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Jonathan and I haven’t had the easiest relationship.
…and that would also be a bit of an understatement.
Those who know my heart know how much I adore him and am proud to call Jonathan my boyfriend. I love him more than I ever imagined I could love. Yet, throughout our relationship I have had a roller coaster of emotions, making me question again and again whether it was all worth it. The answer to that question has relentlessly been “YES,” even amidst the trials we have endured as a couple.
When you bring two people from two different backgrounds with two very different schedules together, conflict will arise. It’s bound to happen, but how you deal with that conflict will either make or break the relationship.
These two years of dating have taught me more than I ever could have imagined. Without ever having a real long term relationship, I thought I knew what it took to make it work. I had watched many of my friends date and I figured that if I found a good Christian guy it would go smoothly. After all, he should know how to lead and would be intentional with everything. That’s the way he should be if he wants to glorify God, right?
I didn’t stop to think that maybe the way he saw life was just different than the way I saw it, even if we followed the same God and both wanted nothing more than to make Christ known. I never realized how much personality differences would either help or hinder our connection depending on how we responded to one another. A few thoughtless words here or a lack of communication there could turn our seemingly smooth sailing relationship on a downward spiral out of control.
Over and over, we didn’t know why we kept getting into the same arguments. We had the same goal, but different ways of going about it. This caused us to keep turning against instead of toward each other.
Now that we’ve started to figure things out a little better, we actually seem to be moving forward in the right direction. It’s a huge victory that has further shown us God’s grace. We know, though, that conflicts will again creep into our life together but we need to be prepared and equipped. We need to stop fighting against and start fighting for each other.
I know that there is a lot each of us could have done differently from the start that would have made a difference. We have learned a lot.
Here are the 7 Mistakes I Made in Dating:
1. Assuming we had the same expectations with dating
As you may have read in a prior post, the beginning of our relationship occurred when I was in China. Jonathan and I had developed a friendship over the months leading up to my return to China, but he didn’t tell me how he felt until I was halfway across the world. I, of course, was thoroughly excited because I had been falling for him, too! We did a lot of communication about deeper topics while I was abroad, so when I got back from China, we had major ground to cover with just relating to each other in person.
I had assumed we’d jump into spending a good amount of time going on dates, studying the Word together, meeting up with each of our families, and spending time with friends. I figured we would do a lot together as a team.
It took longer for us to shift to working together because I got back without having a set schedule when he already had a way of doing life in a routine that had been working for him. I should not have expected he’d see our season of dating the same way. We really should have better discussed our expectations from the start.
2. Seeing every argument as a place to practice my debate skills
I like to assert my opinion…about EVERYTHING. I do believe I have gotten better about this, but it still remains one of my downfalls. Debating has always been an area in which I was skilled. I find it fun to push my point and give reasons for why it is the logical choice. However, Jonathan’s personality type shies away from such controversy. Even if he doesn’t agree with something, he doesn’t feel same the burning urge I feel to explain an opposing viewpoint.
My natural compulsion to debate has been a point of contention for us. I have had to stop myself from numbering my points as we were discussing areas of concern in our relationship. It’s bad when I almost say, “secondly” before I make my next point…eek… our relationship is not a mock trial competition or a debate tournament.
3. Not fully listening
As I explained in my previous point, the way I share my thoughts can sometimes come across as combative. Perhaps, an even bigger issue here is not that I debated too hard, but that I only listened so that I could respond. I did not seek to understand through truly listening. Had I slowed down to listen before coming back with a response, I may have heard Jonathan and his heart. I may have been able to connect with him instead of push him.
About a month ago, we had a great discussion after a rough few days of doubt about our relationship. I think it was the first time where we really just listened to each other. I pushed aside my need to be right and listened to each of his points, then asked if I could respond, which I did in a more loving manner than usual.
I have learned that to truly connect, listening should be done for understanding, not for responding.
4. Expecting our love languages to be the same
As someone who feels deeply, the feelings of love I have are quite strong. I want to pour that love out in many different ways, and because I give it, I also expect to receive it. That’s not always how it works, though. Even if Jonathan loves me as much as I love him, the ways he shows it may be completely different than my ways.
For example, I love words. Words are invigorating to me. They give me life and hope. I can cling to words. So, words of affirmation completely make my day. Jonathan may appreciate words, but they don’t do the same for him. This is why if I pour out five text messages worth of prose detailing why I love him and adore him, he can reply back with a more simple, “I’m thankful for you, too, babe. I love you.”
Jonathan in no way means to be unloving, but there have been times where I took his responses as a lack of commitment from him. On the contrary, when he has written me letters, I about die of happiness because it’s so beautiful to me to see his feelings poured out on a page. Those letters get read over and over again.
I have to remind myself that just because love is shown in a different way does not mean it is not there.
5. Not respecting him
I never realized how important respect is to a relationship until we studied the book Love & Respect: The Love She Most Desires; The Respect He Desperately Needs by Dr. Emerson Eggerichs in our couples’ Sunday School class. I knew that I had needs that weren’t being met, but I was not as in tune with how my lack of respect for him was perpetuating the cycle of discontentment in our relationship.
Something I failed to recognize was that respect meant trust. If I wanted Jonathan to lead our relationship by pursuing me, I had to trust him to do it. As an assertive person, I don’t do well with waiting; I often try to take matters into my own hands. My inability to trust him was showing him a lack of respect.
I also learned that respect is heard differently by different people. In Love and Respect, Dr. Eggerichs suggests telling your husband (in my case, boyfriend) that you respect them. As I already explained in number 4, Jonathan doesn’t get jazzed up about words. Telling him I respect him is not nearly as powerful as showing him I respect him.
6. Trying to fix our relationship with a 10-step program
I have to admit that as an avid reader (lover of words right here!), I enjoy any sort of blog post, book or social media post that gives relationship tips. There have been times where I read an article and then sent a link to Jonathan saying, “Read this.” Because the article helped me, I just assumed he’d think it was great and have the same response. I later learned that every time I did that, he’d get annoyed.
It wasn’t that taking those ideas and implementing them was bad, but my delivery in trying to force them upon him wasn’t beneficial. My mind works in plans, systems and schedules. Those things get me excited because I see potential to be more effective in what I’m doing. Too much of that causes stress for him. We’re just wired differently and I have to remember that.
7. Talking about our problems more than praying about them
This is by far the most convicting one, which is why I saved it for last. If you don’t take anything from this post but this, remember that prayer works and God desires for us to unload our burdens on Him!
Psalm 55:22 says, Cast your burden on the LORD and he will sustain you; he will never permit the righteous to be moved. (ESV)
I should have gone to the Lord first, but many times I went to friends and family members. It really upsets me that I did this. I know that I like to talk and my mouth can get me into trouble. I have seen what damage it can do.
Before I dated Jonathan, I had told myself I would never speak poorly of my husband to others. I wanted to only speak words of life. While Jonathan is not yet my husband, I still let myself speak ill of the man who could one day be my husband.
Going to a trusted friend can be beneficial if one is seeking advice, but I know that there were times I was just going to complain. The words from my mouth did not do anything to build Jonathan up. In fact, the more I spoke, the more I began to believe lies and get bitter. I put myself into a deeper place of despair because I ran my mouth.
That wraps up 7 of the mistakes I made in dating! If you want to read more about some of my bigger dating mistakes and what I’ve learned about clinging first to God while being in a dating relationship, check out my FREE eBook Finding Hope Through the Fog. In the eBook I share about what happened when I put my hope in my boyfriend Jonathan instead of in God during the rockiest season of my life.