Relationships that Reflect the Gift and Beauty of God
There are challenges in developing wholesome and permanent relationships.
One of the purposes of Transformational Leadership Forum is to hold forums such as blog talk radio programs that are designed to discus relevant, contemporary issues addressing values important to leadership; trying to determine, both by example and spiritual directive, the stand and action that we should take.
One of Transformational Leadership Forum’s new initiatives and focus is our Youth with a Future. We want to encourage, teach, and mentor youth to be transformational leaders in the urban context.
Our special guest for this post is Dr. Clarence Schuler, who has written a new book titled, Single and Free to Be Me. His new book serves as our platform in the discussion on relationships that reflect the gift and beauty of God.
Here is a little background from Dr. Schuler:
Professionally, I have been a pastor. I do relationships. For a long time people ask how can they have a long-lasting marriage, so I spend a lot of time giving biblical principles on how to do that.
Recently, I’ve had opportunities to speak on college campuses over the last two or three years. As I talked to singles about relationships, I was amazed at the response of students and faculty when I would speak. They would line up to talk and say, “No one’s talking to us about relationships the way you’re doing it.” It kind of hit a nerve.
We’d have For Men Only and For Women Only sessions, and a lot of them would come out. It’s a safe place where we can talk about relationships, so that kind of spurred me on to start writing this particular book.
Even though I’m an older guy, it surprised me how many younger people wanted to talk about relationships.
No one seems to be addressing Christian kids or kids who aren’t Christ followers about relationships.
As I wrote the book, I had a lot of people in their twenties and even some teenagers and older singles give input to every chapter we wrote.
Now that you have some background, let’s continue with the Q&A segment we had with Dr. Schuler:
The question I have falls in Chapter One of the book where it says:
I can be single, complete, and content.
For those who are in the audience that are single and not content, what were you trying to share with them?
My belief is that a lot of times people—particularly singles—define themselves by their relationship status like if you’re not in a relationship something’s wrong with you. The say nobody wants me. I think it’s a terrible way to look at yourself. I think that you—especially Christ followers—are created in the image of God. So you have value.
If you’re not in a relationship, maybe there are some reasons why you aren’t in a relationship that aren’t necessarily bad. Sometimes, we may not know it, but I think that God can actually protect us from being in relationships that are harmful by us being single. That’s not a bad thing.
I think sometimes our desire to be in a relationship can also become an idol, and that’s more important than our personal relationship with God. Instead of saying, “God you said it’s not good for man to be alone (which includes women). I’m a Christian. I’ve been faithful, so why don’t I have somebody?” sometimes we’re not spiritually ready for it. We’re not spiritually mature enough.
It could be the person God wants to connect us with is not spiritually ready. It could be a lot of different things, but I think in addition to all that, a lot of times we rush into relationships and don’t know ourselves very well. You really need to get to know you, and I think you really need to like you.
I think a lot of us have poor self image based on what we think society says or even in church. We’re too skinny, too fat, too tall, too short, or wrong complexion, and we buy into Satan’s lies. What we tried to do in that book is to help people find out who they are, the benefits of being single, and go from there.
I think if you learn to take a different perspective and take the pressure off ‘I’ve got to be in a relationship,’ you can endure being single. When you get married—which is great—or in a dating relationship, the dynamics change. Before I got married, I had no problems making decisions about money. I got married, and that changed. Now we make better decisions, but it takes a lot longer.
If I’m listening to you and I’m a single who really doesn’t believe in church and Christ, but I’m looking to find the right one, speak to me about the issues of self-esteem, what should I look for, why shouldn’t I follow the pattern of the world versus biblical principles.
Let’s look at it from a non-Christian perspective. First of all, the Administration for Children and Families and African-American Healthy Marriage Initiative have done research and show that when couples get married without having some kind of premarital counseling, insight, or religious participation, 65% of all marriages will end in divorce in the first five years. So what the world is doing is not working.
The other thing is you need to understand coaches such as Pat Riley, the general manager for the Heat; these guys are not believers but use biblical principles to coach their teams to numerous championships. So if secular, non-believing people can take biblical principles and they work, the principles will work whether you’re Christian or not. We’re just trying to help people in relationships.
The US Army has had my wife and I come in and do marriage things for them. Even the Army is looking for help in relationships, have successful marriages, or help singles be successful as individuals.
It’s really interesting to hear what you have to say in relationship to what’s happening in our culture. How does culture factor into relationships?
Years ago, there was a different norm as it relates to relationships. Today, you’re in and out of relationships. Sex is a biological function. It’s not a sacred function—all of those kinds of things that are happening in culture I would think has some effect on relationships.
I think what we see in music videos is not necessarily positive. I’m flying to Florida to do a marriage conference. We’re in First Class, and usually in First Class people are pretty successful in whatever they do. I was beside a college professor from Colorado College who’s also a musician—very successful at what he does. He tells me he was married for six years and it didn’t work out. He just broke up with his girlfriend, and that didn’t work out either. He’s applying the world’s standards.
I asked him what happened, and he began to relay those things. Then I asked if the woman he just broke up with was similar to your wife and had some of the same issues? He said yes she was. A lot of times you don’t know what to look for in a future dating partner or spouse. So our book kind of addresses that to help you see and really have a good image of yourself.
If you have a negative self-image and you figure someone’s going to make you happy, you put tremendous pressure on that person to make you happy. You sort of put them on a performance track. Then, if they’re not making you happy after a while you get bored and you go off instead of learning how to work through conflict, how to communicate, and how to get understanding. Those are the principles that are really important that our culture is not teaching today.
My contributing editor on the book is Myrna Gutierrez. She is drop-dead gorgeous, never been married, and I think she’s won an Emmy for doing TV shows. She’s done a lot of research for the book. We also had college students give us input to help us know if we’re on the right path.
Someone said, “What’s an old guy like you know about being single?” I was in my 30s before I got married, so I always have a passion for singles. I just want them to know there’s a lot of credibility going into the book. It’s not just my opinion.
If there were no sex, would there be relationships?
Research shows that 80% of men would rather have companionship with their wives or girlfriends rather than sex. Sex is a real close Number Two. Sex is a celebration of emotional oneness, intellectual oneness, and spiritual oneness.
Sex is a celebration of all those issues. That’s why we tell couples when we do marriage stuff you’re having problems in the bedroom because you’re having problems outside the bedroom. Take care of the problems outside the bedroom and you won’t have problems in the bedroom.
Sex is not just a physical act. It’s a celebration of the relationship.
I think that’s important. When I look at what’s happening in the culture, a woman has to prove that she loves the guy by giving of herself. Maybe she hasn’t had a role model or been in a class on relationships to know what to really look for. She finds herself giving herself to a guy thinking that this is love and this is what relationships are all about.
For a woman, intimacy is not necessarily sex. It can include that, but it’s closeness. It’s a relationship. What people misunderstand is that guys don’t really bond until after sex. If you’re having sex with a lot of different people, it’s hard to become monogamous because you don’t know how to be committed. The very thing she wants by having sex before marriage or out of the context of marriage it almost shuts the door on having a long-lasting relationship.
Another thing that I learned in my research is that if you have sex outside of marriage, your chance to have a long-lasting marriage drops from 99% to almost 15%. We see it in communities. We have a lot of babies without daddies around because there’s not that commitment.
As a woman says, “This is not where I want to be” that just turns the guy on even more. Men like mystery. The more mysterious a woman is, the more we’re going to pursue her–the more we’re going to earn the right to be with her—but there’s no standard we set whether you’re Christian or non-Christian. You stand for nothing so you’re not getting anything.
I don’t think we’ve focused a lot on the guys, their respect for women, and holding them up in esteem.
It needs to be taught. It’s great if a guy has a dad or if he doesn’t, that he has a surrogate dad or a godly mentor to help them with that. Unfortunately, in our society with the dating deal we chase the women and the women have to say yes or no. If I want to date you, I chase you. I come after you, and you decide yes or no. If we’re on a date and I want to kiss you, you decide yes or no. The way we do it in our society is kind of backwards.
The difference between us and the animals is that sex is more than just a physical act. For men, we need to respect women. That’s critical, but they need to help us respect them. It’s the way our society’s done.
I talk to them about how you dress. Men are turned on by site, so in summertime women wear fewer clothes. They automatically become more attractive because the more we see, the more we like and we’re stimulated by that. For Christian women, I would ask God is this appropriate?
I have three girls—twins 24, the baby’s 22—and they’re well built. When they would start dressing, I’d say how you dress is an advertisement to all the guys who see you; and you can’t always control what answers the ad. It’s just to make them think. It’s actually important.
What was your favorite chapter in the book? What part did you enjoy writing?
My favorite chapter was Chapter 2, where I’m talking to Sally. I do counseling, so to create that scenario where she’s a successful business woman but feels she’s not successful in her relationships. To do that and have a response from not just women but guys in the military who said I was on the sofa with her. That was helpful.