This morning, I was driving back home from the gym at about 5:45 AM, and I stopped at a stoplight. That’s when I heard something that sounded like a cartoonish screech. Then I heard it again.
What is that? An animal? I wondered, looking to my left.
There I saw a young, blond, attractive, professional-looking woman standing on the corner with her luggage, talking at her cell phone. Out of curiosity, I cracked my window open, and that’s when I realized she was actually screaming into her phone. Out came a litany of expletives, after which she yelled, “Where are you, lady?!!?”
It was embarrassing.
I’m sure there’s more to the story. We don’t know why the woman was so stressed about running late. Maybe she was trying to make it to a funeral. Maybe her job was on the line. Maybe she had diarrhea. But for those who are dating with the purpose of marriage, the woman’s lack of self-control offers a valuable lesson: Before you let yourself get serious with someone, make sure you see what they’re like under stress.
That will mean intentionally engaging in stressful activity together instead of doing relaxing Starbucks hangouts, movie nights and goofy golf. For example, you could go on an exhausting hike, spend time with dysfunctional family members or volunteer at a poorly-managed after school program for kids with behavioral issues. Just make sure the two of you put yourselves into situations where you have to face a problem that you’re relatively powerless to fix. You’ll see just how patient, kind, gracious, and loving the person is.
Oh don’t worry, you think. My significant other is a Christian. We’ll be fine.
Ha ha. Good one — like Christians can’t be emotionally unstable people who don’t handle stress well.
I still remember how embarrassed I was several years ago when watching the reality show Amazing Race, which featured Kelly and Ron, an unmarried Christian couple. They went on a worldwide trip through all kinds of frustrating obstacles in an attempt to win $1,000,000. While some of their competitors were loving and patient with each other, Kelly and Ron were constantly bickering and slowing themselves down by competing over who was in control. Not surprisingly, they broke up after the show finished filming, and in an interview with TV Guide, Ron said something telling:
I still care about her and still love her, but we are just very different people in how we handle stress. She’s someone for whom everything has to be laid out right away, and I’m one of those people who doesn’t enjoy confrontation. She doesn’t mind a certain level of confrontation and that’s something I’m unwilling to accept in someone I want to be with for the rest of my life. It had nothing to do with her being a bad person or me being a bad person. Besides that, I’m not ready for a commitment like marriage. My life keeps changing 180 degrees at a time and it’s really difficult to decide where I’m going to be and who I’m going to be with. … It’s hard to find someone who can truly identify with who you are and where you’re at.
Ron is right. It is hard to find someone who can identify with the real you. And sometimes, it takes stressful situations to reveal how unprepared a couple is to offer that to each other.