Archive | March, 2012

True Confessions of an Online Dater

22 Mar

Online dating is like this.

My parents met at a mixer. It was in the middle of an apartment complex in 1974. Apparently there was dancing and drinks and my mom went up to my dad and said something like, “Aren’t you dancing tonight?” to which my dad replied, “I haven’t found anyone to dance with.’ Despite a few bumps in the road, they were married 9 months later on a farm (the same farm where Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall got married) at a potluck where my dad wore a T-shirt. I’m pretty sure because they weren’t rich, it was a nice but really low key event, like most events in my family have been celebrated ever since.

Seems like a pretty cut and dry story. I’ve started to wonder why it’s not that easy in Los Angeles to meet people.

I suppose I have pretty high standards these days. I tell my friends that I could probably easily go to a bar and find some random guy to hook up with if that was my style and not against my entire belief system. But that’s different than finding a relationship that will last. A person you want to do life with through the good and the bad. Someone who shares the same faith and dedication to God. Someone who I can respect. Someone who treats me well and thinks I’m the bees knees.

Someone who hasn’t been in jail.

But considering how difficult it’s become to meet new people in this city, I’m sort of starting to half-wonder if arranged marriage is really the worst idea in the world. (I tell my married friends to set me up, and I hope they will!) But meanwhile, I’ve taken matters into my own hands.

Confession: In the past few years on and off, I entered into the world of online dating. There are good and bad things about this realm.

The bad things first: Forrest Gump’s mom was right: you never know what you’re going to get.

I’ve been on dates with everyone from pastors to former prisoners (I found out on the date after emailing and talking on the phone with this guy for two weeks). I’ve had amazing email conversations followed by dates that were less than stellar. I’ve done long distance only to find out that he didn’t want to move after all. I’ve gotten invested too quickly and been saddened when it didn’t work out. I went out with one guy only to have him not talk to me the entire lunch. I’ve met some duds. It’s been quite a journey. Hard at times. It’s important to be safe and tell people where you’re going. And several times I swore I would never go back to this world.

But then something happens and I remember the good:

I’ve also met some amazing guys who have taught me a lot about myself and encouraged me in my faith. I’ve learned to risk. I know how to have fun with strangers now! Not a lot surprises me (especially after the prison confession). Yet, I have hope for online dating. Why?

Because one of my good friends who was incredible met an equally incredible man through online dating and now they have twins and a baby on the way. I’ve seen success stories! I know that in a city like Los Angeles when I get stuck in the “Pasadena bubble” as I like to call it, there are a whole bunch of good, kind, amazing men wanting to date. And it only takes one. So the odds are in my favor!

You never know where you'll find love...

Part of this is an encouragement to all of my friends who are either online or who want to be. It’s tough but it can be great. It’s risky but it can be fun! I’ve been to the beach, miniature golfing, to some restaurants I would have never gone to, to the Gamble House, to movies I ended up loving, to “Wicked”, I went to Disneyland with a guy I met online, and I’ve met men that I’m not sorry to have met. I’ve made connections, found guys who were serious about their faith and living it out, and had some deep conversations. Online dating, while not the most ideal/easy way to meet someone, can actually give us a lot of perspective, wisdom, and hope. And best of all, new experiences and great/hilarious stories for parties if things don’t work out. 🙂

Caveat: Online dating is kind of like a part time job. If you’re not dedicated to checking your profile and replying and emailing people, it’s sort of a waste of money and time. If you’re too picky, you’ll never find out what you do and don’t like. If you judge too quickly or aren’t able to discern what you want, it can be a problem.

I still go to mixers/parties in hopes that maybe I’ll meet the guy that I have enough guts to ask why he’s not dancing tonight. But in order to be actively available, sometimes I have to put aside my hopes to meet the man of my dreams at church (although I’m still hoping for that) and log in to my online dating profile and remember, this isn’t my parents’ story. And putting myself out there while risky might just help me find an amazing guy to share life with. And isn’t that worthwhile? My friend with the twins and the Iron Man husband  she met online would say “YES!”

 

How Do I Stop Being Awkward Around The Person I Used To Date Or Around The Person They Are Dating Now Part 2

14 Mar

A sign saying "awkward"

Awkward has become a word that people like to throw around. “That’s awkward” is used for all kinds of situations ranging from a wardrobe malfunction to something blurted out at the wrong time. But I can say this from experience. Very few things are more awkward than having to stay in community with someone you’ve dated and then watching them date again.

As I mentioned in Part One, I’ve had this experience several times and it’s never been pleasant. But I’m at the point where I have to accept it for what it is and trust that it’s not always going to feel like this.

There will be a point when most of the awkwardness passes. 

A friend of mine has literally watched her first love date and get married while she remained single after they’ve broken up. I’ve seen her go through the grief and then actually welcome her ex-boyfriend’s fiance into our community through a difficult but loving conversation. It was insanely hard but that one conversation has shaped her character in so many ways and changed the advice she gives about this topic. My friend had to pray a lot before this conversation. And when she felt the nudge to go and talk to the fiance, she didn’t ignore it. She could have. But she chose to step into the awkwardness.


So that’s what I do. I step into my awkwardness every week at church. It’s just a given. The guy I dated has a new girlfriend. Do I run away? Sometimes, I have, honestly, when I’m having a less than stellar moment. It’s just been too much and I get all Prodigal Son’s brother and start asking the “Why not me? I’ve done everything right” questions. As a result, I’ve avoided parties that they were going to likely be at. And then I stopped doing that because especially in the case where it’s my good friends hosting the party, I don’t want to miss it! I’m a social person. What if I meet someone new at one of these parties? It’s not my job to own the awkwardness and slink away from it. It’s my job to acknowledge it and step into it.

My friend, Merlin, does the best "awkward" face of anyone I know!

Stepping into the awkwardness means a lot of things which I’ve narrowed down to three for the time being.

  1. Giving yourself a pep talk before you might encounter the awkward situation.  For me this has to involve prayer. Even if it’s a quick one just saying that I need strength and courage, I pray. I’ve found peace in these prayers and probably grown more in my faith when I choose to go into situations with people I’ve dated that many would think I was crazy for walking into.

The pep talk can also be done in a mirror, in the front seat of your car, with a friend, and as a reminder that the relationship wasn’t right. My ex dating again doesn’t say anything about my value. And then I tell myself the truth about who I am according to God, not according to the automatic negative thoughts that are swirling in my head at that moment. Without badmouthing the guy I’ve dated and the girl he’s dating now, I’m able to walk into the situation more confident than I might have been. When I forget to do this, all bets are off and I’m a victim of my own awkwardness with sputtered words, strange looks, and hurt feelings.

2. Grace for yourself. This is important! Sometimes you’ve just had a bad week and the last thing you want to do is see the person you’ve dated again just when you’re wound is starting to heal. Then you happen to see them and something inside of you is triggered and you forget why you broke up in the first place. Or you have a case of “sideways glancing” and you start to do a little romantic revisionist history and suddenly your relationship seems amazing to you again. This is when it’s time for a reality check. As one of my favorite books says, “It’s called a breakup because it’s broken.” Some days it will be easier to deal with his/her new relationship than others. Have grace for yourself but don’t lash out in anger or revenge in the process.

(Mostly tips for girls in this section) If you find yourself doing that, go hang out with a friend in the church bathroom for a few minutes. Or write down your issues in a journal. Or do some yoga or high impact aerobics.

Take a breather.

One time months after my breakup was long over, something was triggered. At church a song was played that just wrecked me. I was a crying mess. I had to run outside to just let it out, which I did. Luckily a friend followed me and just stayed with me there. This is permissible. When the guy I dated started to date someone else, I made sure to surround myself with good people who can give me a reality check and the love that I need to co-exist in community with him on a weekly basis.

3. Grace for him and her. 

This one is difficult. It’s hard when the person you’ve dated is now on cloud 9 and you’re trying to figure out how to love, honor, and respect them from a distance while being single and wondering why you’re not dating, too. In my worst moments, I cry about it. In my best, I smile at him and especially her when she passes. Once I introduced myself because we have many of the same friends. Another time  I was friends with a girl a guy I dated  decided to date and so we figured out a way to walk out how the whole thing was supposed to work.

Suppose I’m not friends with the new girl, why would I not be friendly to a woman who I consider my sister in Christ? Aren’t we supposed to all love each other? Despite the fact that our culture says that the woman who dates “our man” is a backstabbing-choose-a-degrading-term-for-a-woman,

Jesus says something different.

He says love those who persecute you, he tells us that we should lay down our lives for our friends. He never says that following Him would be easy. Laying down our lives means sacrificial love and in my context, that means being happy that the guy I dated who I once loved and who I let love me is happy. It’s wanting the best for him and his new girlfriend. I’m not saying this is easy but when is love ever easy?


I’m not saying that I’m ever going to be best friends with the guy I dated or his new girlfriend. That’s unlikely but future interaction considering our overlapping friend groups is inevitable.  Had we the opportunity, it would be nice for us to all acknowledge one another sometime. It would be nice to exchange a few words to know that we’re all still members of the same church. That we all want the best for each other. And for me and him, acknowledgment that I’m not just some face in the crowd. But that we spent time together learning and growing and discovering what it meant to love both within the context of our relationship and beyond it.

Final thoughts: I don’t think that love ends when a relationship ends. Rather it’s the opposite. I’ve found that when a relationship ends, that’s when the test begins.

Will I love this person well even though we’re not together? Will I treat them with dignity and respect? Will I refrain from talking trash about them to my friends? Will I decide to not welcome and actually discourage comments from my friends about her?

Because the reality is, those comments could be said about me or any of my friends. And we’re not backstabbing. We’re just girls who want the chance to date in our community, just like the girl that the guy I used to date is currently dating. We want the opportunity to see if one of the guys in our church could be a good match with us.

By giving him and her grace, I’m giving the entire community permission to date and breakup without judgement. I’m allowing for love to reign over my fears that I’m going to be single forever. I’m allowing for God to intervene in the hard places. I’m choosing, once again, to trust.  And that’s not only good for me, but for all of us involved in this crazy, messy, amazing thing we call community.

How Do I Stop Being Awkward Around The Person I Used To Date Or Around The Person They Are Dating Now? Part 1

2 Mar

standing out (Photos by Brian Hershey)

Okay here’s the reality. I have in no way mastered not being awkward. I’m not even sure the awkwardness is “supposed to” go away completely. I’m currently in the process of figuring out what it means to co-exist with someone I’ve dated in the same community when they have started dating someone else and I’m single.

I can say this, it is a lot easier when both people who used to date are dating new people.

I know that if I was dating right now, I probably wouldn’t be thinking nearly as much about this topic as I am right now.

Part of me feels really good about my circumstances because something about it feels as if I’m supposed to be here writing this. I’m at the same coffee shop where, a year ago, I was talking about dating in community with a woman in my church who was on the same page as I am. It was just the beginning of this whole process. I was learning how to grieve well, let go, and learn to survive the messyness of sacrificial love. And despite the messyness, my community has grown. I have grown. Maybe you’ve grown? Because of that, I’m not sorry to be sitting here.

being the bigger flower

Let’s backtrack so I can give a little back story.

I was immature and terrible  at breaking up and staying in community. The first time I dated someone in community, he ended up leaving the church where we both went, so I was let off the hook. I was sad about it, but mostly relieved. I felt entitled. I claimed all of our mutual friends for myself. Some of my friends questioned this but I was young and didn’t really understand breakups except for the fact that they sucked and that my pain seemed unbearable which made it the most important thing in my mind.

The next time I broke up in community I was a little older and it happened right before I moved to Washington DC for an awesome internship. I didn’t have to face the reality of the situation until four months later upon my return. That was a huge wake up call. I don’t remember the exact details except that I again tried to claim friends and they felt awkward about it. I didn’t understand that there didn’t have to be sides. It wasn’t me vs him and he wasn’t my enemy. We just both got to a place where we realized that it wasn’t going to work. We weren’t bad people, we were just bad together. But when he started bringing a girl around to all of the community activities we used to do together that all went out the window and I was totally devastated.

I took it VERY personally. I was single, he was moving on. I could not accept it. I tried to be in community with him and his new girlfriend but ultimately, I left the church for a breather and never went back. Not ideal. We later ended up reconciling and I apologized to both of them for my behavior. While we’re not  friends now, it’s not because I don’t want the best for them.  They ended up getting married but before their wedding I emailed him wishing him my best. If I saw them out and about, I probably would say hi and it would be fine. Again though, I had to go through quite a process to get to that place.

The most recent time that I broke up in community has been by far the hardest. But I’ve grown the most. This time leaving the community has not been an option. I have good, solid friends (pretty much family) that I wouldn’t want to leave. He is a leader in our community and won’t leave unless an act of God calls him away.

So I had to make a choice.

I either had to put my big girl britches on and learn how to do this gracefully OR  fight it tooth and nail and repeat my same mistakes. (This blog has been one of the ways that I’ve been able to process this.) And so we come to the awkwardness. I’m not going to sugar-coat this for you. Breaking up in community is probably one of the most painful things I’ve ever had to go through. In fact, I stayed in relationships way too long just to avoid it.

I. Hate. Breakups.

And not just mine but my friends’. My friends of friends. They just aren’t the way things are meant to be. It should be easier. But sometimes it’s just plain hard…and awkward. We’ll get into that in Part 2.

Stay tuned…

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