DTRs: ugh, longest post EVER

because relationships are such a TOUCHY subject, HS advised me to preempt this post with a disclaimer. so here is the disclaimer:

Disclaimer: In the following post, I am not in any way trying to represent myself as an expert or final authority on relationships, men, or women. All the views expressed in this post are precisely just that–views (aka opinions, perspectives), intended to spark a thought process that’ll help us check our reality when it comes to relationships. You are free to agree/disagree/comment. I will still love and like you (in a platonic way–let’s just clarify that) either way.

okay! so. you and this boy/girl/man/lady (pick member of opposite sex who is in your date-able/marriageable age range) have been hanging out anywhere from “sometimes” to “A LOT.” And during the “getting to know you” stage, everything’s pretty kosher and clear–you’re acquaintances; then you move into the friends stage, no strange feelings, just genuine non-romantic affection.

but then you start to hang out more and more with this boy/girl/man/lady–we’ll call him/her “A.” you and A have deeper conversations, you get to see different sides of each other, you start to spend one-on-one time together, perhaps you and A go through some event together that only serves to strengthen the bond even more, or s/he helps you through a difficult personal life event, blah blah blah, etc.

your brain slowly begins to rearrange its memories and filing cabinets to accommodate more and more pages of A’s presence, words, actions and substance in your life. soon you find that the stories you tell your other same-sex friends all begin with “so A and I were at the X the other day” or “yea, A and I were talking about…” or “the funniest thing happened to A and me the other day”

this person begins to mean something to you…

and now you’ve officially started freaking out, asking yourself a ton o’ fun questions like:

1. does A like me?

2. do i like A?

3. if i do like A, do i really like A or is it just because i’ve been spending all this time with A that now i’m just attached?

4. what if A doesn’t like me? or worse, what if A does like me….ugh awkward!

5. are we meant to be together?

6. does A know that I may or may not like A? (this one is my favorite. It doesn’t even make sense.)

7. is A THE ONE?!?!?
[side note on this concept of “the one.”  While I do believe there is one best “the one,” I do not entirely agree with the concept that there can only be ONE PERSON who fits you as a marriage partner.  Because I believe that we are free to accept or reject anyone, including the BTO (Best The One), who God brings to us, as they are free to accept or reject us. Remember that God is Love who could never manipulate us to do things, though we ideally should respond out of Love to His Perfect Will and the BTO with a resounding “YES!” Think about it ~ and pray that you and your BTO are responding Yes to the Lord in all matters. Cuz if  s/he is not in the Perfect Will of God (which includes perfect timing) and you are in the Perfect Will….well, can s/he still be your BTO? Same is true if you aren’t in the Perfect Will but your BTO is…Ah, so simple and yet so complicated.]

Okay so before I go into addressing what to do when you get to this point, let’s backtrack and first clarify a few things that I shall label,

“HOW TO MINIMIZE AWKWARD DTRs & NOT BE A JERKFACE WHEN FORMING FRIENDSHIPS WITH THE OPPOSITE SEX”

ADVICES ONE: For Both the Ladies and Gents

We all have heart issues, character issues, and past wounds. We all struggle with loneliness and insecurities that sometimes push us to cross proper boundaries with members of the opposite sex–a little flirting here, a little maneuvering there, a little forced emotional attachment there…

However, loneliness and insecurities are absolutely no excuse for us to treat each other selfishly or poorly, exploit each other to fulfill a need for validation and acceptance, use each other as our emotional dumping grounds, gain attention that we desire (again from a heart wound) but have no intention of healthily reciprocating, or promise/receive/expect intimacy that is actually false because there is neither commitment nor an intention of long term friendship/relationship which does and will require sacrifice and, at some point, a laying down of your pride, ego, life, etc.

Erm, you may want to re-read the previous very long sentence one more time. And for clarification purposes, Friendship 101 says that “Friends lay things down–even to the point of dying–for friends, not try to take and take and take.” Proof? Jesus. (Man. There just ain’t no good rebuttal for offering Jesus as evidence of something. I so don’t play fair, do I?)

Basically, we cannot come to each other with an offering of false love and shallow or imitation friendship. Friendships require maintenance, upkeep, generosity, kindness, humility, honesty, trust, sacrifice~without these things, the relationship fizzles out and people on both sides of the relationship get terribly hurt. And for serious, don’t you think we have enough hurt in the world already? Also, it’s never just one person’s actions that causes this drama.

So I venture to say Advices One applies to any kind of relationship (you’re right. advices is not a real word).

ADVICES TWO: For the Gentlemen (coming from a lady’s point of view)

Applying Advices One, this means that you establish and at all costs maintain a healthy loving boundary with your sisters by articulating through your actions and words your intent of friendship, acquaintanceship, or something more. And your words and actions should match up. You cannot say to your buddies that you “are not interested in her like that” but then spend a lot of one-on-one time with her more than you do other people, or flirt with her and treat her Oddly Speshul more than other folks. Your actions and words have not matched up, and either way you have sworn deceitfully.

And I have a HUGE problem with half-hidden shady relational behavior. I’ll give you an example:

When I was in high school, I formed a very close friendship with a boy. We’ll call him B (for boy). B and I went on missions together, he opened up a lot to me, I was like his counselor in a lot of ways, he’d talk to me about his girl problems, we’d discuss deep things (well, deep for high school at least), we’d tell each other our secrets, we’d hang out on the weekdays studying together, we’d have like 3-hour phone conversations, he was my emotional support through my first boyfriend/heartbreak, the whole she-bang. He knew my entire family, I knew his. A LOT of emotional boundary crossing, as you can see.

But then…when we were in public–meaning with his guy friends or in large group gatherings–he was the most awkward won’t-talk-to-me-or-look-me-in-the-face friend ever. It pissed me off so bad because in a really riddiks and gross way, it made me feel like some hidden mistress. Like he was ashamed to be my friend in public, but was okay with eating his candy in secret. Seriously, it made me feel that exploited.**

Gents, remember that every girl/lady–no matter how tough, strong, or tomboyish she seems–has a woman’s heart that is precious to the Lord and worth protecting. No shady relational behavior–it’ll save both of you a lot of drama and mistakes.

And forreally real, the articulation of friendship and nothing more doesn’t have to be all awkward like a dying-robot DTR. It starts with a posture of your heart and develops through a humble, wise execution. It can be a simple:

“Yo, sis, thanks for talking with me. I appreciate your feedback.”
“God bless you, sis. You’re a good friend.”
“Sup, good to see you, sis.”

notice the repetition of “sis.” depending on your lingo/style/cool-factor/geek-factor, you can also use “homie,” “friend,” “sister,” or (lightbulb!) her actual name.

I’ve also watched that men who have a clear understanding about themselves & their manhood–what they want, need, are looking for; what’s good for them, what’s bad for them, their insecurities and strengths; who they are as a Son of God and Bride of Christ–the less confusion there is in their relationships with the opposite sex.

Ironic statement, I know–understanding yourself as a Bride of Christ to become clear about your manhood & sexuality. But that’s reality, take it or leave it.

**I eventually did confront B about this, though it took about another 4 years for us to finally get past this phase. And it took a lot of boundary crossing, conflict, mistakes, DTRs, and, ultimately, commitment commitment commitment to each other as human beings and friends for us to be where we’re at today, almost 20 years later–a healthy adult relationship with clear boundaries in which we don’t dump on each other emotionally–especially because he’s married with an adorable son–but we share respectfully, support each other honestly through life crises, reciprocate generosity, and still have spiritually/philosophically deep conversations and fun…well, when we manage time to see each other that is. 😉

ADVICES THREE: For the Ladies

The above Advices Two for the gentles is absolutely my Advices for you too. Establish, articulate, maintain. You may want to re-read (or read if you skipped it) the previous Advices Two and take it for yourself too. Your brothers have hearts that can be hurt, trampled on, and broken too–their hearts are precious to Papa God.

No shady relational behavior. Don’t be all flirty and fun, facetiously needy or helpless, or front with some fig leaves acting like someone you’re not, all to gain attention that in reality is just a shallow copy of what you really desire. Be clear about yourself, who you are as a Son of God and Bride of Christ. As a Daughter of the Most High. If that stuff ain’t in place, you’re gonna have a heck of a time getting anything else to work in your life.

Now, this is specifically for you ladies. Please please please take this Advices. It will save you so much drama and awkward-robot DTRs.

QUEENLY RULE: If he has not directly said to you in plain, clear, understandable language that he likes you, then DO NOT ASSUME he likes you and DO NOT ACT like he likes you.

By “plain, clear, understandable language” I mean any of the following or similar:

1. He directly says to you in person, “I like you” / “I have feelings for you” / “I want to date you” / “will you be my girlfriend” / “I am interested in dating you” / “I totally dig you and want us to be in a relationship”

2. He writes you a long letter confessing his love for you

3. He formally asks you to go on a date or to consider being in a relationship with him

4. He gets up in public and shouts at the top of the lungs, “I’M IN LOVE WITH YOU PLEASE DATE/MARRY ME!”

5. He asks your dad/mom/uncle/older brother/pastor/dog/cat/whatever for permission to date you and then actually asks you out on a date

The following does not qualify as plain, clear, understandable language:

1. He texts you friendly, casual messages like “hey wats up” – this just means, literally, “hey, what’s up?” and is usually what guys do when they just want to get to know you

2. He posts on your Facebook a lot – nope. most likely he regards FB as a safe means and public forum to get to know you. unless he posts a video on your wall that is a full-on confession of love for you (which fits under #4 of plain, clear, understandable language), he does not like you.

3. He smiles and gives you a hug every time he sees you – nope, sorry ladies. this don’t mean nothing either. it’s more likely that he’s just friendly and not afraid to show affection. if he’s giving you extra-long weird hugs, that might mean he’s starved for affection or has some hormones raging. either way, he doesn’t like you–not enough and not in that gentlemanly way where he wants a more-than-friends relationship.

4. He repeatedly offers to do or does nice things for you – while this one CAN be misinterpreted, i must emphasize that if his actions are not followed up by words…don’t assume he likes you in that way–and not enough to do something about it. Ladies, if his kindness makes you feel weird, just refuse the niceness and he’ll get the hint. and, just to provoke some reality thoughts–is it truly that difficult to believe that a guy can be kind and generous out of the purity of his heart and non-romantic affection/care for you? have we become SO jaded and hard-hearted by non-Kingdom standards that we cannot believe in or receive this kind of brotherly love? i understand that there are a lot of disrespectful douche-bags out there. but we shouldn’t let the behavior of a handful of guys condition us to believe every guy-who-does-nice-things is a disrespectful douche-bag with ulterior motives. that’s like…prejudice.

(Gentlemen, please note #4 and the potential for your kindness to be misinterpreted. it’s not to discourage your wonderful acts of generosity and kindness, but just be cautious that, sadly, this kind of repeated awesome behavior toward a girl who might have some brokenness and with whom you haven’t established trust and understanding may send a mixed message and most likely will earn you an awkward-robot DTR. Conversely, if you’re using this tactic as a way to hint your liking of a girl, after a minute just gentleman up already and tell her. don’t prolong the ambiguity.)

5. He spends a lot of time with you – still no. In fact, if he’s spending THAT MUCH TIME with you and HASN’T asked you on a date or said he likes you, you can be pretty darn sure he doesn’t like you (or at least not enough to gentleman-up and tell you so) and he has firmly moved you into his “cool girls who are like dudes so they’re safe to hang out with” list. Yes, believe it.

I always hear so many automatic objections and explanations to the QUEENLY RULE, and trust me, I’ve given all of them and was flat wrong every single time. So, the following are NOT viable objections:

“he’s just shy” – nope. when a gentleman really likes a lady his shyness will not be a factor. i’ve known geeky-artist-introvert-skinny guys to boldly walk up to a stranger lady whom he considers beautiful, ask for her number and be turned down. i knew an incredibly shy gentleman in Korea who asked out a girlfriend of mine 7+ times until she finally caved and said yes to one date. they dated for 2 years.

“he just doesn’t realize he likes me yet” – totally wrong. yes, gentleman can be pretty emotionally dense at times–and i say that with affection, guys. but, again–if ya’ll have been hanging out for all that time and he hasn’t ‘fessed undying love and devotion to you, it means he just doesn’t have it in him to love you and be devoted to you in a gentlemanly boyfriend/husband kind of way. you want to know what will happen if/when he ever realizes he likes you? He’ll tell you.

“he likes me, he’s just not ready for a relationship” – omg, are you for serious. i don’t even want to go into the riddiks-ness of this statement. ladies~if he’s “not ready for a relationship”, he doesn’t really like you. when a gentlemen really likes a lady, ready or not he will leap over the mountains like a gazelle to get her (read Song of Songs).

“it’s his ‘too cool’ friends” – sigh. if he’s not man enough to go after a lady he likes despite what his friends say, he likes his friends a whole lot more than he likes you~and, chances are, he may very well need his guy friends a whole lot more than he needs you at the moment. so leave the dude alone and don’t settle for second-hand affection.

“he’s just scared cuz we’re so different” – nope, not a viable objection to the Queenly Rule. if he truly likes you and is a gentleman worthy of your lady-like affections, then he will be like a gazelle and leap over mountains for you (again, read Song of Songs). in plain English, that means he will surmount any obstacle to being with you, including but not limited to cultural differences, family background, friends’ comments, personal shyness and issues, emotional retardation, financial limitations, etc. that’s legit, that’s real like-age.

ADVICES FINAL:  for the Ladies and the Gentlemen

Know what’s in your heart. Know what’s in your heart know what’s in your heart know what’s in your heart.

How do you know what’s in your heart? Ask Holy Spirit and be freakin really honest when He shows you. Don’t front about what you’re feeling or the motivations behind your actions:  whether it’s you really do like him/her or it’s just your insecurities, fears, neediness.  HS can only give you a reality check to the extent that you’re willing to see and receive it.

if you’re always hanging out with him/her one-on-one; you’re headed for DTR-land, so check yourself before you get there

if you’re wistfully making indirect comments about what a great girlfriend/wife/boyfriend/husband s/he would make when your status as friends and trust in each other has not yet been established; you’re headed for DTR-land, so check yourself before you get there

if you’re texting/calling/messaging him/her all the time; you’re headed for DTR-land, so check yourself

if s/he is your top source of emotional support; you’re headed for DTR-land, so check yourself

if you’re closer to him/her than you are with same-sex friends and you two don’t have established trust/history; you’re headed for DTR-land, so check yourself

basically, before you arrive in DTR-land, just be prepared to honestly face what you’ll find there.

Now, going back to the waaaaaaaay beginning of this post: what do you do when you’ve reached the stage of freaking out and asking yourself a ton o’ fun questions like:

1. does A like me? 2. do i like A? 3. if i do like A, do i really like A or is it just because i’ve been spending all this time with A that now i’m just attached? 4. what if A doesn’t like me? or worse, what if A does like me….ugh awkward! 5. are we meant to be together? 6. does A know that I may or may not like A? (hehe, my favorite) 7. is A THE ONE?!?!?

Well, my advices is simply this ~ be kind and loving to the other person and figure out what’s in your heart before you guys have that DTR. don’t come with all your fig leaves and hiding shadiness. because you can’t totally avoid DTRs if you’re a human being who actually cares about others. that’s impossible. but you can minimize awkward-robot DTR’s and not be a jerkface when you’re deciding how you and that person fit together–as friends, acquaintances, frenemies, siblings, bf & gf, partners & lovers, or whatever.

Ladies and Gentlemen:  be real, be yourself.

One thought on “DTRs: ugh, longest post EVER

Add yours

  1. i like your cross-examination approach in helping people to “figure out what’s in your heart…”. As a guy, I agree that we should check our heart a lot more often than just subconsciously complying with the hormonal urge!

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