Before I was married, I went through three significant, but painful, dating relationships.
The first one was with a boy I had grown up with. We were best friends. We didn’t start dating until after college but because we grew up together and we were friends it just seemed like that’s what was supposed to happen. We even went to church together – with his family – every Sunday. But something told me it wasn’t right. There were signs, but I ignored them. We dated for four years, and then a year after we broke up he decided that he was gay.
Then there was the next guy shortly after. We met at the singles group at church. He was nice enough. He even volunteered in the children’s department. He was very good-looking. I think other people were even as shocked as I was that I “landed” such an attractive man. But there were red flags there, too. He was a recovering alcoholic. He was cocky and arrogant and angry. And on top of that had some severe animosity towards his mother.
Then there was the last guy. Again, I met him at church, a detail I’m deliberately including with each of these descriptions. He was in his middle thirties, came from a great Christian family and a very successful career. He was also divorced. An active alcoholic – even though he didn’t realize it – and he was addicted to pornography. The last few details I learned as the relationship continued.
The similarities in destructive behavior, spiritual immaturity and lack of character are obvious in each of these guys. However, there’s another similarity that’s hidden unless I tell you about it. It’s the secret of how I responded.
Each of these people broke up with me. And I cried when they did. And not little “ahhh, that’s sad, maybe next time” cries. No, full on sobbing, making a fool of myself, gasping for air cries. I thought my life was over.
After the first relationship I didn’t think much about my contribution to the fiasco. The second made me do a double-take, but not enough to self-examine myself. But after the third the shame set in. And the questions. It became less about my ex-boyfriends’ issues and more about my own.
Why didn’t I break up with them – immediately? How could I allow this to happen to me three times? What does my repetitive behavior say about me?
For years now I have processed through this, and finally I’ve come to two conclusions.
For one, I forgot who I was. In an unrelated book I read recently, the author, Shelley Hendrix, said, “When you know who you are, then you’ll know what to do.” My worth became dependent upon my relationship status and even further the possibility of one day being married. Instead of allowing the truth that I am a cherished child of God feed me, I tried to get my nutrients from these human beings – these broken men. I responded to unhealthy circumstances out of low self-esteem essentially begging for love.
I also forgot who God is. Somewhere along the way I stopped believing one needful truth: God wants what’s best for me. I started believing lies that I was being punished or that I had to make my life work out the way I wanted it to – like I was in complete control somehow. I thought that maybe this was it, I was going to have to settle if I ever wanted to get married. I thought God didn’t know what He was doing.
If you keep dating the wrong guys – unhealthy relationships, with red flags flying all around you – or if by the grace of God you’re now out of an unhealthy relationship, remember these two truths: You are a cherished child of God and God wants what’s best for you. Then, go, and make decisions out of these truths.
Looking back, have you made repetitive negative decisions out of lies you’re believing about yourself and God?