Dating.

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Almost a year ago, I published a short post, elaborating on my thoughts on being single and dating. Around that time, I was beginning to get to know my now boyfriend (HB for “handsome boy”), and I was reflecting, a lot, on what I had learned since my last relationship, and from my extended time of being single. In June/ July, HB and I will have been dating for a year. We have had a lot of wonderful adventures, and a lot of powerful moments to learn and grow. (Though I love talking about our relationship, that sappy post is for another time.). In the (almost) year that we’ve been together, I’ve noticed how refreshing it is to be dating now, in comparison to my dating/ relational habits in high school and early college.

Prior to meeting HB, I spent almost three years single. My first relationship lasted over a year and a half, and ended the summer of my senior year of high school. After that, I had a few, rather low-impact “relationships”, but none that seemed to “fit”. Not even three months before meeting HB, I was in a short, frustrating relationship. However, given that that relationship was after an extended period of singleness, the ending left me feeling reinvigorated towards my sense of self-dignity and self-importance.

One of my biggest take-aways from that time of my life – those extended periods of being single disrupted by short relationships – was the gradual, yet powerful “coming into my own”. Though I knew who I was in high school, I didn’t know who I was. I had wrapped my identity into my relationship with my boyfriend, and I had thought that a relationship was defined by how much a person was willing to sacrifice for their partner, and I believed that melodrama, much akin to Romeo and Juliet, was the norm. I had noticed that aspects of my personality began to shape to what I thought my boyfriend and his family wanted me to be. Apart from the relationship, I didn’t have a very good idea of who I was. (Though, who really knows who they are in high school? But couple that with an all encompassing relationship, and you have a recipe for disaster.)

I was the one who took the responsibility of ending the relationship, and though I was in the middle of an intense spiritual growth spurt, I believe this moment was crucial in taking back who I was, and for re-defining future relationships. (It also kick-started my passion against pornography.)

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I became more confident in social interactions, and my self-confidence skyrocketed. At this time in my life, several of my friends were in seemingly happy and long lasting relationships. Though I was becoming content in who I was, I faced the green monster of jealousy. I had to come to terms with my significance and capabilities as a single person. As I graduated high school and started college, this awareness grew, and it began to directly interact with relationships I would have. This awareness of myself, this acceptance of who I am, and the determination to actualize my abilities, developed into a comfortable independence. Having spent those three years maturing into an independent young woman has shaped me into who I am, and I greatly value the lessons I learned from not being in a relationship.

But what does this have to do with my current relationship? Absolutely everything. I eventually got to the point where I didn’t feel the necessity to be in a relationship. I had gotten to the point where I was beginning to recognize the possibility of living a complete life of singleness (God and I talked about this a lot.), but I never reached the point of desperation. However, I experienced peer pressure heavily, in the form of jealousy while watching people I knew from high school get engaged and get married, and through impatience while attending a cousin’s wedding. And though I experienced these emotions, they never disrupted my confidence, contentment, and independence enough to throw me into desperation. Simply put, when I met HB, I was comfortable enough in who I was and adamant enough about what I need in a relationship, to explore a dating app through curiosity and not desperation. (I had the app for a month, and my intention was to explore what that culture was like, and I was not intending to find a boyfriend. The relationship, and HB himself, was an unexpected, totally God-ordained, surprise.)

But now that I am dating after settling

into my independence, a stark contrast has become obvious. When in high school, and even early college, I let anger and frustration dominate communicable moments in a relationship. I would close up and be standoff-ish when I felt insulted, attacked, frustrated, etc. But I’ve learned how valuable and powerful it is to lower my pride and communicate with HB. He and I are able to work through what is going on, communicate with each other about how we are feeling in clear, non-aggressive ways, and address the situation when it occurs. I can comfortably say that HB and I don’t fight, and the last moment of tension between us was several months ago, and it was due to frustration about how the semester was affecting our relationship.

In high school, I was mistaken to think that I constantly needed to be around my boyfriend, and that parts of myself had to be sacrificed in order for the relationship to succeed. (Though this is very true in some regard, it is not true to the degree in which I experienced it. I’ve learned there is a difference between compromise and sacrifice.). HB and I have openly told each other, that though we don’t want this relationship to end, if it were to get to the point that our separate mental health was being negatively affected, we would value ourselves over the relationship. It’s a freeing thing to recognize that you should almost always be the most important thing.

I have also learned the beauty of recognizing the interactions our separately crafted lives have with each other. This is perhaps my most favorite thing about dating at this point in my life. While I was single, I crafted a future for myself, one that I took pride in, and was (and still am) so excited for. When HB and I decided to do life together (at least for this point in time), we became each other’s partners for the future. With minor readjustments, he was able to fit into my future, and I was able to fit into his. We work with each other’s lives like joyful team work, and not like an annoying obligation.

I have found how truly enlightening it is date someone who is just as interested in discussing big, unsolvable philosophical and theological concepts as I am. I have been in relationships in the past where the guy I was dating wasn’t interested in doing this, didn’t know enough about the topic, or even labeled items that stimulated these conversations as “blasphemous”. Coupled with that, HB is a Christian who actively seeks to strengthen his faith, and wants to engage in tough conversations in order to work through and understand things that are going on in his life. Taking him to Passion, and watching him grow in his faith was breath-taking to behold.

(Also, he may write an upcoming post about a heroine addict he took to church. It’s a crazy story, so stay tuned for that.)

Growing up since my last relationship, I have discovered that my love language is words of affirmation. I greatly value being told what I mean to someone, especially someone I’m in a relationship with. When I was in high school, I thought I needed to hear that I was beautiful or that I was perfect. And though I do still enjoying having my appearance complimented, I value having my personality and achievements praised much more. HB tells me that I am smart, that I am strong, that I am kind, that I am an important part of his life. It’s been really cool for me to experience this subconscious shift in affectionate needs, and to see HB execute this, effortlessly and without prompting.

Finally, though I could go on and on, HB and I don’t post about each other on social media. We make the very conscious decision to keep our relationship private. I’ll admit, I will post a random picture of us, or about us, but not often. It’s a freeing sensation to not bombard followers or friends with details, pictures, or comments about a relationship. HB and I can enjoy our moments, dates, memories, and adventures, and keep them for ourselves. Only his and my family and our close friends knew we were dating, and it was only after we had been together for six months, did I then post a few pictures online. The older I get, and the more in love I fall, the less I want to share it with the world.

Dating right now is a wild, crazy experience, and I’m loving every minute. I’m excited for my future, and I’m thankful for HB. While rearranging my room today, in order to move back in from college, I found my old diaries and prayer journals. In the entries about my heart and my desire for a relationship, I read constant reminders about waiting for God’s timing. It was a cool experiences, reading those thoughts and being reminded of my desperate overly romantic younger heart, while being happy and safe and comfortable in this God-ordained and God-blessed relationship.

Ciao for now,

Julia

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