Every week, Ask Laura features responses to your questions about religion, relationships, and the mess they often create. You can submit questions to Laura anonymously at this form, or via Twitter (@lkoturner) or email (email@example.com).
I’m a 30 year-old guy who is fit, has a great job, many friends and have always had a strong faith in God. After a long time a relationship fell apart, and I’m back in the dating pool again and having a very hard time. I feel like I’m stuck between two worlds. I am looking for someone with faith, but not someone who is dogmatic or rigid. I want a girl who is independent but isn’t insulted if I hold a door for her. I want to get married and start a family but I want to find someone who has a life of her own and a job she enjoys. I hesitate to try one of those Christian dating sites because I’m not really looking for a “churchy” girl. Since I live in a large East Coast city, it’s not always easy to find someone who shares my values. And when I’ve tried the singles groups at churches, I’ve felt like I’m in the land of misfit toys. Any advice on finding my potential soul mate?
So, let me see if I’m understanding you right: You want to find a woman who is religious but not rigidly so, career-minded but not insulted by chivalry (nb: I’ve never known a woman who got mad at a guy for holding a door, even the most ardent feminists), and values-oriented but an independent thinker? Just give me desired measurements and hair color; I’ll have her there by midnight.
How do people meet and date and fall in love? I honestly have no idea; you’re talking to someone who started dating the man she would marry when she was nineteen. That certainly wasn’t my plan, but things happen and c’est la vie and tra la la. That is, I realize, incredibly unhelpful to hear, but what you’re asking isn’t so much a question you can get a quick answer to as a deeply human drama that echoes in almost every heart at one time or another: Where is love? More specifically, where is my piece of the pie? And Sam, believe me, if I knew, I would tell you. Being married is wonderful. Which isn’t to say it’s always fun, but it often is, especially if you really like the person you found.
You may meet someone interesting tomorrow, someone who you really like and get to know and you may spend two years with her just to break up again. Or you may meet someone in eight years and get married after a few months. It sounds like you have been doing some good things — going to church, thinking about the qualities you hope for in a partner — since getting out of a long-term relationship, but there are some practical things you could benefit from doing, too. You could join regular dating websites, like Match.com or eHarmony, and indicate there that your faith is important to you. (The Christian dating sites weird me out a little, too.) One of my best friends met her husband on OkCupid, and they’re both totally great churchgoing people. You could also let your friends know you’re looking, if you’re open to being set up — just be prepared for some less-than-stellar dates.
In the meantime, though, you have the process. The time. And the best advice I can give you is to let the process work for you. What I mean by that is that you’ve got this period of time where you’re not in a relationship, not spending time with one person in particular or hashing out whose family to spend Thanksgiving with. One of my dad’s (and now my) favorite writers, Dallas Willard, said something like, “The best thing God gets out of your life is the person you become.” And you are always becoming that person, especially when you’re waiting. Waiting is hard, painful work because we are people who want immediate gratification. While we wait, though, we don’t stop the process of becoming. You aren’t missing any essential element you need to become the person you want to be, so think about that. Are there books you want to read, conversations you want to have, thoughts you want to think? Use your free time to do those things. You might meet someone at a bookstore or lecture, or you might just buy a book or hear an idea and leave on your own. But then you are becoming better (and better company) as you think about the kind of person you want to be — kind, fun, considerate, whatever. Keep looking, but don’t stop at looking for a soul-mate — look for your future self, too.
Almost three years ago, my husband went through the foster-to-adopt process and ended up with a beautiful baby boy. He’s been joined since then by our biological son, who is almost one. Our sons love each other deeply and are happy and healthy, but we constantly run into the same issue: Our adopted son is black, and we are white, and everywhere we go we get questioning glances. Our church has been mostly welcoming, but when we’re out grocery shopping or at dinner, people have asked if our older son is ours; others have said how much he looks like me when I’m out with him alone. My husband can handle this by ignoring it, but I find myself feeling anger toward people who feel like it’s their right to stare at us. Should I just let it go?
UGH. Human beings are awful and nosy and way too much like Rachel Lynde, the neighborhood gossip from Anne of Green Gables. So, first of all, I’m so sorry that you’ve had to deal with people staring and asking inappropriate questions. You should be able to go out with your kids without fielding questions about their origins. As I see it, you have a few possible responses in these situations, but before we talk about that, I want to ask you a question.
You said that your husband is able to keep his cool when strangers bring up your son’s race, and I’m not totally sure what that means — does he ignore them? Does he respond with a cursory “he’s adopted?” — but what I want you to remember is that you are two different people and that it’s okay for you to have different reactions. It’s not okay to haul off and hit someone who asks a dumb question (although, don’t we all wish we could?), but if your response is more heated or protective than your husband’s, that is completely okay. Don’t feel like you need to match him exactly. You might want to discuss a strategy for when the two of you are out together, and talk about what your kids will see — because they’ll be watching soon, even if they aren’t now.
And that’s the really important thing here. Your kids aren’t growing up in the 1950s, but being black in this country — especially in an otherwise white family — still isn’t exactly a walk in the park. So as satisfying as it would be to chew someone out who asks where your son is from, think first about how you will want your kids to respond when they’re old enough to be asked the same questions, and respond with that in mind.
If someone tells you how much your son looks like you, that’s easy enough — just say a hearty thanks and be glad they have eyes to see how adorable he is. If someone asks you where your son is from, or whether he’s yours — that’s trickier. A withering glare is a perfectly appropriate response, and a perfunctory “yes” followed by a subject-change should do the trick. If you are in a kinder mood, you can feel free to give a bit of family history, but you should never feel obligated to do so.