Growing up, my parents told me two things regarding dating:
- My mom said that I’m not allowed to date until I’m 30 years old;
- My dad said that I shouldn’t get married until at least 35 years old.
The statements actually sound so ridiculous that everyone my mom would say, “Hope’s not allowed to date until she’s 30” to would actually laugh at my mom’s “joke.” Surely, one would think that either common sense or some social pressure would help a child or teen or young adult realize that these are merely silly suggestions, statements rooted in jest, and unrealistic, unreasonable boundaries.
So, why did my parents even say this? Joking? No. They said it out of fear.
Well, here I am. Thirty-six years old and my situation is not too far off from what they “spoke.” Not much dating and no marriage yet. Do I resent them for that? No way. They did the best they knew how based on their experiences. However, it’s been empowering for me to understand the impact you can have with your words.
I can’t help but wonder if my subconscious could actually take the joke – the joke that wasn’t actually a joke.
So was my mom joking? Yes and no. She didn’t really mean “til I’m 30” I don’t think, but she did mean “Hope can’t date.” She was afraid of what could happen if I dated. Because she came from a place of being severely taken advantage of and abused, she never wanted to me to be in a position to experience what she did. And my dad? Dead serious. My parents got divorced when I was 8 years old, which was before they both were 30 years old. My father feels that you really don’t know anything in your 20s and you cannot possibly be mature enough to handle a marriage relationship until you’re at least into your 30s. So, with both of them sowing those words over me, there was a part of me (subconsciously) that felt maybe there was something wrong with dating.
This isn’t something that I put together until I was 34 years old. I always wondered why I would act so aloof when I find someone attractive, or act as though I don’t notice them. It’s not intentional. I get mad at myself when I do it, and yet I literally have no other knowledge of how to act. It was never modeled for me and because there was never any discussion in my home about “crushes,” “interests,” or finding a husband, I had no idea what my role was.
You Are Not Alone
I have had many conversations with other women who relate to my story. They grew up in a home where conversations around dating were suppressed. It may have not been like mine in terms of the dating rules or what may have been spoken over them, but there are commonalities in experience in terms of acting aloof and not really knowing how to show interest properly. It is frustrating because in your mind and heart you may feel a certain way, but your body, like a paralyzed person, responds completely different. Most of the time, it is rooted in fear.
I recently had a beautiful godly woman hear my story and almost before I could even finish, she prayed that any bondages and chains of the words that were sown over me be rebuked, cast away, broken, and dropped. She prayed that I could convey my interest and beauty as a woman for the right man to notice. I realized in that moment this mother of 4 children has been sowing the opposite words over her children than mine did over me. She has been praying for their spouses and setting up expectations of marriage and proper dating. I realized in that moment the things told to me my whole life were not jovial, harmless jokes, but actually had a deep, lasting impact into how I viewed relationships and dating.
Watch Your Words
So the moral of the story (ahem, my life) is that I urge you to watch your words and what you say over your own dating life, your friends’ dating lives, and your children’s. Remember that “you have been trapped by what you said, ensnared by the words of your mouth” (Proverbs 6:2).
If anyone has said anything about you – that you will or will not marry, how you are or are not – if it does not align with what God says about you, then rebuke it in the name of Jesus. You do not have to receive it, and should not receive it. You can literally brush it off. Do that right now – take your hands and rub them over your shoulder to brush it all off. Brush off words that say you’re not worthy of a godly man. Brush off words that you can’t attract the good guys or respectful guys. Brush off words that suggest that you will be single forever. Brush off anything that is contradictory to your heart’s desire and your identity as a daughter (or son) of God.
The Next Step
It’s more than just not speaking what you don’t want. Speak what you do want. Speak words of life over yourself and those around you. Tell yourself about your own confidence, about your beauty, about your faith (not fear), and about your patience to wait for the right person and to discern a great option from a bad one. Whatever you want to have or be, you can say it and recondition your mind and your heart. What you believe will shape your actions and how you carry yourself, just as it did mine through my 20s, and now for the better in my 30s.