From age twelve to twenty-one, I seemed compelled to hide from the truth – the truth about myself, the truth about my actions, and the truth about love. The television drama version of love seemed more appealing to me than waiting for real love. What child likes to wait for anything good, after all?
At times, I wonder if relaying my past mistakes will do any anyone any good – and I wonder that mainly because I am not sure it would have done me any good. I read I Kissed Dating Goodbye. I heard sermons. I had countless people tell me to be careful, behave, and guard my heart. My prayer is that you will be wiser than I was at that time. ~smile~
However, I do know that embracing the truth does set us free. It does not always feel great, but it still beats being enslaved to lies. Below are a few lessons I learned during my journey and I think you will be well on your way to experiencing freedom if you take hold of these lessons now before you have to learn them the hard way!
- Your gut feeling is almost never wrong. In my case, it was never wrong. Anytime I doubted that I was making the right move, it always turned out to be the wrong move. There is difference between nervousness and doubt. I have felt them both and they are distinctly different. When I was nervous, I felt the desire to run out of fear. When I doubted, I held onto the relationship for dear life and tried to justify my decision. During those “dates” (I did a lot of unofficial dating – otherwise known as hanging out) which left me squirming, I felt internal red flags poking me. “This is not a good situation. Abort! Abort!” If I had stopped my relationships from growing as soon as I felt my internal organs squeezing the life out of each other, I would have saved myself and others much heartache and frustration. Honestly, the discomfort started before I dove into these relationships. “Warning! Warning!”
- You can live without a romantic relationship. To some, this statement is the epitome of obvious. To others, it is a deep emotional struggle. Though I knew in my head that I could survive without someone expressing focused attention on me, my heart longed for it deeply. It is where I found my worth. I wish now I had found my worth in God, but I wanted a tangible, warm man to pour love onto me; it was selfishness. Maybe it did not seem that way, but in retrospect, I wanted someone to make me feel good. My motivation was not to give, but to receive. In my relationship with Eric, I do enjoy receiving tenderness, warm hugs, and compliments; but, I also seek to tend to his needs. “He is probably hungry. He needs some rest. I wonder what I can do to make him feel better.” Giving is a natural extension of love. Had I found my worth in Christ, I could have spent my time growing, learning, and preparing. Instead, I cried myself to sleep at night, pined, and wasted – yes, WASTED – years I can never get back freaking out about whatever “relationship” I happened to be in at the time. I was in turmoil because the Holy Spirit would not stop whispering, “Go, get out! This is not where you should be right now. I have a path for you to follow that will lead to great things and you are sidetracked!” Though I think young men and women should relate to each other and spend time together in groups, I think teens who are not caught up in the drama of dating relationships are almost always happier and emotionally healthier than those who are.
- It is cruel to throw around the phrase “I love you” when you know you do not really mean it. “But, I might mean it. I mean, I really like him. I could love him. How do I know that I am not in love? Last week he held my hand and my heart melted. No, I think this is most definitely love. Even if it is not yet, it probably will be. It makes him feel good when I say it. I am going to say it again. It could be true.” Translation: “I get great feedback when I tell him I love him. He says it back and it makes me feel good.” I can almost hear my fourteen-year-old self arguing with me. ~smile~ “I love you” is a declaration. And, though we do not end each “I love you” with “forever” or “until the end of time,” there is an implied “always.” “I will always love you.” The nature of love is lasting. When we say “I love you,” and then we suddenly stop, we are lying about love. We are indicating that love is fleeting; but, we know that God is love, and God’s love is unending and permanent. We should treat that phrase as something that holds an everlasting promise. “I love you, and you can rest assured I will continuing choosing to love you.” Looking at it this way, it is wise to save this phrase for the one you are planning to marry (like, actual plans, not mental plans ~smile~).
- Breakups should have a penalty box of at least six months. Just call me queen of the repeated breakup. I would gather my resolve, break off a relationship, miss the person desperately, and then turn to Jell-o and re-enter the relationship. Even though I knew deep down I was in the wrong on multiple levels for perpetuating this pattern, it was not until I was an adult and looking back on my behavior that I truly saw the depth of my mistakes. Breaking up and getting back together is a form of mind games (and even can be practice for divorce), even though that was not my intent. “I have to be perfect or she will break up with me again. I can never know if today is going to be the day it will be over for good.” A little more trust is lost each time a couple breaks up and gets back together. I have experienced both sides and know it to be true. Along with being a mind game, breaking up and getting back together is a way to have the upper hand in a relationship – but only if the other person plays the game. Do not play the game! If someone breaks up with you, accept it, cry in private, and then do not allow yourself to get back into an emotional state of mind! Pretend you are putting yourself in a hockey penalty box and you cannot leave (i.e., re-engage into that relationship) until the six month timer runs down on the clock. During that time in the penalty box, pray and watch his or her actions to be sure you are making a wise decision. Let your former sweetheart know that he or she cannot simply toss your heart aside and then pick it back up whenever it suits him or her. If you respect yourself enough to say, “No, you made your decision,” he or she will naturally respect you more – even if he or she makes nasty comments about you on social media or to your face. Just ignore it, smile if you can, and move on.
- Your mom is not an idiot. There has never been a time in my life when I actually believed my mom was unintelligent. She is a smart lady who will figure out how to do what she wants to do. If at first she does not succeed, she will keep on trying. I did not defy her rules of dating because I thought she was mentally challenged. I defied her because her wisdom interfered with my immature desires. Listening to her would have been inconvenient. She was throwing wet blankets on my teenage “rights”: to date and enjoy dating. She may have internalized my rebellion as if I was questioning her mental prowess; but, in reality, I just did not want to listen to her logic. I fought it, but I knew she was right all along. So annoying. ~smile~ Your parents are smarter than you think (no, seriously). They have been there and have the battle scars. You may just have a better life for listening to their wisdom!
This is only a handful of lessons I could share from my younger years, but each lesson is powerful if you take them to heart. It is impossible to put into words how much I wish I had not wasted so much time worrying about love and marriage before that season of my life approached. I missed out on an abundant life and stayed willingly in chains – and I want better for you.
I want you to experience freedom!
Are you tired of making the same old dating mistakes and ready to approach relationships differently?