Guest Blog By Beverly Winstead
“I’m okay with being the Mistress” – that’s the title of an article I just read on EBONY.com. In the article, the female author admits that, because of all the hurt and pain she had been through in past relationships, she’s made a conscious choice to date in a “safe way,” i.e. by enjoying a married man’s company, vacations, candlelight dinners, gifts and of course passionate sex. While I do believe there is a “safe way” to date, this is certainly not it.
Don’t get me wrong: I can definitely relate to this anonymous woman’s desire to be finished with the hurt that relationships and dating can bring. In the past four or five years, I have been involved in several relationships that have ended, for one reason or another. My most recent relationship ended abruptly when after 10 ½ months of committed dating, my boyfriend sent me a text saying that he needed time to figure out what he wanted in a relationship. This text came after his inexplicable two-week-hiatus from our relationship – he had not returned any of my phone calls or had any communication with me during this period. I was shocked, first by his silence and second by his decision to text me a break-up message. After all we had been through together, not to mention we had grown up together, I believed we had built a mutual respect and trust for one another that allowed us to communicate with each other freely and honestly. I was wrong. And yes, I was extremely disappointed.
Despite this hurtful and abrupt ending, however, I was happy to discover that the end of this relationship did not leave me devastated as the ending of other past relationships had. The difference with this relationship was that this time, I had read a Christian dating book called “Boundaries in Dating,” by Dr. Henry Cloud and Dr. John Townsend prior to dating this man and I had implemented four strategies from the book that helped me to make healthy dating choices:
(1) I was patient. We talked on the phone every night for at least 2-3 hours for about 6 months before we ever went out on a date; this is what I considered our friendship stage. Learning from past experiences, I knew this time around that I wanted to be friends with the person that I was dating. The book explains that friendship and shared values are essential to successful relationships. Also, patience is the weapon that forces deceit to reveal itself. People can only put on an act for so long before they let their true colors slip out. Nothing can be lost by taking the time to really get to know who you’re dating.
(2) I listened closely to what he said and watched what he did. There were a couple of things that he said during our “getting to know each other stage” that raise red flags with me so I definitely made mental notes and proceeded cautiously. In the past I may have dismissed those red flags because I wanted the relationship to work. This time, I wanted the relationship to be healthy and I trusted God enough that I could address those warning signs without fear.
(3) I stayed connected to my family and friends and gathered support from them. The book teaches about how important it is to stay involved with your own activities, friends and community while dating. This is important because friends and family can see the relationship and make honest, objective assessments about the character of the person that you are dating. Furthermore, if the relationship ends, then your connection to your life before you met Mr. Seems Right is still intact.
(4) I set appropriate physical limits. The book discusses the importance of being sexually abstinent. Not only is it God’s will, but as the book explains, setting boundaries with sex are a sure-fire way to know if someone loves you for you. In the past I had slipped up in this area. This time because I had set physical limits, when the relationship ended, I felt more whole and like I had more integrity. I believe that sex and the heart are connected. For me sex is connected to love, relationship and commitment. It is the highest value that I can give to someone and I don’t want to give myself away for someone who has not invested the time, energy and even finances (i.e., a wedding ring). I know that I am worth the investment.
Relationships are tricky and can be messy — whenever people you care about are involved, you can guarantee your feelings will get hurt. That’s a part of life. But what I have learned through my latest relationship is that when you set appropriate, godly boundaries in dating, your heart will be safe — well-guarded and well-preserved. Though the relationship may not work out, it will not leave you broken, bitter and unable to love and receive the love God has for you in the future.
Follow Beverly Winstead on Twitter @WinsteadLaw.