I answered the phone. Whoa! A blast from the past. I didn’t expect it to be that guy. Small talk for a few minutes. I wait for it. Finally, out it comes.
“So, I feel really bad about the way things ended between us. I was kind of a jerk. I wanted to apologize to you and ask you to forgive me. Would you want to meet some time and catch up?”
In my early twenties, I experienced some variation of that exact same phone call four or five different times from four or five different ex-boyfriends. Sometimes I would agree to meet so that we could talk, and sometimes I would simply accept the apology, offer my own for my mistakes, and hang up politely. Don’t get me wrong, I appreciated the gesture (though I usually questioned whether their motivation wasn’t as much seeking forgiveness but more hoping to reignite the relationship). It just always felt too little, too late.
The fact that this same conversation happened with several different guys feels odd to me now. Am I the only one who had so many relationships end so badly? As I look around at our generation, I’m guessing not. It seems normal to us that we would hop from relationship to relationship year after year, sometimes even month after month. We hardly ever see dating modeled differently. But, is that really the best way? Is it the way that will leave us with the least amount of heartache, or the greatest amount of our dignity intact? I don’t really think so.
Our world today is more of a consumer society than it has ever been before. We want more, new, and better choices all the time. And that has leaked into our dating style. It is becoming harder and harder to take dating seriously; to think long and hard before entering into a relationship with someone and then taking our commitment to them seriously. We go through hook-ups and break-ups at the speed of light, and where has that gotten us? We have more failed marriages, more single parenting mothers, and more broken hearts than ever before. There has to be a better way.
When I was in my early twenties and getting regular phone calls from exes who were reconsidering whether or not they wanted me (as if I were a jacket hanging in their closet) made me decide that enough was enough. I was sick and tired of playing games and for the first time in my life, I was determined to protect my heart and dignity. I made a pretty crazy decision: I wouldn’t date again until I was pretty sure that it was the man I wanted to marry. That may sound extreme, but at the time I needed to do something pretty drastic to stop the unhealthy dating pattern I had found myself in, and it actually worked out well for me.
When my (now) husband first asked me out, I barely knew him, but we had a lot of mutual friends. I agreed to go but made it clear that it was a just-friends thing. He caught my vibe pretty quickly and for almost an entire year after, never asked me out again. But our circles kept colliding and we got to know each other better over time, establishing a mutual respect and trust. By the time the year was up, I had gotten to know him so well that I realized he really was exactly the kind of man I wanted to marry! Lucky for me, he still very much wanted to be with me. As we began dating, neither of us said it out loud but we both knew that we were in it for life. A decade later we are married and it is still as true as ever.