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Monday, August 22, 2016

Boundaries in Dating: Know when to give up hope

A scene from the movie "Zootopia." Judy's parents advise her to give up on her goals. Image source.
We come to chapter 13 of Boundaries in Dating: How Healthy Choices Grow Healthy Relationships, which is called "Kiss False Hope Good-bye", and it's about how to decide whether to keep hoping or give up if you're in a situation where you wish your partner would change. The chapter begins by telling the story of Robbie and Melinda. They had been together 5 years, and Robbie really loved Melinda but wasn't willing to marry her yet because she was controlling and judgmental. For years, he had hoped that she would become a better person so they could have a healthy relationship and be happy together. Robbie goes to Dr. Cloud (one of the book's authors) and tells him about the problem. Dr. Cloud tells him there's really no basis for his hope- it's been 5 years already, Robbie had tried everything, and Melinda showed no signs she was going to change. Dr. Cloud advised him to either accept Melinda as she was or break up with her.

The authors then explain that there are two kinds of hope:
Hope is one of the greatest of virtues. As Paul says, "Faith, hope and love remain" (1 Corinthians 13:13). Hope drives great things to happen when all seems lost. If someone can keep hope going, then through faith and love, great things can be accomplished. Hope is surely a wonderful virtue, for without it, we give up and give in to all sorts of evil. We need it to persevere.

But the kind of hope that God wants us to have is the kind that "does not disappoint" (Romans 5:5), the kind that is based on the love that God has for us. God's love for us has been proven through his actions. We can go back to a point in history and say, "Look. It is true that God loves us. Here is a cross and an empty tomb. Hope in him makes sense. It is not false hope."

But the Bible speaks of another kind of hope as well. It is the hope that "makes the heart sick" (Proverbs 13:12). It is "hope deferred." In other words, hope that never is realized does not give life. It makes us sick and hopeless. It is a very good description of depression and giving up. When we hope and hope, and yet nothing happens and there is no reason to keep hoping other than hope itself, then despair settles in.

This is the kind of hope that Robbie had engaged in for five years. He had hoped that Melinda would change, but his hope was not a virtue at all. His hope was not based in any reality. It was denial and wishful thinking. And it was eating up his life. My job, as I saw it, was to get Robbie to give up hope and to either love Melinda as she was or move on. For I saw nothing in the picture that said that she was headed for change. There was no basis for his hope.
Next, they give us these guidelines to determine if it's worth it to keep waiting and hoping for a person or relationship to change:
  1. The definition of crazy is to continue to do the same thing expecting different results.
  2. The best predictor of the future, without some intervening variable, is the past.
The rest of the chapter covers different scenarios where you hope your partner will change, and what you can do to introduce some kind of "intervening variable" to test if change is possible.

So the point is, you have to look at reality and honestly ask yourself if there's any evidence that a change might happen. If there's not, it's better to give up hope and move on with your life.

And, as a former evangelical, I have this to say: WHAT?

You guys. In the Christianity I learned, it was seen as good to hope and hope that something would happen, despite all evidence that nothing was happening. That's what faith is, right? Pastors told stories of people who kept going, kept doing the same things over and over even though they saw no results- this is referred to as "being faithful to God"- and we viewed them as heroes of faith. Often, the anecdote would end with some amazing result, finally they saw how God had been using their obedience and the wonderful things that came of it, even though at the time it seemed useless. Or perhaps the amazing result came long after the person left that situation or died, and they have no idea how much their hard work has made such a good impact for God's kingdom. That's what we're supposed to do. That's what faith is. Believing that God wants you to do something, and then continuing to do it faithfully even though, in reality, it looks completely pointless.

Let me give you some examples [source: 20+ years as an evangelical Christian]:

A college student decides to start a bible study group in her sorority. She prays a lot about it, and invites people, but every week only two or three people come. Some weeks nobody comes. And she wonders, what's the point? It seems useless. And she wonders if maybe she's not a good enough Christian and that's why her bible study group is a failure. But she keeps doing it. Years later, she finds out that after she graduated, a few of her sorority sisters continued the bible study, and it has grown into a big, thriving group since then. All because she kept obeying God's call even when it looked hopeless.

A missionary dedicates his life to serving the people of some Asian country that white American Christians see as "exotic." He lives there and works so hard to share the gospel, for 20 years, and never sees a single person come to Christ. Finally he prays, "God, it's okay with me if I never see anyone saved here. I have decided that all that matters is I'm obeying your call. My status as a Christian, as your beloved child, is not based on how many people get saved." And just a few days after he prays, one of the leaders of the community decides to become a Christian. And when they see their leader convert, hundreds of other people do too. And they talk about how much the missionary touched their lives and really helped them see God's love. (As a bonus, this story also contains the "God finally gives you what you want just when you've decided you're okay with not having it" trope that's common in evangelical Christian narratives.)

God promised Abraham that he would have a son, even though Abraham and his wife Sarah were too old to have kids. But Abraham kept waiting and trusting God. Until he decided not to trust God anymore- he had sex with his servant, and she had a son. Which is bad because Abraham should have just kept trusting even though there was literally no real-world evidence to give him any reason to hope that Sarah could get pregnant. Bad Abraham. But after that, he kept trusting God, and eventually God did give Abraham and Sarah a son. Wow isn't Abraham such a great example of faith?

A young women "feels convicted" that she shouldn't date casually, she should wait for God to bring the right man into her life. Years go by as she watches her Christian friends date and get married, but she knows she can't do that, she is waiting for "God's best." Waiting, waiting, waiting, never taking initiative, never saying yes to a date, never intentionally going to places with a lot of single people. She trusts God, and she truly believes God will reward her for her obedience. Waiting, waiting, waiting.

A high school student cares so much about her "unsaved" best friend. She really really really wants her to become a Christian. So she prays. And prays. Even though the friend shows no interest in Christianity at all. She prays and prays for years. Finally one night, out of nowhere, her friend starts asking her "what happens after we die? how can we be sure?" and she's able to "lead her to Christ." Wow praise God, amirite?

[trigger warning for ideology that enables abuse in this next anecdote]

A woman's husband doesn't treat her right. Wives are supposed to submit and husbands are supposed to love their wives as Christ loves the church- but he's not holding up his end of the deal. Yet she still submits to him. She doesn't fight, she doesn't threaten to leave. She loves him unconditionally, sacrificing her own desires, like Jesus sacrificed for us. And eventually, because of her love and obedience to God, her husband starts to treat her better. Eventually, he becomes the perfect loving husband she always wanted.

A young man confesses his "struggles with same-sex attraction" and goes to a Christian counselor who can help him become straight. He prays and prays for years, begging God to take away the temptation. He feels like he is making some progress and soon God will make him straight. He marries a woman, with the faith that God will make it all work out. Years later, he can't keep up the act any more. His whole life falls apart. And Christians blame it all on him- if only he had tried harder, if only he had had more faith, if only he had obeyed God more. How wrong for him to give up like that.

The theme running through all these stories is this: don't use actual reality or common sense to see if something is "working" or not. If God told you to do it, you have to keep doing it. Or else you don't trust God and you're a bad Christian. End of story.

Now, this chapter of "Boundaries in Dating" is specifically about when to give up hope that your relationship partner will change, and I haven't heard any anecdotes in the faith-means-keep-doing-the-same-pointless-thing genre specifically about that topic (with the exception of the advice to women to keep submitting and their jerk husband will magically become less terrible). (Actually, in the opposite direction, I have often heard the advice "don't date a non-Christian, because you think they're going to change and become a Christian, but usually people don't change so you can't bank on that.") But I can imagine a situation where someone is SURE that God told them they would marry this person, so even though the relationship has a ton of problems, they refuse to give up on it. That's what faith is, right?

But even though I haven't heard this idea specifically applied to dating*, it's shocking to me how completely different the "Boundaries in Dating" writers' worldview is from what I learned in church. Just look at the principles behind the advice in this chapter and see how completely opposite it is from the definition of "faith" I learned.

To sum up: In the Christianity I learned, "faith" meant obeying God (whether it's a command in the bible that applies to everyone, or a specific "calling" just for you) even when it doesn't seem to make any sense. The greatest heroes of faith are the ones who kept going, kept doing the same thing for years and years even though they saw no positive results- they kept going because they knew that's what God wanted them to do. Their job was obedience, they weren't responsible for the outcome- that's God's job. They didn't listen to "the world" telling them it was pointless. They ignored reason and common sense. They stayed strong even through their own doubts. And maybe they never even saw a reward for their obedience, but they knew, they knew God valued what they did and God would use it for amazing good. That's faith. That's what Christians are supposed to do.

And I lived that way, back in my on-fire-for-God days. Let me tell you, it's really hard to take feedback and change your approach when you don't necessarily even believe that your perception of whether something is "successful" matters, and when you worry that even the smallest deviation from your original plan is a sign that you've stopped trusting God.

In contrast, "Boundaries in Dating" is advising us as follows: So you're hoping for a change to happen. Well, is there anything in the past that indicates a change could happen? Is there any new circumstance that might trigger a change? Maybe you could introduce some kind of new circumstance? If not, then it really doesn't make sense to believe that the change will ever happen. The best indicator of the future is the past. Use common sense. Use logic. Lean on your own understanding. If your own brain can't locate any evidence that a change will happen, then give up on it. It's not the worth the emotional energy to keep hoping.

And now someone's going to come and make the argument that there's an obvious difference between the two scenarios: in the first, God explicitly commanded something; in the second, God did not. They would say that you should only keep trusting even when it seems pointless when you know that God wants you to. In the absence of a clear command from God, of course you should use your own brain to figure out if there's any reason to hope.

I don't buy that argument.

What the evangelical church has done is set up a system where it's EXPECTED that God will tell you to do something illogical. The best Christians, the role models that are admired from the pulpit, are the ones who hear God's illogical command and obey it, no matter the cost. I grew up in the church, and that was the message I got: Be like those people. To truly live for God means taking risks based on "faith", being "crazy for Jesus", doing things that make "the world" wonder what's wrong with me.

So you want to tell me there are two different categories of situations- those involving a command from God, where we must obey and not care one bit about reason and common sense, and those without a command from God, where we need to use our own brains to figure out what to do. I think this is a very dangerous worldview. It's incredibly dangerous when people believe sometimes they must do something that seems like a bad idea in every way possible- because "God said." At the extreme, this leads to killing in the name of God, like Abraham was going to kill Isaac. Now, it would be different if they taught that situations where "you must do this thing that seems like a terrible idea because God said" were so rare that you would probably never encounter one, and therefore it's not really something you need to be concerned with, just use reason for everything and you'll be good. I wouldn't mind if people believed that (though I personally believe that it's unhealthy to even allow the possibility that such a situation might exist, even if it's mostly hypothetical). But that's not what they're teaching. The evangelical church is teaching that if you are an obedient Christian and you are living for God, you should expect to be in these kinds of situations. You should expect that there will be things God wants you to do- either in the bible or just specifically for you- which seem like bad ideas to your sinful brain, and if you are truly devoted to God, you will do them. (Hey, maybe it's a test!)

The end result of this is that, once somebody gets it in their head that God wants them to do something, there's almost no way to convince them otherwise. Attempts to show them logically why it's a bad idea are just "temptation" from "the world" that wants to "lead them astray." Really the only thing you can do is show them a bible verse which directly contradicts what God "told" them to do- because the bible is also something that should be followed exactly, regardless of logic or practicality. But even then, even if you have a bible verse, they might have some kind of reason for why it doesn't apply in their case. Abraham was going to kill Isaac even though the bible says "do not kill"- and that makes him an upstanding role model of faith.

In the Christianity I learned, obeying God's commands regardless of whether they do harm or good was one of the highest virtues. That's one reason I believed women couldn't be leaders to the extent that men could. I mean, OF COURSE it makes no sense. But God said. God must have reasons. So we have to. And the stories of gay or lesbian people waiting and waiting for God to make them straight, and the purity-culture women waiting for God to bring them a husband- it took me a really long time to accept that it makes sense to give up on God's supposed "promises", and that's what you should do if you can see how badly it's NOT WORKING.

I'm so glad I read, in an argument for full LGB inclusion in the church (probably written by Justin Lee or Matthew Vines) the bible verse where Jesus said "by their fruit you will know them" (Matthew 7:20). Yes. The bible says we should pay attention to results. We should value common sense and reason. Don't just keep preaching the same theology when you can see that it actively harms people. "By their fruit you will know them" is one of THE MOST IMPORTANT bible verses to me. Without it, I might still be stuck in "well I know this makes no sense and seems like a really bad idea, but that's what faith means."

ALL RIGHT so we've kind of gotten way off topic. "Boundaries in Dating" just talked about how to know if it's reasonable to hope that your dating partner will change their bad character traits, and then I went from there and talked about how bizarre that advice seemed to me because I was taught that faith means we keep believing something will happen even when all evidence points against it. The idea that giving up hope could be a good thing is very surprising to me.

Anyway. The rest of the chapter is about various situations where you hope your partner will change, and what you can do to bring about a new element that might cause a change to happen- or when to decide it's probably not going to happen and give up on it. It talks about "the path of change" which involves steps like confronting the other person about their problem, them taking responsibility for it, getting help from friends or a support group so they can change, evaluating your own role in the problem, etc.

There's this really bizarre section about how God tries to help people change. I will give it to you one chunk at a time, with my thoughts after each bit:
To successfully navigate the path of change takes more than love or friendly nagging reminders. Here is what God does to start us on the pathway to growth and give us hope for real change.

God starts from a loved position. God does not need the person that he is trying to get to change. His needs are met within the Trinity, and with his other relationships. God always is in relationship and is never alone, so he is not desperate. Make sure that you are also not alone in this process and that you have people who love and support you enough that you do not have to have this person change.
All right, first of all, this whole idea of God helping people along a process of growth has a TON of assumptions built in. As we will see, the process they are describing is one where God tries to bring about a change in someone's character by bringing people into their life to influence them, and waiting for the person to respond and use those resources in order to grow. I find it incredibly weird how "hands-off" God seems to be in this belief system. I used to believe that God controlled people's lives much more closely. God "has a plan", you see. God sets up specific circumstances- God knows that if you hear this, you will think about that, and you will have some kind of huge epiphany which will inspire you to go here or there and meet this person who will change your life. God gives you a horrible illness in order to grow your character in a specific way. (God killed one of my internal organs in order to teach me something. Oh shut up.) And so on.

In contrast, the writers of "Boundaries in Dating" describe God changing people in the same way that human beings, who are not omniscient, can try to help people change. And to me, the whole thing reads as though it's totally made up- like where do they get the idea that this is how God changes people? Yes, they have reasons to back up most of the individual parts, but nothing that really ties it all together or lends evidence to the idea that God has a specific strategy to help people grow.

Anyway the first one is "God starts from a loved position" and as an ex-purity-culture girl I find that very interesting. The idea is that you shouldn't be desperate and dependent on the person changing. You have other people in your life who can love and support you. Of course, in purity culture, giving up on the relationship isn't actually an option.You'll lose your purity. You'll be permanently damaged.

Now, in reality the idea of being okay without them, not being desperate, is easier said than done. But even if you don't feel like it's true, I think it's good to keep in mind that yes, you can live without them. You will be okay. (Purity culture tells us the exact opposite.)

On a separate note, I guess we can debate how much God is emotionally affected by people's character flaws. Hmm. But wow, that would require a ton of speculation and research, that would be a whole separate blog post, and I don't even have a clear opinion of my own on it at the moment. Go ahead and leave your thoughts in the comment section, I'm not going to get into it here. (But I do remember the purity-culture book Captivating claimed that "God has a you-shaped hole in his heart" which I thought was clearly wrong and made no sense, even back in my purity-culture days when I read it.)
God acts righteously. God is not part of the problem. He does not "repay evil for evil" (Romans 12:17). He does his part of the relationship right. If you have a part in the problem, make sure that you are changing and taking ownership of your own part of things. You cannot demand for the other person change without changing yourself as well.
[content note: discussion of abuse in these next 3 paragraphs]

So this one raises some red flags for me in terms of victim-blaming. In abusive relationships, sometimes the abuser says the victim "provoked" them- trying to frame it like they both wronged the other person and they both have to repent and change. So if it's a situation like that, you don't want to be asking whether the victim had some part in the problem. Because even if the victim did something wrong, it's totally not okay for the other person to abuse them.

But in other situations, maybe you have some problem where both partners reacted to each other in an unhealthy way- they both did something wrong and they should both apologize and work on it. Now, what if one partner was more wrong than the other? My opinion is that it's not necessarily helpful to point that out. Sometimes I apologize for stuff when I actually believe Hendrix did something more wrong to me than I did to him, for the sake of healing the relationsihp. It's not a big deal- it's not worth fighting about who was "more wrong". (Well, except that women tend to apologize for stuff like that more than men do, so it's kind of a feminist issue...)

But where's the line, though? In an abusive situation, no one should examine the victim's actions, becasue no matter what they did, THEY DO NOT DESEVE TO BE ABUSED. In a healthy relationship, it's good for both partners to acknoledge what they did wrong- and even if one was way more wrong than the other, it could be helpful to act as if the wrongs were equal, just so they can feel better and stop fighting. So where's the line? At what point do you go from "yeah I also shouldn't have reacted that way, I'm sorry too" to "NOT ONE WORD about what the victim did- no matter what small wrongs they committed, they do not deserve to be abused"? Maybe the key question is, what is the goal? If you want to heal the relationship [or if you're in an abusive relationship but you're not able to get out yet], it's better if both partners admit what they did wrong. If you want justice for abuse victims, you make sure ALL THE BLAME is on the abuser.

That's my opinon, but I don't have any actual experience, so maybe you all could tell me what you think.
God uses others to help. When God wants a person to change, he gets people around that person who can help. Make sure that you use counselors, groups, pastors, or friends to help confront and cure the problem. Don't do it alone without God's ordained delivery system of help: other people.
So this is good advice in terms of how people who are not omniscient and all-powerful can try to help people change, but why are they claiming this is the primary method God uses?
God accepts reality about the person, grieves his expectations, and forgives. God is not crazy. He faces the reality of who a person is, forgives that person, and then works with the reality of who he or she is. He does not demand perfection when that is clearly not reality. He grieved that on the cross of Jesus. You should give up those perfectionistic standards as well if you are going to be able to work with the problem that faces you.
Whoa, whoa whoa whoa, hold up there. I'm very much not okay with the idea of grieving because someone isn't perfect. People are not perfect. People have flaws. That's totally fine and normal- don't act as if there's something wrong with them. Now, I can see grieving your own expectations- if you really wanted your partner to be a certain way, but you have to face the reality that they're just not- you have emotions related to that, and there's nothing bad about feeling those emotions. But what you're grieving is your own expectations, because they turned out to be unrealistic.

If God "grieves" because people aren't perfect, well that's God's own problem. That has nothing to do with us. There's nothing wrong with us.
God gives change a chance. God waits for the change process to work. You might have been waiting a long time, but you have not been working his program. When he gets all of this in place, he is longsuffering, and gives it time. He does not nag. He gives the person a chance to use the help and to change.
Again, this is totally different from how Christians of the "God has a plan for your life" persuasion imagine that God changes people. This book is basically saying that God can set up certain circumstances which are more likely to produce change, but that God isn't omniscient- God doesn't know for sure what will "work." God just has to wait and see what happens.

But Christians who believe "God has a plan for your life" see God's control as absolute and inescapable. God planned for this bad thing to happen to you so that later you would be in a situation where this good thing would happen to you. (God closes a door and opens a window, right?) God micromanages everything. There's no guesswork, there's no watching and waiting from a distance. People give testimonies about how God "pursued" them and did all these things to them that they didn't want, and then finally they "stopped running" and submitted to God. God is powerful. God wants you, and you don't have a choice. (And that's what I mean by "abusive theology.")
God is longsuffering. As we said above, he gives the time to change, and he suffers with it. Sometimes, for a long time. This has two elements that are relevant for you. For God to do this, he must really love someone. For you to make it worth it, you must be sure that thse person is someone that you want to go through all of this for. After all, you are not married. You are just dating. Are you sure you want to spend this kind of time and energy? Does it makes sense?

And remember, long is not eternal. It is longsuffering, not eternal suffering. It ends at some point when it is clear that the person is not using what is being given to her to help her grow. God withdraws the effort. Not because he is mean, but because it is clear that waiting would not make any more difference.
Hey you know what's weird? Never once in this chapter are we advised to pray about anything. The writers don't say one word about praying for the person to change, not one word about praying about making a decison about the relationship. The bit above mentions how you have to think about whether the relationship is worth it to you. It's your decision.
God separates. God finally leaves the person to his or her own devices and goes away. Maybe this will turn them around. Maybe it won't. But he does prescribe it to us as well when we have tried everything possible. (See Matthew 18:15-18 and 1 Corinthians 5:9-13.) All that is left is for you to stop seeing the person. If he or she changes and comes around later, maybe you can take up the relationship again. But go on your way as if he or she won't. You have no other choice except "crazy hope."
WHOA. Whoa whoa whoa no, not okay. God gives up on people?

But, uh. I'd actually also be uncomfortable with it if God had a certain ideal in mind for what kind of person God wanted you to become, and never gave up in trying to push you in that direction. This whole "I want this person to change in a certain way" is fine when it's between equals, but when it's an all-powerful God, the source of all goodness and love, well damn that adds an element of coercion and condescension like nobody's business.

If someone wants you to change some certain character trait, and you disagree, you can just disagree and move on with your life. But with God involved, suddenly it becomes "what do you know, you feeble-minded human? where were you when I laid the foundations of the earth?"

So I'm basically really creeped out by the idea of God wanting someone to change in a way that the person themself hasn't expressed interest in. People should have the right to make their own decisions. You belong to you. (But here's a question: is personal autonomy even possible if there exists an all-knowing God who by definition "knows what's best for you"? Debate that in the comment section, readers.)

But anyway. I'm very VERY much NOT OKAY with the claim, here on page 194 of "Boundaries in Dating", that "God finally leaves the person to his or her own devices and goes away." WHOA. No. Time to preach some gospel: Nothing can ever separate you from God's love (Romans 8:35-39). Jesus promised he would be with us always (Matthew 28:20). "If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there. If I rise on the wings on the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast." (Psalm 139:8-9) Remember this, because this is the gospel:

God

will

never

leave

you.

Yes, if you are a human and therefore have limited time and emotional energy, you should give up on people who seem like they're never going to change and treat you right. But, you guys, let me tell you something, one of the deepest and most meaningful beliefs I have: God has the capacity to know and care about every detail in every person's life. That's over 7 billion people, and God knows and loves all of them. God is the only one who is actually able to "rejoice with those who rejoice, and mourn with those who mourn." Every emotion you have ever felt, God felt it too, just as strongly as you did. Every problem you have ever worried about- whether it's something "unimportant" like being late for class, or something that's a matter of life and death- God cared about it. God felt the anxiety right along with you, and it mattered. God knows. God understands. God suffers right along with us. Emmanuel, God is with us. The word became flesh and lived among us. If you want to know what Christianity mean to me, this is a big part of it. I believe in a God who doesn't just sit above us and criticize us for getting tripped up on creation's design flaws or our own imperfections (which are God's fault anyway)- no, God came down and lived here and had to deal with the consequences personally. And that's the way it is now. God is with us, always. God is here. God feels our pain.

I don't believe that God intervenes in the world. That would just introduce too many unfortunate implications, like how God decides which people to help and which to ignore. But God never withdraws. God never decides that God doesn't have enough emotional energy to keep caring about you. Now, like I said, for us humans, we have to draw a line where we just give up on people because it's hurting us too much to hope they will change. But God never needs to do that. God can and does care about everyone, every emotion in everyone's life, all the time.

God's never going to leave anyone. As for whether God's going to "give up" on anyone, well I find the concept of God planning goals for you without your consent to be incredibly creepy, so the idea of "giving up" on those goals doesn't really fit into my belief system.

But I will say one more thing: Back when I believed in "God has a plan for your life", I lived under the constant worry that I might make the "wrong" decison about something big and important and end up off of God's plan, in which case God would just be like "well I can't work with this." So yes, I did fear that God would "give up" on me back then. (To be clear, the writers of "Boundaries in Dating" do NOT seem to buy into "God has a plan for you life." I'm talking about what the church taught me here.)

All right this post has already gone way long, so I won't say too much about the rest of the chapter. I do think it is really healthy advice though- it covers various situations like "A person you are dating says that he or she 'likes you' or 'loves you' but is not 'in love with you' and wants more time to see where the relationship is going." How do you know if "more time" will help or if they're just not willing to make a committment ever? The authors advise examining the situation to see whether there is something that might cause a change in the future, or doing something yourself to introduce a change, etc. This makes a lot of sense, I like it.

Anyway. How to summarize chapter 13? I really really like the common-sense advice they gave about how you can't expect a person to change suddenly- if they are a certain way in the past and present, it's likely they'll continue to be that way, and it's a waste of your time and emotional energy to believe otherwise. Just give up. (Also, not one word is said about the idea of praying about it.) This is the exact opposite of what the church taught me about faith- I heard many examples in church of how it's godly to wait and wait and wait for someone to change (while praying for them, of course). Next, "Boundaries in Dating" made strange and unsupported claims about the process God supposedly uses to change people- including the shocking and anti-Christian idea that God might actually withdraw from someone's life. Other than that though, the examples about relationship situations and how to know if you should give up or not are really useful. Sometimes giving up is the right thing to do, but you'll never hear that in purity culture.

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*Actually, now that I think about it, I seem to recall an anecdote in a purity-culture book, probably Boy Meets Girl by Joshua Harris, where "God told" a man that he would marry a particular woman, and so the man goes and asks her out, and she says no because she's not attracted to him at all. But he didn't give up! And maybe a year or so later she decides she is attracted to him, and they end up getting married.

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A blog series reviewing the book Boundaries in Dating: How Healthy Choices Grow Healthy Relationships (introduction post is here)

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