But it's more of the journey that you're on because it's a never ending journey we're always replacing the lies that we believe with God's truth this constant process. And I think it's about finding somebody who is joining you in that process for me in that season it meant facing some of the lies I believed about myself for example that my value came from what I did.
That's not a true statement. It's something that I grew up believing because of the culture that I came from and living out of that replacing it with the fact that God loves me standing alone because of Jesus. I don't have to earn this love this value and you know when you shift your beliefs about yourself.
It shifts how you do relationships as well because now I'm not looking to earn love in relationships and so changing your understanding changing your identity changes everything right. Deborah Faleta is our guest today on Focus on the Family and we're talking about many of the concepts in her book True Love Dates Your Indispensable Guide to Finding the Love of Your Life. Contact Focus on the Family today to get your copy.
The link is in the show notes or our number is 800 the letter A and the word family. Deborah you mentioned a story in your book where a young man wrote to you or texted you and talked about his concern in his relationships because of his family of origin and the things he saw within the relationship between his mother and father. I think it's really critical this is where you know if you're a mom and dad of 20 30 somethings you have definitely shown your your adult children what it means to have a healthy or an unhealthy marriage right so speak to his concerns and then how did you address them with him. Yeah. He came to me with some fear because in his past his relationship with his mom and dad. They didn't seem like they really loved each other you know it was like they were in the relationship and they didn't believe in divorce, but they were divorced emotionally.
Wow. And so in his mind that's what happens in relationships at some point you just kind of drift apart and you deal with it. And imagine going into a dating relationship with the expectation that this is only get going to get worse from here that that impacts how you date. Maybe you come from a past where your parents were divorced.
Maybe you come from a past where you experienced trauma or abuse and you don't feel valuable. All of those things from our past begin to impact the way that we date and what we expect in relationships for that person that may have experienced that you know I'm kind of rhetorically asking this question but how do they focus on themselves and not own their parents baggage, which would be my suggestion you know they make decisions they live their lives according to the way they did. That doesn't necessarily have to dictate the way you live your life and your marriage and your relationship. So how do you process giving your parents what they need to own so that you don't have to own what what they did. Right. That's a big question.
It's an important question though. I don't think we realize how much our past does impact us, but I think even beginning to ask these questions helps us unravel the pieces. What do I own here, and what don't I own what beliefs have I adopted from my parents that God doesn't want me to believe about relationships where did things get tangled up. It's time and effort to stop and start to kind of untangle the string and figure out what do I need to take ownership what are the healthy beliefs, what are the unhealthy beliefs that I'm carrying into the relationship, because I have to deal with my own unhealthy beliefs. And then the mirror illustration I think this leans in that direction and how does a person use that to describe how we are responsible for those choices that we make so how do we use the mirror principle and what is it. Well, when you look at a mirror, a mirror doesn't fix your appearance, it just shows you your appearance, you have to be the one to fix it right, if there's a hair sticking out. It doesn't just fix it for you it reveals it. Relationships are like a mirror because they reveal our flaws, they reveal our deficits, they reveal our problem spots. Then we have two options after that it's like oh well they're the problem, you know, the mirror is the problem, or the problem is me what do I do to fix and adjust this how can I become healthier standing alone. In that context we're so quick to look at the other person aren't we, I mean that's part of it but how do we kind of regroup so that we're looking at ourselves first, especially in a relationship. I mean that that can be some of the most difficult experiences to look at yourself first I mean the neighbors a little easier, your spouse, a little more difficult and then your kids Oh my goodness, they know all your flaws.
Right. You know I think Jesus knew that this was human nature and that's why he encouraged us to take the plank out of our eye first before removing the splinter from someone else's. Imagine if we started applying that even before marriage and how we dated okay what am I bringing to the table what do I need to work on, how am I contributing to this cycle of unhealthy relationships what does that look like for me to remove the plank and do the work of getting healthy and whole. That may be the hardest thing of all, you refer to a scene from a movie I always love when you know art reflects biblical truth, which is often if we stop and think about it but this movie was runaway bride. I don't think I saw this movie. Well it's a chick flick you. Try to sit down once in a while and watch one with Jean but explain what took place in that movie that grabbed you that proved a point.
Well it's about a woman who goes from one relationship to the next to the next to the next and at some point in the movie she realizes that all of her likes and interests are based on the person that she's with and I think sometimes we define ourselves by the relationship that we're in instead of defining ourselves by who God says we are first and foremost and that's an important thing to get right because it affects how and who you date. Yeah. One of the things you recommend is to journal, I've always I did that pretty easily for my boys I completed a, you know, full journal for both of them when I would travel especially internationally I'd pull out their leather journal it's really nice and you know 400 pages of journaling that I did about you could write a book family background and it was a good thing to do and to do it for both of them to individual but I've never really journaled for myself. Interestingly enough, and you mentioned in the book, kind of the importance of that practice. How does journaling help us better understand who we are and maybe how do you encourage those that don't seem to have the time to journal that's going to be the use. I'm so busy Deborah How can you expect me to journal.
Yeah. Well, if you are on a journey of dating inward I think you have to be intentional, nothing of value comes by accident, you're not going to date well by accident, just because you're a Christian doesn't mean you are going to do relationships well, unless you're intentional about it. So take a season of dating inward grab a journal and start to really face who you are. I like journaling because when you put something on paper, it makes it this objective thing that you have to face so some topics for you to think about what are your interactions and reactions, how do you interact with people around you and what does that reveal about you who do I spend time with and what are my, what is the conflict in my relationships look like. What are your behaviors. Do you have any habits or hang ups struggles or addictions in your life that you're dealing with.
What does that look like and what might be the roots of some of those things. What about your feelings. What's your overall mood throughout the week. And then lastly, what are your thoughts and beliefs are you do you tend to have negative thoughts cynical thoughts critical thoughts worst case scenario thinking, start to kind of track your thinking, and as you write things down and face them you begin to get an idea of what areas you need to work on in yourself.
Yeah, that's good. Maybe I should start doing that. Well, especially true if you want to do that deep dive that you're talking about so you kind of figure out who you are before you go too far in dating relationships, Deborah, let me ask you in that, just to help school those of us that haven't done a lot of self journaling we've done it like for our kids like I did speak to a couple of examples of that, especially early on kind of through your day what you're experiencing. Do you actually write that down today I was upset that the waitress didn't get me my food quickly enough I mean is that something worth writing down or give me an example. Yeah, when it comes to journaling about your feelings I think it's important to be aware of the areas where you have maybe an overreaction to things like let's say your wife says something to you and, and all of a sudden you're extremely angry and upset, almost disproportional to the situation, or let's say in the dating context somebody rejects you and says no thanks I don't really want to go out for coffee, and you feel utter despair and rejection, write it down, because there's probably something in that feeling that's being revealed that you need to work on you know maybe there's a deeper rejection issue, a fear of abandonment self worth issue. So I do think it's important to be aware of those feelings because they're a signal, and they signal something that's happening underneath the surface.
Yeah, you know we started this portion of the discussion I'd like to come back next time and continue there's so much more content I want to get to that you've written in this great book true love dates. But one of the things, as we discussed a moment ago people are marrying later, some people are feeling like they missed the bus right they're late into their 30s. They thought it was going to happen earlier. It hasn't happened. Do you ever encounter people that feel like, you know what, it's so late for me I don't think doing this kind of hard work is worth it. I would probably argue that you may be the prime candidate for doing this kind of work, but speak to that person, if you can imagine 37. He or she they thought they were going to get married in their 20s.
It didn't happen. Is it too late to do some of this great work. I hear from so many people in that boat at true love dates. And at the end of the day, you have to really take ownership of the health of your thinking if you're constantly thinking negative thoughts if you're constantly thinking desperate thoughts, you will date desperate as well, and you will do desperate things in dating.
So you really have to adjust those thoughts and, and remember this, the work is worth it whether or not you get married, because it's making you a better person in the end. Yeah, which is the goal all around right that's what the Christian faith is all about. Deborah this being so good let's come back next time we'll talk more about how to do that run towards Christ.
You know, increasing your depth spiritually, which is a great pursuit in and of itself right good things tend to happen to people that deepen their relationship with the Lord. And I think it'd be a great, great way to take this conversation. Can we do it. Yeah, let's do it. All right. And then for the viewer and for the listener man, if you need this resource to get a hold of us.
That's the bottom line. We've got a big push right now to help us on a monthly basis by becoming a sustainer to the ministry that could be like a $10 gift a month if you can do that and afford to do ministry through focus in that way 10 $15 a month would be awesome. And we'll send you a copy of Deborah's wonderful book as our way of saying thank you for being part of the ministry, you know the Lord, through a couple that donated once shared with me through this couple that our goal my goal is to run focus effectively and efficiently so you can do ministry through it, I'm committed to that. And I think that's how the Lord sees us so jump on board let's do ministry together, and we'll send you this great resource by Deborah true love dates, as our way of saying thank you. Call us today or go online to make your monthly donation and when you do request Deborah's book, true love dates. Our numbers 800, the letter A and the word family, and the link and further details are in the show notes. And while you're at the website, be sure to check out the boundless ministry, Lisa Anderson and her team do so much to help young adults think critically so they can advance in their faith. It's a really great ministry and we'll have the link in those show notes. And on behalf of Jim Daly and the entire team thanks for joining us today for focus on the family plan to be with us next time, as we have Deborah back and once again help you and your family thrive in Christ.
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