‘Modern Anxious Romance’ — In the Midst of Madness Preview, Pt. 3

NOTE: This is the third excerpt from my book In the Midst of Madness: A Christian’s Experience with Anxiety and Finding Relief. The book releases on Jan. 12, 2018.

Modern Anxious Romance

In his book Modern Romance, comedian and actor Aziz Ansari (who plays the hilarious Tom Haverford on Parks & Recreation) explores the quirks and difficulties of dating in the modern world. It’s a funny read. There’s profanity and some crude content, so if you’re not up for that, I’d avoid it. But I’ll share a pretty clean story from the introduction to his book.

Aziz was trying to decide if he should text this girl he had met that he calls Tanya. They had hung out one night and he wanted to get in touch with her again. Should he call her? Should he text her?

He waited a few days, then texted her. He began to picture what their relationship would be like. A few minutes after he sent the text, the status of the message went to “read.” Moment of truth. Nothing. Fifteen minutes, an hour, two, three hours go by, nothing. He begins to second-guess what he said.

After a few days, he realizes something:

“The madness I was descending into wouldn’t have even existed twenty or even ten years ago. There I was, manically checking my phone every few minutes, going through this tornado of panic and hurt and anger all because this person hadn’t written me a short, stupid message on a dumb little phone.

I was really upset, but had Tanya really done anything that rude or malicious? No, she just didn’t send a message in order to avoid an awkward situation. I’d surely done the same thing to someone else and not realized the similar grief I had possibly caused them.”

In the first chapter, Aziz shares about the difference between “soul mate marriage” (where love is the primary factor in marriage) and “companionate marriage” (where finding a life companion for safety and security is the motivator) and how marriage has changed from the latter to the former over the years for the majority of people, particularly in my generation. While reading, I noted the following thought:

“But searching for a soul mate takes a long time and requires enormous emotional investment. The problem is that this search for the perfect person can generate a lot of stress. Younger generations face immense pressure to find the ‘perfect person’ that simply didn’t exist in the past when ‘good enough’ was good enough.”

In modern times, romance has become one of the most stress-inducing, anxiety-filled, drive-you-crazy-because-she-hasn’t-texted-you-back-in-two-hours things that has ever existed. In fact, it’s the only thing that has ever fit that description. Romance, particularly in the smartphone and social media age, has so many more nuances and produces more insecurities than in previous generations.

When my parents were dating back in the 1980s, there was no Snapchat or Facebook. There was picking up the telephone and calling to try to set up a time to get dinner and see a movie. There was no analyzing the latest tweet your potential boo tweeted, or wondering why he had read your text but hadn’t replied when you thought things were going well. I’m sure there was still a ton of fear and insecurity and doubt, but it was different.

I personally believe that Christian culture has made things much more difficult for believers to process romance because there are so many “rules” and “guidelines” for how to do things. Whether it’s right or wrong, we as Christians have placed a great burden on trying to decide what our romantic lives are supposed to look like before we even dive into them. Yes, there is wisdom in thinking well and making good decisions, but often we make it so complicated.

We see a potential love interest’s faults as “red flags” when maybe they’re just human flaws. We want to wait for the “right time” when there really is no such thing as a “right time.” It induces so much anxiety, it’s ridiculous!

I’ve seen a lot of articles recently about how men in the Church aren’t pursuing women in the Church the way they are expected to. There probably is a lot of fear and some anxiety, but I would wager a guess that it’s partially due to the unreal expectations that are placed on what a Christian dating relationship is “supposed” to look like.

And then, there’s the “unwritten” dating rules and questions to answer that humans have come up with that aren’t un-biblical. There’s so much!

My modern romance is no different, but I also fought the beast of anxiety throughout.

Advertisements

Don’t Give Up: Even When Relationships Are Stressing You Out

“Actually, there is a word for that. It’s love. I’m in love with her, okay? If you’re looking for the word that means caring about someone beyond all rationality and wanting them to have everything they want no matter how much it destroys you, it’s love.”

I’ve mentioned before how one of my favorite shows is How I Met Your Mother. Just in case you’ve missed the posts where I’ve mentioned it before, it’s a show about Ted Mosby, a young guy living in NYC trying to find the woman of his dreams, the mother of his kids. It’s narrated by an older Ted Mosby to his two kids. It’s him saying to his kids, “Hey, here’s how I met your mother.” Classic.

Ted Mosby is a romantic. Easily. Throughout the whole series you see him pining for different women. Sometimes it’s a mess.

But one instance that strikes me so deeply is early on in season one. He’s dating a girl named Natalie, someone with whom he has a messy history, for the second time. The first time he broke up with her, he dumped her on her birthday via a message on her answering machine with a bunch of people in her apartment waiting to surprise her hearing every word. After they restart dating, Ted suddenly says, “I have to break up with her…She’s terrific but I have to break up with her…I should be in love with her, but I’m not feeling that thing. It’s ineffable.”

They had only dated – this second time around – for three weeks. Ted’s issue in this episode was that he was basing all his decisions on feelings and giving up really easily. It reminded me how easily people give up on relationships.

True, Ted is kinda clueless half the time. But just look at the statistics on divorce. Some studies say it’s 50 percent of marriages, some say it’s less. Either way, people give up on relationships all the time.

Sometimes giving up on relationships is what needs to be done. Sometimes it’s just not going anywhere. But there are two instances when giving up isn’t an option.

When you’re married, you don’t give up.

There are specific exceptions that are really hard and messy to deal with here, but 99 percent of the time, you say, “Till death do us part,” and you stick with that.

The American Psychological Association says that 40-50 percent of married couples in the United States divorce. That’s crazy. That’s a lot of people giving up.

I can’t speak specifically to the difficulties that come within marriage because I’m still a few months away from experiencing it myself. But all that I’ve heard is that marriage is hard, and that it can be somewhat easy to want to ditch it.

But all I’ve heard about quitting marriage is that it’s not worth it.

As I’ve thought about the possibility of being married, I can think of several reasons why one would want to quit: arguments that never seem to end, the financial difficulty of managing money for two people, and many more. But when you say, “I do,” you’re committing for life.

One thing I’m learning about love is that it’s more about commitment. When you say, “I love you,” it’s more than a feeling. It’s saying, “Hey, I’m committing to you. I’m promising to stick with you, no matter how I feel. Even if I don’t feel the love.” Love means commitment more than anything else. Yes, there are feelings in there too, but it’s more about a promise. Love is a promise. What I’ve heard is that going through the tough times will only make your relationship stronger.

Don’t give up.

Don’t give up just because you’re scared.

Fear of commitment/relationships is one of the most powerful fears out there. I’ve experienced it in my own life, and had to overcome it to start pursuing my now-fiancée.

Fear can be a powerful motivator, but it can also be a powerful de-motivator. It can suck the life and desire and drive out of you.

I know how terrifying commitment can be. You’re offering to give yourself up for someone else.

But I can tell you from personal experience that it’s worth it. The months that I have spent dating and now engaged to my fiancée have been hard sometimes, but they’ve also been incredibly joyful and rewarding. I can’t wait to spend the rest of my life with her.

So if you’ve got the opportunity to pursue a romance, but you’re sacred, please, don’t give up. Push on.

Don’t give up.