Instant attraction. The first time I met my wife definitely felt like that. I was a freshman in college during finals week. Truthfully, I wasn’t at the library to study. I was there following my mom’s advice which was, “If you can find a beautiful girl in the library, it’s a win. She’s smart and beautiful.” Dating wasn’t happening much for me my freshman year, so why not right? Ok, you can come up with a dozen reasons why not to take your mom’s dating advice, but it worked. In walks Emily and there goes my heart. Instant attraction. It felt like Cupid had that Legolas game from the second Lord of the Rings. We dated for a long time and ended up getting married and this past year had a little boy.
We’re happy. She’s amazing. The greatest joy of my life. Our son is hilarious (takes after his mom) and I love him so much. Sometimes people look at me and ask about whether or not we’re soulmates. My answer? Honestly, the soulmate thing isn’t why this “love story” happened.
Often times, it seems like every chick-flick that I see begins with an idea or a premise that everyone has a soulmate out there somewhere. The story often has a person who stumbles their way through relationship after relationship searching for “Prince Charming” or whatever the equivalent for that is for a guy.
The basic premise is usually this: there is a person who is right for me and once I find that person my life will be as it should be.
I think most people fall into 2 camps:
1) Searching for the right person
2) Becoming the right person
From experience, I can tell you this. The pursuit of becoming the right person is way more valuable than trying to find the right person. When I met my wife in that library, one of the beautiful things about her was how obvious it was that she had done and was continuing to do the difficult work of becoming someone. She wasn’t caught up in a massive search to find “the right guy.” She was determined to be someone…to become the right person. Our first several conversations highlighted so much of who she was because she knew who she was.
That was a priority of mine as well. Somewhere along the way a mentor had told me how important it was to focus on building character and developing integrity. People had told me to follow my curiosities and figure out what I loved. I had been thinking about what I would hope to have in a marriage one day and wasn’t willing to compromise. Why?
I decided to develop qualities that I hoped to one day have in a spouse and made the assumption that she was doing the same.
Andy Stanley has a great clarifying question for this. He frames it by asking, “Are you the person you’re looking for is looking for?” That’s very different from pursuing a soulmate and working so hard to find the right person. Part of that focus turns inward.
Who are you becoming?
To answer that question, I think there are 3 exercises that you can begin right now to help set you up to answer Andy’s question well. I’ve done all three and they have completely changed my life. In fact, Emily and I both still revisit these both personally and as a couple.
DEVELOP YOUR PERSONAL CORE VALUES
Stephen Covey talks about this in his book, “7 Habits of Highly Effective People.” Begin with the end in mind, and ask yourself, “What do you hope people say about you at your funeral?” Morbid. I know. It’s so clarifying though.
I spent a lot of time developing 8 core values to guide my heart and my life. These were personal benchmarks for me. As we progressed in our relationship, I actually shared those with Emily as well.
DEVELOP A VISION FOR MARRIAGE
Before Emily and I started dating, I knew what I wanted a dating relationship to feel like and ultimately, what I wanted a marriage to feel like. She had a similar list and we approached the relationship that way from the beginning. This didn’t involve catchy phrases or author-level cadence. It was raw, but it was honest and we held each other to it.
I’ll give you an example. I knew I didn’t want tension to linger in the relationship. We came from different parenting styles, but we knew that we needed an approach that allowed us to work through things in a healthy way. We decided in our relationship we’d work through the emotional angst even if we weren’t able to come to an agreement on what needed to change. We did that while we dated and we still do that in our marriage. That is non-negotiable for us.
For those of you who are single and looking for the right person, make sure to look inward first. If your focus is on becoming the right person, then I think you’ll discover a much more fulfilled relationship one day. Also, I have seen over and over again how when you focus on becoming the right person, the person you’re looking for becomes more clear.
Even in a world that perpetuates the idea of looking versus becoming…be different. Become the person you’re looking for is looking for.
– Patrick Holden | Kensington Traverse City, Lead Pastor