I’m about two months in to this adventure of dating — of being called someone’s “girlfriend,” a title I’ve never had before, of learning how to put someone’s needs ahead of my own, of checking with someone else’s schedule and plans, of learning how to communicate — and I’ve found myself repeatedly asking married friends or friends who are further down the road than I am if certain things are normal.
Maybe I just wasn’t paying attention or maybe I didn’t want to hear what people had to say but I feel like very few people talk about the hard parts of being in a relationship. I’ve heard repeatedly about how hard marriage is, choosing to love someone every single day, whether you feel like it or not. But I didn’t expect that in dating.
I’ll go ahead and disclaimer this now, I am by no means complaining and I would choose this type of hard, fighting for a relationship, over the hard of being alone any day.
Here are the 5 things I wish someone had told me about dating:
1) It will be hard.
As someone who is chasing hard after Christ and in my later twenties, I have no desire to date casually without purpose. When the Boyfriend and I started dating we had several conversations about our intentions in relationships and what we believed the purpose of marriage to be. Because we’ve both walked many aspects of life, we know who we are individually and that has been foundational to our relationship. I know who I am in Christ which means I don’t have to figure that out while I’m learning who this other person is. Granted, he shows me new things (good and bad) about myself all the time but at the end of the day, I am at rest in who I am in Christ.
But that also means I’ve established personality traits and expectations and ideas about how things should be that he has no idea about. And because they’re “duh” moments for me, I forget to communicate them to him. And folks guess what, He Can’t Read My Mind!… I mean. what? I just thought he’d be able to! So when there is miscommunication or confusion we have to choose to talk it out and learn what each other’s expectations are. It isn’t always fun. But it’s always worth it.
2) Vulnerability means talking about your feelings.
Okay, this one was a shocker to me. I know this may seem a little absurd coming from me, the girl who feels like she’s got vulnerability nailed down, but I have learned that my original ideas of vulnerability are only half right. I had unknowingly defined vulnerability as sharing my story, my heart, my wounds, my life with someone. But I think I’ve assumed those things to be past tense. Because with the Boyfriend I’ve had to learn how to share my current feelings, which sometimes mean apologizing for things I’ve done wrong, or telling him when I feel needy or crazy and trusting him when he says he wants to work through those things with me.
Truly letting him see the rawness of who I am is scary. It’s scary in a completely different way from letting community see all of who I am. This man holds parts of my heart that a community doesn’t. The stakes are higher, the potential pain is greater, and yet the reward is unmatched.
3) It will change you … and that’s okay.
I’ve learned things about the way I react to situations, insecurities, and fear that I never expected I would. It’s made me run faster towards Jesus and examine traits about myself that I’m not sure I like. There’s so much talk in society about liking who we are and being with someone who accepts us completely. I like that in theory, but I also believe it’s okay to change parts of who we are to better serve someone else. For example, I am emotional and quick to react to things with my heart rather than my head. (another shocker, right?) I’ve always just assumed this is part of who I am and that’s the end of the story. Yes. I am emotional and that is one of my greatest strengths because it’s where my joy and passion and love and loyalty come from. BUT I also can learn to keep my emotions in check. To wrangle them and not let them decide the reality of my situation. And this doesn’t make me any less of who I am.
4) Sometimes you need to sort out your feelings alone and get over it.
Sometimes you need to sit in your car and be grumpy and realize that whatever happened in the situation is a result of your expectations, your ideas, your plans, and your issues. Not his/hers. And sometimes the best way to love the other person is to spend ten minutes deciding that you’re going to get over it. You don’t need to talk about it. You don’t need to work through it. You need to acknowledge to yourself that you’re frustrated. Try to figure out what things are actually the triggers and at some point, if it benefits the relationship, bring the triggers up and talk through those things. Is he always late and it makes you furious? Does it feel like she’s criticizing you when she questions a decision? Sort through those emotions and figure out the real thing behind them. But sometimes, you just have to get over it.
5) Romance will surprise you.
I always assumed I would be one of those girls who would feel romanced by gestures and words and unexpected flowers and kisses in the rain. And yes, those things are wonderful. And the Boyfriend goes above and beyond in how he romances me. But one of the most unexpected things I’m learning as I learn to be in someone’s life is that the greatest romance of all is the way he pursues my heart.
You see, I thought I would need grand gestures and movie moments but I never could have known that a steady stable pursuit of my heart would feel like the greatest romance of all.
Because when he says he’s in, I believe him.
When he won’t let me off the phone after I’ve had a crummy day, I feel safe to fall apart.
When he puts my favorite fancy water in his fridge, I realize he thought about me in a small moment of his day.
When he prays for our relationship and that we would first and foremost pursue Jesus, I know I can follow him.
When he tells me he will do everything in his power to keep my heart safe, I want him to know all of it.
I guess I always thought that passion and romance had to come at the expense of stability and steadiness. But he has taught me the exact opposite.
This journey is unexpected and hard and beautiful and worth it. I am so grateful to get to experience this type of relationship and be with someone who wants to experience it with me.