The title alone may lose people, but stay with me…I know it seems completely ironic, much like calling a Psychic hotline and getting their voicemail, but I’ve had some terrible relationship advice from married friends before, proving that you don’t have to be in a relationship to observe and know what is needed and important for a successful one. After all, arguably the best NFL coach ever never played a down of professional football. (Vince Lombardi) Sometimes observing the actual game and setting strategies for success are best done from the sideline without ever having to take part. That being said, I want it to be known that I’m not a desperate guy and that I’m single completely by choice….I choose to like the ladies that choose not to like me back….a completely mutual situation. I’m still young in terms of life and actually enjoy the single life, not having to consult a Tball schedule to schedule my own activities, so I’m just enjoying the schedule I get to put together all by my lonesome at the moment. This freedom still shouldn’t stop those of us that are single from envisioning a family life if that’s what we feel called to eventually live. We should be constantly preparing for our future significant others in life, always progressing ourselves in God’s eyes and His will to mold our soul and heart into the creature we need to be for that one we will eventually find. If you’ve found them already, that doesn’t mean you get to be lazy and passive. When the excitement of the first kiss and the honeymoon butterflies have faded, it is even more critical to be working to become better in the relationship. The only benefit you get is that you have your love there physically and mentally to work as a team to improve your lives on your own, as well as molded together in God’s hands. So this advice is for every single one of us, taken or single (even those currently bitterly single).
If you are one of the married population, consider yourselves fairly lucky. The dating scene is completely messed up nowadays, with the popular increase in dating apps and websites. There’s several “big name” apps out there that most of us have heard of, and there’s a different stereotype to most of them. Tinder is basically the meat market of the dating world, where a single swipe will allow us to fish the waters based on a picture alone, lefting those we have no desire to talk to and swiping right on those we hope will mutually swipe right back. If they don’t we will always wonder what could have been. Now we even have the SUPER like, which enables us to REALLY mourn unsuccessful match. The super like allows you to really show the person you are interested in their face and 20 word description they put on their profile, hopefully enticing them to swipe right just at the chance to have an awkward conversation right out of the gate. POF and MeetMe lets you see those around you, creepily allowing you to even sort them by distance. You can chat with whoever you want, as long as they decide to message you back. “Ghosting” is fairly common with these, with your initial message being seen but unanswered. They don’t even want to say hey back, so they let it ride and you’ll never hear from them again. Not even an “thanks but not interested”; simply a check mark next to your message knowing it has been read, but complete silence. eHarmony and Match let you sign up for free and see those around you, but if you want to find your soulmate, you’re going to have to subscribe to their monthly subscription, or risk losing love for forever. There are others, but the overall theme is the same. It’s turning into more hanging out and “Netflix and chill” than actual dating and courtship (Google that for you youngens). The serious values of a relationship are lost in the mere fact that we might be able to sleep with them a few times and move on to our next match when need be. Relationships are even more muddied and confusing that ever it seems, with the important aspects being casually tossed aside for instant gratification. This is really why I’m in no hurry to completely dive into the dating world. It’s an odd world out there, shifting and changing throughout the entire time I’ve been a resident in the dating realm. Throughout my past relationships, I’ve analyzed each one of them and gleaned the do’s and dont’s so that going forward I can intentionally apply those lessons and have better outcomes and better relationships when the time comes. There are a few main things we have to learn if our relationships are going to thrive….
This is one of the easiest things to do, yet often we fail miserably because it can also be the most difficult. I’ve learned at a young age that you can’t bottle things up and try to let them dissolve away on their own. The pressure and thoughts have to go somewhere, and if they’re not tossed voluntarily into the environment, they will eventually explode unwillingly in some aspect, whether it is road rage or snapping at a family member unexpectedly. We were created for communication. If there is a problem, communication is the best way to reveal it and to heal it. Ignoring it and walling yourself from each other only makes things much worse. When you get real with each other and openly exchange a vulnerable conversation, healing and growth occurs in ways you never knew. We’ll go to friends for advice, but they aren’t in the relationship, so why are we wasting our time?? They don’t know the intimate details about the problem within the confines of that relationship, so they don’t have full understanding. Nobody is in the relationship except you and the significant other, so the person you should go to about the problem FIRST AND FOREMOST is that significant other. It might be awkward to talk about things if you’ve never had a deep problem solving talk, but what’s more awkward is wondering what the other person is thinking and coming to your own conclusions in your mind. There is nothing good that ever comes from assuming, and I think they made a saying about it….
From the spring of communication will sprout honesty, truth, loyalty, intimacy, and so many more great attributes of an amazing relationship that is has to be the most important aspect to work on. A deep connection is based on freely being able to communicate with one another, and if you don’t have that established, you’re in trouble.
Love at 100%
Far too often we are bitter and broken by past relationships, leaving us to enter the next relationship guarded. It is unfair to ourselves and our significant other to not give 100% every time a relationship is started. They didn’t do the damage our past relationships delivered, so why should they pay the price for it? Not being vulnerable in a relationship can leave us scared, constantly wondering when this one will end, and even finding ways to sabotage it when it could be one of the best experiences we would ever have. Having said that, there are definitely lessons we can and should take from previous relationships to carry forward to benefit our future relationships. I’m not saying we should just forget all lessons and start the new relationship ignorantly blissful; we just need to let go of the negative restraints we sometimes easily handcuff to the relationship out of the gate. We are never promised tomorrow, so in every relationship we should forget our past baggage and love with a new love that has no scars or memories or hurts. It honestly could ultimately end up with more baggage and scars for the NEXT relationship, but it could end up in the most incredible relationship you’ve ever experienced, resulting in a lifetime of awesome memories. You can’t base current love on future fear. Love like there is no tomorrow, and if tomorrow comes, love again.
Realize there is no THE one
In the Christian world, finding THE one is shoved in our faces constantly. Wait for THE one, is she THE one for you? I honestly don’t believe there is THE one. How depressing is it to think I might’ve swiped left on my THE one and now will never see her again? If I chose Taco Bell and she chose Sonic for lunch and we missed each other by four lanes of traffic, am I going to miss out on love for the rest of my life just because I wanted a Gordita Crunch that day? I’ve seen relationships shatter because of this flawed belief. The guy or the girl or both are praying and waiting for a sign that they are THE true one and never get the illuminated Touch by An Angel experience, so they begin to doubt their partner is the right THE one. Everything is going great and God is embracing their relationship, but the fears of marrying the wrong THE one get so big, it destroys the partnership. I’ve personally experienced this tragic love story, and while I don’t spend time constantly dwelling on lost love, I’d be lying if I said I don’t sometimes simply wonder what might have been had she shared a different point of view about THE one. I can’t find in the Bible where it specifically says we only have ONE shot at love, so we have to start realizing there are a possibility of several THE ones, giving us that God-glorifying amazing relationship most of us envision. When you find someone that may be THE one and it feels like it could be right through God, instead of waiting for definite answers that may never fully appear, we need to make them THE one and live the adventure ahead, with God as the tour guide. We’re not doing a puzzle, looking for that piece just the right size to fit; we’re doing a relationship, and that’s a dynamic process with everchanging pieces. A great relationship and marriage is constantly built and repaired, allowing adaptation to the environment outside. Pure Joy in a relationship won’t come from finding someone that fits your expectations and wants; it will arrive from both of you working and adapting to serve the other withing Christ’s love.
Closed Doors or New Chapter
Michael Jordan was cut from his high school basketball team; Walt Disney was fired from a newspaper for not being creative enough; Steven Spielberg applied 3 times to film school and was rejected each time. Can you imagine life today if any of those would have seen those circumstances as a closed door and not tried and tried again? Without a doubt, problems and failures within a relationship are going to happen. EVERY relationship will have them, but the important thing is the perception of that failure and the response after. We can either end things quickly as a closed door, or try and work through them, seeing it as a new chapter starting and learning more about the relationship itself. Some things in life we have to see as doors, others we need to see as chapters to a storybook. So many things happen in life that most of us see as doors either opening or closing, to be journeyed through or to never be opened again. While this is true of some events in life, it is also true it might just be an ending to a chapter, leading to another chapter we are yet to write. Very toxic and damaging situations are definitely things that should have a closed door option, as we have no need for those things in life going forward, but others shouldn’t always be so permanently strict. We all know someone in our life that wouldn’t be where they were if they lived by the closed door policy and not the new chapter policy. Unfortunately all too often, a fight or argument leads one to close the door forever, not even willing to see it able to open again. While it may be for the best eventually down the road, slamming the door shut immediately might be the worst thing we can do. Several relationships have come to an end for other reasons that aren’t so negative, only for the relationship to begin anew down the road bigger and better. High school sweethearts breaking up, only to end up marrying each other would have never happened if they subscribed solely to that closed door in between. I have a family member that broke up with their high school sweetheart and they married other people, only to eventually divorce those partners and find each other once again. The stories are endless. Close friendships that explode would never be mended if we had a one strike and you’re out believe. While God has a YES and NO answer, I also think he has a NOT RIGHT NOW answer that will evolve into a YES or NO later on. We have to carefully examine situations and see whether it should be a door or a book we are working on. Is it supposed to be closed forever or are we just about to start a new chapter in our larger story that we are yet to write?
When we first enter relationships, there is a buffer period where we forgive the other for embarrassing us or making us look awkward; we even see it as kinda cute and quirky. When the relationship proceeds into more serious scenarios, the forgiveness sometimes gets on a shorter leash, and leads to fights and doubts moving forward. When you are in love with someone, you are in love with their awkwardness, their baldness, their lisp,their weird hair dye colors, their immaturity, their age, their braces, their laugh, their height, their everything weird and strange. We have to get back to that innocent fun time at the beginning of the relationship, not caring what everyone else thinks as we make a scene and make an ongoing memory. I dated someone fairly recently where this last lesson surfaced for my future goings on in relationships. It was only for a few weeks but things were incredibly great on both ends with terrific and deep conversations. When we texted and when we were together you couldn’t tell a difference in our age, although on paper it was a fairly sizable difference. It was something I struggled with slightly at first, but the potential was too great not to look past that for me… and she agreed until she encountered one of my friend’s wives. I wasn’t present for the conversation, but there was a doubt and awkwardness placed in her mind after this encounter that she couldn’t shake, leading to a lack of communication and possible resolution and the ultimate downfall of something that was built rapidly yet oddly structurally sound. I’m definitely not a fortune teller and am not saying it would have led to anything different later on (more than likely not because of that breakdown in communication when a serious issue arose that all too routinely dooms relationships eventually), but allowing someone else to talk you out of something potentially good is damaging in life more often than not. When you allow outside factors to influence inside situations, it leads to bad outcomes. There will be something in every relationship we will be embarrassed about. The main question is “Are you willing to risk temporary awkwardness for lifetime satisfaction?” Some of my best memories were formed by careening through the barrier of caring what others would think. This was something that I had to learn, because growing up I was just the opposite. I always worried about what others thought of me and my actions, whether or not they liked me, if they thought I was cool or not. Once you learn it’s not about others, it becomes easier and easier to make the choices that make you happy without a regard to the thoughts of others; it’s a freeing and incredible adventure. Laugh with others while they’re laughing at you and see how quickly their judgmental laughter fades weakly into the night. Dance like nobody is watching, and when you get caught, get them to dance with you and see who has the last laugh….
This is by no means even close to what all is required for successful relationships….There could be a part 2, 3, 4 eventually added, but I already used too many words and probably lost most of you halfway through…