I screwed up! I caused pain and for that I’m sorry but I learned an amazing truth about good men of honor. My paradigm has shifted, my mind been blown, and though there was pain I’m grateful for this new truth that I can walk in. It modifies my plan but it’s necessary in order to maintain my dignity in the eyes of the good men I want to get to know.
The thing is, the cardinal rule when analyzing data is that you “let the data speak for itself.” Never make the data fit assumptions, never mess with the data to rationalize theories; but that is exactly what I did because I wanted my plan to work.
Why my plan anyway? Why can’t I just leave love to chance or God or time or whatever? I’d like to say I think my plan does leave love to all of that BUT also takes into account some sad, sorrowful truths.
#1) I’m looking for a partner to share my life with and this will be my third marriage. I am not going to be that woman with five husbands and the one I end up with won’t even be one I’m married to. This is it. I have NO margin of error.
#2) We live in a society with a 50% failure rate at marriage… that doesn’t even count broken relationships where love once was that never make it to marriage.
#3) In the evangelical Christian culture, divorce is humiliatingly higher than the overall average population.
I believe if I seek a partner the way it’s being done in our society now, the way I’ve done it before, I’m going to fail again. It needs to be different. I thought my plan was a near-perfect way to avoid the pitfalls of feeling in love and falling in love without rationally thinking it through.
I don’t want to fail at love again, I want the next time to be the last time. While I love The Middle for being able to do what I want, when I want with whom I want, I don’t want to be single and searching any longer than necessary. I don’t want to be alone. Thousands of good, kind, loving men just in my local area don’t want to be alone either. I’m a quality woman that wants the best in a relationship and so do they. There’s no point in messing around for years to find “the one” when there are literally hundreds that are suitable. I figured the best way to save time would be to be a quality casual date for guys right now and get to know several good guys at once.
My theory made sense to me... condense the men into the shortest amount of time possible, see whom I am most compatible with (knowing no one will be 100% compatible), take time to maintain my individual identity as I continue to heal, and when the time is up… see how it plays out with the most compatible guy of whomever is there, rinse and repeat, as needed until one gets me in the boat. The plan provided time, because I KNOW I’m not ready for a relationship right now, but not too much time so that I end up becoming a woman of such independence that I’m not going to want to share life with someone but will rather want them to do life my way.
I still think the intention behind my plan is good… but the execution neglected to take into consideration a trait inherent in the hearts, minds and souls of the best kind of men. I’d like to call it jealousy, and then ask any good men reading this to hang on before you defend yourself against the word. That’s one of the things I learned; good men will try not to call it what it is. Men of valor live by a code of honor and the way we throw the word jealousy around now, it is not an honorable trait. When we think of jealousy, ideas of possessive, angry, insecure, controlling jerks come to mind. I’m not talking about that. I’m talking about righteous jealousy; it is so mind-blowingly different. It’s actually a beautiful thing now that I’m letting the data speak for itself. So beautiful. An honorable trait, a godly trait. One to be desired in a good man. One to be respected as I continue to date.
Let me explain this good jealousy as I’ve seen it play out over these last five months…
I’ve intentionally studied and watched men I identify as the good kind. Are they prefect? No, but they are so amazing that I am in awe at their acts of noble strength, kindness, courage, humility, service, support, protection, activism and involvement. These men, the good men of the world, know better than we women can understand, the heart of a good man and how pure it is despite the secret insecurities and mistakes they may make. They are real-life heroes as opposed to the bad guys. Bad guys are evil, vile perpetrators of bad stuff. Good men take pride in humbly, faithfully protecting our world from them, in big things like military service and small things like assessing the people around them to identify any possible threats and walking on the street side of the road to protect those they’re with.
They know they’re not perfect but they also know they make an active choice to be a good man every day. In the context of dating what I’ve observed in my, and my single lady friend’s dating adventures, and from the lives and words of others is that a good man is willing to meet and date a quality causal woman until it breaks the code of honor. What I’ve observed is that there comes a point when a man believes himself to be a suitable partner, the kind that would love and protect the woman they’re dating and something inside them can no longer be cool with quality casual. Either it must change or end because… jealousy.
They are good men, they know what they can offer and have no intention or desire to compete with anyone, who in their opinion, wouldn’t be the best option. These good men I write of are sure of what they are able to provide. It’s not insecurity; I feel like it’s the exact opposite, righteous jealousy, is assurance they are the best for me and an intolerance to be compared to someone else.
What I think I’m realizing is that good men in general appreciate the opportunity to show a woman they are dating who they are, what they do, think and feel in a non-competitive arena. Be sure of this, if they’re into a lady enough, they will, um … “fight” for their opportunity because they believe they’re the best (and it's honestly kind of humbling to be the object of that kind of desire). BUT it’s disrespectful and dishonorable of me, if I choose to identify myself as a dignified woman, to purposely put them in that position (although if they know they're the best for the lady they should fight for her if they believe she's misguided in her attentions). That’s where I screwed up.
I’m not dating losers, neither are my friends. These are good, kind, honorable, respectful men and one after another this same aversion to quality casual dating appears. The data speaks, I must listen. My plan must be, and has been altered. If I want a good man, I must give good men the opportunity to reveal themselves to me within an arena of undivided time and attention. NO that doesn’t mean I’m having a relationship! NO that doesn’t mean my plan or timeline changes except that there is only one good man I’ll be doing fun stuff with at a time. It scares me because, honestly, I think it’ll be much harder to hold my emotional and physical boundaries because, for me, familiarity breeds comfort and I’m a creature of comfort. But I think the change must happen in order to maintain my honor in the eyes of good men. So, I screwed up, I learned how beautiful righteous jealousy is, I am giving one good guy at a time undivided attention and I must now ferociously guard my heart to be sure I don't slip and fall in love but still stay the course and find rational love that makes sense.
OK, OK, yeah, yeah, yeah, I’m dating and enjoying time with good guys but it’s not just purposeless hedonism. There is a point. Obviously the intention is to find someone that I can be compatible with for the rest of my life. I’m just not in a hurry nor am I ready to settle down quite yet. I’ve been researching this dating/courtship/partner thing and found a name for what I am. I’m a “quality casual” date. I can go out, have a good time and, no, he’s not gonna get lucky, or laid, or anything remotely close to that because I’m a woman of honor and dignity, but he will have a real fun time with a genuine woman. I’m quality and I’m causal. I like it! It suits me … for now, not forever, not for long, but for now. I think “quality casual” is a good way for us more seasoned singles to get to know people without the burden of deeply intimate emotional and physical connections. I like the term and the intention behind it.
I found another term that rocked my world and affirmed a character trait I’ve embraced as long as I remember. It’s called the “Upper Limit Problem” and, according to Gay Hendricks, many people deal with this notion that there is such a thing as too much success. What?! When I first heard it I balked but then I listened to my soul and knew I had an Upper Limit Problem. Somewhere, deep down inside that’s what I do, that’s what I’ve seen many peers and contemporaries do… success comes and we self-sabotage, to continue to fit-in, to avoid envy from others, to avoid challenging our own abilities, etc.
For years, this is where I’ve lived. I’ve reduced myself. I am an intelligent woman, not the smartest but I am a woman of thought and intellect and I like to think deep, read to expand my mind, memorize to challenge the sleeping places in my brain, study to learn new ideas. Sometimes I “geek-out” and see people’s eyes glaze over so I reduced myself to fit in. But I’m intimidated to find others who are like-minded, learners, readers and, dare I say smarter than I am so that I’m intellectually challenged and not reduced in my capacity.
Physically I’ve reduced myself around other ladies. No, I’m not the most fit woman but I’ve always enjoyed physical activity… as long as I didn’t outperform any of my girl-friends and make them feel bad about their physical level. I’ve reduced my food choices to a lower level to not make someone less nutritionally balanced feel badly. I chose to underperform and eat bad so I didn’t come across as “better than” anyone else and in so doing become the brunt of their envy.
Emotionally and socially, well, I’m an odd duck so I’ve never had to worry about reducing myself socially, except that I don’t like to captivate an audience. I’d rather the people around me speak their thoughts, insights, memories and feelings than to put mine out there. I withhold what I share of myself. True it’s because others have value, but also I feel like my self has less value than theirs. Why?
Spiritually, I reduce myself. I LOVE the Word, to study it, hear others preach on it, memorize it, know it. I could talk theology or Biblical history for hours! But… when I know an answer others are looking to find I don’t want to come across “holier than thou” so I stay quiet. When people mix up Bible stories I don’t want to seem arrogant and correct them so I let them go on unless it’s grossly inaccurate. I study in secret and seek out deep thinkers like Ravi Zacharias to listen to alone to nurture my hunger to go deeper without looking puffed up.
I fear being “better than” anyone at anything and I have reduced myself to avoid anyone accusing me of that. I already know I’ll never be the smartest, strongest, most charismatic or theological person in the world, but I am smarter, stronger, more gregarious and Biblically knowledgeable than I’ve allowed myself to be. I've stunted my own growth for the sake of others and ease. This is a challenge for me. How do I be the absolute best version of myself and not diminish the success, intelligence, ability or progress of others at a different level or be the object of envy which really makes me feel yucky and bad about being a better me? I don’t know how to address this Upper Limit Problem of mine. I’m working on it.
What I know is in every romantic relationship I’ve ever been in I have reduced myself in some area; physically, intellectually, socially, emotionally or spiritually so as not to hurt the ego of my partner. I don’t want that this time. I want a man that I can celebrate and cheer on in his strengths, that knows it is important to improve. I want a man that I can challenge in the areas he wants to strengthen, that I can be proud of for his accomplishments, desires and ministrations to God those around him… and I want the same. I don’t want to be an object of envy in my lover’s eyes. I don’t want to feel like I’m wrong for improving or desiring a higher level of success in any aspect of my life. If he can’t “keep up” in some area, I at least don’t want him to “keep me down” I want him to believe in me the way I’ll believe in him.
And then I wonder … does Quality Casual dating help or hinder my Upper Limit Problem? …
One year ago today...
One year ago today was a Sunday.
One year ago today nothing would ever be the same.
One year ago today the man who would never leave me walked out the door.
One year ago today I literally came home from the grocery store to a “good-bye & good-luck” letter.
One year ago today I was abandoned, but I was not alone.
One year ago today, my sweet, sweet Savior, as gentle and loving as ever, was there.
One year ago today my family was there, my children near, and loved ones hundreds and thousands of miles away were just a phone call away.
One year ago today my friends, oh my amazing friends, were so there.
It would be a lie to say I wanted it to happen. It would be a lie to say I’m glad that it happened. It would also be a lie to say I wish it never happened. I’m grateful it happened. I don’t think there was anything so bad it couldn’t have been worked out. I think family and marriage are worth fighting for… but that’s not the way it played out, and it’s cool. I’m not one to grovel, or stay where I’m not wanted, or lay down and give up, play the victim, or wallow in a place of sadness for long.
Like King David did when his baby died and God did nothing to save it… I got up, washed my face, cut my hair and moved on from The Leaving to The Middle.
And here I wait, I heal, I laugh and live and make mistakes and try to be kind and honest and healthy and honor God with all I do and say. I embrace this crazy, amazing, lovely, absolutely wonderful life God has given me.
I love my life! My faith, family and friends are here for me. I am getting stronger every day and I like who I am becoming. My Middle is good! Settling down is on its way in due time. I can’t wait to find the church that I will be able to call “my” church. I can wait for the man I will call “my” man. I’m still too wounded to be a good partner in a relationship but I’m well enough to have great fun with real good guys! It’s nice even if my approach is … unconventional, and yes, I am staying pure and will remain that way! ;)
One year ago today started a year of firsts “without him.” I made it, not with as much grace as I would have liked but I made it.
Today I start a year of “just me” … and Jesus, and my family, and my friends, and my gym and handsome suitors, and who knows how My Middle will flow? I do not, but I am excited for it!