Almost immediately after the separation from my ex-wife I saw the verse in Proverbs 4:23 that I knew to be very important to my future.
“Guard your heart more than anything else,
because the source of your life flows from it.”
Proverbs 4:23 (God’s Word Translation)
Over the last few years I’ve thought about this verse regularly and have seen some success over the last 6 months in actually applying this to my dating life. So as a warning — this is not a theological inductive study of this passage. It’s just a simple walk through my experience with trying to apply it to my life.
The first couple of relationships after the breakup of my marriage were very quick and emotional and full of poetry and song-writing and undying love and they were sort of a parabola of Start from nothing build to this huge emotional high and then dropped off into nothing again. I think the longest was a month or six weeks and then there was the 21 day “relationship.” I was clearly not guarding my heart here. I was learning though.
By the time the third relationship came around, I took it slower — and by that I mean I didn’t tell her of my undying love for her until a month or two into the relationship. I’ll pause for you all to finish laughing.
I’m a pretty emotional guy and I tend to have this all-in approach to relationships. This third relationship lasted much longer (almost two years), so there was success in the longevity, but I think I was still learning what it means to guard your heart. I definitely ignored a lot of red flags and warning signs from friends and even directly from my girlfriend and kept trudging on with the “love conquers all” approach. While highly romantic, the tendency with banking on love to get you through everything breaks down when only one is in love. It’s not realistic. It’s not adult. It’s a film-clip style romance that when battered by the winds of reality, breaks down.
So how am I learning to guard my heart? I am using my brain as a gate keeper. Some translations of this passage don’t even mention “heart” they just say “keep close watch on your thoughts…” or some derivative of this. I am seeing the more women I date that it is easy to choose to fall in love. If she’s beautiful to me, if she’s into me, if we can chat about anything, if she is affectionate, if she’s smart, if she treats me with respect, if she speaks kind words, if she’s fun, it’s not difficult for me to fall in love. I’m a hopeless romantic. I believe in love. I believe that I will find someone who will be a best friend, a lover and someone to grow old with me right by my side. I’m looking earnestly for that. So when a woman comes by that hits that criteria, it’s easy to lose any kind of thought process, begin the poetry writing and the wooing and fall head over heels.
What I’m seeing here in the last six months is there are a lot of women out there with which this is possible. I’m not saying I’ve been a playa over the last year or anything, just that I’ve had a lot of first dates and even several ongoing multiple date relationships that showed me that there are great women out there who are actually hitting all those criteria for me. Yet, here I am, not in a relationship. Why? I think it’s because of heart-guarding.
But guarding my heart means choosing
very deliberately the woman I want to love.
Maybe you could argue that this is taking
some of the romance out of it.
This is undoubtedly true.
I’m working hard at seeing the big picture. Two of the women I could have easily fallen for lived 45 minutes away from me. One lives on the other side of the country. Reason suggests that none of these conditions are optimal and they probably would eventually end in frustration for both of us. To be clear, both 45 min away ladies ended our dating for that reason, but I didn’t fight it or argue. I knew they were right and it was only a matter of time. Another relationship ended after 4 dates because all of the criteria above was in place but she really just wanted a homebody. I’m not that. I saw it quickly and ended it.
In addition over the last several months I’ve also met a lot of great women that have become good friends. Every one of them would make someone a great wife. They’re Godly women, they’re fun, they’re beautiful. I think some of them would probably go out on a date with me (and some of them actually have), but I think this whole Guard Your Heart thing as also evolved into a place that some would call “being picky.” I’ve actually been called that very frequently by several of my buddies. But I think I’ve shown in the past that I have not made good decisions about who I fall in love with. My ex-wife and even the 2 year relationship recently are good examples of this. I dove in too quickly, didn’t understand what I was getting into and fell hopelessly in love with a woman who wouldn’t be a good fit for me long-term. Both times.
Again — I could’ve worked really hard to make all of these relationships work. Indeed, I wrote poetry for a couple of these ladies and felt some very strong attraction and infatuation with them. But guarding my heart means choosing very deliberately the woman I want to love. Maybe you could argue that this is taking some of the romance out of it. This is undoubtedly true. Everyone dreams of being swept off their feet and immersed in a whirlwind romance with a perfect woman. I’ve had that experience. It’s intoxicating. It’s exhilarating. It’s not love though it feels like it. It’s passion. It’s infatuation. It can develop into love, or it can fall apart in a spectacular fireworks show.
(Hint: It’s most frequently the latter of those two options)
So when faced with an initial blast of feelings of passion and infatuation, what is my response? Well, for me, it’s sitting down at my blog and working through it on paper. It’s talking with a couple of key friends to get some coordinated wisdom. It’s making sure I’m not wooing at warp speed. I’m not calling her 4 times a day, I’m not talking to her for 2 hours every time we chat. All of those things feed a fast and furious passionate rush to decision and to fall in love.
Here’s the scary thought for me. I’m not sure if this is the right approach, but I do know that I’ve never lived like this before. Every other girlfriend in the past 25-30 years I’ve fallen completely in love with before I really even knew them. Including the ex-wife. So maybe I’m trying to not expect different results from the same action any longer. Maybe I am working hard to Guard My Heart now.
So here’s my challenge to you. As you are seeking out your soulmate — are you careful about who you let tug on your heartstrings? I see a lot of guys out there who are more than willing to jump at a woman who is kind to them or smiles their way or gives them any kind of attention. I don’t think that is anywhere close to guarding your heart. I definitely have been there and get why it happens, but I would caution you (and the ladies who have similar attention-desires). Guard Your Heart. Step slowly into that great ocean of love. Step carefully.