Friday Night Date Place – Stronger Together

“We are all, in a sense, experts on secrecy. From earliest childhood we feel its mystery and attraction. We know both the power it confers and the burden it imposes. We learn how it can delight, give breathing space and protect.” –Sissela Bok

People don’t do friendships well. We don’t lend ourselves well to making friends (or have no idea of what making/being a friend is) and thus call people who should be acquaintances “friends” or BFFs, though they are as disposable as an unfriending on MySpace.

Part of the problem is out inability to handle intimacy well. When we ask ourselves why do we insist on continuing to date after so many heart wrenching, near life-destroying, pain-inducing, love experiences (and then remain hopeful that the next dating experience will be different)? our answer boils down to one word: intimacy.

We know that intimacy can be abused, but some people start off with a fear of intimacy. The idea of becoming close to another human being causes us to (mentally or emotionally, if not physically) flinch. T o run away. To not give people a chance. To let someone in, to care about them and let them care about you can only lead to two things: 1) the laying down of roots as you invest in a relationship and 2) the possibility of future loss, because at best all relationships are til death do we part.

This lack of intimacy can sometimes be the result of self-fulfilling prophecy. Because of your experiences in the past, you’ve become reluctant to meet/let new people in. Not entirely unreasonably, your instinct tells you that they will be like the rest: they will get to know the real you, not like you, judge you, or otherwise abandon you and rather than wait for them to do so, you push and push and push new people until they finally have had enough and move on; then you pat yourself on your back for being right in not trusting them. In effect, you reject them before they can reject you and thus intimacy never occurs.

Some people can go through life as lone rangers, rootless in their life and relationships. However, I basically think that this points to the lie, or at least to the end, of American-styled individualism. That whole “I am an island”, “I don’t need anyone”, “you can only depend on yourself” ethos that eventually runs its course. Just like systematic theology can’t answer some ultimate/basic questions about faith, and when we come to the end of its usefulness and move on; in life, experience often teaches us that there are limits to what our own bootstraps can carry us through.

Yes, in the end, people will fail you. Despite our best intentions, sometimes even for the noblest of reasons, folks will let you down. That’s no reason to never let them in. Life is full of regrets. You, too, will fail others, but I’m sure that failure doesn’t define you, nor your relationships, and you’d like the chance to be forgiven and try again.

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Friday Night Date Place – Memo to the Nice Guys

Thinking back to my single and lonely days, I distinctly (painfully!) remember how often I was trapped in the friend zone. You know what I’m talking about: wanting to date, not quite knowing how to get with a person you’re interested in, end up sidling alongside them, becoming their friend and then confidante, even best friend, but they never quite see you as anything other than a dear friend.

I was always that guy. The best friend guy. Always had a bevy of girls around because they needed to bounce their ideas off of someone (and this was before the gay best friend thing became fashionable). But I was the safe guy, the one they could talk to, the one whose shoulder was always there for them to cry on. On one level, it was nice to have the attention and to be able to hang out with so many women. I learned how to be comfortable around this strange species of humanity, how to listen to them, what things they were concerned about. On another level, it was rather emasculating. Think about it: you weren’t seen as a “guy” as much as this sexless/genderless friend. Gender neutral.

You were a nice guy (or gal pal).

You were the one who watched the object of your affection go off and date, get into relationship after relationship, making bad choice after bad choice, waiting for them to FINALLY learn their lesson and appreciate what was beside them all along. How did that work out for you?

Like a fine piece of writing, I was never appreciated in my time. This may have been a function of where I was in life. High school/college-age. Ready to settle down (then … I out grew that a few years later once I recognized the pluses of singleness). I hadn’t come into my own. The girls/women I was interested in weren’t interested in settling down or lifelong commitments. They wanted to date and have fun. They weren’t looking for husband material.

So, memo to the nice guys: your time will come. Eventually your peer group/dating pool will come to appreciate you for what you are. You just need to be prepared when you are. Don’t be living in your mother’s basement or shacked up with an ex-girlfriend. Don’t let your lifetime of “woe is me” attitude define who you are. Don’t become self-defeated by your perceived ineffectiveness at dating (or unattractiveness to the other sex). Have a job and be prepared to be, if not a provider, then at least an equal partner in the relationship. Nice guys (or gals) don’t have to finish last, only be in a place where they can be appreciated for who they are when the time is right.

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 – Sport Dating

I overheard a lady in our church once ask a hapless single caught in her headlights “if you’re not going to get married why bother dating?” I know where this is coming from, one of the questions that I get quite often is, believe it or not, is when will I know that I’m ready to date? The answer to that question almost has to begin with the answer to a different question: are you ready to get married?

I know, it sounds like I’m going to advocate the “date to mate” school of thought when it comes to dating. I do and I don’t. I fully believe that dating relationships ought to have at least an eye on the potential of that partner as a mate (and as the relationship continues, more than an eye). I also know full well that people can recreationally date. That’s part of what singles groups (and part of what often makes them go bad) are all about.

Sheesh, do you need someone to give you permission to just go out, have fun, killing time with someone of the opposite sex? Go. Do. Keep in mind, however, that, especially as people get older, they don’t have time to waste with the dating game and it becomes unfair to raise someone’s emotional expectations. So I will leave the sport dating to the teens and twenty-something crowd, with the caveat that even they, should they find the relationship going on for awhile, should have a distant eye on the idea of “is this someone I would be willing to commit to and spend the rest of my life with?”

Many of us like to plan, have a direction for everything. It’s our inner control freak nature. Going with that mentality, it’s good to have to have a goal, knowing its accompanying motives and attitudes, and openly communicate as you go along. The goal could be relatively simple like nothing more than just killing time with someone. This can be as simple as two (strictly) friends hanging out. Of course, this is rife with the danger of the unspoken interest. Even if you both start from a platonic place, there is always the possibility of something kindling for at least one of you.

Some folks date to have fun. Let me call this what this is: friends with benefits. Your snuggle buddy. Your strictly casual, no strings attached, kiss without commitment partner. Um, ditto on the dangers of kindling.

Sport dating may go against a goal-oriented mindset because it goes against our nature to just enjoy a moment. A person’s company. Have a spot of fun. Without direction or moving toward a specific destination. As long as both parties are on the same page about it and keep in constant communication about it, the situation should be fine. I’d caution you to be fair to the person you are going out with, and figure out what you want to do before you start and let them know. You’d be surprised how much less complicated life gets with effective communication.

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 – 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.

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Friday Night Date Place – Dating Teh Crazy!!!1!!1!

(Before I get emails, know going in that this isn’t one of my more serious responses/blogs.)

“Emotionally unstable women are fantastic in the sack. Their self-loathing translates into … nevermind.” –Jack (Alec Baldwin), 30 Rock

I realize that most of my Friday Night Date Place blogs tend to be aimed at women, but that’s because that’s who I hear from most often when it comes to dating relationships. More than one war council meeting has convened in my living room and I’m just there to take notes. Today, however, I’m doing one squarely aimed at the fellas.

Here’s how the conversation began: “Why do guys date crazy women?” Ladies, you know the answer before you ask the question (do you need to re-read the opening quote again), but I’m going to go through the motions of answering this question. Let us refer to a certain sub-species as Personae dramatis. Some may call the behavior of this group … crazy. Look, we don’t always know that the people we’re dating are crazy. It’s not like they wear “hey, I’m craaaaaaaaaazy!!” T-shirts. While sex is not hard to get, to quote my brother-in-law, “I don’t need no crazy cootchie.”

Although, I’m not gonna lie. Sometimes we know they’re crazy going in and still go there. Even I, this pillar of dating stability, may or may not have gone there in his dating life. I may or may not have said the following after 48 hours of dating someone: “Look, you and I just are not going to work. This relationship will crash and burn in spectacular fashion. You’re just kinda, you know, crazy. But if you want to keep dating knowing that it’s going to end badly, I’m in.”

Cause I just keep bringing the romance.

Anyway, like I said, an actual guy war council broke out in my living room for a change (well, three guys minding their own business while the women convened a war council and we had to defend ourselves) and one issue involved the dating of the crazy. We hated to burst all the mystery, but we’re not that deep.

For some, crazy represents a challenge. In the same way how when you buy a puzzle book, you go straight to the back, passing up less complicated, less messy puzzles and go straight to the hardest ones. There’s a thrill to the “danger” of it all and trying to get out of a mess relatively cleanly. But, to quote a friend, it boils down to “I still want to hit that.”

The other question I get is “when is the crazy too much?” In short, your mileage may vary. Hopefully some time before what we’ll call the Left Eye Rule: if she tries to burn down your house, it may be time to buy some roses and call it a day. However, it usually doesn’t have to get to the whole “I’m gonna burn everything you own” level. Most folks build up to that. You get the phone calls, the 3 a.m. texts, the emails, the showing up at the job (come on, now, you don’t bring stuff to work). Mounting crazy behavior would encompass everything from throwing a glass table at you to vandalizing your stuff to leaving bloody underwear in your locker.* And what is too often the male response to such behavior: “Can I hit that one last time?”

Alright, look, crazy is not contagious, but it does have a way of working its way under your skin. Crazy is infectious and some people need that sort of high level drama in their life (to spark it or whatever). Crazy is passionate. Crazy is exciting. Crazy is a bit of a freak. Dating crazy does not make you enlightened, it makes you crazy because crazy likes to inject drama into their lives and tell everybody about all the deep emotional trauma going on in their lives. Crazy likes the constant rollercoaster and you need to decide if the ride is worth it.

In the final analysis, crazy is what we all are. Some folks are broken in emotional ways and frankly, some of the relationships they are prone to enter into are self-destructive (<-- you may want to click on this link for a more serious take on this topic) or enabling. Sometimes dealing with the crazy makes you appreciate the sane or, to again quote my brother-in-law, “you have to go to the cave to come out a super-hero.” Anyway, guys … aren’t that deep. Some brothas need 13 steps to quit the crazy, cause 12 just ain’t enough. “My name is Jon and … hey, you look nice…”

*Sadly, all real life examples. Not all of them to me. Though I’ll fully admit that I can bring a special kind of joy that drives women to, well, throw a glass table at me.

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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 – Proper Expectations

We’ve all ended up in relationships that didn’t quite break our way. From friendships to work colleagues to significant others to spouses, some of the relationships we’re in don’t match up to our expectations of them. However, since our focus is dating, we’ll key in on that and allow for the trickle down theory to take into account other kinds of relationships.

For example, stemming from our friends without benefits discussion from last week, we might have a guy who is frustrated by women who have either wanted to date him (or who have previously dated him and have moved on) who end up just dumping him as a friend. Or a woman who feels the sting of not getting enough attention from the men in her life whose friendship she wants to deepen.

Relationships are a delicate dance of expectations (read: romantic ideas) clashing with the reality of another person intruding into your life. That also points to the crux of the matter: having realistic expectations of the relationship. Not lowered, not raised, but simply realistic. (Don’t get me wrong: I unapologetically expect a lot from people, especially those closest to me, myself included, and the relationships that I’m in. Sure I’m often let down, but that’s part of the deal I sign up for.) There are at least two things I try to keep in mind as I approach the people I’m in relationship with:

Accept who they are. We can’t be with people based on our expectations/daydreams of who they ought to be. People are just so darn … people-ish. They tend to not cooperate with our ideas of who we think they ought to be and how they ought to act. They are who they are. Their faults are their own and a part of what makes them who they are.

Forbear one another. One thing that HeWhoWouldBeHeadPastor said recently was that we need “to give someone room to be, and to become”. This applies even to (especially to) high maintenance folks.

It’s not wrong to have expectations from folks. Granted, having no expectations is a safe way of going through life: no expectations means you’re never let down. Another person is not the solution to the problems you face in life (no, not even loneliness as counter-intuitive as that may sound). A friend of mine passed along this observation:

“More specifically, we expect our love relationships to be exciting, romantic, erotic, passionate, cute, conflict-free, and perpetually novel. And like the consumers we are, we often break our commitment when we don’t think we have enough of these, and move on to a new relationship to find them again. Our materialist/consumerist mindset treats relationships as a department store for our personal satisfaction and pleasure. This defeats long term commitment, which must include compromise and hard work. Why do any hard work when you can just pick up a new one, or even get an upgrade?”

When I look at my marriage vows, I realized that I committed to the idea of our relationship as much as I committed to the person herself. During some of our bad patches, our commitment to the relationship was one of the things that kept us together. It was something worth preserving (even as we figured out how to live with each other). Granted, dating is a long way from marriage in terms of one’s commitment to it, but there is something to be gleaned from this. Deeper levels of true love and intimacy can only be mined over time. Once the “romance” has cooled, or rather the white hot feelings of “being in love” have.

We can’t force a relationship into our idea of what we want it to be. We have to take it on its own terms. Only from there can we judge whether it is a relationship worth pursuing or keeping in our lives. Because relationships take work, time, and commitment, but not all of them are worth that kind of effort. Some are best to simply let go.

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 – Smother Much? Part II

We’ve come at this topic once before, but since I live to serve (read: I’ve been asked again), I thought I’d revisit this topic from a different tack. People have different tolerance levels for behavior that could be construed as smothering. For some, smothering could be something as relatively light as a text message too many. For others, smothering attention could be at the level of needing a restraining order before it bothers them.

Sometimes “smothering” is a person’s love language, that is, they only know how to express themselves in terms of constant contact. It’s not something to be automatically condemned. Some folks like it, find in it the comfort of a thick blanket they can snuggle into. A reassurance. Others want to kick off the covers to those same attentions.

Sometimes smothering speaks to an insecurity in the relationship. Think of it as a relational OCD, as if they can control enough aspects of their partner’s behavior, a kind of loose leash, they can steer the relationship.

There’s a fine line between attentive and smothering, in fact, I think of it as being analogous to walking the line between being persistent vs. stalking: it can boil down to whether the attention is wanted. Constant texts, e-mails, IM chats, and/or check in phone calls has the specter of possessiveness or jealousy; a tactic to break up an evening or otherwise turn the target of their attentions’ thoughts back to them.

But we return to the same conclusion as the first time around. There might be some hurt and some awkwardness, but it’s always best to maintain clear lines of communications. Admit how you feel and above all, just talk. Let them know if you find their behavior particularly cloying. Don’t feel guilty that you and your friend aren’t at the same emotional or relational place.

Still, it’s something to keep in mind should you find your texts ignored, your phone calls ducked, or you hid from on chat. Folks will find the space they need one way or another.

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 – Blind Dates

Okay, I was trying to kill off this feature, but like the most tenacious of zombies, it keeps shambling on. This, however, is actually a guest blog by my assistant, Lauren David, one of the founding members of Team Broaddus. I’d like to officially welcome the traffic from the guys who regularly stalk her on her blog and Twitter (note that I’m not helping you out by linking to her Twitter – and as fair warning, she’s earned the right to be picky – although the quickest way to her heart is for you to buy my book).

You know, I get that people mean well. Many of my friends are (for the most part) happily married or dating and they want me to have that same….joy. They don’t want me to be alone. They don’t want me to be the crazy cat lady. They want don’t want my corpse to be rotting by the time someone finds me. I get it. However, I truly am happy being single. Are there moments where I do wish I had someone? Yes. The moments when I realize that I’m not Wonder Woman and that I can’t do everything by myself; when I sometimes wish I had someone to pick up the slack. Someone to share stuff with. But those moments do not match the moments that I am grateful for my independence and freedom.

So when a friend of mine wanted to set me up on a blind date, I *very* reluctantly agreed. (Truth be told, my main thought was “Well, at least I’ll have blog fodder.”)

She sent me a link and I checked him out as best I could online. (Hooray for Facebook: Stalking made easy.) Needless to say, I had more than a few reservations. But I knew I wouldn’t hear the end of it until I went out with him. So we set something up. But I kept my expectations extremely low. He didn’t seem too bad from online but I have heard horror stories about blind dates. Not to mention the interactions that I have had online that turn out much different in real life. But since he didn’t look like an ax murderer or like Boo Radley’s cousin, I said okay.

Men, here’s a little tip: If you are set up on a blind date with a woman, do not–I repeat, do NOT–go into her work before the date is to take place. Catching her off-guard may make you feel like you have the upper hand or whatever but it certainly is not going to win you any points. Girls like to have time to get ready and look nice before meeting someone, especially for a date. It’s not that we’re trying to be fake but catching us at work when we may have just done the bare minimum to get ready isn’t nice.

Blind dates are useful for at least one thing. It gives you an insight into how your friends/co-workers/family see you. Unfortunately, it can very quickly turn into the blind leading the blind. If they are matching you up with someone who they think is just perfect and your date is the complete opposite of what you’re looking for, maybe you need to have a chat with whomever set you up. In my case (and fortunately for the person who set us up), it wasn’t that the date went horribly wrong. Outside of catching me off-guard at work, my date was pleasant enough. However, come to find out later, my friend who set us up had only had minimum interactions with him in person. Most of it had been online and when she did finally hang out with him in person, she ended up apologizing to me for setting us up.

I think that sometimes people get so focused on getting single people “with someone” that they throw at them the first available person who isn’t insane or wanted in 3 states. I have said this before and I will continue to say it: it is okay to be single. It is not a sin. It is not a disease that needs to be cured. And even if it was a disease, I doubt that blind dates would be the cure. No one knows you better than you know yourself. You know what you want. You know what you’re looking for in a spouse. (Or, in my case, you know whether or not you’re looking for a spouse.) Yes, some blind dates turn out wonderfully. The ones that don’t usually make for great stories. (After you’re done living through them.) But as for me, getting to the morgue before I smell isn’t real high on my priority list. So unless I’m in need of a blog topic, I don’t think I’ll be attempting any more blind dates.

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.