Buckle up, Buttercup. I’m writing about relationships again.
Last time I wrote a blog post about relationships, I received a Tonka Truckload of feedback which was such a fun surprise. Readers came forward to share their experiences as unmarried people in their church communities, and some great conversations came out as a result.
So, I am here again to open this can of worms.
I want to talk about the Poverty Mindset in relationships.
‘Poverty Mindset’ is a term used in psychology, business development forums, and even churches. It states that when you believe you are unable to meet the bare minimum of your needs, or you believe you are unworthy of receiving good things, you can fall into a nasty, muddy mental rut. Poverty Mindset means being poor of spirit, poor when it comes to your dreams and goals, poor in your heart because something in your past confirmed a lie for you - a lie that you couldn’t be anything other than ‘poor’. It’s an inability to dream bigger for God and yourself, saying ‘good things will NEVER happen for me,' so they don’t. As someone who works with young female entrepreneurs, I can tell you that overcoming this mindset is usually the biggest hurdle to their success. It isn’t discouragement, budgeting or networking. It’s fighting the belief that they only deserve survival rations in their lives and businesses. Once they can break through that and hold fast to the truth, really amazing things start happening.
Now, how is this happening in relationships? I would submit to you that our culture (ok…MOST cultures) have put romantic relationships on a very high pedestal. I’m not even talking about marriage - its dating too! Being in a romantic relationship has become a symbol of stability, health, and maturity. The Poverty Mindset edges into the relationship sphere when we begin to see dating/marriage as wealth, and those who are not in a relationship as systemically poor, or lacking. It is then that we lower the standards and panic. Bloody panic. Let me explain in depth.
I see this in two places:
In Our Communities
In Our Own Hearts
In Our Communities
I’m talking about people asking you intrusive questions about your love life, but you haven’t seen them since last Christmas. I’m talking about the non-medical professionals in your office who ask your age so they can let you know how close to midnight your biological clock is ticking. I’m talking about the aunties in your neighborhood who ask if you’re seeing someone, and when you say ‘no’ they leap into giving advice with the agility of a ninja gymnast.
I want you to know that I understand this is all coming from a kind place. It’s coming from men and women who want to see the next generation in a place of stability, and heck - everyone loves people in love. But it also can come from a place of believing that being unmarried is akin to a type of poverty.
Check out the advice I’ve received (and the snarky things I did NOT say, but thought):
“There aren’t any good guys here. Maybe you should move to a different state.” Logical. I’ll move to better hunting grounds because the deep frost killed off the good buffalo. I’ll go war with other lady tribes for better buffalo in…Connecticut.
“You should just start going on dates.” Here, or where there are better buffalo? This seriously sounds like ‘Just shoot your love cannon Rambo style in a general that-a-way direction and see if something drops in the field’
“Have you tried online dating?” THAT’S where we fire the love cannon! Actually, I have given online a try, and I went into it with a very open mind and open heart. One month in, I said ‘NOPE! Never again.’ It was like that time I tried going vegan for a month. Felt like crap. If online works for you, that’s awesome, but it is not the universal net for all the single fish. There’s a lot of barnacles and slimy things in that online net, lemme tell you.
“When you get really close to Jesus, then it will happen.” You just turned my relationship with God into a transaction. Like, ‘I’ll love you Jesus, and we can both pretend I don’t want this thing, but then you’ll give it to me because I’m so loyal and holy.’ I call bull crap on the worst theology ever given to singles. Bull. Crap.
“Maybe the guy you meet won’t love Jesus at first, but because of you, he’ll learn to love Jesus.” Missionary dating is a HOV thruway lane to heartbreak. Don’t do it.
“You’re not getting younger and there are fewer and fewer guys who will be available.” So, I’m dusty-crusty and the buffalo are going extinct anyway. Awesome.
“Are you sure you aren’t too picky?” My standards are: loves Jesus, isn’t currently a drug dealer, has a job, is kind, makes me laugh, and I think he’s cute. Tell me, Marie Kondo of Dating, what in there doesn’t spark joy for you?
I have a story. Last year, someone decided I had been single long enough, so they set me up on a blind date that was so blind neither of us knew it was happening. I showed up at a function and was informed that I was going to be meeting a man. Boom. Now, I am happy to go on a blind date, but I’d like to know about it 48 hours in advance; not 10 minutes. Trying to be gracious, I asked ‘Does he love Jesus?‘ Well….he had heard the gospel so that was ‘good enough.’ Ya’ll, I’m telling you right now, that is NOT enough. You can sit in church your whole life but if you don’t LOVE Jesus, and want to know His heart, then it’s a ‘no’ from me. Fortunately, the guy never showed. My point is this. Someone in my community had decided that I was deficient in an area. Although kindly intended, they also decided that things that mattered to me (his faith) could be skimped on because the perceived need was greater than the things that mattered.
One last story. I once had someone try to convince me to go on a date with a guy that I had met multiple times and I knew that his personality was just not for me. ‘Give him a chance,’ our mutual friend said. ‘You have something in common - he likes the sun.’
Not like the Son of God. Like the sun….which hangeth in the sky. If that barrel bottom was scraped any further…
What is the common thread now that I’ve doused you all with a fair sprinkling of snark? Poverty Mindset. The thought that you are missing out, or you are not yet whole without a romantic relationship. You have missed something, and because you are missing something, you need to do whatever you can to ‘fix it’ if you can….
In Our Hearts
There are no more good guys/girls.
I’ll never get married. It will never happen for me.
I’m too old.
I’m just going to end up all alone anyway.
I’m not physically attracted to them at all, but maybe if I marry them that will eventually happen.
Guys/girls don’t know how to date/pursue/be approached/etc.
We are terrible together and fight all the time, but I want to be married.
I desperately want to have kids, and he wants to be married, so I guess I’ll date him even though we don’t connect.
I wish I had made these statements up. I didn’t. I’ve heard them firsthand. I want to say this with a lot of grace - I know that there are deep wounds here. Aside from all the funny stories and snark, we are talking about people and their hearts. So, please hear me when I say that I know this can be really messy and hard. I know that for some people, their desires are not being met in their timeframe.
I also know that this is the area where we do not settle. And a Poverty Mindset tells you that you have to.
Here’s the fix. The key to improving the situation is believing better of people, speaking better, and expecting better. I’m serious. The key to breaking Poverty Mindset is believing you are worthy of more, and that it exists. This isn’t blind faith, even if it feels like it sometimes. It is faith, though, and that’s the work on your part.
Friends, when you say ‘There are no more good men/women’ a bad thing happens. It is demeaning. It is disrespectful. It is slanderous. It is almost a curse over the opposite sex saying ‘I don’t believe you can be good because you don’t meet my expectations’ or ‘my experience has been so bad that I don’t believe any of you can be any good.’
Especially for the women, I know we have our stories; I’ve got mine too. Some of us have some very deep wounds, and trusting again is absolutely terrifying. I don’t say this without experience or understanding. Girl, please for your sake, release the hurt in your heart, speak life over men, and believe better than the things you have seen. The truth is you can believe better because it exists. It does. I know ‘better’ because they’re my brothers, friends, uncles, and cousins. It’s real.
We were made for a better love.
Don’t marry someone you’re not physically attracted to. That’s horrible. How would you feel if you found out your spouse had been married to you for years but never was attracted to you? It’s just cruel.
Don’t date/marry someone who picks fights, degrades or demeans you.
Don’t date/marry someone because you have a goal of being married or a parent someday, but you honestly cannot stand to be around the other person.
Don’t skimp or sway on your convictions just to check a box or catch up with your peers’ life events.
DO believe that God has good things for you because He loves you. DO believe that you are operating from a position of one whole person with dreams, ambitions, and the potential for so much joy.
Last year, I had a person loudly declare to a table of people that I would never marry. Never. No reason was given, other than I was past a certain age, so it was never going to happen and everyone should give up on that ever happening for me. Fact is, I would like to be married someday, and when I say I’m open to dating and meeting people, I honestly am.
That conversation was a poor one, and it rattled me a bit, but not for long. See, my economy is different, and although I am currently not in a relationship, I am not impoverished in any way. Actually, God is my father, and He owns everything so….I’m quite the heiress. And my heart isn’t poor. It’s pretty freaking full with the friends, community, and family that are in my life. There is no want, and although my experiences have been rocky at moments, they don’t indicate what I deserve. In fact, they solidify for me what is healthy and good, and what is not.
I’m not sitting single with a heart of poverty, ready to jump into a relationship to keep a roof over my head and beat an invisible clock. Honey, auntie, boo boo: I’m sitting here like an investment banker. My time and heart are resources. They are valuable investments, and I’m not panicking at the first sign of a bear market because everyone around me is saying ‘sell your shares’ and get what you can. It’s not going down like that.
So live boldly, my friends. Love wisely. And believe richly.