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Drama-Free Relationships… Do They Exist?
Today’s dating scene is more complicated than ever, especially with social media, texting, and the endless pressure of the world’s expectations. How can men and women overcome the interior and exterior battles and discover the love they desire?
From “Hey” to “I do”—as well as the inevitable “gray areas” along the way— Emotional Virtue offers a compelling blueprint for how to navigate relationships and thrive in every stage of life—not just survive. (You can find the book’s complete Table of Contents and Introduction Chapter below!)
When it comes to relationships, many have been told everything they’re not supposed to do. Why isn’t anyone talking about what they are supposed to do? Thankfully, Sarah Swafford has done just this, giving readers a clear roadmap for life and love.
Jason and Crystalina Evert
With her characteristic charm and wit, Emotional Virtue lays out a plan on how to pursue virtuous dating relationships, rooted in faith and authentic friendship. Beyond mere dating advice, this book gives readers what they need to become the men and women God has called them to be.
Sarah Swafford has provided a funny, insightful, and prayerful look at how to find (and become) the spouse of your dreams without going crazy in the process! Her advice on emotional virtue is essential for building healthy lives and relationships!
Jackie Francois Angel
Part I: The Attack: Where Is All This Coming From?
1. The World’s Idea of Perfect
2. The Emoticoaster
3. The Cycle of Use
4. The Choice
Part II: The Answer: Where Do We Go from Here?
5. The Altar Switch
6. What Is Emotional Virtue?
7. Simply Irresistible
8. Lay It All Down
Part III: The Avenue: A Roadmap with the End in Mind
9. Finding Your Posse
10. Don’t Shoot the Messenger: Modesty of Intentions
11. The Gray Area: Talking, Texting, and Hanging Out
12. The Natural Progression of a Relationship
It was a cold night in February, and as I put on my coat to head out the door, I couldn’t seem to shake the butterflies in my stomach. For months I had sat around coffee mugs and cafeteria trays listening and talking to college men and women about life. I had taken a job as a Residence Hall Director at Benedictine College and I was responsible for 142 beautiful freshmen college women. Through homesickness, failed exams, spontaneous dance parties, ramen noodles in the drinking fountain, sledding injuries, the excitement of new relationships—and often the heartache of break-ups—I had a front row seat to the highs and lows, the joys and sorrows of transitioning from high school to college; a front row seat not only in observing the women, but the men as well, and especially watching them interact together.
In those years, my amazing husband, Andy, our small children, and I all made our home in the cozy little apartment down the hall and to the left of the elevator in that freshmen women’s dorm. The men and women knew where to find us—we were there for them; we shared life with them, and we loved it.
As a wife and young mother not too far removed from college, it was easy for me to remember the struggles and victories of my BM life—“before marriage.” As I listened, sometimes late into the night, I felt as though I kept giving the same advice, whatever advice I could, over and over again. And then one night, a group of girls said, “Alright, Sarah, you’ve got to give a talk on all this…” “What do you mean by all ‘this’?” I replied. “You know, ‘this’!” We couldn’t even put a name to it, but we did seem to talk about “this” all the time!
So, right around St. Valentine’s Day—that wretched day loathed by those who happen to find themselves single—I posted some flyers around campus for a talk. In bold letters the posters read: “Love, Emotions, Mental Stalking, Taylor Swift, and Mr. Right.”
As I walked across campus that night, I was trying to get a grip on my nerves! Since I was the kind of person who would shake like a leaf even trying to read in public, I knew this was going to be a stretch for me. I was hoping that maybe twenty girls would show up and we could have a great conversation. But when I walked through the doors of the auditorium, there were almost 300 women waiting for me. I couldn’t believe it. All I could think was “Wow, we must be onto something!”
The question and answer session after my talk went on for hours. As I walked back across campus to my apartment, I could see groups of women huddled around each other talking. To say I stirred the pot would probably be an understatement. When I got back to my apartment, there was a line of girls sitting in the hallway waiting for me. My husband was standing in the doorway and looked at me wide-eyed and asked, “What did you say?” I just laughed and explained, “I don’t know! I was so nervous, I don’t remember!”
After that night, I knew that the women were hungry. They were hungry for answers—hungry for truth—and most of all, hungry for a change. They were tired of the games, tired of the heartache, and exhausted from the drama. Every woman in that room had a different, yet similar story; and for the first time, many of them were ready to share it with one another.
“I feel like a mess inside,” some would admit. “On the outside I have it all together, but when I am alone with my thoughts, it’s not a good place to be.” Others would say, “I’m tired; I’m tired of running away from myself. I’m tired of pretending. I don’t even know who I am.” Or: “I feel so alone. I know this guy is not the answer; I know that he is not the one, but I keep going back to him.”
After the talk that night, the conversation spilled over to the men on campus as well. Many of them came to me and Andy wanting to know more, sharing their struggles, trying to figure out life, love, women, emotions, passions, and answers to some of the heavy questions they were working through.
Whether you are in junior high, high school, college, out of college—really at any age, this crazy thing we call life can be a wild ride. At the end of the day, we all desire to love and to be loved. But as simple as that sounds, it might be the most complicated, tangled mess we will ever have to endure—especially in regards to the quest of finding a spouse and living out your “happily ever after.”
To make matters worse, the pressure to be “perfect” by the world’s standards and the pressure to date are two realities that breathe down the necks of many men and women. The endless chase to “keep up” and not be left behind, or left alone, drives much of the world we live in—creating a sense of fear, insecurity, and worry that we’ll just never be enough—that we will never be truly loved. I understand this fear, and I’ve been there. It is scary, but you are not alone.
The grenade I threw upon the crowd that cold night in February started a conversation, a conversation that had to take place. It can be so easy to feel like you are the only one struggling, the only one who feels alone or unwanted. People often wear an array of different masks and build fortresses around their hearts in order to portray and protect a certain image. These wounds and pain from the past make it seem as though it’s not worth the risk of letting anyone else in. So many people walk around carrying so much, all the while smiling and pushing play on the automated response—“I’m fine, I’m good, everything’s great.”
There has to be another way—another way to tackle the pain; another way to tackle life, and another way to pursue love—allowing ourselves to be loved and to love others. That’s why I wrote this book, as an attempt to find an alternative plan, with the hope of moving the conversation forward. This book is for both men and women, because we are all in this together.
Indeed, this book is the fruit of thousands of conversations with men and women from many different stages of life. I am not an expert, and this not meant to be an academic book or even a research article. It’s this simple: if I could grab lunch with you, have a cup of coffee with you, or write a letter to you, this book is what I would want you to know. It is from my heart, and it is what I want women, men, parents, teachers, coaches, and even my own children someday to know, understand, and live out with all of their hearts.
In Part I of this book (The Attack—Where is All this Coming From?), we’ll take a deeper look into what seems to be “messing” with us—the pressures, insecurities, fears, and sources of frustration and confusion. Sometimes laying out the ugly and brutal truth about what we are up against helps us to understand more clearly how it is affecting us. We have to be honest about the current conditions on the ground; otherwise, we run the risk of being blindsided and knocked to the ground.
In Part II (The Answer—Where Do We Go From Here?), we will look at life in light of the attacks of Part I and move forward with a new awareness and a new plan. There has to be a better way; here we will develop a plan for life and love, giving us not only a fresh outlook, but also offering practical ways to live it out.
In the final part of the book, Part III (The Avenue—A Roadmap with the End in Mind), we will build upon everything we’ve laid out and use this new awareness to navigate relationships—figuring out how to move from “Hi” to “I Do.” As I said, relationships can be ridiculously complicated these days, and it is no secret that social media and texting are changing dating in the twenty-first century. As one frustrated college guy put it: “Is there a formula, blueprint, outline, finger-paint drawing—anything! How are we supposed to just know what to do?”
While some of you may be tempted to skip ahead to this last part on dating and relationships, I ask that you start at the beginning; each chapter builds on the previous one, creating an entire foundation and framework in which to understand and experience the thrill of dating. And I don’t want you to miss out on this wider picture by jumping ahead.
By the end of this book, I hope that you will hold in your hands more than just a “finger-paint drawing.” I hope you will hold in your heart and mind some answers—not just about relationships, but also about the real questions of life, as you pursue and strive to become the person you truly long to be.