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 – Abusing Intimacy

Folks have to draw their lines where they feel comfortable. I knew a couple who so didn’t trust themselves that they didn’t kiss before they were married. I’m not going to stand here and say they were naïve, because as I said, folks have to draw their lines where they draw their lines. However, even within dating, there are various levels of physical intimacy and dating is a time to learn about being intimate with one another.

Before you think I’m backdooring my way into discussing premarital sex again, we’ve covered some of that ground before: chastity as discipline, “the talk,” the church and sex, biblical loopholes part I and part II, drawing a line, “you burning” part I and part II, and even a guest blog of further musings on the topic. In short, while there is a gift of celibacy, there is no gift of singleness. However, what I’m talking about today is intimacy as sharing of one’s self. Even physical intimacy is opening up one’s self on a basic level and it a reason why intimacy should be protected and treasured.

But let me come at this from another angle first. I’ve seen people use all manner of intimacy for all sorts of reasons during the course of a relationship: a balm to make themselves feel better, a bandage for a wound in them or in the relationship, as glue to hold the relationship together, a trap to keep their partner in the relationship, something to make their partner love them more, and even as a way to fix someone (which, mind you, if that’s how you’re going to fix me, it’s only incentive for me to stay broken).

And, mind you, these are some of the “positive” uses for intimacy. There are “negative” uses, when it is used as a weapon: revenge, spite, or even withholding it as punishment. There are times intimacy can be all of these things (sadly), but when it is primarily about one of these things, it is out of balance and out of purpose.

All areas of your life—money, materials, relationships, time—are about spiritual formation. I like to think of the various biblical admonishments as guard rails: nothing is going to keep you from going over the edge if you are determined to, however, they do help provide a line to help you stay on the right side (read: keep you from abusing your freedom or being abused by it). If you teach a line, people will go to the line.

Our lives are not our own; we have been set apart for the sake of others. Sexual purity is no different: how we view, do, and approach sex sets us apart from the rest of the culture. Yes, in some ways we’re going to be countercultural, but that’s true to who we are. It’s not about moral purity, because morality is secondary to the idea of holiness (set apart).

Okay, maybe I did back door this topic a little.

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Friday Night Date Place – Accept Who They Are

(Or get out!)

I know that we often talk about being real, about being authentic, about how we want people to be genuine, yet we aren’t always ready to accept people as they are. I’m not talking about the gamesmanship of dating: as far as I’m concerned, that’s about (or should be about) breaking your potential significant other to the real you in degrees. We are who we are. Dating shouldn’t be a time of hiding who we are (though we don’t need to give the full monty right off the bat – there’s no such thing as instant intimacy. Allow folks to ease into the joy of you. It’s similar to the principle of why babies are so cute: you get charmed by their cuteness so that by the time the terrible twos come, your stuck in love with them.)

We are who we are. So you need to consider a couple things at this point: you probably aren’t going to change that person; and you’re going to have to learn what you can accept and accommodate.

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People these days pay a lot of attention to the bedroom décor. Apart from the beds, there are additional things to consider like rugs, setting, tables, chairs and of course, home lighting, since there are so many lightings to choose from today.
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One of the “drawbacks” of waiting so long to get married is that there is extra time for a person to become entrenched in who they are. They become more used to doing things a certain (read: their) way and used to not having to answer to anyone else or make room for anyone else in their lives. Habits are cementing themselves. My wife and I were just discussing whether or not we’d get married again should something happen to one of us. I said that I could theoretically get married again, I just don’t want the headache of breaking in someone new (what we’ll call the lament of high maintenance folks). [it should be noted that my wife probably wouldn’t get married again because of the likelihood of her being in jail from having killed me.]

All this to say that you are dating the person you are dating. You aren’t dating their potential, or who they could be. You are dating who they are. Too often people fall in love with an ideal and divorce the reality. Neither can we go into the relationship blithely hoping that our good influence will rub off on them. Again, ask my wife: it’s much more likely for the evil to drag you down (or as my sister said, when I tried to run the “her goodness” will rub off on me scenario, “Tell her ‘welcome to the dark side’ for me.”).

You need to be honest about who it is you’re dating. If you are going out with a rude, obnoxious, crass lout, you will be married to a rude, obnoxious, crass lout. They may seem to change during the course of the two of you dating, but don’t be surprised when at some point during your marriage they revert and you roll over to find a … rude, obnoxious, crass lout. If the person is unambitious or bad with money, these should be warning flags. Petty behavior you see today will rear its head later in the relationship. That temper you see when they are stuck in traffic will be the same temper you will see when you get into an argument.

Here’s the thing: we may be piles of clay, but our Significant Others aren’t our shapers. They may change for a while (usually just long enough to get you), but generally speaking “changes” for the sake of the relationship don’t stick. Don’t get me wrong, people can grow (up) and change. Personal development has to be internal, them wanting to change themselves for themselves. Change shouldn’t stem from coercion, I mean, nagging, I mean, wanting to please you. True growth occurs over time and you are dating the person they are in the mean time.

So you need to examine yourself if you can live with who they are or at least work around their “faults”. You need to figure out if you can accept them for who and how they are, without lying to yourself about them growing and changing. You need to know how much you can put up with or get out, because, long term, it’s unfair to you as well as them.

Once that’s settled, then you can start training them, because the floor is no place for dirty underwear to be.

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