With my Facebook newsfeed dominated by status updates of engagements, weddings, and babies, I thought it was best I got my act together or risk growing old alone.
I had long given up hope of meeting anyone at work, and even though I do sporting activities like swimming, it is such an individual sport that it is almost impossible to meet anyone. Besides, the swim squad that I am with comprises mostly students and their parents.
So, I did what I assumed most single Millennials would do: I signed up on a few online dating sites. I figured since we spend so much of our time online—from following our favourite bloggers to shopping—it made sense to also meet potential dates online.
After taking a few recommendations from a friend, I duly created an account for each of the sites, filled out my profile, and took extra care to answer the various questionnaires. You see, I didn’t want to jinx my chances of meeting the right person, so I made sure my answers were honest enough, but I was careful not to give too much away, to protect my identity.
But boy did the weirdos roll in. One asked if I would move to Christchurch, New Zealand, if we “clicked”—I live in Auckland—after we had exchanged all of two chat messages. He said he wasn’t looking to waste his time, and if I couldn’t promise that I’d move to another town for him, then he’d like to move on.
Another said he liked Asian women because they were “kind, obedient, and had a nice figure”. Needless to say, I blocked him as fast as I could. And don’t get me started on one of the other dates, who turned out to be really gross. Besides making highly inappropriate comments, he seemed to fail to grasp the concept of personal space—he kept pressing in close to me. I had to make up excuses to flee within half an hour of meeting him. Fortunately, we had met at a cafe that was only a five-minute drive from my house, which made it easy for me to execute my exit.
I did meet a few decent guys online, but nothing serious came out of those encounters. There was a paramedic who was really nice, but conversations were stilted. I also connected with a Canadian, who happened to be in New Zealand for a short cycling tour. But while we got on relatively well, there was no telling when he would be back in this part of town again. Needless to say, that one died a natural death.
So imagine my delight when I eventually found someone whom I connected with. On paper, he seemed eligible enough; he was an engineer who also enjoyed reading and surfing. We started chatting online, and I thought, “Perfect! My patience has paid off!” After a few weeks of exchanging text messages, we decided to meet in person to see if we’d enjoy each other’s company.
Our first date, at a nearby cafe, went on for four hours, which I thought was a good sign. Previous dates had me checking my watch every second, hoping for the hour to be up.
Naturally, when he asked if we could hang out again, I agreed. A few more dates followed, and soon I was texting my friends to tell them how much fun I was having. When he bought a bouquet of flowers from the supermarket, I thought, “How cute!”
So all in all, it looked like things had fallen into place and we decided we would make the relationship “Facebook official”. When friends and acquaintances commented on how cute we both looked together (when they saw our photo on Facebook), I replied, “I know, right? He’s great!”
At that stage, we had been going out for only a month. But when he asked if he could meet my parents, I didn’t think twice about it. You see, having heard stories from friends with partners who wouldn’t commit despite being together for years, I thought it was sweet of my date to make that effort. “After all, I would have to meet them eventually,” he said. Furthermore, his parents, who lived in the UK, were making plans to meet up when they heard I would be visiting the country later. As for my date, he had moved to New Zealand about three years ago after he was made redundant back in the UK.
When I told my dad that my date wanted to meet them over lunch, he accepted the invite. When the day rolled round, I was nervous about how the lunch would go, and hoped my parents would like him.
Alas, they didn’t.
I was devastated. “But why?” I asked. There were tears and long conversations with my sister and my dad. Eventually, my dad said he felt there was something “not quite right” with the guy, and his instincts were telling him that this man wasn’t the one for me. Next came the blow: I had to break up with him because my dad didn’t think anything good would come out of it.
“But it’s so hard to meet someone that I can get along with,” I said, dismayed. I was ready to argue that it was impossible to suss out the character traits of someone over lunch, so how would my dad know “something was not right”? There were times when I made a rash judgment about someone, only to find out later how nice and kind the person really was.
But my dad is a good judge of character. Later, he told me that he suspected that there was more to my date than he had let on, and that his body language had given him away. On hindsight, I should have picked up on the red flags. For one, he wasn’t a Christian. Second, I remembered how agitated he had become when a tour guide was a few minutes late picking us up for a tour. I didn’t think it was a big deal, but he kept prancing down the hallway, checking his watch, while muttering about how late the tour guide was (the guide showed up five minutes past the hour). There was also the time, when we were out on a double-date with my sister, where he helped himself to most of the food on the table without offering any to others.
And then there were the many nights when he’d have me hanging out with him until quite late, forgetting that I had to wake up early for work. I hadn’t thought that this would be an issue, but as my dad said, being considerate of other people’s needs never goes out of style.
So, I did what I had to do and called it quits with the guy. Needless to say, he didn’t take the news very well, and within 24 hours, deleted me from his Facebook friend list. Later, he sent me a private message to say he was sorry for the “knee jerk reaction” but as he was “falling in love” with me, he was hurt by my decision to break up with him.
While some of my friends understood my reason for heeding my dad’s advice, a few were shocked at my decision. “But you were so happy with him!” they said, “And it’s not for your parents to say if you can or can’t see someone.” It wasn’t easy, but I knew that in these circumstances, I had to listen to my parents because they were a lot wiser than I am in terms of relationships.
Movies will have us believe it’s a lot more romantic to follow our hearts and to run away with our beloved—and tough luck to our parents and their fuddy-duddy advice.
However, I have seen friends who refused to take their parents’ advice, and are finding themselves in difficult marriages (I have also seen the opposite, but more on this another time). Seeing these real-life examples help me better appreciate the verses like Proverbs 1:8-9, which liken the advice of our parents to a garland to grace our head and a chain to adorn our neck. There is value and beauty in our parents’ well-intended advice; they do have our best interests at heart.
American pastor Gary Thomas and author of The Sacred Search wrote, “Your parents know you better than you may realize, and even if they aren’t believers (Christians), they still usually want the best for you. At least consider their opinions . . . Also, talk to your pastor and other godly people you respect: ‘Does this relationship seem like a ‘fit’ to you? Are there any areas you’re concerned about?’ ”
Sure, no one is perfect. I wasn’t looking for Mr Perfect and I am far from Miss Perfect. But it was the culmination of all these things which made me realize, looking back, that breaking up with him was probably a good thing. Sometimes we make excuses for our date’s bad behaviour, thinking the person would change once we tie the knot. But more often than not, that doesn’t happen. I was deeply unhappy about it in the beginning, but I had made up my mind and there was no turning back.
Perhaps you’re in a similar situation where the person you’re dating hasn’t been given your parents’ stamp of approval, and you think your parents are a killjoy. Whatever the reason might be, I’d like to encourage you to listen to your parents, and seek out their reasons behind their objections. It doesn’t mean that we must always take in everything they say, but at the very least, we should give their advice some thought.
Though it might be a little hard to swallow, I believe that it will be worth your while in the long run, just as it was for me. A wise friend said, “There are worse things than being alone.”