Archive | May, 2011

Dating in Community Is Risky Part 3 of 3

31 May

WHY RISKY?: So why is dating in community risky? Because people can get hurt and often do. Initial friendships can turn romantic and then either lead to a great relationship or sometimes to awkwardness. Two friends who have known one another in a friend context for years can decide to date and then it doesn’t work out. But here’s the deal: Dating in general is risky. It just is. But name one thing worthwhile that does not have some sort of risk associated with it?

One of the reasons it’s risky to date within a community is because it requires a level of self-control and maturity along with it. What do I mean? Well, when one dates in community, one needs a little bit of discernment to know when to share and when to hold back with other members of the community.  People talk. But just because people talk does not mean we should not take the risk and try dating one another to see if there is a good fit. It just means that we need to know when to share with others in our community and when to keep our mouths shut while we figure it out.

I mentioned before that I believe involving community while you date is very important.  I am fortunate enough to have pastors, friends, married people, counselors, and others within my community and beyond helping guide me through dating, breaking up, and all of the other parts of the process. I trust them to help me when I need it. I also have to trust God. That part should come first.

BRIEFLY ON GOSSIP: To have self-control in dating within community means that I am careful with my words. I think before I speak and ask myself if what I’m saying is honoring the person I’ve dated or wanted to date.  I discern who to talk to about my feelings.  I don’t tell everyone everything I’m feeling although I used to do that and I ended up learning that it is not always appropriate.  Now I choose my few “safe people” who I can share with who won’t judge me but who will correct me if I’m off course. They love me that much.

Since I’m a strong verbal processor, it’s easy for me to just go off and talk about my feelings for hours even if they involve another person or people. I have to be careful to not let my words taint what other people think. It’s very tricky. That’s just gossiping and I want to avoid that. I wouldn’t want anyone gossiping about me or saying things to damage my reputation. Nor would I want to cause harm to someone else through my words or actions.  So I need to be extra careful in this area because I’m easily tempted to think I’m just helping someone understand the scope of everything I’m feeling when really I’m just gossiping and trying to get people to “be on my side.”

BRIEFLY ON BOUNDARIES: I won’t get too far into the topic of boundaries and the self-control needed to keep them in the context of this blog entry. I do hope to cover it at some time in the future, though. Dating in community is messy when boundaries aren’t kept.  That’s when soul ties are formed, which can be damaging and unhealthy. (more about soul ties later). Breaking soul ties is one of the hardest things to do. It’s painful.

If people learned how to date in a healthier manner in community, being honest, clear, and decisive about physical, spiritual, and emotional boundaries, oh how different the world of dating would look in our communities and churches! 

So much more to say on why dating in community is risky, but still so worth while! I know many couples (some of whose weddings I’ve been to or am going to) who figured this all out. They dated in community successfully! They took a risk, dated (sometimes comically and frustratingly), and are now taking an even bigger and worthwhile risk in marriage. This gives me hope. It can be done. Despite all of the risks, some people just go for it. I hope to have an in person panel with some of these couples to ask them how it worked for them, to hear their stories, and to encourage single people within my own community to keep hoping and to risk dating someone they may have never considered who might have been right in front of them all along!

Dating In Community Is Risky Part 2

30 May

Okay so in my last blog, I kept you hanging. So why do I think it’s best for people to date within their own community? Why do I want to date in mine?  I’ll start with two reasons with separate parts, otherwise I might have to make a Part 3 for this blog!

Fear is not a good enough reason to not date in community. In 1 Peter 5:7 it says  “Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.” As a Christian, I want to trust God with all of my cares. That includes my dating life. Yes, it’s scary to try again and date in community. It might end. I might have to watch someone I once loved date someone else. Possibly even one of my friends because my friends are awesome and why wouldn’t he want to date them? (again, another blog) I’m afraid that I will be left alone and maybe someone will blacklist me because I already dated once. I’m afraid to start from scratch and have to get to know someone all over again after investing so much time and energy on something that didn’t work out.  Are these real fears? They feel real. The reality is, it comes down to trust. I have to trust that I am enough. That God loves me so much that he will be with me through it all. And he has been. When fear gets in my way, I am reminded to go back to the places where he has been there for me before and remember how I trusted and through that I can choose to trust again.  I’m a woman and I process the world through my feelings. But, I followed my feelings all of the time, I would have ended up in several terrible marriages. I would have left my community 7 months ago.  I would have run and hid. I would have been afraid to grieve and still been paralyzed by it. Instead, I chose to stay. I chose to endure. To be fair, there are plenty of times I come home for a serious cry after having to live this out. But I still think that right now it is what I’m being invited to. A higher level of maturity. A deep trust.

Meeting someone in my community is not the only option, but it’s the best option. When there are potentially amazing  people right in front of you, why would you need to look somewhere else? Where else am I going to meet someone who holds true to the same core values that I do?

A bar? Nope. I’ve been to plenty of bars. I’ve met guys in bars before.  I’m not saying that it’s impossible to meet a solid,  Christ-following, mission-minded man in a bar, but it’s the exception, not the rule.  Just like missionary dating. (Been there, done that, wouldn’t recommend it). Rather than spend my time  and money out at a bar on a long shot, wouldn’t it be better for me to invest in the guys who are more similarly aligned with  me which will yield a higher possibility of a successful relationship in the long run?

What about online? Okay, tons of my friends have met and married the man or woman of their dreams online. It happens. It works for many. I’m not ruling this out by any means, but it definitely complicates things when you meet someone online who doesn’t live nearby or attend your church.  Suddenly you’re living for Skype dates and weekend meet ups. Or if the person does live nearby and it does work out, one of you will have to make the hard decision to leave your community and join another.  This is not the worst thing in the world. But wouldn’t it be easier and better (assuming there are people in your community to date) to date in a way where people know both of you and can speak into your relationship? Relationships become insuluar quickly and easily enough without having to introduce more factors that may make it easier for a couple to withdraw further from community.  When two people from two different communities date, it makes it harder for any one community to help keep them accountable. The couple then must make it an even bigger priority to hang out with people in community who can help them determine if their relationship is healthy or not. I’m a big believer, now more than ever before, of dating within the context of community. If we date without having people check in on us, ask us questions, or help us through tough spots, we can easily become myopic, seeing only what we want to see and we will, in effect, potentially waste a lot of time trying to figure out a relationship that should have probably ended much earlier had we allowed others to see it for what it really was. NOTE: There is this phenomenon happening where people who are online dating and who are involved within the same community get matched.  To me, this is indicative of a bigger problem. Why can’t these two people  who get matched up online date each other in real life? Why pay all of this money to find out you’d be a good match when you can just take the risk, ask someone out (or say yes to the person who asks you out), and find out on your own without dropping $50 a month? Seems ridiculous, no?

Set-ups?  I’m ALL for set-ups. I personally think it’s a married person’s business and responsibilty to advocate for marriage and to help set up their unmarried friends. I have a single friend who literally told her married friends that she would pay  them $1000 if they introduced her to her husband.  There is something to be said for married people who have been through it and who know you really well and who want the best for you setting you up with someone who they think is a good match.  Of course, you need to trust the people who set you up and if they are too invested, it can be messy. I have another friend  whose parents try to constantly set her up with every single guy they come across.  That doesn’t work because she sees through their motivations and just gets annoyed at the set-ups. Ideally, I think people should set you up with people you may not know very well who are in your community.  This extra push can help put some relationships that would never otherwise  start due to unrealistic expectations, fear of dating in the same community, and fear of rejection on the right track from early on.

More to come… in Part 3.

Dating In Community Is Risky: Part 1

30 May

This is what dating in community feels like sometimes. Can you relate?

Dating in community is always a risk. Let me repeat that. Dating in community is RISKY. Always. Why is that the case? Because we as humans are flawed. We sin. We mess up. We are impatient and selfish. We often don’t want to face our deepest fears. The “maybe this will happen” and “what if that will happen” scenarios always creep in.

Sometimes we aren’t mature enough to handle the ramifications of breaking up in community and neither is the person we’ve dated. I have been that not-so-mature person several times. I’m still trying to figure out and pray through how to want the best for the people I’ve dated in my community in the past. It’s a process that doesn’t just magically happen.  For me it’s been being intentional in the decisions I make, the words I use, the thoughts I allow myself to sit in, and the feelings that I act on or have to give to God.  I am still trying to walk this out. It’s a difficult process.  But once I made the decision to walk out what it looks like to date, break up, and stay in my community and advocate for healthy dating patterns amongst my friends and peers, my life has not been the same. I say this to encourage people who are not sure that this can be done that it indeed can and it is in my community amongst me and several of my friends.

Ideally, it would be great to not have to see the person you’ve dated after you break up. In one book I’ve read about breakups, they call this the 60 day he-tox or she-tox. The author contends that if you don’t see the person for 60 days, it’s much easier to get over that person.  I tend to agree (as I’ve done that in the past) but in a Christian context where we are called to love one another despite the costs (Jesus says to his disciples, “ Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.”) and when we’re so rooted in the communities we’ve worked for, invested in, and risked to build, leaving them seems out of the question.

I’ve noticed that when I date and then break up in community, I’m immediately tested and have to live out what that means.  In the most honest version of my story, I’ve done this so poorly in the past that I’ve almost lost friends over it.  I left a church because of it. I cut myself off from considering dating again in my past community after these bad experiences. The awkwardness has overcome me at times and all of my deepest fears came to fruition.  He dated again after me. He married the person I watched him bring to church. He moved on. Without me.  But the truth of the matter is, so did I. Yes it was incredibly hard to grieve that loss, but

the fact of the matter is this: I’ve dated in the context of communities and the relationships haven’t worked out but I would still much rather date in my community than date anywhere else. 

That’s why I want to advocate for this! I’ve been there and it hasn’t worked. I’ve also been there and am now doing my best to walk out what it looks like to stay in a community where I’ve dated someone for more than a year and am no longer with him.

So why am I advocating for this? Why am I so passionate about creating a community where dating can be done from start to finish in a healthy way, where we can want the best for the people we’ve dated and for our friends?   To be continued in Part 2…

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