I wish we could sail through dating to find ourselves on a Caribbean honeymoon carrying no relationship scars or regrets. But most likely we'll encounter a mistake or two before we get to say "I Do." So last night I spent the evening with some college ladies sharing four of my relationship blunders, hoping their love lives would benefit. Here they are:
When I was in high school, I dated a string of musicians. When I dated a bass player in an alternative band, guess what music I liked? Alternative. And then I moved on to a drummer in a Christian thrash metal band who had a mo-hawk. I did not get a mo-hawk, but I'm sure my private school, uniform-wearing friends wondered when I adopted a taste for music that made me growl, scream and thrash around in a mosh pit. I soon moved onto a bass player in a mainstream Christian band, and soon my taste changed again. I didn't know who I was, so I morphed into who I was with.
When you fish, you bait the hook with multiple kinds of bait to test and see which one lures in the fish. Many of us treat dating the same way. We cast our reel, baiting our hook with different versions of "us" to see which "us" the men are attracted to, and then we reel them in. But if you want to find someone who loves you for you, you have to remain true to you. If you want to remain true to you, you have to Speak In. Speaking In means you continually evaluate who you and who you're becoming when you're dating. The person you are dating should never override the real you, the inside you. When we Speak In, let's remind ourselves (out loud if need be) of who we are so we don't lose ourselves trying to be who our boyfriend wants us to be. (Proverbs 3:5-6)
Don't lose who you are for anyone! You are the only you this world will ever have. You can never be replaced.
When we're "in love", it's hard to believe that hiding our secret relationship mistakes will end up being more destructive than telling the truth. In one of my relationships we decided to leave our misdeeds in the past because we reasoned if God had forgiven us, why bring them up? But because my relationship regrets were not too intense or haunting, I never wondered if he could love me if he knew. On the other hand, he indirectly felt judged by me holding back. Because he never told me his misdeeds, I didn't have the opportunity to say to him, "I forgive you and choose to love you anyway."
Many of us let the prospect of rejection keep us from being transparent with the person we claim to love the most. If we want our relationships to succeed, we have to be brave enough to Speak Out. Speaking Out means that both people practice reciprocal honesty, putting all their cards on the table. Your initial confession may sting a bit, but at least it removes the fear of skeletons in your loved one's closet. A relationship built on lies and half truths creates an atmosphere of deception, but one built on honesty creates a foundation of trust.
I know this is intimidating, but taking this step gives your relationship two major advantages. Full disclosure allows each person to know with surety whether the other person is able to do two things: accept and forgive the "real you." Full disclosure also opens the door to the possibility that they will walk away if they can't get over your past. But isn't it better to come clean and find someone who will love all of you than to "trap" someone into loving a portrayal of who you wished yourself to be, wondering what they would do if they knew the real you? (I John 1:9)
Speaking up means you say what you really mean. When Clayton and I first met, he and about 40 of his guy friends spent many Monday nights watching three hours of pro-wrestling. Because Monday night was the most consistent night he was home, and because I was afraid he would resent me for ruining guy time, I spent most of these nights sleeping on his living room floor because I didn't care about a bunch of sweaty men in tights over-dramatically torturing each other in a square box with ropes.
After awhile I had to tell Clayton that sharing him with 40 guys and a wrestling ring wasn't my ideal "date night" and I wasn't going to come over on Monday nights anymore. It was hard for me Speak Up. I was afraid I would lose our relationship to guy night. But, I had to say what I really meant, even when it felt uncomfortable and uneasy. I had to speak up and communicate to him that watching wrestling with 40 guys didn't equal quality time for me. Even though it was hard, this set our relationship up for success because our interests became shared instead of one-sided. Speak up. Communicate your expectations clearly: sexual purity standards, life dreams, goals, interests, etc. (I Timothy 4:12)
When you decide you're going to date this guy for awhile and see where it goes, you have to learn to Speak Through. Many Christian ladies make the mistake of placing unrealistic expectations on the guys they are dating. They walk into a relationship believing the guy will guard their hearts, lead them spiritually and will be faultless physically. But no one is perfect. You can't set your expectations too high or you will be disappointed. (Isaiah 64:6)
You are the guardian of your heart, not the guy you're dating or want to date (Proverbs 4:23). Jesus is your leader, not your boyfriend, and he will remain your primary leader even in marriage. So, when you encounter a problem, a misunderstanding, a mistake, or things become imperfect, you have to Speak Through it. Communicate through your problem instead of blaming yourself to avoid conflict or blaming each each other out of pride. Speaking Through means that you continue to communicate until you are able to come to a resolution or solution.
© 2015 by Sharie King. All rights reserved.