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.

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4 Responses to “How Do I Stop Being Awkward Around The Person I Used To Date Or Around The Person They Are Dating Now Part 2”

  1. Matthew Abate March 14, 2012 at 12:59 pm #

    …well-written, but that’s a given…the best part about this piece is that there’s depth and honesty regarding the tricksy terrain of dating within the church…

    • purpleambrosia March 14, 2012 at 1:11 pm #

      Thanks for the compliment, Matthew! Yes, through this blog I hope to, in a loving way, uncover the reality of what some of us in the church are thinking as we face these issues.

      Mission: I, in order to revolutionize and impact dating and friendship practices within my church community and the extended Christian subculture, contend for a lifestyle of sacrificial love and outline
      realistic ways to live it out.

  2. Jessica March 15, 2012 at 6:18 pm #

    romantic revisionist history — you are brilliant

  3. BedroomDoor April 10, 2012 at 8:59 am #

    I have just been through a break up, four and a half years with my Girlfriend, I am really struggling to with the end,she left me for somebody else and I must say has been pretty nasty to me since, I want to be the bigger man and be happy for them and try to forgive, but it just don’t seem to be able to, your post is amazing, I love the part give yourself a pep talk, I have not seen her since we split but feel when I do I am not going to be able to control my anger after she cheated on me. I recently wrote a piece on my experience, but feel I am just being negative about the whole thing.
    http://bedroomdoor.wordpress.com/2012/04/09/young-love-real-love/

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