To think that I’d actually be writing two posts so close to each other must mean I have a lot on my mind. But to be honest, I always have a lot on my mind. It’s just that something I’ve realized I need to do more often is talk about it, and I’ve heard it said that writing words down make them all the more real. So here I am, writing out my thoughts, for my own benefit and for you, my readers, as well.
So what is this all about? It’s actually a rather embarrassing subject for me but I’m here to talk about relationships, and specifically those of the romantic kind. So why here, why now? Well I’m back to a place in my life that I’m looking for that sort of thing and, before someone asks if I choose when I want to date and when I don’t, I should tell you a story.
Setting: About a year ago
So I’m in the middle of a time in my life where I’m actively seeking a relationship (mostly through online dating sites) and I had just parted ways with someone I really liked (and she liked me too), but the timing just wasn’t right (that’s a story for another time). To be honest, I was fighting some real feelings of disappointment. I mean, that girl was someone I felt I could probably marry, given no red flags came up later in the relationship. Over the next month I went on a couple dates but nothing developed. Then one day I came across this profile that really jumped out to me. I mean this girl seemed to match my ideal perfectly: blonde, loved soccer, a fellow educator, a bit of a nerd, independent. So I sent a message, not really expecting to hear back (I mean, this is the basis of online dating, it’s basically a numbers game). But to my surprise when I woke up the next day, she had messaged me back. We started talking, and it didn’t take long for us to really get “talking”. I was blown away by how similar we seemed to be but I couldn’t quite understand why she was so hesitant to meet in person, despite living less than a hour apart. Normally this sort of behavior means someone is hiding something or lying about their profile. This went on for weeks, and while there was no physical aspect to our “relationship”, we were “hot and heavy” in the intellectual and emotional realms. For those know me personally, you know I am not really an emotional person, and I tend to keep everything under the surface because I don’t always know how to handle raw, vibrant emotional display. Anyway, back to my story. So I finally get this girl to meet me. I made us lunch and we watched one of my favorite movies together. I was deliriously happy. Not only was she as gorgeous in person as her profile pictures, but she genuinely seemed to care about my emotional state (or the general lack thereof). But this is where things went downhill. I hate to admit this but I’m a pretty mellow guy, like I tend to do whatever comes naturally and requires the least amount of planning. So when we started spending time together, it usually consisted of me driving up to her place and hanging out watching Netflix or movies. *Strike One* Then, our time together became less about what was on the TV. *Strike Two* Finally, she confronted me on my lack of initiative when it came to planning actual dates and going out. *Strike Three* And, well you probably guessed it, I was out. So how does this all tie into my title? Well I’m getting to it.
Lesson Numero Uno: “Sometimes it is the lack of doing that is wrong”
You see, I really dropped the ball by not actively creating an environment of creating shared experience and romantic pursuit within that relationship. It wasn’t that I was doing something wrong or hurtful to this girl, but rather by not doing much of anything I was revealing a source of immaturity in my life. A lack of action can be just as bad as doing the wrong thing. This rings true outside relationships as well, but it’s a lesson I had to learn the hard way when it comes to dating. It is honestly an area of growth I’m continuing to work on, both in my relationships and in my day-to-day schedule.
Lesson Numero Dos: “Seeing what’s there shouldn’t blind you from what’s not”
Like I said, this girl seemed to have many qualities I was looking for. And we connected in a way that I hadn’t felt in years. But I let it muddle my perception of some things that are truly vital to my person, things like my faith, my direction in life, and even my sexuality. Looking back, I think I willfully suppressed those red flags because I was desperate for intimacy, and I ended up looking for it in a wrongful manner. Having maintained my virginity all my life, I struggled with whether or not holding out until marriage was getting in the way of my ability to build intimacy in a relationship. This dating experience reminded me that waiting for sex until marriage isn’t about me, but it’s about God, and His plan. My virginity isn’t a curse that prevents me from building intimacy with someone but a gift that proves to the person I marry that I am truly giving myself to them, one and for all.
But not to get derailed by rambling about my v-card, something that always bothers me about online dating is that women tend to seem very cut and dry when it comes to what they want in a guy. Like either you measure up to a specific standard or you don’t. For example, I’ve admitted I’m not a very emotionally expressive person but that doesn’t mean I’m not affectionate or passionate. Rather it takes me a good while to feel comfortable showing deep, raw emotions around someone new. Some women take this lack of emotional display or “intelligence” as an inability to be outgoing or affectionate. Or another example, physically active women (something I’m highly attracted to) tend to want a gym rat or workout buddy, and quite frankly going to a public place like a gym (especially by myself) has never appealed to me. I am a pretty active guy, but you won’t find me at the gym. I’m driven by external competition, so I’m inclined to pursue my daily exercise playing sports. And sadly, I’ve found that this just isn’t good enough for some people. And it’s not like I won’t go to a gym to workout with my significant other, in fact I’d happily do so. But it’s because I value that time with them and not because I particularly enjoy being in the environment. This mindset also stretches into my spiritual walk. You see, I’ve dated women who fit that nominal Christian portrait. It was easy to get along with them, because we were both believers at least. But I’ve come to realize over the past couple years, just going to church semi-regularly isn’t enough. My faith isn’t about attendance or memorization, but about a relationship with my Creator and my Savior. And unless I am willing to life out a passion for Christ in my own life, I’d be deceiving myself if I expected this level of spirituality from someone I was dating.
Lesson Numero Tres: “Live Faithfully, Lead Boldly, Love Sacrificially”
I’ve always had fairly traditional views on dating, relationships, and marriage. This is largely due to my Midwestern, Conservative, Christian upbringing. I mean I was one of those kids who “kissed dating goodbye”, was gonna only court (whatever that actually means in today’s society), and thought I’d wait until marriage to kiss someone. Well that all changed in high school. I went from a quiet, reserved homeschooler to a well-known and respected soccer player, class officer, and honors student. Granted I went to a small private school, but still it wasn’t the same as being taught at home with my brothers. Cue high school romance. I mean there was about a year where most of the school was taking bets on when this girl and I would start dating. Officially we were a couple at the school banquet, but secretly we had been dating for months prior to that. We both graduated and ended up going to the same university, which probably was more beneficial for me than it was her, as far as the relationship went. Just follow this progression of my schooling dynamic: homeschooled for most of elementary and jr high- 3 students, private high school- ~250 students, liberal arts university- >3000 students. Here I was, an introvert in a bustling scholastic environment, and I loved and hated it at the same time. I was so far out of my comfort zone that I relied heavily on my relationship and new friends to provide a stable foundation for my life, and this led me to neglect the one person who’s relationship that should always be my foundation, Jesus. Now I went to chapel regularly and attended church, for the most part, but my faith was pretty rocky especially when my Grandpa Stichter passed away from a heart attack during my freshman year. The only real spiritual lifeboat I had during college was working at Springhill, a Christian summer camp. This thriving spiritual environment oozed Jesus and I couldn’t get enough of it. This place became my escape each summer, especially now that I had ended things (selfishly) with my high school sweetheart. But once I finished college, my direction in life led me away from camp and into a dark, dark place. I moved away from my family and friends, into unknown territory. Here I experienced one of the greatest struggles of faith I believe a person could have; I stopped going to church, I was addicted to porn, I lived alone and partied on weekends, and I refused to tell a soul back home what was going on in my life. It was almost as if I was challenging God to give up on me, because I already had. Thankfully that is not my story and God led me through that time of my life, teaching me some painful, but necessary, lessons along the way. And over the past year, I’ve really begun to see why those lessons were so important. So when I say “live faithfully”, I’m referring to a state of utter dependence. To live by faith, I must deny myself daily and carry my cross whilst following in Christ’s footsteps. Once I have surrendered my future to God, only then can I truly lead others in a bold and fearless manner that mirrors the life of my Savior. Because of my Biblical upbringing, I do believe the man is the leader in a relationship and I have been challenged by the thought that until a man is ready to face all obstacles, firmly rooted on God’s foundation, he cannot hope to succeed in leading a relationship, much less a marriage. And in order to sustain and create a relationship, not only must a man be bold and fearless, but he must make sacrifices. I’m not talking about compromises in order to please one’s spouse, I mean full-on “I’m doing this, even though I really don’t enjoy it, because it’s important to you” sacrifices. And frankly, I’ve always been a giver. I prefer to give my time and money to those with who I desire a relationship, whether it be platonic or romantic. But the one area I fail at is doing it from a place of love, instead I realized I do it as a means of manipulating a person’s opinion of me. You see, it’s easy to get people to like you if you’ll go along with their ideas or go the “extra mile” to be with them. And while this can be genuine, it’s often way too shallow. Love isn’t about easy or shallow. Love is allowing yourself to be stretched and even broken for another’s sake. That is the mindset I desire for when I pursue a Godly relationship, and I trust my Creator to give me the courage and wisdom to do so when His timing is right.
Holy Crap. That was way longer than I thought it would be. For those of you who took the time to read this, thank you. Hopefully you found something to encourage or even challenge you. I hope the point I’m trying to make about not getting so caught up in the things you’re attracted to about a person (or a situation in life) causes you to overlook the things that are lacking or that should be red flags has gotten across. If this blog has any true purpose, it’s that others can learn from my experience and maybe even empathize with the lessons I have learned. And while I might not be the type to actively initiate conversations with strangers, I do enjoy talking to you people all the same. Peace to you all, and God bless.