The Love Everybody Wants
Looking for Love
Searching in All the Right Places
We love love. We love the rush that bubbles up inside when we think about it. We can easily be swept up. Obsessed. Infatuated. We are hardwired for connection. We want to be seen, known, and, yes, loved. We want to be chosen, to be valued. Maybe you could even say we are made to love. But it doesn’t take a PhD in the psychology of modern romance to know that finding deep love and connection is, well, not easy.
I know this has been true for me. Want a sneak peek of the real conversation going on in my head when I started to write this book as a single woman?
How many more wrong ones until the right one?
Is there something wrong with me?
Do I settle for good enough?
What if no one else will love me?
What if I end up alone?
What if I get hurt again?
Why is it so hard to let go?
Am I hard to love?
Am I enough?
Ugh, why can’t relationships be easy?
How many more breakups until I finally get the whole “till death do us part”?
How many more tears and fears until peace and joy?
Will I ever be happy?
My guess is I’m not alone in constantly asking these questions. We’re glued to our phones, social media, and TV dating shows. We’re bombarded with images of love and relationships and sex and happiness and weddings and influencers who seem to have picture-perfect lives. But so many of us feel alone and confused. We’re asking, Why hasn’t love panned out for me? I’m tired of not being chosen.
It might come as a surprise to some that I struggle with this—but I do. You may know me from season 24 of ABC’s The Bachelor, which aired in 2020. You may have read my first book, Made for This Moment. Or maybe you have no idea who I am, but you’re desperately hoping to hear something refreshing and helpful on the topic of love. Something that goes beyond “Don’t have sex until you’re married” and “Wait on God’s timing.” Though I’ve tried to put both of those pieces of advice into practice myself, I know that something more is needed during the in-between. We need something greater than a list of rules so that if we do meet our someone, we’re ready for them.
Trust me—I did plenty of dating “Madi’s way” and ended up with regret. I wound up hurt and feeling either like I was being rejected or like I was wasting valuable time and emotions. I’m not perfect and will never claim to be—just ask my friends and family! But I have suffered to the point that I was willing to do something different in order to find peace and joy. I stopped searching for love and instead started at the foundation of love itself—by learning to bring my longings to God and to accept and love myself first.
By the way, I think it’s worth mentioning that loving yourself doesn’t always look how culture and social media make it look. It’s not just about posting workout selfies or getting massages with girlfriends. More on that later, but another goal of this book is to encourage you to look beyond what you see online and on TV. Not just about love, but about people’s lives. Those are such one-dimensional portrayals of reality. I should know—people are always shocked when they get to know me and see that I’m just as insecure, just as tired of dating, and just as worn out as they are. I was anyway. What happened in between the worn-out and where I am now?
That’s exactly what I’m going to tell you.
But first let me say, there are no simple answers to questions on dating and marriage, mostly because our hearts are funny things, and people aren’t always simple. A quick internet search reveals plenty of people eager to dish out oversimplified relationship advice. But here’s what I want to tell you: I think there is a better way. A deeper way. A way forward that sets our hearts in order and helps us see our longings and experiences in a new light.
And before you think I’m setting out to write a “how to get a boyfriend” book, you should know that’s not the goal. I want to show you how to look to God, see yourself, and find deep love amid our culture’s shallow ideas about romance.
Because the truth is, finding the love everybody wants isn’t nearly as complicated as we’ve made it. In fact, the Bible tells us pretty clearly how love works in Matthew 22:35–39—my inspiration for writing this book:
One of them, an expert in the law, tested him with this question: “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”
Jesus replied: “ ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ ”
First and foremost, we must set our hearts right with God, know the depths of his love for us, and believe that his words about us are true. Then comes the often-difficult work of learning to love ourselves. When we get those two relationships where they should be, only then can we start to talk about loving other people, whether that’s cultivating a deep community of friends, better relationships with family, or a romantic relationship—all three of which combine to create a healthy support system.
If you want to use a tried-and-true metaphor, imagine your life as a house. Your relationship with God is the foundation. Your relationship with yourself is the framework and walls. You can’t start adding furniture and decorations before the foundation and walls are in place. I mean, you can try. But you won’t be successful.
The message of this book isn’t that the ultimate finish line in life is to find a spouse and live happily ever after or that in order to be happy or have purpose, you have to find your person. It’s not my intention to help you get married off. My goal is for you to understand that while we aren’t made to go through life alone, we can’t expect to have thriving friendships or romantic relationships until we’ve established our relationships with God and with ourselves.
What if we never find the person we’re searching for? Does that mean we can’t be fulfilled? I remember being young and praying, “God, I trust you in everything, but I’m kind of hoping that singleness is not your will for my life.” Why is that? Why do so many of us connect marriage with wholeness? The truth is that as I’ve grown older, I’ve experienced the ways building meaningful relationships with God and with ourselves leaves little room for loneliness or unfulfillment.
On the search for a deeper understanding of love, we all must work through the clichés and shallow ideas we’ve come to accept as truth—ideas like, If I just had a significant other, I would feel whole and I have to follow my heart above all else. While there are obviously wonderful aspects of being with another person, these ideas aren’t the fullest expression of God’s love and calling for us. That’s not to say we should ignore our emotions. That would be unrealistic—impossible, even. But we can’t be controlled by our emotions either.
These clichés can make their way into our hearts and influence how we think things should be. We often think we’re owed love the way the world defines it. In light of that, each of the following chapter titles is a common phrase related to dating and relationships that has become ingrained in our vocabulary through social media and culture. I want to help you examine these ideas and evaluate the truth of them. And in doing so, I believe we can arrive at a deeper understanding of what God says about love, because it’s only by embracing this understanding that we can experience peace, joy, and wholeness without fear for our future.
In this book, I’ll lay out some of the issues we’re facing emotionally and spiritually, addressing everything from social media relationship trends to biblical insights into God’s ideas for marriage and identity. Together, we’ll tackle love, faith, dating culture, and personal worth in a refreshing manner. Beginning in chapter 2, you’ll find QR codes embedded at the end of each chapter. These links will direct you to short videos and other digital resources covering a range of topics—things like the essentials I look for in a relationship, prayers for when your heart is hurting, and words for seasons of waiting. My prayer is that as I share my experience, you’ll be encouraged no matter where you are in life.
When we can learn to see relationships with God, ourselves, and others in whole, holy, and healthy ways, our hearts will stop looking for love in the wrong places. We’re made for love, but it takes work to get these loves in order. But believe me when I say, it’s possible to know the love of God. It’s possible to love—and maybe even like—yourself. It’s possible to navigate the matrix of relationships with confidence and hope. It’s possible to look out to your future with joy—because you were made for love.