(Dating Stigma Series 2 of 4)
If you’ve ever experienced a breakup, you know how devastating it can feel, especially after a long-term relationship. It can feel like your world, full of hopes and dreams, is crashing down on you, and you’re left with lots of broken pieces to pick up. The future you envision disappears in an instant, and you’re unable to grasp what is happening. That, my friends, is the unfortunate part of dating. Because if you date to figure out if this is the right person for you, sometimes the answer is yes, and oftentimes the answer is no. But what if I told you that there is a way to make a breakup sting a little less and that it actually starts way before you enter a relationship?
The last blog post in this series was about the fear and shame that sometimes accompanies dating. People are afraid to be public about their relationship for multiple reasons; one is facing the consequences of a breakup. Breakups are hard enough to deal with, and worrying about people’s perceptions doesn’t make it easier. So I understand why you might want to date in private, or at least until a certain point when you’re sure you want to share your relationship publicly.
I hope as a community, we can get better at giving people space and grace after a breakup. And the only way we change that is if you and I start challenging the status quo. Like Mahatma Gandhi said, “Be the change you wish to see in the world.”
As an engineer, I like to think in a systematic way and break things down by processes. So if I had to break down dating into a simple process, here are some dating best practices that I’d recommend:
Before pursuing someone or entering a relationship, you must know your boundaries. And not just physical boundaries, but emotional ones as well. If you need help figuring out those boundaries, I suggest reading Boundaries in Dating.
Do not get too close too quickly. Guard your heart with wisdom and let each season of the relationship unfold naturally. Take your time, and don’t get your hopes up right away. Meaning don’t start naming your kids after the first date. Get to know them and allow them to show you who they really are.
Make decisions with your mind and not just your heart because your emotions and feelings can often lead you astray. Don’t fall in love with a false idea of who they are that you’ve made up. Don’t fall in love with potential
Get guidance throughout the relationship and have a group of people who will point out obvious flaws when you’re too blinded by “love” to see them.
If everything is going smoothly, you can slowly and wisely get closer to them and reveal more of yourself to them.
If things aren’t going well and you realize this isn’t the right person for you, be kind when expressing your desire to move on from the relationship. This way, ending things will not feel like the end of the world. You’ve logically figured out they weren’t the right person for you and were able to respectfully break up.
Now I know this is easier said than done because it is natural to get emotionally attached to someone you’re seeing. You are investing your time, energy, and feelings into the relationship. But all I’m saying is to do it at a healthy pace and with wisdom.
You might not want to hear this, but you can do all of that and still be on the bitter end of a breakup. Relationships take two people, and one might be all in and the other not so much. The only thing to do is try to move forward and learn from it if you can, without becoming bitter towards them, yourself, or relationships in general.
People are often left battling unanswered questions, trying to make sense of a messy breakup. They ask, “Why did God allow this to happen to me?” Well, that’s a tricky question because we also have a part in this. Our free will led us to the relationship, and maybe someone else’s led us out. God did not make anything happen against our will; therefore, we cannot blame Him. We might never know why God allows certain things to happen, but we can focus on our part in it and learn what we can. We can let an unpleasant situation build us up or break us down. I believe that in our hardest times, we can be refined by fire if we choose to focus on the positive and not let the negative burn us.
I highly recommend some form of counseling. If you feel like you’ve come to an end and you cannot find a u-turn out, therapy or coaching can help you see the light at the end of the tunnel. When I coach young men and women after breakups, we observe what went wrong and what they learned. That way the same mistakes aren’t made again, and they break any unhealthy cycles that might exist. Don’t be so quick to put all the blame on the other person because I guarantee you, through some self-reflection, you can realize that there is always room for self-improvement (or at least improvement in choosing who you date and how you date).
Do not let your fear of rejection and heartbreak hold you back from pursuing other relationships. Trust in God and His goodness. Trust in His healing grace and mercy. Remember His promises, and you will be able to move on again.
“And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.” (Romans 8:28)
“Trust in the Lord with all your heart, And lean not on your own understanding; In all your ways acknowledge Him, And He shall direct your paths.” (Proverbs 3:5-6)