Young adult woman in sunglasses outdoors

A number of years ago, I attended a Theology of the Body Conference in Denver, CO. The purpose of the conference was to discuss issues involving human love and relationships within the context of Pope John Paul II’s teaching on the same. There were some dynamic speakers scheduled and I decided to go. After my decision, I discovered that the Conference was also being advertised as a type of Singles Conference. While a bit apprehensive about this, I was still very excited about the speakers and my “weekend getaway” in Colorado.

The keynote speaker addressed the issue of dating frustrations in the lives of the single attendees. All that I remember about his talk was the moment in which he kept repeating “there is nothing wrong with you” over and over again. He was a well-meaning speaker and was attempting to build up the self-confidence of the “unlucky at love” listeners. The audience appeared to eat it up . . . But he was dead wrong.

There was actually quite a bit wrong with the attendees. Aside from the typical results of original sin, many of the conference participants were socially awkward, or were unkempt in their appearance or unhealthy or weird or had any number of other such issues. I would say that many of the people at the conference had between 1 to 3 of what I would call “fatal dating flaws” (sometimes dating dealbreakers). The good news is that many of these “fatal dating flaws” would have been relatively easy to correct had the individual been aware of the flaw and had the will and determination to take decisive action. My first thought when reflecting upon the people at the Conference is that I wish that each one of them had been able to look in a mirror – not a physical looking glass, but a type of “magic dating mirror.” This  “magic mirror” would make them aware of those “fatal dating flaws” that were often so apparent to those all around them.

Many of the people at the Conference were so close to vastly improving their dating chances. If only a trusted, loving friend could have conveyed to them their fatal dating flaws, they would have been far more effective in the dating arena. If only they could have seen it for themselves and done something. Why didn’t they? Why did they remain so close and yet so far? I think, in part, because they had drunk the Kool Aid of voices telling them things like “there is nothing wrong with you.” We would all rather believe that “all is well with me” and that the problem is somewhere “out there.” We don’t have the courage and humility to face the truth.

Let me share with you a little success story of someone who did not drink the Kool Aid. Some years back, I knew a wonderful young Christian woman (let’s call her Teri) who wanted to date, get married and all the rest. But it wasn’t moving forward. She took a good hard look at herself and realized that her weight was getting in the way (Remember, men are visually-oriented). She invested in a couple of months at a type of weight-loss clinic where she learned how to eat in a healthy manner, exercise regularly and benefit from the support and wisdom of others who have struggled with the same issue. Teri worked the program successfully (she looked great) and then went on to marry a kind, handsome, dashing young soldier 6 months later (and they lived happily ever after I am sure).

Teri is my “dating idol.” Why? Well, look at what she did. First of all, she had the courage to look in the “magic dating mirror” (either by herself or with the help of trusted, honest friends). She then had the humility to acknowledge the “fatal dating flaw” that she saw. Finally, she took decisive steps to address the issue. Her plan included the ongoing support and input of others in the process. Teri did not sit around lamenting her condition, becoming a “victim of fate.” She did not live in denial, turning a blind eye to the real issue. She did not attempt to conquer the problem completely on her own. She faced the issue, she took concrete, positive action with the help of others that could hold her accountable, and she got incredible results.

Let me list some other “fatal dating flaws” so I cannot be accused of picking on the one with which Teri struggled: Bad breath, anger management issues, hair like a mop, being a pervert, Laura Ingalls Wilder type clothing, control issues, inappropriate language, deep insecurities, poor hygiene, overall weirdness, makeup deprivation, body odor, unmanaged psychological issues, etc. (And there are more to be sure). These are all often dealbreakers in dating. If you are struggling in the dating arena, do you have the courage and humility to take a look in the “magic dating mirror” somehow and receive what you might see in there? Do you have trusted friends (sometimes of the opposite sex) who might be that mirror for you? It may be painful to look, but what will happen if you do not look?

The goal in becoming a person with whom someone else would want to fall in love is to become the very “best version of yourself” (Matthew Kelly). Deep down, we all want to be loved for our real selves and not for some fake, but loveable façade that we attempt to manufacture. But this process of becoming the “best version of ourselves” also includes eliminating those less-than-desirable things that are getting in the way. After a while, one realizes that “becoming the best version of ourselves” is also a definition of growth in holiness and a certain convergence occurs. Dating and holiness both require tremendous courage and especially humility. And both require penetrating, honest self-examination. Do you have the courage and humility to look in the “magic mirror” or would you prefer to drink the Kool Aid and believe “there is nothing wrong with you”?

Editor’s Note: Weight Watchers International has a good track record in assisting people with weight loss in a supportive, healthy manner: