Friday Night Date Place – Friend Custody Battles

I’ve mentioned before that we have a family way in our house. Well, I’ve noticed an awfully disturbing pattern among some of the pictures along the wall: some of them are covered. You see, we tend to have portraits of our friends’ families up spouse and children, but some of our friends have gotten divorced. So for the sake of the friend who still comes over to our house regularly, we cover up the picture of their spouse (which serves two functions: 1) it’s analogous to sitting shiva on the marriage as we mourn that relationship; 2) my wife wants a reminder for folks to send us updated pictures of them).

It’s tough because part of what the family wall represents is a running document of the people we allow to speak into our lives. Our children know our friends by sight and name, even ones we don’t get a chance to see as often as circumstance has caused them to drift out of the regular rhythm of our day-to-day lives. It’s also tough because for years we considered our friends and their spouse family. And it’s not like we’ve stopped being family.

All of this reminded me of question I received not too long ago: who gets the friends when you break up? It was asked by a friend who assured me that she wasn’t considering her options in case they broke up, but rather because as the friend of a couple who had broken up, she wasn’t sure where her loyalties should lay. I remember my friend’s words concerning mourning periods of relationships: “WE’RE NOT IN JUNIOR HIGH SCHOOL ANYMORE, SO LET’S ALL ACT LIKE ADULTS, PAINFUL AS THAT MAY BE.”

(Although, let’s face it, all that we know about relationships we learned in junior high school and the bulk of us have progressed much further than that.)

Anyway, I’d say that the situation depends largely on two factors: 1) the independent relationship you have with each partner in the relationship and 2) the nature of the break-up. Sometimes you have two friends who decide to date. Those are “hold your breath” dating scenarios because you KNOW if they don’t work out there are difficult times ahead for you/your circle of friends because human instinct if things go terribly wrong is to choose a side. [It’s nice to play Switzerland if you have that luxury, though typically one friend or the other is going to feel slighted with such a choice.]

If it’s a case of a friend of mine dates someone I don’t know, it’s a matter of if I’m able to establish independent friendship with the partner outside of my friend or if I’m friends with them solely through Significant Other. Most times the latter which makes it easier to go with my boy (or girl) should things end. [There was one notable occasion where one of my dearest friends introduced me to her boyfriend. He collected comics, loved sci-fi, and introduced me to this game called Magic: the Gathering. She knew when they split that he’d get me in the custody battle, so she opted to take the house instead.*]

In terms of the nature of the break up, cheating, abuse, generally being mean or what have you messy wise with my friend as the victim, I’m gonna support my boy (or girl). That simple. If it’s my friend that’s being a jerk, well, they get to hear about that, too. Friendship doesn’t mean blind loyalty.

As for your circle of friends, it shouldn’t be much of an issue. You give the couple space and be sensitive to their healing. There’s no reason why it has to be an either/or situation of the group choosing one friend over another. As long as you have independent relationship with folks and the break up wasn’t messy to the point of deep lasting hurts, time can heal many wounds.

*It was an ugly break up and complicated occasions like wanting them both in my wedding, but now things are just fine between all of us. Navigating that was a delicate dance on eggshells, however … for years.

If you want to make sure that I see your comment or just want to stop by and say “hi”, feel free to stop by my message board. We always welcome new voices to the conversation.

Friday Night Date Place – The Road to Just Friends

Remember when we tackled this question: how do you love your brothers in Christ without giving them false hope of you wanting something more? Apparently I need to revisit the topic. The situation is a familiar one. You dated someone, it lasted a few months, you realized it wasn’t going to work out so you ended it. The things which first drew you to the person are still there, they are still every bit the friend they had always been, so you want to keep the friendship.

Now, the other person makes the attempt (read: lie) to just be friends. Sometimes they’re sincere, sometimes they intend to, and sometimes they are doing whatever it takes to stay in the game (and a lot of the time, the intent to stay friends is prelude to just staying in the game). But along the way to being just friends, there may be the occasional bumps as feelings settle down. In short, you’ve told someone to move on and you won’t date them over again, but you’ve let them know that you still want to be friends. Now what?

The transition to “just friends” is fraught with emotional land mines. It’s hard to go from dating to being just friends. When part of you wanted more, dreamed of more, expected more and all those hopes came crashing down and falling short. It takes a while to pack those feelings back into a box and be able to manage them. It takes focus to channel those “more than friends” feelings and energy into something platonic. The road may be full of DTRs.

Sometimes the road may want to make you re-think being friends. Honestly, the commitment to friendship begins with one sentence: If you can’t deal with the fact that I don’t want to date you any more, then this is the last conversation we will have. The true test comes with one simple scenario: can you handle me going out with someone else?

Basically, you have a decision to make: to be friends or to cut things off. And they have to be prepared to either accept the reality of the situation or stalk you.

For the being friends contingency, both of you will be pouring energy into the relationship, in time and emotional sweat. In some ways you have to live life in light of their feelings, balancing being sensitive with the need for you to move on and do what you’ve got to do. But you do have to lead your life and attend to your own emotion needs and situations.

In the just end it scenario, look, sometimes you can’t be “just friends” and you may have to just cut bait cause friends don’t work. If they don’t get the hint that things really can’t work when you’re being nice, the follow up conversation won’t be pleasant. To quote my brother-in-law: “come here Roly Poly, turn into a ball so I can flick you into the grass.”

Either way, there might be some stalking-ish behavior. Constant phone calls. Texts throughout the night. Showing up where ever you might be. Standing outside your window with a boom box raised above their head playing Peter Gabriel songs. They stay close cause at some point you may end your new relationship and they can catch you on the rebound, after all, the point for them is to stay in the game. This is one way how on again/off again relationships start.

Relationships are commitments, even friendships. Sometimes you have to walk away from friendships for a time in order for the relationship to heal and the two of you to move forward as adults. There’s nothing wrong with that, and that beats the alternative of silly games and stalkerish behavior. We’re better than that.

If you want to make sure that I see your comment or just want to stop by and say “hi”, feel free to stop by my message board. We always welcome new voices to the conversation.

Friday Night Date Place – On Again/Off Again

Gather close Interwebs, I have a secret to tell you: Broadduses suck at relationships. I know, I know, but it’s true. I’ll use myself as an example ad not toss my siblings under a bus. My wife and I dated over a two year period before we got married. That is to say, the length of time we dated covered a two year span. The problem was that over that that time, the longest we dated for any stretch before our engagement was two weeks. (In fact, as not to stress ourselves, our engagement was only about six weeks long.)

All relationships have to find their own course, but had my wife come to be for counseling and laid out the specifics of her/our relationship, I’d have told her to run. Actually, many of her friends advised her to do exactly that (but, well, sometimes there’s just no talking any sense into her and every April 1st I’m sure she thinks “I should’ve run.”)

Why would I have said run?

Obviously something in the dynamic of the relationship abhorred stability. There was an element of fear at play that needed to be rooted out. Maybe an inability to commit that caused the trigger-happy party in the relationship to either break up, drive her away, or otherwise sabotage the relationship. Unless it was addressed, and people are loathe to deal with their own issues, it would haunt the relationship.

Continuity is important in a relationship. You learn about each other and a lot of information can slip through the cracks when you’re always breaking up when things get tough or inconvenient.

On the flip side, there are some positives.

The relationship breaks can give time to process and come to terms with a few things. To get at the root cause of that fear requires introspection, intense reflection, and time. Applying the brakes slows things down, allowing the scared party to get their head around the concept of a partnership, a relationship, and commitment.

The on gain/off again nature of a relationship comes with its own stressors:

-trust. It’s hard to establish stability when the trust is rocked every few weeks. It’s hard to rest comfortably in the relationship when you fear it will all go to crap at any minute. It drains the fun out of being in a relationship and increases the sense of drama. Imagine your attitude at the prospect of crossing a bridge prone to collapsing.

-break ups. Even at their best, break ups aren’t easy to navigate and “survive”. The things that first attracted you to that person are still present, and it’s easy to fall back into that routine and established comfort levels. You have to remember that the things that drove you apart are also there. To continue to jump back in is the equivalent of ripping the Band Aid from a wound that hasn’t been allowed to heal.

-resolutions. In marriage, you don’t have the luxury of solving your problems by breaking up. (Well, you do, but it costs you half your stuff. I may have fear of commitment issues, but I love my comic book and DVD collection, too). Regardless, running away is not real conducive to the health of a relationship. The process of facing your fears together and resolving conflicts together builds trust, dependence, communication, and coping skills, all of which will come in handy later.

I look back and marvel that the two of us ever got together. Was the on again/off again a necessary part of our journey. Probably (he rationalizes knowing that despite 8 years of marriage, my wife still acts likes she’s suffering from post traumatic stress any time someone brings up our dating history). I wasn’t even close to being in a place to settle down, but when the right person comes along, and won’t wait around forever for you to get your act together, the paradigm shift in thinking and behavior can be an abrupt and ugly process.

If the on again/off again can be seen as one, or both, of you working your way toward, or through, something, and the person is worth the pain of the process (and let me tell you, I am PURE JOY!!!), then go with God. Do what you need to do. Otherwise … run!!!

If you want to make sure that I see your comment or just want to stop by and say “hi”, feel free to stop by my message board. We always welcome new voices to the conversation.

Friday Night Date Place – Shopping to Shop

Smokey Robinson sang about “my momma told me, ‘you better shop around’” (my dad listened to Smokey Robinson and the Miracles, I’m not dating myself by any stretch). I am more of a pragmatist at heart than a romantic, so a certain about of shopping, haggling, and trading makes sense to me. Also feeding into this is the fact that I’m a guy, so mid-life crises (still not dating myself) also makes sense to me.

I can see this blog quickly getting away from me (it’s the potential pitfall of writing about singles’ issues while your wife not only reads over your shoulder, but keeps flashing back to the series of break ups the two of you had while dating), so let me try this another way. On a certain level, I understand (not saying I condone, approve, or otherwise give assent to) the idea of people trading up: to go prettier, smarter, funnier, wealthier in their next relationship – a terminal case of the grass-is-always-greener-itis. (Unless you are escaping a bad situation, then just run!)

It’s not much of an intuitive leap since too often we treat relationships like disposable commodities. However, what I can’t get my mind around is the idea of shopping to be shopping, or rather, trading simply for the sake of trading. A lateral move rather than a move up in anyway. I suppose in guy parlance, it could be seen as getting a little “strange” on the side; taking us back to the idea of folks getting tired of the same old home-cooking (which would really suck for me since I do all of the cooking in our house. I mean that in the literal sense).

The irony of all of this—between the stereotype of the mid-life crisis/trading the wife for the young secretary and/or the idea of getting some “strange”—is that the reason this topic has come up is because in my circle of friends, it has been the guys dumped. So obviously, this is an equal opportunity condition.

Selfishness and narcissism can rot relationships from the inside. The idea of entitlement, things being about “my needs” and “me first”, is antithetical to how relationships ought to work. Not having needs met; wanting to feel young, pretty, relevant, pursued again; simply wanting a change of scenery, these are symptoms of a poor idea of how relationships work (and while dating, maybe it’s best that they leave. However, these are things that ought to be worked through in a marriage situation).

We suffer from a relational disconnect. There is an emotional desensitization that comes with spending too much time with one person, especially when locked in the same routine. Relationships can only survive by continual reconnection. We combat the disconnect by being present in the relationship, investing time, self, and energy into it, prioritizing the person we wish to spend our life with.

I have a couple of friends who I see constantly. We worry about relational fatigue because we don’t want to get sick of each other. I worry about it less (now) because, for one thing, relationships change. If you take a look at your current circle of friends, there’s a good chance that a year from now, maybe two, the complexion of your circle of friends will be different. People whom you shared intimate secrets with one day drift (or storm) out of your life. People fight. Misunderstandings occur. Trust is betrayed. People move, switch social circles, life, circumstances, what have you – you wake up one day and realize that some folks aren’t as close to you or aren’t as much a part of your world as they used to be. There is a natural ebb and flow to relationships.

For another thing, we have a dynamic I pray will be sustained despite the aforementioned observation about relationships. It’s like we’re in a constant competition to see who can love each other more. The math is simple: Continual acts of love = continual reconnection. Not letting the relationship grow stale or old, valuing the time you spend together, not taking the relationship for granted. Distance may make the heart grow fonder, but only until the heart no longer cares.

Browse if you need to, that’s what dating is all about. Serially wrapping yourself in a relationship simply for the sake of doing so (for the sake of not wanting to be alone, or needing a new face to keep you company), is the height of selfishness. And you may want to seriously look in the mirror and examine yourself about that.

If you want to make sure that I see your comment or just want to stop by and say “hi”, feel free to stop by my message board. We always welcome new voices to the conversation.

Friday Night Date Place – Seriously, Just Friends (Take the Hint)

Every so often I have to put the word out: if you want me to keep doing Friday Night Date Place, I need folks to suggest some topics for me. So, from the suggestion bag, I got this: how do you love your brothers in Christ without giving them false hope of you wanting something more?

This is an all too common occurrence, an unintended consequence of folks trying to let other folks down gently. We know the deal, because we’ve been there before: a person puts themselves out on a limb, making themselves vulnerable, only to be turned down (or the relationship cut much shorter than they had hoped). So wanting to let them down is both commendable and loving. Unfortunately, sometimes the trying to be “just friends” is misinterpreted as them still having hope of being in the game.

So what if they don’t get the hint?

First off, let’s examine if you’ve done anything to confuse the issue. Being “just friends” aside, you don’t want to send mixed messages by still going out with them, accepting their gifts, or ramming your tongue down their throats (the whole “friends with benefits” being a topic for another day).

If you aren’t sending mixed signals you may have to have another, more firm, talk with them. The first go around you have license to pad your talk with crap. But if you’ve already gone down that road once before with the “but speeches” (“I really like you but …” or “You have so much going on for you, but ..”), then it’s time to “woman up” (read: put your big girl panties on) and be more blunt. I understand that you may worry about being perceived as not nice and, again, that’s commendable. You still need to be honest with the fact that things really aren’t going anywhere. If you have to, put the ball back in their court: where exactly did you see this going? Or flat out admit that being “just friends” isn’t working – and then cut all ties. The two things you want to continue to strive for is honesty and being loving. It’s about getting the truth across plainly while doing your best to spare someone’s dignity.

After that, play time is over. If someone is so desperate for attention, for any scrap that might prove “she likes me!” then don’t answer their phone calls, e-mails, any communication, ignore the smoke signals and hope they take the hint and go away. We’d hate for things to degenerate to the point of reducing you to humiliating tactics like finding excuses putting off time together (come on, how often can you spend evenings doing your hair?) or coming up with lies like wearing a ring to announce your recent “engagement”. On the flip side, this is the age of stalkers and restraining orders.

If you have made it CLEAR that you aren’t interested and they still pursue you, that’s on them. You can’t be responsible for what other people feel. It’s sad to see things get to a point where you feel like you can’t even be nice to folks or that they don’t understand anything but outright being ignored; however, sometimes folks just aren’t meant to be “just friends”.

If you want to make sure that I see your comment or just want to stop by and say hi, feel free to do so on my message board. I apologize in advance for some of my regulars.

Friday Night Date Place – When Love is Not Enough

Unfortunately, I’ve had ringside seats as a relationship close to our family’s is coming apart due to financial pressures. It’s the same old story: both having big dreams, no one finishing school, treading water in a string of crappy jobs, never getting ahead, constantly feeling pressure of barely making it from one paycheck to the next, and no one wanting to adjust their lifestyle downward. Though this could be the beginning of part two of the role money issues play in relationships, this is also one example of love not being enough, cause love don’t pay the bills.

To put this in a bit of context, I try to lead as drama-free a life as possible and tend to surround myself with drama-free folks (and by “drama-free” I mean the self-created variety. Life has enough drama without me or my significant other stirring up needless drama, stressing the relationship to the breaking point).

I’ve been in relationships where I have to do a certain kind of relationship algebra, calculating the deal-breaking point with a different set of variables. In this case, it focused on when one partner is dragging the other into the spiral of their madness. Wondering when they bring enough negativity and drama to the relationship that it threatens to consume anything positive about them; poisoning the relationship with their bitterness and hate. When they are so negative, so frustrating, offering excuse after excuse for wanting to wallow in their own self-created misery that is seems that their love language vocabulary being reduced to “I, I, I. Me, me, me.”

One of the things I’ve come to realize is that how a significant other reacts during hard or bad times reveals a lot about their character. It’s easy to rationalize their bad behavior, ill-temper, or general negative intensity when it’s focused outside of your relationship, but you have to be careful because eventually it’s turned on you. There’s usually plenty of evidence supporting the fact that they seem to have a case of short relationship attention span: how many family members they’ve pissed off, how many communities they’ve quit, how many relationship bridges they’ve burned. If nothing else, their lack of people skills may prevent you from establishing roots and deepening relationships.

When you find yourself the babysitter in the relationship, the designated adult, there’s a problem. Relationships ought to be a coming together of equal partners. It’s the only way the business of relationships (from managing the finances to communicating in order to reconcile) can be done. What you don’t want is to let things deteriorate to the point where you’re grabbing a screwdriver ready to drive it into your partner to put an end to the madness. I’m not saying I’ve seen that happen in a relationship before, but sometimes these ringside seats are kinda rough.

If you want to make sure that I see your comment or just want to stop by and say hi, feel free to do so on my message board. I apologize in advance for some of my regulars.

Friday Night Date Place – A Thief Always Gets Caught

The other day, I ran across this site which read in part:

Do you believe that someone (even online) has used your love and trust in order to steal your money? Did they claim they loved you, would marry you, take care of you, start a business with you – and all you had to do was provide the financing for everything? Did they disappear overnight or just walk out on you after you ran out of money? Did they refuse to pay back any of the money they received, claiming that you gave it to them willingly as a gift? Did you learn after they left that they were involved with another person at the same time they were promising you the world and taking your money? Then you are the victim of a sweetheart scam.

Naturally, the first question I had to ask myself was how do things get to this point? How many times have you started dating someone who later turns out, or reveal themselves, to be someone else? How do you know if your relationship is built with the long term stability of a house of cards? Is there any way to know, to find out, before it’s too late?

In some ways, it’s pointless to ask what kind of warning signs to look for. We’re talking about being in love, and being in love can be a special kind of crazy. Put another way, we aren’t always as logical as we ought to be. When you’re in love, you will defend your lover against outside attack or anything you perceive as an attack. When you’re in love, you hear with “ears of love” so it can be easy for folks to explain things away and you give them the benefit of the doubt. It kind of reminds me of the lyrics to the song “When a Man Loves a Woman”:

When a man loves a woman
Down deep in his soul
She can bring him such misery
If she plays him for a fool
He’s the last one to know
Lovin’ eyes can’t ever see

Still, there ought to be some red flags you ought to pay attention to. How did their previous relationships end? Granted, ex-girlfriends or ex-spouses can make for biased (to say the least) witnesses (I know that I’ve never had an ex with an ax to grind, preferably in my skull), but it’s a question to consider. How does they treat their friends and other relationships? Do they compartmentalize their life? By that I mean are you kept in one part of their life like some secret shame? Are you hidden from their parents, their family, or groups of their friends? For that matter, does too much of their life seem shrouded in secrecy, as if you are being cut out from portions of their life?

Or, one of the biggies, do they always seem to have or be in a state of crisis? Constant drama, coincidently around your pay days, can be a red flag. Money can be a critical issue in relationships, so if you find yourself constantly paying out a lot of money, or otherwise supporting them, it’s a red flag. If you find yourself always doing the heavy lifting of the relationship, be it emotionally, financially, or even spiritually, consider it a red flag. People eventually reveal who they really are, but you need to remember that a thief always gets caught.

You have a right to be picky when you are dating; you deserve the best and too often we settle for less out of fear of being alone. Make sure that the person you think you are dating really exists and isn’t just a figment of your romance filled imagination. Don’t let fear keep you from making the tough decisions. Investigate as you date, or at least keep your eyes open. Meet their friends; see what they think of your significant other and how your significant other presents you to them. But you have to draw your own line for when things rise to the level of being a deal breaker issue.

Not that any of this will make the pain any less should things go bad and you find yourself betrayed, hurt, and robbed. Few things will prevent you from falling into a dark place, curled up in a ball, under your bed sheets, shaking, like an addict in withdrawal because you not only hurt, but you still find yourself missing that person. Heartbreak is heartbreak. You need to allow yourself to purge, to mourn the relationship. Yes, you will find yourself asking if the person you thought you were dating ever existed. Maybe it becomes easier if you look at things through the eyes of a fiction writer: you can see this as another chapter of a story you contributed to, which you can and ought to put on a shelf and move on from. In the mean time, you hopefully have people, friends and family, who love you who can walk along side you through the dark times.

If you want to make sure that I see your comment or just want to stop by and say hi, feel free to do so on my message board. I apologize in advance for some of my regulars.

Friday Night Date Place – The Let’s Just be Friends Lie

You know, when I started “Friday Night Date Place,” I figured that after maybe ten blogs or so, I’d run out of stuff to say. Luckily for me, I still hang out with my single friends, and they can be a bitter, bitter bunch. Yay friend fodder!

For today’s topic, I think it prudent to once again mention that I’m not the best person to take advice from on how to deal with break ups. However, there is one idea that I wanted to examine: this notion of ending things on the note of “let’s just be friends.” Let’s face it, whenever I have told someone that “we can still be friends” what I really meant was “I really don’t want to be around you anymore but let’s part on good terms so that my pets don’t end up in a pot of boiling water.” (My other policy was straight “scorched earth”: usually by the time a relationship with me had run its course, neither she, her family, her friends, her work colleagues, nor her pets wanted anything to do with me).

Oddly enough, the world is not populated by people who think like me and some people really mean it when they say they want to remain friends. I think the question we have to examine is would we really WANT to be “just friends”? I think there are a few complications you’d have to keep in mind:

-the emotional confusion: the stuff that attracted you to each other is still there. Time is a dual edged sword. Given time, you will have moments of being drawn to each other, especially given your history. It would be hard not to want to be close again. However, time also dulls your memory and you forget that the reasons you broke up are still there also.

-future relationships: your future significant others might not be cool with the idea of you and your exes hanging out.

-and then there’s “NO!”: you know what? I have enough friends. I don’t need someone to do my hair and have pillow fights with. (Okay, I don’t know where I was going with this, but I’m now stuck with the image of me and Wrath James White in our undies and feathers flying all about us). Anyway, the point is that there are some folks you don’t want to think of as friends nor want them thinking of you as friends because your heart will always want more from the relationship.

If you’re serious about remaining friends, you have to allow space and time before proceeding. Space for the two of you to gain some distance, get on with your lives a bit, fall into new (or sometimes old) routines. Time to heal from the relationship, to let the memories of the relationship fade, and to let the affairs of the heart settle a bit. Getting over the loves of our lives takes time. I wish there were some magic formula, but the best we can usually hope for is that things will “hurts less”. Once they do, you can truly re-visit the idea of being “just friends”.

If you want to make sure that I see your comment or just want to stop by and say hi, feel free to do so on my message board. I apologize in advance for some of my regulars.

Friday Night Date Place – Deal Breaker

I’ve had to watch many a relationship implode – usually mine, though if nothing else, I’ve read folks go all “emo” on their blogs after their break ups. With rare exception, the break ups didn’t happen without warning. There were storm warning sirens that probably went off that probably went unheeded. However, I want to look at the flip side of things, from the perspective of the potential breaker, for a minute to consider when should a person decide that things aren’t working out.

If you think a relationship is heading towards marriage, you have to start taking long haul considerations into account – analyzing the relationship in terms of spending the rest of your life with them. Deciding to break up isn’t easy, it’s like you have to consider the lemon rule, that point when you’ve invested enough into a car and you’d be better off buying a new one. At what point have you wasted enough time pouring yourself into the relationship? At what point have you cried enough tears over them? At what point do you realize you’d be better off (risking being) alone?

I think back on my sister’s previous relationship before she got married. I wasn’t all that impressed with him, I kept waiting for him to step to folks like a grown up, but I tried to like him. She had to make up her own mind about how much of his nonsense she was ready to put up with. For the rest of her life. She had to figure out what she couldn’t live with and a few things factored into the equation was how he dealt with:

1) Jobs. The main thing married couples fight about is money. Someone has to work and pay for everything and you can’t afford to be tied to a mooch who wants to smoke weed and play video games. Nor to someone who can’t keep a job for a week or a month or two, then quit (especially if everything is “everyone else’s fault”. Come on, you always have to answer to someone and more often than not, that someone will be a jerk. You don’t always have the luxury of popping off to them when you don’t get your way).

The only analogy I can think of is about hitching your wagon to an erratic truck. If that truck has no problems driving off a cliff to indulge whatever tantrum it wants to have, then you may want to take that into consideration. Stability is important to relationships, even moreso if you are thinking about adding kids to the equations.

2) Homebody. By “homebody” I mean living in their in mom’s basement. By homebody I mean making a home on their couch. In fact, it points to the greater problem of being directionless and unambitious. You can’t make someone find themselves, their way in life, or figure out what they want to do with their lives. Basically, you can’t make them grow up – and you shouldn’t have to. These are things a person needs to do for themselves.

3) Kids. Do they have kids that they (already) don’t take care of?

4) Drama. Some people are victims of their own bad decision making, (tacitly or not) preferring the emotional roller coaster, the constant ups and downs, of life. And they want you along for the ride. A couple years ago, I went to King’s Island. That’s when I realized “you know what? I’m a grown ass man. I don’t need the thrill of being tossed around, dropped, and twirled upside down for my excitement.” (And then I spent the day at Spongebob 3-D, but I digress).

“As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.” Ephesians 4:1-3

After making all due consideration, you have been gifted with common sense. You can’t stay with someone out of pity or wanting to spare their feelings. You can’t stay because your parents or their parents or your friends really like them (or the two of you as a couple). At some point, you have to take care of you – your sanity, the stability you want for you and your family.

The thing is, everyone draws lines for themselves. I can’t impose standards of what I would put up with on anyone else. My relationship with my wife has its own rhythm and considerations, and I can’t assume it would be the normative for anyone else. So draw your own lines in the sand, so that you know when you’ve reached the limits of how much of them you can accept. Better to know what’s a deal breaker, before you get to that marriage step. Once you figure out your standards and what you deserve, you need to believe it.

You don’t have to settle, especially from fear of being alone.

If you want to make sure that I see your comment or just want to stop by and say hi, feel free to do so on my message board. I apologize in advance for some of my regulars.

Friday Night Date Place – Break Ups Part III: Forgiving

(Or “Did God mean I have to forgive them, too?”)

(a.k.a. Keepin’ the hate)

I’m very quick to forgive, or to offer apologies, when offense is given or taken. Forgiveness is an emotional lubricant and a learning opportunity, at least for me. As mentioned before, it’s important to me to get along with people, and I am genuinely horrified when having given offense, most especially the unintended kind. But long-term forgiveness, when, for example, someone has a change of heart, can be a real challenge for me.

How often have we gotten out of a relationship, a bad break up, and it not been clean? He did you wrong. She cheated on you. He hurt you. She tore out your heart. Somewhere along the line, the two of you got lost in a spiral of betrayal, anger, hurt, and even hate. Then we wear the scars into our next relationship. However, at some point we have to wrestle with what it means to best love one another. This includes forgiving one another.

During the grieving of the relationship, the mourning time allows us to process the hurt and lessons of a relationship. We often think of forgiveness as something that someone who has done us wrong must ask of us. It is much harder to offer forgiveness to the person who has wronged you, especially if they haven’t asked for it or won’t hear it; but forgiveness is a gift you give to yourself.

It is tempting to hold on to the anger, resentment and the sense of betrayal that may come with a break up, but you can’t keep holding onto things that happened in the past. It only leads to problems with the health of your future relationships. It’s like we get stuck in an emotional rut.

Scripture teaches us that we must forgive, because Christ forgave us. India.Arie sings “If Jesus can forgive crucifixion; surely we can survive and find a resolution.” I do not know if we can ever recapture our friendship, but we can ensure that there is no resentment between us. Forgiveness does not happen in a moment. It’s a process. Today, I choose to begin that process. The completion of that journey will not happen tomorrow or next week, but hopefully soon.

There are times when we are called to be a peacemaker. Let’s not forget that our former Significant Other was a part of your life. You carved out time for them, carved out space for them, they became part of your routine. Sometimes we have to villify the other person in order to move on, or more precisely, have a sense of moving on. We burn the bridge so that we don’t, or aren’t tempted to, keep going over and over it again. Yet it may be more healthy for us to forgive in order for us to move on.

Look, forgiveness is a choice, not always an easy one, but “forgive and forget” is a lie we tell ourselves. You’re much better off believing in forgive and remember; forgive and learn; as long as you forgive and move on. Moving on, any kind of transformation, is a process and the power of forgiveness and love is in the process: starting with absolute honesty (confession), owning up to what you have done, your part in things. Acknowledging that what you have done doesn’t define you. And then letting it go, as forgiveness opens the door for a new beginning.

Forgiveness doesn’t mean a restoration of the relationship. Sometimes the loving thing is to walk away. “If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.” (Romans 12:18) As much as I’d like to conveniently toss out the words of the apostle Paul, we’re to try our best to live at peace with one another.

Jesus’ forgiveness is a living parable that teaches God’s forgiveness is not dependent on our worthiness, ability, or even our deeds of repentance. It is completely a product of God’s grace. “I, even I, am the One who wipes out your transgressions for my own sake; And I will not remember your sins” (Isaiah 43:25).

You’ve been forgiven (by God) and need to move on. Forgive them and move on. And don’t forget to forgive yourself. And move on.

If you want to make sure that I see your comment or just want to stop by and say hi, feel free to do so on my message board. I apologize in advance for some of my regulars.