Everything I wish I did while dating
I believe in regret. This blog post contains some of mine. I regret emotionally hurting guys I've dated. I regret throwing my heart out of a speeding car. I regret spending more time on dating than on my spiritual condition. But more than just penance, this writing is intended to help guide my single friends as they pursue their own journeys. In order to do that, I have to be honest and open. It may be awkward and uncomfortable at times, so buckle up. I couldn't fit my full title in the space I'm given, but if I could it would read: "Everything I didn't do that I wish I did while dating".
1. Date less.
It was a running joke with my friends that I had a new boyfriend every month, and I didn't care too much how it made me look. The truth is, I was terrified of being alone. Not alone forever, but alone at that point in time. Left alone with my thoughts for too long, I was scared of my demons that would come out to play when nobody was around. I was scared that I would face the mirror and see my empty soul. So instead, I filled my emptiness with boys instead of spending more time with a very loving God. These were very easy years with little responsibility and plenty of free time. I wish I would have invested in my spirit, because that would still be with me - the peace, joy and fulfillment would enrich my everyday. Maybe that's something God has been talking to you about. Maybe you don't go on dates, but you are always pining over some boy or anxiously worrying about when you'll finally meet "the one". Let me speak directly to your heart right now:
God's got you.
God says to you, "Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you; I appointed you a prophet to the nations." (Jeremiah 1) God hasn't forgotten you. You don't have to remind Him that your youth is wasting away and you wanted a husband and kids years ago. He knows. He's got you. And what's more is that He has a world-changing purpose for you even if you're single for another few years (God forbid...JK!). Your spouse will come along at just the right time. It's up to you to trust Him even when you don't see how it's going to work out.
2. Ask for opinions.
Asking my friends, family and godly counsel for their opinion on who I was dating and if I was ready to date was an important variable that I never leaned into, much less sought out. They probably would have given me a dose of truth enveloped in love, but I was feisty and made it clear that I wasn't interested in their "negative opinions". I was the girl driving off the side of the cliff screaming "Don't judge me!!" to anyone who dared to cross me. It sounds so extremely foolish now, but hey...don't judge me :P I was a lone ranger enrolled in the School of Hard Knocks; it didn't have to be that way. With wise people speaking into my life, I would have spent a lot fewer nights crying and drinking.
As I look at my dating friends, I see two distinct sets of people: (1) Those who listen to their framily, which helps them have a solid base for forming a romantic relationship, and who live out of the shadows; and (2) Those who make it abundantly clear that they are disinterested in their framily's opinion, and live their relationship on the defense against people who love them. Which camp do you want to be in? "But someday he will change" and "she will see it my way eventually", you say. I know, I know...trust me I know. I know how strongly I believed that I was the only one who saw the potential we had as a couple. And I know far too well how wrong I was.
Don't become so blinded by #catemojihearteyes that you can't see his/her bad behavior, distaste in authority and disinterest in respecting the jewel you are. Your people feel your pain and want to protect you from getting your heart broken. So listen to them, even if you disagree. Show that you respect them enough to solicit their opinions. When the time is right, they will stand by and cheer on your blossoming, lifelong relationship with the (RIGHT!) one.
3. practice abstinence.
(Sorry, Mom…) I rehearsed every argument in the book for why this didn't matter when I was dating. It seemed like everyone was either a virgin or a tramp, and when I didn't fit into the first category, I thought I was just damaged goods. But the thing about sex is that our culture teaches us to misunderstand it, and that causes us to misuse it. I believed sex was how you showed you really liked someone. So I would misuse sex as a way to communicate a short-term interest. But if you go back to why God created sex, it was a symbol of the covenant between a husband and wife which symbolized their physical coming together when they were ready to disavow #datsinglelife and be one together until death does them part.
Keep walking through this idea with me: if sex was designed by God to symbolize a permanent covenant, you can start to see why every guy/girl who gets broken up with thinks "I thought he/she was the one. I thought we fit together." It's because you used a tool of permanency for a temporary fix. You superglued your heart to his, and you weren't meant to...yet. (Side note: Do you know how hard it is to separate two things that are superglued? I superglued my fingers together accidentally one time...I'm just sayin it's not easy.)
And aside from the superglue problem, when you have sex outside of marriage, you feel guilty. Even if you claim to be a "free spirit", you know deep down you feel like you did something wrong. And well...you did. You took a piece of someone else that wasn't intended for you. Unfortunately, culture perpetuates the idea that giving pieces of yourself to multiple people before you get married is not only normal, but it's romantic. Every romcom shows the girl who's getting married, but her former lover objects at the last minute of the ceremony. And as cute as that plays out in movies, in reality, it's GUT-WRENCHING. And it's so unnecessary. Just don't do it. Keep your heart safe, as Scripture says:
"Daughters: Don’t excite love, don’t stir it up, until the time is ripe—and you’re ready." (Song of Solomon 8)
Okay - all of this sounds really negative toward sex, so let me tell you this: Married sex is great! No guilt, no shame, no regret. Wouldn't you love that? If you answered yes...and I hope you did...then make a new commitment today to wait until marriage for sex. Trust me, it's worth the wait. Your spouse is worth the wait. YOU are worth the wait.
4. Learn to be content.
I wish I would have learned to be content in who I am and how much God loves me. I wish I didn't need the chase. I wish I didn't need to flirt. I wish I didn't need affirmation that I was still desirable. When it didn't work out with some rando boy, I would take to social media (this was back when Facebook was the thing...) to show that I was still valuable. Sometimes it was a photo of my face with sensual eyes, and sometimes it was a pic of me partying with my girl friends, cause "we don't need no man". Sometimes, it would be a check-in at church, showing that I was on the mend. Look, I know how messed up that sounds, but I think more of us have that subconscious motivation than would care to admit. What it all looked like was desperation. I was desperate to feel worthy of love. With my 20/20 hindsight I can say that I wish I would have spent more time with God, basking in his great, big love for me. I wouldn't have struggled for years doubting my value, wondering if I'd ever make it out of that life I hated. I would have accelerated my destiny, knowing that I was gifted to do everything that God called me to do. I would have realized that I am enough...because God is enough. Nowadays, I'm more content, but I can still remember the hollow feelings that I felt so deep. I know your pain. I know what it's like to strive for attention. You don't realize you're using people to prop up your ego, and it doesn't feel wrong, because you're in pain. But it's less than what you're worth. So if you're single, run to the God who knows you and loves you deeply. Learn to be content in His immense love for you.
As you ponder this blog post and why on earth God has you reading this at this exact moment in your life, I pray you know that God loves you dearly. I hope you bask in His love and learn to be content in His wholeness. I ask that you consider waiting until marriage to have sex. Even if you've already messed up (like me), re-evaluate what that path looks like for you. One wrong decision doesn't have to lead to a habit of bad decisions. At any point in time, you can stop. As you keep pondering how this writing applies to you, talk it out with your framily. Ask their opinions, even before you have a potential suitor. And lastly, consider dating less and spending more time with the Lord.
If this blog post blessed you, please share it. Share it with the single girl who is doubting her worth. Share it with the guy you know who is girl-crazy. Share it with your friend who is wondering why sex is such a big deal. Share it with your married friends who have all those kinds of friends in different life stages, too.
If you enjoyed this post, check out "Heartache, Heartbreak and Happily Ever After".