Part 2: Heaven Help the Single Christian…

I felt the first post was needed to explain some of my dating history (or lack there of). I’ve had my share of failed relationships, bad dates, and bad dating advice (sadly, some of the latter has come from my dad.) Anyway, I was a bit skeptical being presented with yet another book of dating advice for the frustrated single, but I decided to see if it contained any nuggets that would help in faith and dating.

Nope. I was right to be skeptical.

Before I attempt to rip it to shreds, let me say that there were a few times that Ruthford’s humor was spot on; I was giggling at several particularly humiliating stories. Had the book been touted as “humorous church dating” or “my foibles in romance” then I wouldn’t have had any problem with his work. He also addresses some of the causes of culture shock that Orthodox Converts experience with our Cradle/Old Country brethren. However, Ruthford starts giving out advice. And that is where he should have stopped.

His words might be helpful to the convert who is under the age of 20, but to anyone older than 21 years of age or out of college – it’s insulting. I think we’ve figured out that dating and relationships aren’t as straightforward as our parlor sitting or arranged marriage grandparents experienced.

In Part I, Ruthford starts in with the life of a Single Christian and the popular topic of “what to do while you wait.” For those of you inexperienced with dating literature, these are supposed to be helpful suggestions for how to dress, act, what to improve upon in your life, and how to spend your days and nights that you aren’t on dates. Thank you for the reminders of prayers and activities. But then it just gets stupid. “Eat garlic.” “Buy a studfinder.” (page 10-11)

We are then introduced to Ruthford’s take on the dating vs. courting battle where he attempts to convince Christians that somewhere in the middle is ideal. Way to try at making everyone happy. In the same chapter, he then dives into where an Orthodox Christian can meet Mr./Ms. Right, since most Orthodox singles attend parishes that are small and options for marriable-opposite-sex-partners are slim to none (i.e. you are THE single person). His suggestions did little to encourage me on where to locate pockets of men who are my age, let alone devout. Strike three happened when, suddenly, I was privy to a man who is 6’9″ with no fashion sense giving out fashion advice.

Part II and III continue and the reader is subjected to more of Ruthford’s style which is:

1. anecdote
2. principle the reader is to take away
3. what he thinks is a balanced view
4. here’s how it played out for me getting hitched…my wife (and life) is wonderful!

What aggravates me the most about Ruthford’s writing is that he never goes into what one should look for in a relationship. I’m told where to go and what to do to meet people. Yet, page after page and chapter after chapter, he leaves his readers in a constant lurch. WE GET IT, OKAY! Don’t be lame, have a few hobbies, be active in your community, look like a normal educated person, attend church, be yourself. Guess what? Most of the single women I’ve talked with regarding their dating perils in Orthodoxy are doing all of those! They know to not be desperate. They know that most single seminarians are usually looking for a wife, but not all of us can high-tail it to St. Tikhon’s or St. Vlad’s for open season. They have lives, interesting ones even! Guess what, Ruthford? We didn’t convert/stay devout because of the men. (And in my case, I would have had some good reasons to run away from The Church had not God intervened).

Thomas Ruthford has as his by-line: Your (practical) guide to navigating church as you search for a Godly mate.

BZZZZZT! Nope. Try again!

In my opinion, Ruthford could have saved some time, money, and effort by slimming down his 130 pages to a short article for an Orthodox periodical. If something like the below had been shown to me, I would have been much more pleased. Here is my attempt at summarizing Ruthford’s work into a more realistic and practical guide —

Hi, newly Chrismated Single Adult! Welcome to the Orthodox Church. I have taken it upon myself to give you a few pointers about dating life in Orthodoxy.

1. If you were Christmated as a single person, not even dating, know that it can, and likely will, be very hard to meet your future spouse. Keep your options open; be active in your parish, diocese, and pan-Orthodox activities; online dating is an option; pray that Christ and the Saints guide you and your future beloved together.

2. Orthodox Cradles are different than Converts. The two should get to know one another as it would be mutually beneficial in culture and spirituality. Traditional Orthodox countries have different expectations, standards, and rules when it comes to dating. Just be aware that such differences exist (and learn them if you are in that country or are interested in dating an ethnic cradle).

3. While single, pursue things that will last in life – keeping the passions at bay, knowing who you are, knowing Christ. Learn what is involved in a real relationship and marriage. Picking up a few hobbies or travel experiences never hurts either.

4. Please be respectful to yourself and others regarding your attire. If you need help toning it down or stepping it up a notch, find a fashion and color savvy person to help. Generally the wife of a well-dressed (non-clergy) man or an artist are good persons to ask.

5. Let your Matushka/Khouria know you are open to marriage. She knows people.

6. It’s normal to wonder whether or not you should be a monastic when you are an Orthodox single. Remember that monasticism, like marriage, is a calling. Don’t freak out; pray that your calling be clear.

7. If it isn’t the right time, the relationship won’t work. Period.

8. Try to avoid beginning a relationship during a fasting season.

9. Dating someone who is an agnostic/atheist isn’t recommended, however, if you find you are dating a Protestant or Catholic, he/she might be more open to converting than you think. Give it time, but don’t wait until pre-marital/engagement counseling to start discussing or visiting churches.

10. Not all relationships are the same. Pray, ask others and the saints to help you. Be patient. God’s best for your life is the end goal.

11. You will have times of content and times of loneliness. Both are ways for you to grow.

So, Single Christian, God bless and heaven help you. In fact, I think they want to help, so start asking!


5 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Brigid
    Nov 19, 2012 @ 21:45:21

    I know Eric pretty well–I actually inspired the title of the book–and this was probably more about a humorous look at before you find someone than a workable how-to-navigate-the-relationships thing. You’re right, it did start as a series of short articles. I think it was also more oriented towards a very specific audience, probably young men likely to lose hope.

    Now I have an urge to gather all the bloggers I know–single or married–and write the relationships book we need. Standards to keep, standards to relax, date ideas, how to have the “you’re not getting laid” talk. Because honestly, I haven’t found it either.


  2. Trackback: Matushka to the Rescue | tallrayofsunshine
  3. Anna P
    Nov 22, 2011 @ 10:11:30

    “They know that most single seminarians are usually looking for a wife, but not all of us can high-tail it to St. Tikhon’s or St. Vlad’s for open season.”

    Had I been drinking coffee while reading this, it would have ended up on my computer screen.


  4. Trackback: Heaven Help the Single Christian… | tallrayofsunshine


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