[Guest Post] Jackie Francois: The devil wants you to settle in your relationships.

This post is one in a series of guest posts to appear Mondays until I finish writing the book. Enjoy! -Arleen

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Besides choosing to give Christ my entire heart and life at 18 (after falling in love with Him in the Eucharist), the best decision I ever made was to wait 28 years for the man of my dreams. There were so many times I could’ve settled for a nice Catholic guy who treated me well and bored me to tears. I knew I never wanted to tell my children, “Well, your dad loved me and seemed nice enough, so I married him.” Ugh. Gag me with a spork. Heck no. I knew I wanted to tell my children, “I waited patiently for a man I was passionately in love with, who led me to holiness, who was my best friend, and who I couldn’t wait to be married to!” Sure enough, when Bobby Angel came along, I knew I found that man.

Unfortunately, there are a lot of confused and conflicted young adults out there who seem tempted to settle for a spouse. There are a lot of people who date because it’s nice to have a warm body gazing back at you. Listen carefully to me: there are tons of holy, attractive, fun people out there. (I know, because I’m trying to play matchmaker and set them all up with each other). Seriously, though, you are only called to marry one of them. You are not called to be a polygamist (thank God!). Just because you date an attractive, holy Catholic doesn’t mean he/she is the “one.” In the past, every time I met a single Catholic guy, my head would always say, “Is this the one? Is this the one?” I was like a hamster on crack (like most single Catholic young adults who see every other single Catholic young adult as a target for romance). I kept rationalizing my good Catholic guy dates, saying, “Well, he doesn’t make me laugh, but I could deal with that,” or “I’m not really attracted to him, but I don’t want to be vain so I could deal with that” or “We really don’t have great conversations, but I could be a like a cloistered wife vowed to silence for the rest of my life, right?”
When I met Bobby, though, everything clicked. I didn’t have to rationalize anything. In fact, both of us are still in shock that two human beings could fit so perfectly (even in our faults) with each other. I’m sure God watches us stumble through relationships, laughing and thinking, “Oh you of little faith. Why do you not trust me?” Sure enough, when we settle, it’s because we don’t trust God enough. We don’t trust that God is a bigger romantic than we are, that God is the most passionate being there is (in fact, who endured the passion out of love for us), and who wants the absolute best for our lives. When we don’t trust God, we commit the original sin of Adam and Eve all over again: we grasp at the gift of “knowledge” rather than wait for God to give us the gift He’s had for us all along (see CCC 396-397). In Fill These Hearts, Christopher West writes, “That’s pride at its root: we don’t trust in God’s designs, so we choose to follow our own” (p. 112). Remember: God is the one who has amazing plans for us, “plans for our welfare not for woe, plans for a future full of hope” (Jeremiah 29:11). It’s the stupid devil who wants us to grasp at relationships and who tempts us to settle for what’s just “okay.”

To me, some of the most courageous men and women are those who break off their relationships out of love for the other. They realize that the other person deserves someone better than them, that they are wasting the other’s time from finding their true vocation (whether be it to another person in marriage or maybe even a vocation to celibacy as a priest, nun, sister, brother, consecrated, or single person), or that they would be settling for a life of eye-rolling and frustration. This is extremely difficult. Bobby and I can speak from experience—he broke off an engagement and I broke up with a man who was a month from proposing. In the end, we were both extremely glad that the Holy Spirit convicted us and helped us have courage (a word that literally means, “to act from the heart”) to do what was best for all.

When I was single, I told myself, “I would rather be joyful and single than miserable with someone.” Why? Because I know that God wants us to be radiant witnesses of his love to the world. When I was single, I was totally free to do this because I had peace and joy founded in Christ who completely satisfied me. When I was in previous relationships, however, I was filled with anxiety, wondering if the guy didn’t get my sense of humor, didn’t like my craziness, didn’t like my love for Daily Mass, the Rosary or Adoration. I changed myself for the guys and didn’t like who I was with them. I knew that the man I was called to marry would not make me feel imprisoned or trapped, but would give me freedom to be my authentic self, freedom to be a radiant witness for the Lord together, and freedom to love God, my neighbor, and myself more authentically.

Freedom is huge in a relationship. No, not the philosophy of freedom given by Wiz Kalifa and Snoop Dogg; their “freedom” allows them to get drunk, smoke weed, and be a player for them hoes. No. Authentic freedom enables us to do what is right. Freedom in a relationship has the signs of peace and joy. A lack of freedom in a relationship gives you that anxiety in your belly, that “icky” feeling, that unrest.

So, my question to you (if you are in a relationship with someone to whom you are not married) is this: Does your relationship help you to be freer or less free? Is your relationship life-giving or life-sucking?

Here are some questions that you should ask yourself. Some questions are bigger “no-brainers” than others. We’ll start with the “no-brainer” red flags at the top and go to more subtle signs you aren’t free in a relationship to be the man or woman of God you were created to be.

If you say “yes” to any of these questions, you should get out of that relationship:

Does your significant other abuse you physically, emotionally, verbally, or sexually?

Do they pressure you to sin or make fun of you for not sinning? (Calling you a “prude” because you won’t do sexual things with them, making you feel guilty for not drinking/getting drunk, pressuring you to see a smutty movie or watch pornography, or pressuring you to live with them, etc.)

Do you feel like you are being used as an object for their pleasure?

Are you afraid of bringing up tough issues, annoyances, or frustrations, for fear they might get defensive, lash out at you, or shut down?

Do you feel like you’re walking on eggshells with what you say or do for fear they might break up with you (again)?

Are you afraid to show your weaknesses, because they expect you to be perfect?

Do you have that constant pit of anxiety in your belly either when you are with them or apart from them? Do you feel that anxiety when you think of marrying them?

Are you staying with them out of lust, out of fear of being alone, out of security, or out of fear of never finding anyone else who will be with you?

Are you confused about the relationship constantly? Do you go back and forth about whether or not this is “the one?”

Do you feel relieved when they are gone?

If you say “no” to any of these questions, you should re-think your relationship:

Are you free to be your true self (who you are with your best girl friends or guy friends)?

Do you feel loved in who you are, even in your weaknesses?

Do you feel challenged to be a better, holier person?

Are you free to be child-like, to laugh, to have joy with your significant other?

Do you feel challenged spiritually, intellectually, emotionally, and physically?

Is your relationship healing? Is their love helping you to deal with issues of the past without them being a “savior” to you (rather, they point you to “the Savior” for healing)?

Are you willing to spend 24 hours 7 days a week with them for the rest of your life?

Are they your best friend with whom you have romance?

Bobby and I will be praying for all those who read this blog, that you may truly do God’s good, pleasing, and perfect will (Romans 12:1-2)

-Jackie

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About the blogger:  Jackie Francois Angel is a full-time traveling speaker, songwriter, worship leader and blogger from Orange County, CA. She has been involved in youth ministry since she was 18 and has been able to sing and speak all over the United States and on 5 different continents. Aside from being signed as an artist and having two albums with Spirit&Song/OCP, Jackie is also involved with Life Teen, National Catholic Register, Steubenville Conferences, Ascension Press, March for Life, and NCYC as a speaker, worship leader, blogger, and/or webcast or program host. In August of 2013, Jackie married the love of her life, Bobby Angel. Together, they love to hang out at the beach, swing dance, watch Super Hero movies, write blogs, speak together, and travel around sharing God’s plan for authentic love. You can check out their blogs/videos at www.jackieandbobby.com.

Connect with Jackie: To see if Jackie is coming to speak or sing near you, check out www.jackiefrancois.com/tour, or follow her on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram, @JackieFrancois.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

  • Great article Jackie!

  • But what if some people just aren’t “passionate” people? They could wait their whole life if they wait to be”passionately in love” with someone, and can never attain that ideal set forth in chick flicks, romance novels, and even this article, that the passionate feeling, devoid of all doubt, is where it’s at. That ‘settling’ for a good, virtuous, godly man/woman is of the devil. I have my concerns about this. But good article anyways. I enjoy your blog.

  • Thanks for sharing Jackie!

  • Anonymous

    I agree with Sarah’s point – love is not always ‘passionate’ – in the long term, it is a conscious choice to put the other’s welfare first

  • Anonymous

    I like this and think you are on point with your questions. One thing that strikes me, however, is that counseling men on this issue may be a different animal than counseling women. Lots of men have a rather blown up unattainable woman in mind and may have to learn to “settle” in the sense of letting go of expectations of finding the “perfect” woman. I don’t ultimately disagree with this post, I just realize that I have used the language of “settle” in a different way, as a way of accepting imperfection and humanity in the other. Just a point for consideration. – a priest, counseling lots of young men.

  • Anonymous

    I like the thought behind this article, but at the same time…

    You got married at 28. 28!?

    I’m going on 35. Most days at this point I realize “settling” may be my only option. Especially since it seems “God’s design” for my life involves a lot of loneliness.

  • I liked a lot of the points in this article as well, and I don’t believe in settling (which is why I’m still single at 29), but I do think there’s an over-emphasis on finding “the one” in some Catholic circles. Many Catholics seem to have unreasonable expectations about falling head-over-heels, never-doubting-it-for-a-minute, and not-having-to-work-at-it. Attraction can’t be forced, but it can grow over time (I speak as a woman, I’ve heard this is less true for men). But if you find the person you are dating to be both holy and attractive, physically and personality-wise, I think you should pause before cavalierly breaking up for no concrete reason other than a lack of feeling certain.

  • There are some old married folks like me who read Arleen’s blog. My wife and I married “late” (I was 33, she was 29). We were (and still are) best friends and also in love. I can appreciate the joy that this Jackie has found, and I congratulate them both. The Lord has truly blessed you.

    I married my best friend almost 18 years ago, and our married life has been a tremendous blessing. We love each other a million times more than on our wedding day. But we would also say that on that wedding day we had absolutely no idea of what the next 17+ years were going to be like. What has mattered most has not been “romance” or “being a perfect fit” (which never happens, although its a blessing to be a “good fit” in temperament and such). What has mattered is that we shared a commitment to Christ in the Church, that we trusted each other, and that we really felt “secure” with each other.

    When people marry young they may have to build more of this trust and security as they mature together. I do think that older singles are more able to perceive that a relationship has a solid disposition and foundation for trust and security. These words may not sound very exciting, but they are the bedrock for fidelity. If you have this, and then its consecrated in Christ by the sacrament and its profound graces, you will discover that married love is deep and strong and difficult and enduring and forgiving.

    My recommendation for singles young and older alike is to meditate on the marriage vows. “I promise to be true to you in good times and in bad, in sickness and in health….” Don’t try to *imagine* what this will mean for you, because you can’t… its impossible. But you can look at the other person with an awareness of the fidelity you are going to promise to him (or her if you’re a man — men should do this too). And you can ask yourself (simply, not with scrupulosity), “Do I trust that when this person makes this promise to me, he/she really means it and will be able to keep it?”

    […wait, there’s more… continued on next comment!]

  • “Good times and bad” — let’s be clear here: *there WILL be bad times*. The surprising thing is that “bad times” more often doesn’t have to do with misunderstandings and arguments and interrelational dynamics (these happen, but they can be worked through). “Bad times” comes from the fact that STUFF HAPPENS in life. The hardest things are the stuff that comes from “outside,” that you have to face together. Someone loses their job. That’s a tough one. Problems in “the family” — a parent gets old and needs love and attention (perhaps a lot). This is very hard. It changes the way you live together.

    “Sickness and health….” Most healthy young people barely think about these words when they say them. This is not about chicken soup and colds. People can get really sick. Spouses have to be primary caregivers. If you’re a woman, you will have health issues that your husband won’t understand. If the husband becomes disabled and can’t work, he will be emotionally shattered in a way that he will have difficulty communicating to his wife, or even admitting to himself. Disability is something we’ve learned a lot about in our marriage. But everyone faces health problems. If nothing else, people get older and they change physically and emotionally. And they suffer. Its important to marry someone who will suffer with you, and with whom you are willing to suffer. There’s nothing “romantic” about the daily, ordinary, often banal suffering that you will have to share. But its there that your love grows as trust, commitment, and fidelity. But this is not a cold thing. A real and deep affection is born within this love. You begin to see the other person more deeply. (n.b. Arleen, we need a *theology of the body* for sick people.)

    Sorry this note is huge. But there’s still one more point. In some ways, its the biggest point of all. Its certainly the most surprising. The mind blowing fact is that marriage is not just about you and your spouse. In a few years, God willing, you will be changing and adapting your lives in ways you never imagined. There are gonna be these *other* little people. They will need you both and they will need you together; they will change you so fundamentally that they will give you new names that will last forever: “Mommy” and “Daddy”! (Which later changes to “Mom” and “Dad”.)

    God willing, you’ll have a nice bunch of kids. But “kids” is an abstraction. These are going to be particular human persons who are “your children.” They will stretch you beyond anything you thought was possible for yourself, and they will make you work so hard, but they are so *worth it*! Don’t be afraid, because marriage is a sacrament and the grace that shapes your family flows from it. We have five kids, and three are teenagers. Its an ongoing, wild and wonderful adventure, this family, these *people* mysteriously entrusted to one another.

    It turns out that those wedding vows are a commitment to the radical possibility of welcoming other human persons into your lives… permanently. It is a way of giving yourselves to God, through each other and through the awesome mystery of His creative freedom and love.

    Its worth “holding out,” for the sake of marrying someone you trust and who trusts you. Lots of things can be “worked out” in married life, but *trust* is basic. Marry a person worthy of your trust, and of course trust in God. It is Jesus who establishes and sustains the bond that unites you. If you are not yet married, He calls you to use discernment in who you choose to marry. He will also guide you. His Holy Spirit will lead you. Mary will be a Mother to your heart and bring you wisdom.

    Going on 18 years ago, I married the love of my life. We trusted the Lord, and in Him we trusted each other. Through that trust, and five kids and so many unforeseen changes of circumstances and health, our love continues to grow.