At the intersection of writing and life with the author of the Cameron Ballack mysteries

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Rules of the Relationship Road

Of all the mercurial paths I see running through the high school world, the pursuit of love and dating relationships takes the cake. A teacher has the unique perspective of watching the tentative movements of boy toward girl (and vice versa) as well as the train wrecks of unions that never should exist in the first place.

It was a couple months ago that I was finishing up a unit on marriage, divorce, dating, and relationships with my Ethics classes that I decided some closing thoughts were in order. Of course, what could I say that could bear any weight? My dating life in high school was practically non-existent. I was turned down by four different girls for senior prom. The closest I would come to getting a date was actually eating a fruit of the same name. Everything I've learned about relationships has been by trial and error...basically trials that led to errors that bring on more trials which lead to...well, you get the drift.

But one night of cranial clarity and thoughts from the heart wrought my rules of dating, relationships, and life itself. I shared them with my students, set up as ten rules for the ladies, ten for the guys, and five more for both genders.

Like 'em or not, here they are:

For the ladies

1. Repeat after me: "You are loved" Trust completely that God truly loves you before you go looking for a guy who will love you. It makes all the difference. Stop looking for love in the wrong places for the wrong reasons.

2. You are less beautiful than you think and more beautiful than you believe Sin and lack of character makes you ugly, not your looks. Makeup, clothing, and attitude can't change that. God can. Trust him.

3. Ask what controls your search for love Is it fear, loneliness, demand for approval, desire for sex, or something else? What idols might be keeping you from letting God's unconditional love capture you?

4. Deal with your daddy issues If your dad is/was abusive or absent, don't allow that to control your search for love. If you have a good and protective dad, he's not God, either! You're not looking for a dad-replacement or a dad-duplicate. You have a perfect Heavenly Father already.

5. Know when it's not worth it (a) If a guy doesn't reciprocate your interest, ignore him. He's not worth it. (b) If a guy if physically or verbally abusive, avoid him. If you are dating such a jerk, then leave him. (c) If you've been dating a guy for a long time [say post-college for 2-3 years], and he hasn't popped the question, then leave him, because he is never going to commit.

6. Respect guys and push them to be leaders The natural inclination of godly women is to encourage godly men to be who God intended them to be. Be honest, be clear, and be the wind in your man's sails.

7. Dress to kill...the evil desires within guy's hearts. Dress modestly. Do not draw attention to what is only available to your future husband. I'm not saying you have to dress like an Amish pastor's wife. But you need to check your heart for motives as you dress.

8. Pursue your opportunities Women have more opportunities now than they've had in the past. So go after the best education you can and be able to provide for yourself. Don't drop out of your chances and assume you'll be a teen dream prom queen that'll get scooped up by a guy and you'll never have to work again.

9. Be an encourager You don't have to go overboard on this, but every once in awhile, let the guy know what he's doing right. Thank him for his kindness, his listening skills, and anything else that truly matters. Be specific. They won't admit it, but guys are very insecure souls and they really want to know when they are doing the right thing and making you happy.

10. Purity is worth defending You are God's true love. Don't give it away cheaply. If a guy tries to take your purity from you, tell him no. And if he tries again, slap him. Hard. And if he still doesn't get it, round up some guys who care, and send them after him to beat the living crap out of him. Because God loves you that much.

Now for the guys...I love you, but you need to brace yourselves

1. You are pigs I get it. You're adolescents. It's a time when you feel you should sow your immaturity without consequence...making filthy jokes about girls' bodies, playing the pull-my-finger gag, etc. You know what? It's stupid. You're being an idiot. Grow up. Be a man.

2. But you are redeemable pigs Winston Churchill switched political parties. Alice Cooper became a Christian. And I grew to love medium-rare steak. Anything can happen and anyone can change. It begins when you admit you've been less than God intended you to be and telling your immaturity to stick it. And then apologize to all the females you've turned off by your behavior. That's at least a start.

3. A word about temptation I get it. It's tough to maintain the right thing. We're easily tempted and it doesn't take much. But caving in to it doesn't make you a man. It means you're undisciplined. Going after easy women means you're lazy. Seducing a girl makes you a coward, not a stud. Real men are none of the above. Real men rely on God to keep them honorable.

4. Roll with it, baby! So you don't like how women expect you to read their minds, they glances, and their nuanced behavior and you feel lost? Big deal. Get over it. It's not going to change. Even if you fail in the attempt, girls will respect you for trying to understand them and will admire you [even if they tell you the exact opposite].

5. Be the knight in shining armor Open doors for girls. Make eye contact when you speak with them. Put down your iPhone when you're in conversation with them. If they drop something, pick it up for them. Give up your seat for them. Limit the texting and focus on more one-on-one face time. And every now and then, tell them they look very nice today [without expecting anything in return].

6. Want to be attractive? It has very little to do with looks and a lot to do with the heart. Do things, even the most menial tasks, for them. In marriage, that will mean doing an armload of stuff around the house [even laundry and emptying the dishwasher]. Teenage guys, this also means not taking a girl's stuff [phone, keys, etc.] and playing keep-away as a joke.

7. Post-breakup attitude Some girls might not want to continue dating you. This means they will break up with you. When this happens, take it like a man! Don't ask "Why?" incessantly. Don't whine. Definitely DON'T CRY! Don't buy the "It's not you, it's me" line (the girl is just being nice). Don't ask, "Is it something I did?", because it probably is. Just man up, wish her well, and get on with your life.

8. Take the bull by the horns For the absolute love of St. Jude, when you ask a girl out, be direct! And don't do the "I was wondering...if you weren't doing anything else on Friday night..." way of asking her out. Make a girl know 100% that you are interested in her, not like a seventh-round draft choice.

9. A woman is good to look at, but that woman must be your wife and only your wife! You will treasure her and honor her or your life will be a godforsaken almighty train wreck. Adultery makes you a shameful idiot (that's Biblical). Pornography makes you a shameless coward (that's indisputable). Faithfulness and tenderness makes you a man (that's right)!

10. This will save you a lot of trouble! Get to know your girlfriend's father. Look him in the eye and shake his hand firmly. Enjoy what he enjoys. Converse with him. Find out what he likes to eat and make it as often as he wants it (especially if it is dessert). Trust me, guys...this is at least half the battle. You win this and you have the wind at your back!

And finally, five bonus shots for both genders

5. Nerves are part of the game Butterflies are part of the dating and relationship scene. Situational fear will always be there. It might seem as daunting as trying to push over a Coke machine the size of Mt. Everest, but you can do it! (Even if it takes eight hours to ask the girl out, but that was my problem the first time I asked Christy out.)

4. A word about break-ups (a) After three dates, breakups need to be face-to-face. (b) Love is like a body, and one of the most important parts of the body is the colon. It needs to flush out the crap or things get toxic. The same thing goes for relationships. Toxic relationships need to be flushed out. (c) Be honest ("I don't think we're compatible" or "I think we're going in different directions") but not nasty brutal ("You're an emotionally constipated abyss of worthlessness" or "I don't enjoy being with you because you bore me to tears"). (d) Breakups are not the end of the world. They tend to be God's way of unleashing you from a set of chains so that you are free to move toward true happiness.

3. Be responsible So you don't want your life to get drastically sidetracked by an unintended pregnancy? It's real simple: Keep your hockey uniform on and you won't have to worry about the puck getting shot by the goalie and getting into the net.

2. Same stride, same pace, make sure The most critical moment of any relationship that clicks is the magic known as the RDT...the Relationship Defining Talk. It means establishing where you are with each other and implying where things are going without explicitly saying so. This is the moment when your souls start melting together.

1. And the number-one piece of advice you can take to heart as you move through the dating universe...Never--and I mean ever!--continue to date someone whom you know--beyond the shadow of a doubt--that you ultimately would never want to marry. You're better off marching onward toward the one God is preparing for you to dance with throughout your life.

You're welcome.

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