Unwanted Singleness, Getting Unstuck, and Following God in Dating

An Interview With Veronique Butterfield

Proverbs 3:6

Today I’m doing something a little different. I recently started chatting with one AGW subscriber and came to find out she’s also an author and blogger like me. Her content about Christian dating aligns very closely with my own and she has great real-life experience in this area, so I asked her to be interviewed and she accepted.

Below is a written interview between myself and Veronique Butterfield. Enjoy!

Hi Veronique. Thanks for taking the time to be interviewed and sharing your story with us. Tell us a little about yourself? 

I love helping “older” singles, ages 25–45, walk toward marriage. Walk, not sit. I know the pain of prolonged singleness, so I feel for them. I found and married my Christ-honoring husband only after taking responsibility for my love life.

What else can I say about myself? I was born and raised in France in a traditional Asian family. I love Jesus, my husband, theology, evangelism, and apologetics.

You shared with me that you went through a season of unwanted singleness that lasted into your thirties.  What do you feel led to this season? Was it just not God’s timing or was there a reason, in your opinion, for why you did not go on many dates during this time? How did you feel during this season and what type of advice was being given to you in this season of life by other Christians and Bible teachers?

Like other singles in courtship culture, I’d never experienced a boyfriend-girlfriend dating relationship. I was taught from courtship books that it’s sinful to show interest, sinful to have crushes or date anyone you don’t end up marrying, sinful to hold hands with someone who’s not your future spouse, sinful to kiss before the wedding day, etc.

I acquired these paralyzing beliefs that kept me stuck firmly in singleness from books like:

  • Joshua Harris’ I Kissed Dating Goodbye
  • Eric and Leslie Ludy’s When God Writes Your Love Story and When Dreams Come True
  • Don Raunikar’s Choosing God’s Best

A number of books for singles teach that it’s displeasing to God if you actively look for a suitable person to marry, and that the only thing to do is nothing, except wait and pray as if we had no agency at all.

I believed a man had to ask my dad for permission to court me for marriage before I went on a first date with the man. That’s too much pressure and putting the cart before the horse. Besides, my dad was divorced, unsaved, and lived in another country.

I was taught that I had to know a man was my future husband, through signs and coincidences and prophecies, before I agreed to spend one-on-one time with him, even for a platonic coffee date. I expected God to deliver “Mr. Right” that way because that’s what happened in courtship books. It didn’t occur to me that God could direct an amazing love story in a radically different way.

God cleared me of all these mental blocks that kept me single and then led me on a big adventure to find my future husband.

At some point you changed your approach to dating. What changed about your beliefs towards dating and what caused this shift in you? How did your theology affect your behavior in the journey of seeking to be married one day? 

What shifted was my theology! Having no love life in my thirties was much harder than in my twenties. So I asked God why I was still single, and I wanted to know how I could get married soon (or soon-ish). God answered my prayer this way:

First, I found this article, “Are we supposed to be actively looking for a spouse, or waiting for God to bring a spouse to us?” That introduced me to the idea that seeking a marriage partner wasn’t sinful but good.

Then, at a local church, I met Joshua Harris (author of I Kissed Dating Goodbye) after he’d been in a freeway accident—with a washing machine. (Long story.) I asked him what’s the best theology book he’s ever read besides the Bible. He recommended Wayne Grudem’s Systematic Theology.

God has a sense of humor. He used Joshua Harris to expose me to the theology that would put an end to my singleness! Note: Josh didn’t know about Reformed Theology when he wrote I Kissed Dating Goodbye.

Studying Reformed Theology set me free from the legalistic belief that I had to know a man was my future husband before I could spend one-on-one time with the man. I no longer believed concepts like “God’s sovereignty excludes human agency, so do nothing or you’ll mess up His plan.” That line of thinking made absolutely no sense from a Reformed viewpoint.

I no longer feared that I would mess up God’s plan unless I knew the future. God’s sovereign plan was in place before I ever existed, and His plan would stand. No puny human could change it. Good theology removed much fear from my life.

I realized that God’s sovereignty is no excuse for passivity, laziness, and fatalism. God being in control doesn’t excuse us from working to achieve good things, like marriage. Human responsibility goes hand in hand with God’s sovereignty. God provides for the birds, but they need to look for the food He provides. They’ll starve if they’re passive.

God wanted me to apply wisdom and take action in my love life. For the first time, I was exposed to the idea that I was in great part responsible for my love life, just as I was in great part responsible for my work life. This was huge! It gave me permission to take action like an adult. That’s what enabled me to find my future husband in a few months, after a lifetime of singleness!

How did you meet, date, and marry your husband? What did that process look like?

I gave my love life the dedication I give to a job search. When I look for a job, I go to job centers, check the newspaper, the bulletin board at the library, job sites, ask people about job openings, etc. I send out resumes with cover letters. I show up at places of employment unannounced, resume in hand, and ask to speak with the manager. (I got several job offers this way!)

I don’t wait for God to bless me with a job without any effort on my part. I don’t think, “If I work hard at finding a job, it means I don’t trust God.” Without any guilt, I use the tools God put at my disposal to find a job. Likewise, God had put at my disposal everything I needed to find my future husband.

My pastor and his wife agreed to mentor me, and I followed Henry Cloud’s advice in How To Get A Date Worth Keeping: Be Dating In Six Months Or Your Money Back. Pastor Larry and Jan suggested I visit groups from other churches. I did, and my social life took off exponentially.

I went on dates! I didn’t kiss or hold hands because at this early point I didn’t want to. I didn’t need to know in advance whether any guy was “The One” before I dated him. The fellowship was a blessing and worth the dates. I had many friends, including many people of my parents’ generation. So I asked about fifty of them to be my matchmakers and to pray that I would meet my future husband soon. They all agreed!

I asked Bible study groups for prayer. Several dozen people, including elders, missionaries, ministry leaders, prayed for God to bless me with marriage soon. Pastor Larry and Jan told me it was fine to try online dating, so I signed up at five Christian dating sites, four of which were free. It was as easy as signing up for one; I just copied and pasted my profile five times. I read books on how to be successful on dating sites to help me get results much faster.

I met with Pastor Larry and Jan regularly for guidance and I trustingly waited on God for the results of my diligent labor. Not surprisingly, God blessed my hard work. Within a year, I had three godly, chaste, amazing men who wanted to marry me! (How it all happened for me, I’ll detail in my book. I shouldn’t write a 100-page blog post!)

I wanted to save the first kiss for my wedding (mainly because I came out of courtship culture), so I didn’t even kiss any of these men! That’s proof that a woman doesn’t have to give any “physical favors” in order for quality men to pursue her for marriage. Pastor Larry laughed and said he never had to counsel a woman courted by several suitors.

Thomas, whom I met on ChristianCafe.com, was one of my suitors. He had to hop on a plane to get a first date. Married friends hosted him and chaperoned us. Thomas wrote to Pastor Larry, telling him how and why he loved me, what made me different from others in his eyes, and how very much he would cherish me if I were to be his dear wife. He was relentless in fighting for me. He said, “The rest of my life depends on it. I’ll either spend the rest of my life with you or I’ll have to live without you.” I fell deeply in love with him.

Finally, Pastor Larry, Jan, and I determined who would have the honor of pursuing marriage with me: Thomas. He lived in Wisconsin. I lived in Florida. We maintained our long-distance relationship through letters, phone calls, and video calls. Wonderful personal visits allowed us to get to know each other’s friends, family, ministries, and church communities. He honored Christ in our romance and proved himself to be sanctified by God.

Our glorious wedding day came to pass just 18 months after I began my search for my future husband. Pastor Larry teared up, and Thomas tried to restrain tears of happiness. After we exchanged rings, my father told my groom, “Thomas, I give you permission to kiss Veronique on the lips for the very first time.” And he did! And it was so tender! The world dissolved under my feet at that moment.

We’ve been happily married now for almost eight years. When I’m in Thomas’ loving arms, I’m home.

What general trends do you see in the common “Christian dating advice” these days and what concerns do you have because of these trends for Christian women who want to be married? 

The prevailing trend I’ve noticed is the teaching of “sanctified passivity” in one’s love life. A number of singles take passivity as a badge of honor, and that can be seen clearly in the comment section of various singles blogs. Laziness has somehow become a virtue and hard work a sin, when applied to one’s love life.

If Christian resources (whether online or offline, digital or print, on TV or radio, at churches or schools) taught that actively looking for employment was a sign of not trusting God, would we be surprised if the net result was prolonged joblessness? Wouldn’t it be wicked if unemployed people were made to feel ungodly for looking for jobs?

The right thing to do would be to encourage them to look for jobs diligently while trusting God’s timing to bring about the right one. Trusting God doesn’t mean doing nothing.

There are strong currents of superstition in the sea of Christian singles ministries. Some teach that if you do anything without having signs, coincidences, and prophecies beforehand, then it’s “getting ahead of God” and things will end up badly for sure. In their mind, you’re either (1) proactive and, thus, compromising morally or spiritually in some way, or (2) passive and are to do nothing unless you get prophecies (and you’ll get a great husband that way, they say).

But I didn’t fit either of these extremes.

In my case, God was pleased that I participate alongside Him in my pursuit of marriage, the grand adventure of finding my future husband. I didn’t have to walk alone. God was with me. But I needed to take the steps. God didn’t take my steps for me; He guided my steps. No fortune-telling required! I didn’t need to know the future. I just needed to be godly and walk and trust Him.

There are two types of waiting on God. The first is like a farmer who works hard as he waits on the Lord for the crop. The second is like a farmer who doesn’t work his field at all because he’s afraid “to take things into his own hands.” He thinks that for him to work the ground, plant seeds, and water would demonstrate lack of trust in God for a crop. So he just prays for God to produce the crop for him (which God could do miraculously if He so chose). So the two types of waiting are:

  1. Waiting for results while doing the work
  2. Waiting for results without doing the work.

Many Christian singles are taught the second type of waiting. Bad theology and bad teachings have serious consequences on people’s lives. I feel especially for women in their thirties who are in bondage to “sanctified passivity” and, as a result, grow out of their childbearing years unmarried. And if they dare become depressed about that, they’re lectured about contentment. I’ve seen that happen.

What advice would you give a Christian woman who is seeking to please the Lord but just can’t seem to meet a good Christian man? How should she approach her desire to be content in her season of singleness while also not being too passive in seeking to fulfill her desire to be married one day?

“In all your ways, submit to the LORD, and He will make your paths straight” (Proverbs 3:6).

I suggest you prayerfully and humbly study Scripture and petition the Lord for wisdom to determine whether you should be passive or proactive. God doesn’t have a one-size-fits-all way of bringing a man and a woman together in marriage. I suggest you search for a husband only if:

  • you’re ready for the responsibilities of marriage
  • you have a strong love for God (demonstrated by obedience to His Word) and keep yourself from being defiled by the world
  • you want to please God much more than you want to get married, so that when temptation comes, you will choose to obey God and reject sin
  • you have strong discernment that enables you to gauge godly character and easily detect ungodliness in a man

If being proactive is the approach for you, my advice is:

  • submit to God by living a life of habitual righteousness out of love for Him
  • find some wise, godly mentors who will guide you, and prevent you from choosing “Mr. Wrong” (My apologies to any men out there actually named “Mr. Wrong”!)
  • trust that God will make your paths straight IF you submit to Him in all your ways
  • ask many godly people to pray for God to bless you with marriage
  • have firm physical boundaries determined in advance by you and your mentors
  • take wise, prayerful, proactive steps toward marriage
  • if you sin, repent, and do a 180, otherwise your path will be crooked and stay crooked
  • if you submit to God, you don’t have to fear being out of His moral will
  • let your God-given drive and energy determine your level of proactivity (Obviously, God blessed me with a lot of both!)

Questions to ask yourself in order to help you move toward marriage:

  • What are you going to do about your unwanted situation?
  • What else can you do to reach your godly goal of marriage?
  • Do you still feel ashamed of your desire for marriage or do you believe that it’s a healthy desire that God has put in most people?
  • Have you worked harder to look for a job/car/school than you’re willing to work to achieve the marriage you want? Why is that? What’s more important?
  • Do you feel annoyed that it might require work, effort, and energy on your part to get married to a wonderful godly person?
  • Do you feel entitled to lifelong romantic love without any effort?
  • Is God’s sovereignty an excuse to do nothing or a source of courage to step out in faith and achieve godly goals?
  • Do you believe that, in general, people who work hard attain their goals faster than those who don’t exert much effort?
  • What do you think of the strategy of sitting around and waiting for things to happen when you’re past 30 and nothing has happened so far?
  • Are you motivated to step up and go after the marriage of your dreams? If you are, then ask a wise, godly, happily married couple to mentor you in your pursuit of marriage, and brainstorm wise ways to search for marriage prospects.

If you’re excited about taking responsibility for your love life, get 3 FREE chapters of my book From Stuck in Singleness to Marrying Mr. Right when it comes out in July. The free offer is on my blog here.