Dating? Don’t be a Martha

Like it or not, we live in a culture of convenience. Almost every daily task can be distilled into a simple motion, or programmed in a “set it and forget it” type of way. Even dating has boiled down to a swipe of the finger: left or right.

Efficiency is marvelous, but it has one flaw. There’s a temptation to pile on more and more tasks until we’re constantly at the end of our rope. Living under persistent stress and anxiety can affect our interpersonal relationships and make dating just another chore.

It’s like the story of Martha and Mary in Luke. Jesus was traveling as always and as he passed through a small town, a woman named Martha welcomed him into her home. She busied herself with meal prep and hosting while her sister Mary sat down and listened to what Jesus had to say.

I imagine Martha tried to be gracious at first, but got more flustered as the night went on. She wanted everything to be perfect for Jesus and she struggled to take on all of the hosting duties by herself. Eventually she tattled on Mary, asked Jesus, “Don’t you care that I’m doing all the work and she’s not doing anything?”

We feel you, Martha.

Jesus responded to her graciously, saying that she was worried about too many things. Mary was doing things right by slowing down and connecting with her visitors.

This is one of my favorite verses because it is so clear and relatable. I could easily see this playing out at a family gathering during the holidays. It’s also a great example of how not to approach relationships and life in general.

When it comes to finding the love of your life, follow these steps so you don’t end up like Martha.

Don’t micromanage

Take a deep breath and just let it go. Jesus’ best advice for Martha was to stop worrying about every little thing. Life is flawed and try as you might, you’ll never make it perfect. You also can’t force someone to fit the perfect mold you have in mind for your ideal partner. In fact, you’ll likely drive them away just by trying.

Instead, learn to be okay with things the way they are.

It’s a tall order, but once you learn to let things go, you’ll find that contentment comes more easily.

Maybe your partner is a lousy cook or leaves a ring of crusty toothpaste on the tube. Whatever it is, that thing you hate, let it go. Let go of the desire to control their choices, their interests, their fears and their pain. You may find that you’re better for it, and maybe that they’re better for you than you ever imagined.

Don’t compare

Social media has made it easier than ever to keep up with friends, family, and potential love interests. It has also made it possible to “cherry pick” the information that we share with the world, allowing people to present the best version of themselves, whether or not it is accurate to daily life.

This presents a dangerous temptation to compare our realty with an endless list of  perfect people. Trust us, you don’t want to go there, take it from Theodore Roosevelt; “comparison is the thief of joy.”

Martha compared herself to her sister, thinking “Why am doing all the work while she just sits there?” Her joy at welcoming Jesus into her home quickly turned into jealousy and resentment. It really does happen that fast. It takes practice to recognize that dark voice of envy in the back of your mind, but once you know it’s there, it’s much easier to dismiss.

Instead of thinking to yourself, “Why is everything going right for them while I’m stuck here alone and unhappy,” try reminding yourself that you can’t see a person’s struggles, temptations, or anxieties. Everyone is battling with something.

Don’t take on too much

This one’s easier said than done, but it can make a big difference in your level of satisfaction. Start by learning to say no to new tasks when you’re feeling overwhelmed. Beyond physical tasks, learn to root out thoughts that don’t bring you joy or make you better.

That feeling that you’re not enough? Lose it.

The feeling that you’re not worthy of love. Toss it out.

You deserve not be bothered by those lies.

Jesus is a pro at letting go of things. He didn’t want Martha to prepare a big, fancy feast. He would have been content with a small meal and good conversation. He even told Martha that Mary had chosen the right way of doing things: slowing down and soaking in the moment.

Be content with yourself. You are looking for someone to gift yourself to, so you have to make time to invest in yourself and be proud of who God created you to be.

Don’t place blame

Saint Paul sums up the essence of Christ’s message in one phrase: “For the whole Law is fulfilled in one word, in the statement, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”

In the grocery store, at work, at home: love. Love covers a multitude of sins and it allows your relationships to flourish. Suspicion, envy and blame stifle the flame of love, so keep your eye out for these menacing distractions.

Instead of joyfully accepting Mary’s choice, Martha blamed her for her own discontent and ended up being scolded by Christ himself (lovingly, but still, what a bummer). Instead of blaming others for life’s mishaps, try accepting the ebb and flow of good times.

Recognize that bad happenings are a passing storms, and things will improve in time.

Be like Mary

We could go on and on about what not to do: don’t talk without listening, don’t place prioritize work above human interaction.

Instead, we’ll leave you with some ideas for how to act more like Mary, and less like Martha: make quality time a priority, listen intently, and practice empathy.

These simple practices will help you find more joy and contentment in life as it is right now.