This year, the Modern Ruth Project will feature occasional interviews with specialists and professionals who are experienced in each month’s topic. This month, I had a delightful and insightful conversation with international Christian dating coach, Jessica Santosa.
MRP: How did you get into relationship/dating coaching?
Jessica: After 5 years [of being] single and unconvinced that sitting in my bedroom, praying and waiting for men in my church to ask me out wasn’t working, in 2014, I secretly enlisted a secular dating coach that utterly transformed my life . That was when the concept of even having a dating coach was introduced to me!
I’m talking late night YouTube videos, headphones in, quilt overhead, fully immersed in this guy’s work. He educated me on the male mind, why I kept trainwrecking relationships, and what bits of the past gave no help to my present. During this time, I wasn’t sure if God approved of my new obsession with dating advice. I had been following Jesus since I was 17. Now I was 26, incredibly frustrated, confused and felt largely judged by the people in my church. Looking back, I realize that perhaps He was leading me to fill a gap in the Kingdom, which is now my joy, honor, and privilege.
With my dating coach, I gained a clandestine sort of power. I also learned that I was the prize to be won. I finally started to have fun being single and had a revelation of my own worth and beauty. My confidence soared, and I enjoyed connecting with people wherever I went. I would get a number of offers to go on dates from men in and outside of church, and the Lord gave me peace about that process. I realized dating could be this really enjoyable season where a woman learns the power of her femininity in Christ without losing herself, that she could be the chooser, firm in who she is and what she wants.
During 2014 through 2016, I was simply desperate to get to the bottom of what I call a “broken Christian dating culture.” I started recording these theories for entertainment on my personal blog, complete with Canva designed cartoon-like illustrations, making fun of myself and my experiences. My pastor, my friends, and my connect group were incredibly supportive and enjoyed these articles, saying they felt refreshed and relieved by the honesty! The churches I grew up in were good at teaching marriage, leadership and serving, but not so helpful on teaching singles to date with honesty, enjoyment and strategy.
The drive solidified when I learned that I had 6 committed Christian friends who were already divorced. Out of the six, 3 told me how they first got together, and many discussed about how “God gave them a word” or “They were just so madly in love they went ahead with the wedding.” Many rode on the expectations and excitement of their community, honestly thinking they were making the right decision, only to find that the voices of others overrode their own judgement of the person they [were marrying].
The state of Christian dating culture in Sydney, Australia [my home country] left many of my peers confused and frustrated. The more I wrote, the more my peers praised my candid, brutally honest accounts. My blog was found by Match UK, who then asked me to contribute to the Christian Dating section of their website.
Then text message screenshots from girlfriends and guy friends alike started rolling in. I would write scripts back to my friends, telling them what to say to the people they were dating. And soon I became the dating coach of my church community.
One day, I experimented with a banner ad on my website for a free 15 minute Love Readiness Assessment, and attracted clients from the UK, Albania, Canada, the U.S., and Australia. And that was when I realized the bride of Christ is in need of a dating coach who understands the problems unique to her context as Kingdom people. I can’t believe the amount of people that tune [into my Instagram Live show] (all 55 of them every Saturday, hooray!). The heart is something every Jesus-loving single is desperate to get right under God’s biblical direction.
MRP: What are the benefits of enlisting a dating coach?
Jessica: We go to a personal trainer if we want to increase in health and strength. We go to a financial advisor to learn how to budget, invest and handle money. Women succeed in their vocations because they do some formal training in their chosen careers, but rarely are people taught how to intentionally build a healthy romantic relationship.
My clients receive a coach who is fully invested in their love lives and will guide them on how to navigate the dating jungle from wherever they are in their journey. I’ve been a Christian for 13 years, went to Bible college for 2, and worked in the helping profession for 8 years. It’s my obsession and hunger to consume wisdom on how to do rich, meaningful relationships God’s way. I was also 5 years single and experienced what it was like to be lonely, horny, and desperate, but managed to grasp onto God’s hand into peace, enjoyment and freedom in dating.
MRP: Why do you think it’s so hard to date as a Christian woman?
- Overspiritualization: Too much praying in bedrooms about it and not enough taking small risks to just meet people and put yourself out there.
- Comparison & unrealistic standards: Many Christian women I’ve coached spend too many hours comparing themselves to the couples preaching on the pulpit, and think “I won’t settle for anything less than that.” What it’s really about is thrashing it out with God about who you are and what your mission is. We’re the Body of Christ for a reason where every ligament does its different job!
- Fear of judgment: I encourage my clients to go on lots of dates, whether through dating apps or accepting coffee from the guy in her Bible study, even if she’s not that into him. Dating experience is so taboo in the church context, when actually that’s been recommended by experts as the path to gaining a full understanding of what character and emotional style will be best suited to you. I was casually dating 4 wonderful, marriage-minded Christian guys so I could make an informed decision about who my life partner would be, until the Holy Spirit led me to the ONE right man.
- Negativity bias: I’ve had some amazing successful Christian women quote dreary statistics to me about how there are significantly less men than women out there, until I told them I was accepting casual dates from 4 eligible Christian guys before I decided to become exclusive with one. (BTW: That one turned out to be the love of my life!) And I’m sure I figured it out through having a wide berth of dating experience, which trained me on how to pick the right guy!
MRP: What are some of the most common dating mistakes Christian women make?
- Emotionally over-investing way too early in the process. I think this is caused by how rarely Christian guys ask us out for coffee. So much that the Christian woman jumps at the opportunity when “this must be it.” Compatibility is ascertained by prolonged loving actions over time, not a whirlwind romantic pursuit, as lovely as it feels in the moment!
- Sitting pretty: Call me a hard-line pragmatist, but I think too many Christian women are “waiting” and not doing enough “acting.” Go out there, network, strike up friendly conversations with guys and girls alike!
- Misunderstanding godly femininity and masculinity: Women need men and men need women! Both sexes benefit from serving each other when we reflect God in the complimentary ways we have been created. I find that much of my content surrounds educating women on the male mindset. For example, a woman may start the conversation with a man, but then it’s up to him to pursue her. Because if she chases the man, it robs him of his “masculine birthright” to chase, pursue, and win her.
MRP: What are the biggest obstacles faced by Christian women in the dating world? How can they be overcome?
Jessica: Standing firm as God’s daughter in the secular dating context, and funnelling out meaningful dating experiences from dross. Also, denying our sexual appetite is a huge obstacle, and the church are not giving clear answers on how to deal with these desires. I am blessed in that my church regularly invites a Christian sexologist to speak at the young adults conferences. But the topic is so difficult to navigate that many women reach 30 and relax their standards because they are tired of waiting and feeling ashamed.
To be honest, I’m not sure on how to overcome this. I know the desire for sex lessened for me once I fell in love with my boyfriend because our emotional and spiritual connection is so strong. Now waiting until we’re married is without question.
MRP: What advice would you give Christian women who have never been on a date or in a relationship?
Jessica: I’d say, “You’re amazing, but you need to stop taking yourself so seriously. Download CoffeeMeetsBagel and have fun!” Honestly! If you’ve followed the Lord for a long time, trust in your ability to maintain your boundaries, and enjoy getting to know guys slowly at the cross road of building connection and potential romance.
MRP: What relationship resources (books, sites, programs) would you recommend to a single Christian woman?
- Boundaries in Dating: How to Get a Date Worth Keeping by Henry Cloud and John Townsend.
- The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work by John Gottman (and really anything by him and his wife Julie Gottman – they are the leaders in research on how to make marriages last).
- Get the Guy and all YouTube content by Matthew Hussey (my Dating Coach! But I’d only recommend this to mature Christians who knew how to assess his material through God’s lens.)
- The Comfort Blog by yours truly!
- Love & Respect by Emerson Eggerichs
- Anything by Bruce Bryans
MRP thanks Jessica for sharing her wisdom with us! Learn more about Jessica and her coaching at www.jessica-santosa.com and follow her on Instagram (@jessica.santosa) and Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/jessica.santosa). Also, Jessica has published an e-book, “The Five Foundations To Attract Your Mr Right.” The book details five building blocks to changing your dating habits. You can get the first chapter as a FREE download by clicking here: (http://www.jessica-santosa.com/shop/the-five-foundations-to-attract-your-mr-right)