Tag Archives: dating in community

It’s Not About The Pants!

25 Oct

I got the opportunity to guest blog for “A Beautiful Mess” awhile back. Many of you read it, but I thought I would post a link here in case you missed it! Thanks for reading!

Read it HERE!

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Completely Honest Thoughts at the End of A Long Week

30 Jun

I’m up too late again. But maybe not. Maybe this is when all the traffic and noise has gone away and I can finally be free to think and feel and process.

I’ve had a lot to process but not much space to do so. With all this change happening, I haven’t really been able to ask myself a key question: “How do you feel?”

It’s easy to go through life and be numb. Emotions are too hard. Relationships take too much time and investment. And if I’m honest, lately I don’t really want to engage, I just want to coast. I want God to show up and I don’t want to have to work for that relationship. I want friends to call me and somehow know that sitting in traffic is lonely. Looking at a clock and wondering what time I’ll make it to that appointment all the way back in Pasadena when I’m in Beverly Hills stresses me out. I long to run with friends, have events already planned, and the permission to just have fun. Not talk deeply, persay. Maybe pick up a golf club and drive some balls. Maybe bowl. Maybe hike or run. Or finally, through some vigorous exercise or something get to the bottom of this nagging feeling that something is left unfinished and all I can hear are the whispers: “How do I finish it? ”

In those moments, I reject all that I have learned and it’s like I put my earbuds in and tune out to the world. I can see people around me, just like the cars on the sidestreets in LA (especially on San Vicente near Olympic and Fairfax at about 5:42 every night). I can watch police pull people over. I see wealthy men yelling at a homeless guy for no apparent reason other than that our world is a broken place and who really knows why people are jerks sometimes? Elsewhere a woman gives a dollar and her last piece of bread to a different homeless guy. What does it all mean? I feel a cool breeze you can only really feel on the West Side of LA because the East Side feels more like a hairdryer but without the wind. It’s just plain hot.

In the midst of all of this change, I’ve numbed myself out. I’ve been turning to food for comfort. I’ve never done that before. But something about salt and vinegar chips spells comfort. Reverting back to the fast food of my youth soothes me, if only for a second. And then I start to wonder, what hunger am I trying to feed? What pain am I trying to avoid? What would happen if I said no to myself again when it came to stopping by Mcdonalds for a midnight sundae? In those moments I feel a sense of rebellion because I got away with something (breaking my plant based diet) and yet a sense of shame knowing that I’m trying to cover something up but not really aware enough to put my finger on it.

These could be anxious ramblings at the end of a long week. I could need to give myself grace to eat some fries once in awhile. I don’t know what appetites I’m trying to satisfy but I do know that when all of this feels up in the air, all I can keep turning to is Jesus. He is my sole-provider. No friend, no person, no conversation can ever take the place of who he has been and will be in these moments of uncertainty. He is my security and my life. He is my fortress and my shield. I shall not want. And I shall be thankful for all the things he’s brought me through.

Troubles, pain, sorrow, uncertainty. I long for a day when the brokenness I feel is completely restored. It will never happen in this life and yet, I ask God for the grace for some of those broken places to be brought to him. ‘Tis so sweet to trust in Jesus

I hope to remember that the next time I’m feeling numb and disengaged. Trust is a process. It’s an active process. But before I reengage with that fully, I may just follow the advice of someone I trust and go to a quiet place and just read a book. No striving. No self improvement. Just me and words on a page that will melt off of it into my head stringing into happy thoughts, songs of a life that isn’t mine. Situations I don’t really have to face because I’m just reading about them. Time to just get away…

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.

My Best Friend Got Brocoded…Let Me Explain

2 Oct

You decide to date someone. Maybe not exclusively, but still, you’re becoming a “known” entity around your community. Things are looking good. You’re friends with all of his friends and vice versa. After a few dates or maybe even months you realize that things just aren’t going to happen the way you had hoped. You decide to part ways, amicably and (hopefully) maturely. A few weeks later, you start hanging out with your friends (co-ed group) who were also his friends at one point. One of them shows an interest in you and you two click. You think things are really going somewhere and there are definitely sparks and potential but alas, he doesn’t want to “step on his friend’s toes” by dating you. Wait, what?! You’ve just been brocoded.

Brocoding is kind of like boycotting except that you’re the one getting boycotted. Someone somewhere decided that we’re allowed to “claim” our property AKA the people we used to date and blacklist them from any other dating experiences. This means that no one else in our “inner circle” is allowed to date them. Well wait a minute. What if our inner circle happens to be our 60 closest friends? Where does it stop? I’m not just pointing out that it’s guys that do this. I don’t quite have a term as awesome as “brocoding” to describe what girls do to one another. It’s like claiming our crush. If everyone knows who our crush is, we think that will be enough to prevent our girl friends from dating him. Um, what if he doesn’t like you back? Then what? No girl ever can date him again? Surely in our minds this would be ideal but how is that fair for him or for our other friends? Assuming we have awesome taste (which, let’s be honest, we do), this guy isn’t going to be single for very long. So maybe he doesn’t like us? Let’s take just a minute to get over ourselves and realize that there will be other people.

If we can’t quite comprehend that, we need to find a good friend to remind us that we are being a little crazy, to love us anyway, and to remind us that there will be others. I say this from personal experience. Once two of my best friends found out that a guy I was totally interested in did not like me back. They had a reliable source. I had spent so much energy and time having a crush on this guy that it didn’t seem possible that he couldn’t like me back. But the reality was, he didn’t. I had to face the truth. My friends helped me walk through it. They didn’t even think I was pathetic for crying over it. They just kept telling me that there would be others. And there were.

As for brocoding and as one of my pastors calls it, “peeing on people” (like a dog pees on its favorite spot to claim it), I’m really sick and tired of seeing this happen. I get it. It’s hard to watch your friends date the guy you’ve dated. Trust me, it’s happened to me and it’s really really hard. I am not undermining it and you’d better not tell me that I’m stronger than you are, because I’m not. I just had to train myself to be based on the truth of the situation, not my feelings. Trust me, I’ve had a lot of nights where I cried about this and had to give it up to God. It took me awhile to understand why I had to let go of the guy that I dated (not for months, but for over a year) and let him move on even though I wasn’t feeling like it. (More on why we do this in other blogs). But the reality is, my friends are awesome. Of course he would like them and want to see if something would work with one of them. I had to let him do that. I had to encourage her to go out with him to see. I didn’t want to be the reason that two great people wouldn’t work out.

Granted, there are plenty of people in the world. But in a small community where you’ve made your home, it just makes sense that it would be easier to find someone within that community that gets the culture, loves what you love, and where you won’t have to choose between your community and a guy. I’m advocating that we stop the brocoding and the claiming people for ourselves. I’m up for a conversation about this. Always. I would love to talk to you more about why I think this way and why I’ve come to this conclusion.

And as an anecdote, I’ve lived this out. A friend of mine dated a guy a couple of times and didn’t think they were a good fit but totally thought he was a great guy. They became friends and she sent him pictures of four girls that she thought he would be great with. And guess what? I was on the list and had a great date as a result. Because my friend decided to want the best for her friends and for this great guy, other people are going to get to benefit. Of course no one is sure where this is going to go, but she did the single girls in our community a service by passing on our names to him. We need more people advocating, not brocoding. Surely we’re called to a higher level of maturity. It’s not always easy. Sometimes it’s just plain awkward. But I’d rather be dating than sitting home knowing that great guys in my community aren’t asking me out because I’ve been blacklisted…

Yes He’s My Ex, But He’s A Person First: Possession Issues

2 Jul

We label people. We do. And then we define what their relationship is to us. My “best” friend. My “ex-boyfriend.” We do it when we want to quickly explain how someone fits into our world and more importantly, how they “belong” to us. I don’t believe that anyone ever really belongs to us, though.  We can buy into the whole “Jerry Maguire” line of “you complete me” but I don’t believe that creates a healthy picture of what a relationship is supposed to look like. The moment we start thinking that we need someone to complete us, we get into trouble. The moment we start seeing someone we once shared a relationship with as “belonging to us,” we really become stuck. Then we begin to think we own them and their choices. We think they owe us something and we have, through our language of possession, created a tie that doesn’t need to be there.

I learned about this issue of possession the hard way. Several years back, I believed that one of the guys I dated could only be defined to me and my friends as just that: “my ex boyfriend.” In doing this, I made it known to all of my friends that they should not befriend him and could not “choose” him over me. If I’m honest, I hoped that they would want to forget about him all together.

While I understood that they had a friendship with him outside of me (because we were all part of the same community), I expected them to drop that as soon as he became “my ex-boyfriend” out of some kind of loyalty code that I had made up in my head to equal “friendship.”

The problem with that kind of thinking is that it isn’t fair. It is actually VERY selfish. I’m not proud of those years when I believed in this odd code of conduct and I even almost lost one of my friends over it. I thought her loyalty should be to me after the breakup because to me, my hurt was so heightened that I wanted him to hurt as much as I did. I tried to hurt him by attempting to claim all of our mutual friends for me.  By creating that unrealistic and unfair expectation, I forced my friends to choose. It put them in a completely awkward position. I was not wanting the best for the guy that I had dated or for my friends and in the end, I lost.

Luckily, I learned through this that we are not called to “possess” people with whom we are in a relationship.  Through controlling behaviors, unrealistic hopes that we can change a person, or through physical ties that connect us to a person too soon and too deeply, we can begin to believe that we can “lay claim” to a person and call them “ours.” But what if the relationship doesn’t work out? Then where are we?  Suddenly this person that I thought was “mine” was out of my life completely. The loss was devastating. I had over-shared and put too many expectations on a guy who was just a human and not capable of giving me everything I needed because I believed that he would complete me. (I’ve found the only one that can do that is God and so it became a situation of misplaced hope.)

In the end, we do not own someone who we dated and we cannot expect our friends to completely drop the person just because we are desperate for someone else to share in our pain. I am saddened and appalled that I ever believed that my friends were only real friends if they stopped talking with the guy that I dated in favor of me. When you break up, it’s not about sides. It’s about people who once shared something, hopefully learned a lot, and have decided that they are not the best for each other. It should be okay for people to part ways grieving but also wanting to want the best for the other.

In a call to maturity, I hope for a community where people can date, break up, and remain in that community cordially, while wanting the best for one another. I won’t allow myself to get stuck into a place where I have to “claim” people out of some belief that I own my friends. I won’t buy my friends’ loyalty to me in some power play intended to thwart the happiness of someone I once shared time, love, and hope with. That is not who I am or who I would want to be, especially as a follower of Christ. Surely my commitment to following Jesus, which informs all of my decisions and guides me even in my darkest of days will also inform me of how to love, even when it hurts and even when it is costly.  It is in that place of love that I learn that Jesus wants me to love my enemies, especially if in some way I’ve twisted it in my mind so that my “enemy” is now  someone I once loved…someone I somehow started believing was not a person with feelings and a soul but rather whom I too easily and selfishly labeled: “my ex boyfriend.” In the place where I can let go of labels and remember how to love my friends, the guys I’ve dated, and even myself, I find a new kind of freedom that I have never known.

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