First, a disclaimer. I have never been in an actual relationship. I’ve only ever been on one date with a boy who now claims it was all in my head and never actually found me attractive.
I have however, loved someone.
I was always that girl who had long crushes – my record was a 4-year long crush over the popular guy in school. In many ways, as I was the geek, it was a cheesy 90’s romcom waiting to happen… it didn’t.
But perhaps the worst one yet was the 18 months I spent head over heels for a guy. Unlike a school crush, I emotionally invested myself in their life. We’d spend most nights staying up talking, I prayed with and for them, I shared my problems with them and gave more of myself to them than anyone.
I admit, I never told him I was interested and he never suggested he was, and perhaps if I’d plucked up the courage, things might have been easier. But it was awkward, I was close with the whole family and in my eyes, he was way out of my league.
So today, I’m sharing this story in the hope of closure and helping someone else.
To make a very long story short, last summer I watched this man walk down the aisle with his new bride. I’d already left the area following news of his engagement and returned home, but being the friend that I was, I still returned to watch his special day.
And in all honestly, it might have been okay had he not turned to look at me just before she walked down the aisle. Or perhaps had we not spent many nights practising a wedding speech long before he met her. But amongst my genuine joy for him and his bride, the day was also heart wrenching.
I returned back home to pressure to find a boyfriend (with no one really knowing what I’d been through). I quickly put my walls up and decided I was never going to like anyone again. I’d stick to liking fictional characters because at least most of them got a happy ending.
But that isn’t the kind of life we’re called to have.
Everyone has at some point in their life experienced rejection and heart break. We have all watched our crushes choose another, or had relationships that break down, or even lost a loved one. But this isn’t the end.
God calls us to be in companionship and community.
So here I am, a year later, trying to get back out there.
I have since realised that in this year with my walls up, I missed an opportunity to be with someone special, I cut myself off from a year of potentially valuable dating experience and all the while, I’ve done nothing but hurt myself.
So, what have I learnt since about dating with heartbreak?
1) You don’t have to be in a relationship to be heartbroken. I’ve had many people say to me that because we weren’t dating, it can’t really have hurt. This is not true!
2) Give yourself time. Don’t try and get yourself out there straight away. Allow yourself time to grieve those dreams of a future life, to heal.
3) Start with friendship. Build solid friendships around you that understand what you’ve been through and can help you get back out there.
4) Ditch the checklist and open yourself up. That opportunity I said I’d missed was because I was looking for someone to match what I’d had before. This I now regret. I wish I’d brought down the walls and gone for that coffee!
5) Pray (this should probably go first). Talk to Jesus about your hurts, pray for his guidance in dating and his courage in asking.
Now, as well as reading Aukelien van Abbema’s “Dare to Date” (as reviewed on the honoured website), I am also actively on dating sites and plucking up the courage to start conversations.
Because every painful ending, be it the ending of a dream, the ending of a relationship or the end of a phase of life, is actually a new beginning and a new opportunity for love and life.