i’m about to be every grandma or pastor or well-meaning friend or researcher that tells you that what you digest / input into your life, you come to expect. whether it’s porn, (physical, mental, emotional) abuse, what you see in the media or movies, what you hear in songs, what your mind subconsciously views or hears in the background of your life, it affects the way you view the world and yourself and others. i’ve heard it many times. and yet, i thought i was immune. at least in a couple of areas: TV / MOVIES and SOCIAL MEDIA.
anyone that knows me knows that i’m not much of a movie or tv show guru. give me a book any day and i will be content to read all the day long, but when it comes to movies, i’m interested at best, apathetic at worst. i usually prefer to talk to those i’m with so sitting through 2 hours of a movie with people i’d rather be chatting with (about nothing in particular) seems like a minor form of torture. and everyone knows THOSE PEOPLE that talk throughout the whole movie and i know THOSE PEOPLE are generally frowned upon. i’d never be one of them, mind you, but i know they exist. so alas, i usually settle for watching movies by myself (really, an unsad and very satisfactory way to partake, in my opinion). most of the movies or tv i watch are chick flicks, murder mysteries, crime shows, or on occasion, the often dark oscar-winning movies (thanks to my friend lydia that shares my adoration of literature but not my aversion to movies and thus, has widened my exposure to them). so, the amount of destructive trash tv / movies i intake is quite low, or so i thought.* (NECESSARY SIDE NOTE: we shall look back in wonder at the days when i watched all the housewives of… shows, tool academy (look it up. as horrendous as it sounds, yet delightfully addictive), etc. all which were totally destructive and totally hilarious. i regret nothing.)
same goes for social media. i’m a self-proclaimed lover (and maybe addict at times). i love the connection it can bring, the inspiration you can garner, the easy way to keep up with and follow so many people you love (whether known or unknown).
so why, when i started dating (a miracle in and of itself), did i suddenly find myself expecting these terribly unrealistic feelings to arise and situations to occur? we could chalk it up to being a girl that lets her emotions get ahead of her and loves to dream of her ~~~wedding day**~~~~ but i am just not one of those people. i’m cynical and fairly critical of guys and dating in general (anyone want to date me yet?), so my expectations are usually built firmly in reality and not utopia. yet, as i continued to date, i felt myself falling into this “idealistic” trap. i didn’t realize how far and wide i had planned in my head the way my husband would come and who he would be without leaving ANY margin for god to come unexpectedly. the simplest things would make me question whether someone was a worthy suitor: his clothes, his ability to command a room, his height. he’s not as funny as me. he’s too funny and would eclipse me. and on the list would go. meanwhile, i think i’m a perfect princess that no one would have any qualms about dating (yes, i really thought this and yes, i’m delusional).
so, in what ways do i feel like media / the internet / movies have polluted our dating process?
1. we have planned our own way:
we have (often subconsciously) imagined the way we think our life will turn out. we all do this and in some ways, this is a normal and healthy practice. we imagine the job we want, how many kids we want, what our life will look like one day. the trouble with this is that we can’t know the outcomes. we may plan that by 25, we will have a house and overseas adventures and 2 kids strapped onto our backs — but what if this doesn’t turn out? we will live, sure. we may even be happy. but we will be fighting what we thought SHOULD BE versus WHAT IS. and our contentment lies primarily in WHAT IS, while our sadness and frustration lies mostly in the SHOULD BEs. for, as shakespeare said, “expectation is the root of all heartache.” i’m not blazing ahead saying “EXPECT NOTHING. BE NEGATIVE. DON’T DREAM.”, i’m just suggesting that perhaps we should leave a bit more room for god.** i think that what we intake, primarily in the form of media, affects this drastically. we believe that these are perfectly attainable, reasonable demands to put on our life; these scripted, dreamed-up ideas. it’s possible, but i’m not sure it’s wise to put our hope there.
2. we have endless options
this by far has perhaps been the most difficult obstacle for me to overcome when deciding who and how to date. i’m a pinterest girl (or at least i was). i love the amassing of so many inspirational images in one place. the way it helps me find my style, my groove. it’s a virtual 90’s inspiration notebook of scissored and elmer’s glued magazine clippings. it a wonderful site that can aid you in many endeavors. but it’s a 2d, flat site. you can pin everything you ever dreamed there without either A. making it your reality or B. it becoming your reality. even with the best-laid plans, it’s highly unlikely that you will do, see, and make everything you want to in this life. but with sites like pinterest, it’s a simple path to BELIEVING you can and that other people do. same goes for instagram (i’m really hitting home with all my faves, now). there are all these filtered, staged photos that we take at face value (perfection, idealism, a “good life”) instead of for what they are worth (dependent on the poster, but probably not realistic for day-to-day living). we see guys that have great style, ones that seem godly, ones that are hot (c’mon, you know the ones), ones that are poetic, ones that seem to have it all. guess what? MAYBE THEY DO. but most likely, they are a sinful person who would disappoint you even on their best days. but in the online world, we don’t have to deal with that. we can pick and choose and drop and choose and pick what we want (or seemingly so). don’t like something they say? unfollow. find someone that seems even more ideal? comment on their picture in hopes of a “connection”. we can pick the parts of people we want to see and this is when we see their BEST SIDE. so when we are faced with a whole person that sometimes smells and is annoying and doesn’t treat you like the princess you know yourself to be (just me? ok.), we don’t know how to interact. we can’t crop or edit or filter a real person. but in real life, you CAN make like jay-z and say “on, on to the next one” (you can also say “somebody bring me back some money please,” but that’s an even less likely option). so often we do, because our expectation of reality is built on instagram and the movies and our cobbled together idea of what we need + want. which brings me to my next point…
3. we can custom build our own husband / wife:
this goes hand in hand with the last. we can take each of those qualities we desire and see in various people, and we paste together the full picture of what we want. again, the desires in and of themselves are often reasonable, realistic things. but the likelihood of having everything you ever dreamed in someone is statistically unlikely (just kidding. i don’t know any statistics and i just made it up but still. trust me?). i found in my own making of a perfect mr. potato head (black hair here, longer legs here, cooler shirt here. nope. not that one. try again), i have often hoped for me in male form. i say “adventurous! funny! (calling yourself funny is frowned upon? welp.) loves kids! spontaneous! is artistic! likes the outdoors! name is jenna!” wait. an ex-boyfriend told me, after one embarrassing coming-to-light of what i really hoped for (hint: it was someone that wanted to ride roller coasters. truly. i’m awful.), “i feel like you have your life planned out with what you want to do some day and what you want your kids / family to do and if i don’t fit exactly into that, you’re not sure you can do it.” oh. well, lets not be so reasonable here! i retorted “well. you’re right” because, damnit, he had hit the proverbial nail on the head. so, when coming face-to-face with what i had custom-built versus a real, living human being that had amazing qualities and others that weren’t as amazing, i found myself focusing on the quality that i had ALWAYS IMAGINED my husband having. because being able to ride roller coasters is obviously the hill you should die on where a husband is concerned. i’m just saying that maybe we should put the qualities we desire with the correct priorities in mind. someone that loves the lord, respects and cares for people. someone that will stay on your worst days and point you back to jesus when you can’t see the light. someone that has qualities that MATTER. this is your best bet. it is not making lists and stalking pinterest for the shoes hopefully your husband will wear (because assuredly, he probably will not. think flip flops. think crocs. be realistic, for the love).
4. we expect our mate to complete us:
oh, if this isn’t at the heart of so many movies and so much propaganda that has us confused. have i sufficiently convinced that you will have to marry someone you hate? good. cause that’s how god wants it. hold up. no it’s not. he desires his glory and your best. he does. he will provide someone (eventually, maybe) that values the important things and values you. he may not be picture-perfect or instagrammable on his most steezed out day or have planned romantic dates, but you can build a good life with a good man / woman, instead of this all-fulfilling unattainable person that you have imagined and seen in the movies. and the thing is, god will probably make them complement us (compliment us too, lord please). they will have qualities that are opposite of you, that drive you mad, that make you hate them at times (all the married people, say amen?) but those very things are the things that will challenge you, make you lean into jesus, grow, stretch, change. those are good things. your mate will never complete you — however wonderful, however grand they may be. only jesus can do that. so i pray we put our expectations firmly on ground we can stand on — jesus. and our potential spouse where they belong — as someone we are meant to serve the lord WITH not someone who fills a void.
i’m praying that god gives you peace where you’re at and grace for the future. and for all that’s good and gravy, stop stalking people online, swiping left (right? whatever.) and day-dreaming about ryan gosling.
* i will note here that on most ends of the spectrum, i fall into the LIBERALITY category. i believe in moderation, sure, and responsibility. but i’m not too worried about a little cussing, drinking, tacky tv, tacky jokes, tacky most things. there is outright non-necessities to me: tasteless f-words (or other words) that add nothing to the story or joke, too much raunchiness (softcore porn, and hardcore, and unnecessary nudity and the like), and so on, but for the most part, i believe that “one person’s faith allows them to eat anything, but another, whose faith is weak, eats only vegetables.” (romans 14:2). and usually, i’m alright with meat.
** i highly suggest this short read by oswald chambers on the subject.