Tag Archives: boundaries in dating

Dating In Community: What Does It Actually Look Like?

20 May

We’re all in this together…except when it comes to my dating relationship. What?! Why would I isolate myself from those who know me best?

The term “dating in community” has come up a lot lately both in my circle of friends, with my roommate, and as I’m reading more from dating experts.

What does it actually mean?

It sounds like a nice enough concept but sometimes it’s harder than it looks. True confession: I’ve made my home on Boy Island more than once and it’s only after I emerged during the breakup phase of the relationship that I realized that I wasn’t actually letting my friends and family into my relationship. Otherwise, had I let them in, they would have seen red flags months before and noticed how much I was changing and not being me in those relationships, and alerted me to that fact. Would it have made a difference? Maybe yes, maybe no, but it would have likely saved me time being in relationships that were not right for me.

As I watch my friends date and I go out on dates, I notice that there’s this tendency to close off from other people. At the beginning, this is normal. You’re getting to know someone, you’re in the “fun” phase of the relationship, and all you really want to do is spend time with the new person in your life. That’s fine. But after the newness starts to fade, some people (myself included) often make the mistake of staying in their little twosome bubble and not allowing friends and loved ones to be a part of the relationship. Please don’t mistake this: I’m not advocating that dating in community means that we need to tell everyone in our community our deepest darkest secrets or spend no time with our significant others without a third party present. What I’m noticing is this trend to separate off into couplehood quickly without completely understanding the ramifications of that decision. And there are ramifications.

From what I’ve noticed, when a couple becomes exclusively “a couple”, some tend to drift quickly toward co-dependency and then suddenly doing things alone seems impossible. Also, the stable networks of friends and family go by the wayside and often feel neglected and ditched when it doesn’t have to be this way.  If the couple would think about hanging out in group settings once in awhile, finding some close co-ed couples to hang out with (maybe even married people who they trust), getting to know each other’s friend networks…this might actually be healthy. Then dating in community would be possible and breakups might not be so completely devastating. (They are bad enough because of the fact when breakups happen, it’s like losing a best friend. But when you wake up and realize you’ve lost all of your friends, that makes the transition from couplehood to singlehood again even more precarious.)

The pattern I notice (and I’ve been this girl) is that once a girl and guy break up, a girl suddenly realizes she needs her friends but because she’s been MIA for many months at a time, her friends feel resentful that they now have to be there for her when she hasn’t reciprocated the friendship due to her relationship with her former boyfriend. Her friends, being rockstars, often begrudgingly help her through her breakup and then she sees how neglected they’ve been. Then she goes off and does it again. It’s a pattern. We all do it, to some degree because it’s natural to shift priorities, have less time, etc when you start dating. But noticing the pattern and committing to date in community could be a healthier way to date in the long run.

Dating in community to me means not becoming one of those people that gets so sucked into their one relationship that they neglect everything else. Work, friendships, family obligations, self-care time, spiritual time, schooling, and other things that fill your schedule shouldn’t just completely fall by the wayside as soon as someone starts to capture your attention. It’s a delicate balance. It’s definitely not easy.

I have several ideas of how to date in community. I’m by no means an expert, but I’m also a student in this respect, wanting to learn how to do it well.  But what I’m going to do in my next relationship is  to be open about it with various people and let them into the process through prayer, time spent with me and my significant other, conversations, and by asking for accountability in this area.

Sometimes love means having the ability to say to your friends, “I want you to help me date well because I lose myself in relationships. I need your eyes, ears, and knowledge of who I am as I do this.”

What will this look like? 

-Have my friends and family get to know the guy before I’m too serious and get to see us in the context of our relationship. Ask questions. Am I still me? How am I doing on my boundaries I set for my time apart from the new guy? How do I behave when I’m around him? How does he behave? Does he treat me well? So many times my parents have told me after the fact that they didn’t like the way I was treated by many of the guys I’ve brought home to meet them. And they were right. But I wasn’t at a place where I wanted to hear them because I liked my little spot on Boy Island and I didn’t really want to leave. That’s why when dating in community it’s essential that you…

Listen to the answers! If there are red flags, what am I going to do about those? If I’m staying in the relationship because I’m too afraid of the pain of a break up, I need to admit this to my friends and hopefully they will help me make the decision to end things irregardless.

Talk to married people, not just single people. They will help me know if this guy is a keeper and knowing marriage, they will be able to see things that my single friends might miss. Love my single friends. They know me so well. But getting a broader perspective is key.

Not succumb to pressure by others to make a quick decision but have fun dating and getting to know someone. It’s not helpful when people start throwing out the “M” word wayyyy too early. Not helpful at all. You can tell your community to “SHHHH!” if they are doing this to you. I’ve had to say that before to others.

-To Facebook or Not To Facebook? Funnily enough, part of dating in community has now become all about social networking. Do we share this info about our new dating relationship with our social networks and how? When? Trying to make a good decision about “going public” is huge in the context of dating in community. Thinking about and discussing this topic is important. I will blog more about this another time.

There’s a lot of other ways to “Date in Community.” Have you done it? What’s worked for you? What hasn’t? I’d love to hear so that we can start idea sharing and help each other grow.

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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!

Asking The Hardest Questions Of My Life…

18 Apr

We have this magnetic pull when we are in new relationships that keeps us engaged and excited about them. It almost overtakes us and suddenly most things pale in comparison. Our feelings become paramount and we go to what one of my friends calls “Boy Island.” (Or “Girl Island”). I’ve lost many a friend to “Boy Island.” I’ve gotten shipwrecked there myself one or two or seven times. Sometimes if we’re not careful, we become other people if we don’t set good boundaries early on in a new relationship. It can consume us and become a false god, in a sense. It’s very easy for this new wonderful thing in our lives  to become our lives. We’re filed with hope and a sense of amazement.

But, this is a critical time when we need to learn (myself included), that we mustn’t hold too tightly to a person.  Otherwise, we’ll become prone to thinking of that other person as “ours” which results in us thinking we own them and that they belong to us.  It’s common in our culture to call things “my.” After all, we have our cars, we live in our houses, we have our roommates, we walk our dogs. These things belong to us in one way, shape, or form.  But if we grab on for dear life, if we connect too deeply too quickly with someone and then we lose that person, what are we left with? I’ll tell you from experience: Heartbreak. Loss. Sadness. Tears. Emptiness. Vapor.

What would it look like if we did things a little differently? What would it look like if we thought enough of ourselves to BE ourselves in relationships? What if we didn’t hide from vulnerability? Or if our problem is over sharing to the point of “too much information”, how would it be if we held back and didn’t dump on someone all the time? What can we do to ensure that we date in a healthy way? How do we honor God in that? If we break up, how do we have a good goodbye? How do we co-exist together and still move on if we both share the same group of friends? How do we grieve well? What do we do with the “Whys” of why it didn’t work? How do we not blame ourselves? How do we TRUST that this is bigger than all of us? In the messiness of relationships, how to we behave towards our friends, community, family, and those who we don’t end up marrying? Ultimately the question is: How do we love well and what does that look like? Not ten years from now, RIGHT NOW!? 

I’m currently doing a deep study of myself and my friends and community on these very issues. I’m asking hard questions. I’m wondering how to better love my friends as we walk out singleness, date, get engaged, and get married. I’m on a new adventure and I hope to use this space to write about it. I’m only speaking of the tip of the iceberg here. I’m going to be asking really hard questions. Many people will likely disagree with my answers to these questions. I’m preparing. More is coming. This is my epiphany. This is sacrificial love. This is the gospel. Or as some have called it, the REVOLUTION. And as I learned tonight in a God-confirming and powerful way, this is what love does.

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