A B C D E framing the discussion surrounding relationships
5 thoughts on the struggle that is real
"Can I really ask a guy out to get coffee? Will he think I'm asking him on a date? I just want to get to know him."
"I'm not interested in you that way, but I still want to be your friend."
"Sorry, I'm not looking to date right now."
"I just want to go to the dance with someone. It doesn't have to be romantic!"
"He just needs to man up."
"She's too forward and clingy."
"Isn't it his responsibility to initiate."
"I just don't want her to turn me down."
"She didn't text me back so I knew she wasn't interested."*
Let's talk about angsty 20 somethings and relationships
Now this topic is not just constrained to the struggles of homeschoolers but this blog post hits on the struggles of this topic, seeping into many aspects in our culture, effecting people of all backgrounds.
So, I sat down to write a blog post about people's perspectives on dating and how convoluted they are: no matter whether you were homeschooled or not (but for some reason Christians just make it even more distorted). I poured my heart into a long rambling post as I worked my my crazy ideas out on paper.
BUT then I had a conversation with someone that has been through way more than me--her experience made me rethink how I would share my thoughts with the internet. Our conversation made me realize the amount of grace and tact that this topic should be handled with.
I have read a few of the 3,000+ books that pop up with you search Amazon books for "Christian Dating." I've been to the seminars. I've participated in hours upon endless hours of weighty discussions with my roommates, friends and sister. I've giggled lightheartedly at sleepovers. I've received lectures, advice, cautions, warnings, and encouragements--all on this intangible idea/topic/decision/lifestyle of interacting with the opposite gender in a romantic/friendly/fellow-human way. I have thoughts on this subject and I want to share them.
#1 - WHAT ARE WE EVEN TALKING ABOUT?The definitions the provide the guidelines for any discussion on interacting with the other gender are very vague. What is dating anyway? To some, this term has been tainted with dirty colors and should be avoided and instead the couple should "court". Again, another term - Courting. Then arrises the question: Can men and women be friends? Especially in the situation of NYC where it is common to say "let's get coffee" and then go out one-on-one, is that dating? We are dealing with intangible feelings that the people having these feelings don't even quite understand what they're feeling. It's a mess. The aspect of this discussion that Christian homeschoolers know well is the drama that surrounds the question of whether or not to "kiss dating good-bye".
Terms to be defined:
When you define these for yourself with biblical and virtuous influences, clearly and explicitly set up boundaries (physical and emotional), and take into account your parents wishes - the whole discussion becomes crystalized. And I did say discussion because once feelings thrown in there it takes way more work to crystalize anything.
#2 - Know You're Fighting a BattleCulture is constantly bombarding us--hammering in the nails that were positioned from our youth by the smooching cartoon characters and romanticized books. Culture is throwing ideals at our faces in the the forms of books, movies, PDA, music, Facebook, internet blogs... you name it, it has an ideal of how relationships should operate.But are these just unreasonable expectations that are now deeply engrained? In order to be the heroin in life (Divergent/Hunger Games), stand firm in the storms of life (Nicolas Sparks) or be as elegant as a princess, does she really require her (Disney) prince (or at least have 2 fighting over her)? With the exception of feminist stories, this is the prevailing narrative. I have barely started to understand what that intense undercurrent does to the psyche (even my own) of a person who reaches their 20s single.
#3 - BalanceBalance is key. Objectifying men is not healthy, but neither getting emotionally attached. Seriousness and joy go hand-in-hand. This is the idea of being in the world but not of it. Understand how the world works and operates but hold the the higher standard of virtue everyone is called to. It is so easy to blind yourself into thinking that you can expose your emotions to a guy and expect to not get emotionally attached. But we aren't supposed to be heartless or emotionless. A ship is safe in a harbor but that wasn't what ships are made for.
#4 - LOLBut seriously laugh out loud. The lesson I have learned is that no amount of conversations, lectures, seminars, or books stand a chance when infatuation sets in. Say goodbye to your common sense when faced with the "young man of your dreams," one that actually likes you, says the right things, and the opportunity for sin is there. Yes, I said sin - the sins of lust, idolatry, infatuation, selfishness they're there and they're sins. Here is where the foundations of your beliefs of right and wrongs are tested by the fire of love. True motivation comes out and the trueness of God's faithfulness stands strong.
#5 - God is in ControlIf there was one topic that I believe in the sovereignty of God, it's this one. When I look back situations I see His hand of protection. Whether it be a heart-wrentching rejection, my own naiveté, or allocating time for other things--I believe there is an overarching plan that I shouldn't fight. If I focus on glorifying God and walking in the plan He has for me, this life-altering decision will be in His will.
My heart is pained for those who were going about their relationship in a healthy way and it didn't work out. I cry with those who are wracked by the confusion of "does he like me?" or those who are turned down when they become emotionally vulnerable to a person by exposing their feelings. I've seen the frustration as girls clutch their heads as their self-esteem is rocked, or they are just confused as to whether he's asking her on a date or just wants to "hang out" as friends (which never really works out). This is a real battle that has weapons such as texting, snapchat, and people protecting their vulnerability at all costs.
I have never been in what I would define as a romantic relationship with a guy. Where there was mutual attraction and the relationship was defined with a purpose. Yes, I often think something is wrong with me. Especially when people say "I can't believe you're single?! You're so ______" (You name it). I think I'm doing the right things - liking sports, dressing girly, interacting with guys on more than a flirty basis. Yet, I'm still called "boy-crazy" because I admire and allow the other gender to light up my life. I yearn to do what is right in accordance to my own moral standards, God's and my parents; while also being a role model. But, I've come to realize that no matter what you do in regards to having a relationship, people WILL criticize it. You can't please everyone. But God's opinion is the only one that matters.
In the end, people want to do the "right" thing either to glorify God or what seems "right" to themselves. However, no amount of discussion or slamming of the other sex will prepare the young adult for the struggle of infatuation and love that is coming. I find these books very frustrating because they, in their effort to define and formula-ize relationships, will inevitably place undue pressure or emphasis on certain parts of the relationship. People are all different - with various backgrounds, daddy issues, self-esteem issues, needs, life goals, and different favorite eggs (see Runaway Bride). Now, I am not advocating for people to try different relationships out to see which one is their favorite. But I've seen my friends refer to and actually view the other sex in an unhealthy way (only as potential mates or people to impress and not be real around, or dirty pigs) but people are people and the only way to break the system and live with virtue is to put yourself aside and cling to selflessness. Then God's true love will shine through and situations will fall into his will.
This is only opening the discussion. I really want to talk more about this. And if I struck a chord with you I want to hear about it!
Whatever your educational background is, I hope you enjoyed reading this homeschooler's thoughts.
Live long and prosper,
*I have actually heard each and every one of these quotes.