whether or not Your lips move

You speak to me

what i did while i was waiting May 23, 2009

I’ve had a few requests to do a post about what to do while you are waiting to find a person who could potentially be your future mate. I’d like to share part of my journey with you.

I tried for seven years to “make it work” with someone that I really thought was the person I was going to marry. We were very off and on, and I attempted to date other guys when we were “off”. I was always insecure in the relationship (and in myself), always questioning, always making excuses for his behavior. I spent a lot of time being bitter against happy married couples (especially those that had been together less time than I had been with this guy). I passed up a lot of opportunities, such as to travel overseas or study in an exchange program, because I was afraid to leave him behind. I believed that this was my one chance at happiness, and that if I left it I would be alone forever.

So, for part of my waiting time, I put myself through a lot of pain and passed up a lot of amazing opportunities because I was codependent and didn’t really trust God.

When I cut the ties to that relationship, I entered a whole new world. I had to get to know myself as ME and not “me and ___”. I moved back home, didn’t really have many friends in town, and my work schedule didn’t allow me to have much of a social life at first. So I spent most of my free time reading the Bible, healing, journaling, reflecting on my mistakes and successes, creating goals for my life, and making my “dream list” of qualities for a husband. I wanted to try things I hadn’t ever done before. So I began the process to become a missionary overseas. I looked at buying a house. I focused on building into relationships with other females. I became the lead singer of a rock band. I basically decided to try to thrive and not just survive. It was very lonely at times, but I’m so eternally grateful that I relished every moment of it.

Another thing I did during my waiting time was decide that I would rather be single for the rest of my life than with the wrong person in an unhealthy relationship. This was a huge step for me since I had come to really depend on other people for my self-esteem, self-concept, and such. But I came to realize I had lived enough of my life that way and was sick of it. I wanted something better–I wanted God’s best for my life and I promised myself that I would never settle for anything less. This was a scary commitment but I don’t regret it for a second, and I truly believe God will honor anyone who makes it.

During this time I did go on a few dates, thankfully with really awesome guys that loved Jesus and were extremely gentlemanly. They helped me see that a relationship can begin, progress, and end in a healthy manner, without completely tearing each other’s worlds apart. (One of them ended up marrying a good friend of mine!) I think this was an important step for me in my waiting time. I had good boundaries and protected my heart, while also allowing myself to be open to pursuit in an appropriate way. And while I had lots of girly conversations with my best friend about guys, I was able for the most part to keep my head on straight and not allow the “search” to be my reason for living.

So I guess to sum it all up, I would say that I tried to set my eyes in the right direction for the rest of my waiting time and was determined not to settle for less than God’s best. It wasn’t easy and I am certain I failed in some areas. But in the end I don’t have any regrets, even about the painful parts, because they are what helped me become the person I am today.

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answering the question: question #4 May 22, 2009

Question #4: When is the wedding date?
I have known people who were engaged for a couple of years and are in very happy marriages. I have known people who were engaged for four months and are in very happy marriages.

But I’m not gonna lie. Being engaged STINKS. You will really see some of the worst parts of each other come out during this time. Waiting to have sex until the wedding night can be downright torture. Planning a wedding can be extremely stressful. Family members and their opinions come out of the woodwork. You have to make so many decisions that by the end of it you really wish you had decided to elope. But, engagement really presents a lot of ways for you to more firmly establish your relationship.

Once you are engaged, set a wedding date as soon as possible. I recommend being engaged for no longer than 6 months. Aaron and I were engaged only 4 and had a really nice wedding (and on a small budget!). If your fiance is squeamish about setting a firm date or wants to “wait”, you may need to have a tough conversation about whether you have answered the previous three questions in the best way.

At this point, you should begin discussing all the areas in which you will consummate your marriage. There are five areas of consummation: physical, social, spiritual, financial, and emotional. Take time to discuss each area–your expectations, fears, goals, etc. (And consider discussing the physical consummation somewhere that is public so you don’t jump each other. Just sayin’.)

If at all possible, meet together as a couple with an older couple in a healthy marriage about once a week. I would suggest that this couple not be any set of your parents, but someone outside of your families. I also strongly encourage engaged couples to do premarital counseling. (It’s also good to make some “couple friends” if you don’t have any already, but as a general rule it’s wise to not base friendship on one’s marital status.)

I hope you’ve found “the questions” helpful! As always, any feedback for conversation is great!

 

answering the question: question #3 May 21, 2009

Question #3: Should I be engaged to this person?
If the answer to Question #2 was yes, you will be in an exclusive, committed relationship with that person and looking for the answer to Question #3. This is the time to really get to know each other on a deeper level. Hopefully to this point you have been very honest and real with each other–none of that “best foot forward” crap.

One thing that Aaron and I did while we were dating long distance was email each other every day: three of our strengths, three of our weaknesses, one random fact about ourselves, and one thing we MUST have in our future mate. (I will post in the future a list of things Christ-following women should be looking for in a future husband. Maybe Aaron can do a guest post for the vice versa.) Some of this could be discussed at the dating level, but really needs to be discussed at the committed relationship level to determine if you should continue on the path to marriage.

During this stage, you should try to experience each other’s character and personality in as many situations as possible. (But not physically; no sexual touching at all should occur. I know I sound crazy and old-fashioned, but it really can make things messier and more painful than they need to be.) Do you both want children? How does your boyfriend handle the holidays? Does your girlfriend really trust you or is she constantly jealous? Is your boyfriend’s mother overly involved in his life? These and other concerns should be discussed and observed.

During this stage it is important to learn how your boyfriend or girlfriend handles conflict. If you do get married, you will face a lot of it because that’s just how life works. You need to know if you will be able to face challenges together as a team or if you will be constantly battling each other. Take the time to learn how to listen well and to “fight fair”.

If you haven’t before this point, you should each have a mentor of the same sex who is in a healthy marriage that can walk alongside you as you progress in your relationship. Meet with your mentors separately and as a couple. Also, it is very important to continue fostering close, healthy friendships with members of the same sex. Set aside at least one night a week to spend apart from each other, to have alone time or to spend with your friends.

If your answer to Question #3 is yes, be excited as all get-out but prepare yourselves for one of the most challenging phases of your lives.

If your answer to Question #3 is no, it will of course be even more painful than if you had broken up at the previous relationship stage. But again, it must be done thoroughly and without a lot of delay. Avoid breaking up and getting back together, as this can cause a lot of confusion, heartache, and/or problems down the road. (Again, I know this one from WAY too much experience!)

Stay tuned for the last question…

 

answering the question: question #2 May 20, 2009

Filed under: healthy relationships series — Ash @ 9:39 pm
Tags: ,

Question #2: Should I be in a committed relationship with this person?
If the answer to Question #1 was yes, you will want to spend some time dating. Dates should consist of fun outings that provide time for talking and that don’t put you in situations in which you will be tempted to compromise yourselves physically. Anything beyond holding hands should really be off limits in a dating relationship. (I’ve been called names for saying that, too.) You should talk about a wide range of subjects, but avoid bonding emotionally and spiritually to each other too quickly. It’s important to continue to guard your heart. Most followers of Christ want their relationships to be centered on God, which is totally awesome–but don’t risk bonding on such a powerful level too soon by praying together alone.

Personally I don’t think it is wise to date more than one person at a time. It can get very complicated and people can get hurt even more easily than they already do.

If the answer to this question becomes “yes,” you will need to have what some have come to call a “DTR” (determine the relationship talk). Take some time to talk about where you feel this relationship is going, and that you think it should be taken to the next level. It is my opinion that the guy needs to be the one to initiate this. It will set the standard for the rest of the relationship. Girls, if you start feeling like you’re in a dating relationship that isn’t going anywhere and the guy hasn’t made his intentions clear, you totally have the right to know what is going on in that head of his (and what isn’t), so don’t be afraid to ask. Just don’t do it after the first date or two. It tends to scare them off. ūüėČ

If the answer to this question becomes “no,” don’t wait around too long to let the person know. It is extremely unfair to you both. It won’t be fun; no one likes to break up. But, the relationship will have successfully answered the question and hopefully you both will have learned more about yourselves and healthy relating.

Stay tuned for Question #3…

 

answering the question: question #1 May 19, 2009

Filed under: healthy relationships series — Ash @ 10:52 pm
Tags: ,

We’ve all been there. Completely heartbroken and crushed. We totally thought HE (or SHE) was THE ONE. Where did it go wrong?

When Aaron and I were just re-getting to know each other, he introduced me to a genius concept. I wish I had known about it years earlier. I would have saved myself a lot of “self-bashing”.

The goal of a relationship should not necessarily be marriage. (I know, I know–duh.) The goal of a relationship should be simply to answer a question. This way, you have always been in a successful relationship and have greater opportunity to be God-honoring within it. The given for all of these steps is that you will cover everything you think and do in prayer. There will be 4 questions.

Question #1: Should I date this person?
This one can be tricky depending on your definition of date. I didn’t always say this, but I should have and do now: any time you spend alone with a member of the opposite sex is a date. (I have been called names for saying that.) I really believe that if everyone, especially students and young adults, would operate under this principle a whole lot of confusion could be avoided. Trust me on this one. (Yes, many stories go along with that, but again, for other posts.)

Anyhow, the way to answer this question is to hang out in groups and in varying situations. You want to see what this person is all about. How does he react to a long wait for a table at a restaurant? What does she do when her car stalls in an intersection? How does he act around his friends and other girls? How does she treat or talk about her parents? These are all things that are great to find out about a person before you start investing in him or her emotionally.

Do your homework about the person who’s caught your eye. Ask reputable, honest people who know the person well about his or her character, but avoid gossip.

In my very strong opinion, guys should pursue girls and not the other way around. I have lots and lots of reasons for this, perhaps to be shared at a later time.

So, as you can see, either a “yes” or “no” answer to this first question is perfectly acceptable. When you take some time to investigate a person AS A PERSON and NOT A PROSPECT, you can be a little more objective and do well in guarding your heart. Keep in mind, this person might be your sister’s, brother’s, or best friend’s future mate instead of yours.

Stay tuned for Question #2…

 

the most important relationship May 17, 2009

Filed under: faith,healthy relationships series,love — Ash @ 10:23 pm

I know it may sound cheesy to some, but the most important relationship in my life is the one I have with God. And it is a romantic one.

I remember several years ago reading The Sacred Romance. Talk about rocking my world. The concept of God being head-over-heels in love with me made me super uncomfortable at first. But I started seeing that after all He’s brought me through and all He’s rescued me from, it really must be true. And lately I’ve come to realize that my life depends on it.

One of my tendencies in the past (before Aaron) was to seek attention and approval from just about every guy I knew. (For those of you who knew me then, I apologize!) I wasn’t exactly interested in a relationship with them, I just needed to know I was desirable. Worth someone’s time and attention. Not as messed up as I thought I was. It took me a long time to consciously realize that this was what was going on. I was looking for affirmation and fulfillment from people who just weren’t equipped to do it. Because honestly, no human is equipped to fulfill the aching need we have for approval, to answer our deepest questions about ourselves. That can come only from a transcendent source. From the One who put the need there in the first place.

It was only after I abandoned the extremely high importance I placed on being married that I truly reached a point of healing in which I could say, “I am deeply loved, fully accepted and pleasing.” And wouldn’t you know that after a season of living in this aloneness with God as my lover, that He brought Aaron back into my life. (Yes, there’s quite a story there. We’ll save that for another post.)

Some other books that really helped me along the way: Captivating (in my mind, required reading for every woman in the world and any man that wants to understand them better); Wild at Heart (required reading for every man in the world and any woman that wants to understand them better); Redeeming Love; and the Psalms.

“The Lord your¬†God is¬†among¬†you, a warrior who¬†saves. He will rejoice over¬†you with¬†gladness. He will bring you quietness with¬†His¬†love. He will delight in¬†you with¬†shouts of¬†joy” (Zeph. 3:17, HCSB).

 

thoughts from H. Norman Wright May 16, 2009

Filed under: healthy relationships series — Ash @ 9:38 am
Tags: , ,

from Relationships that Work and Those that Don’t

“Infatuation moves quickly; love grows. Infatuation carries a sense of uncertainty; love begins with security. Infatuation could lead you to do things you might regret; love won’t.”

“Some people seem to thrive on volatile relationships. But the crucial question is, where is the relationship going? Are the two people growing together with each new disagreement? Or are they just replaying the same old issues? How do the partners handle conflict? Are they resolving it through healthy give and take? Or are they at an impasse, with neither one giving in? When they do get back together, is it because they’ve decided to make the necessary compromises to work out their problem? Or do they just ‘need’ each other so much that they decide to ignore the problem until it flares up again? Every relationship has its disagreements. But in a healthy relationship, the partners talk through the problems, work through them, learn through them, learn more about each other, learn about themselves, and move on. That’s growth. That may mean the relationship reaches a higher level of understanding and commitment. Or that may mean the partners decide the romantic relationship isn’t worth pursuing. Either way, the individuals grow as they deal with their conflicts.”

These ideas were pretty groundbreaking for me when I first read them. I hadn’t ever really experienced a relationship that wasn’t volatile or codependent. I began to realize that since it was all I ever knew, I perpetuated the drama in most of my relationships and didn’t know how to handle it when drama wasn’t present. It took some time for me to re-train my way of thinking and relating. Even after Aaron and I were married, we would have “marital growth moments” (we don’t call them fights) and I would have the opportunity to further learn healthy ways of dealing with conflict.

One thing that still strikes me about the first quote is that I had never really felt secure until I met Aaron. I didn’t realize just how much of my behavior stemmed from a sense of insecurity that I had felt all my life. With Aaron, I feel safe. (Please don’t hear me say that I didn’t or don’t have security in God. That continues to grow every day and a husband simply cannot and should not be the source of a woman’s ultimate fulfillment.) I really think all women have a fear of abandonment on some level, and with my background this fear ran deep. Aaron is aware of this and proves himself time and again in his faithfulness. Ladies, you want faithful men and don’t settle for less! Guys, we need you to be men; you have what it takes!