Weekly With Carly: Relationships 101

By: Carly Ann Clegg
By: Carly Ann Clegg

“Dating without the intent of getting married is like going to the grocery store with no money. You either leave unsatisfied or take something that isn’t yours.” –Jefferson Bethke

I was fourteen, in the eighth grade, my mouth-full of metal, thoughts all aglow (but unsure at the same time), awkward, embarrassed, and innocent. Mom waiting outside the movie theatre when the credits rolled. My first date.

In the world of dating-let’s admit, there are SO many rules: should we kiss on the first date? Should I hold her hand? Can I ask her for her phone number? Who are we? What are we? Is he/she too young/old? Am I getting to old to be single? Do I want to be in an exclusive relationship? How long will this last? Should I meet her parents? Can I call him at two in the morning? What is considered as committed these days? Is he the one? Is she the one?

It’s like walking on EGGSHELLS people! And with that, it’s time to take a stand ladies and gents-and in order to do that we’re about to get personal-and real honest. We’re going to admit the good, the bad, and the ugly of dating-and all that it entails by admitting our faults and stop saying shoulda, coulda, wouldas…Your past has made the present YOU that is reading this today. So many roads. So many detours. So many choices. So many mistakes. And instead of constantly killing ourselves let’s instead, L.E.A.R.N a thing or two about what we’ve done, where we’ve been, how we got here, and what we can do differently-for the sake of US.

We all have our own story, reasons, and wants-so lets break it down to four types of dating:

1. Dating for fun
- So you’re in college, have a lot of people to meet, might be in a sorority or fraternity and don’t have slim pickins. You’re at your dream school, feel as though you’re on the top of the world, and throw in your moral towel and figure heck-might as well be a make out slut! No harm done right? (No judgment here folks) Or maybe, you’ve already received your undergrad and are deathly afraid-or simply not interested- in starting an exclusive relationship. You say to yourself-I have Y E A R S to be with one person, a relationship can wait. Or perhaps you are the one who sees dating as a hobby- your career is your most important priority, starting a family is out of the question, so you, kind soul, are a tease-to those who want a serious relationship.

Carry on if you must, but stay on the sidelines for the real players. Type 1 has a no-strings-attached policy. So, if you play by the rules your heart will be spared. But beware; take heed in this warning if you’re one for devotion. Because no one will be hopelessly devoted to you for the long haul in this category.

2. Dating to See
Hi an episode of Sex and the City called and they’d like for you to pay attention. Carrie, Samantha, Miranda, and Charlotte might be fearless leaders in the dating world, but let’s remind ourselves that they read from a script, have their hair and makeup done professionally, most definitely have their outfits picked out for them, and let’s face it- how can an up and coming successful writer afford Manolo Blahniks? Reality is, whether you’ve been dating the same person for thirty years, have multiple at the same time, are a month and a half dater, a Friday night dater, a friend zone texting dater, an online hottie with eight significant others at once, you (more or less) have a more intentional purpose for dating. And to that I say-wonderful mindset! We are getting somewhere! If anything, dating is an adventure, *cue high school musical again*-it’s the start of something new, the time to share your greatness with one person at a time. ‘Dating to See’ takes effort, but not commitment-however, that is what you’re striving for.

In this category, you may or may not be meeting the parents or be exclusive-but instead, strive for conversation like life goals, ideas on family life, thoughts on marriage, or maybe even where the other sees themselves in ten years. The purpose here is to genuinely get to know each other; you’re not selling your souls to each other, or making a life pact but instead, consider him or her an intimate confidant. (Please don’t mistake that with friends with benefits-we all saw where that lead Mila Kunis and Justin Timberlake-committed and in love, but in a messed up/heartbreaking way.) Let’s keep things clean people!

3. Dating to Decide
- In the olden days, this category would be considered ‘courtship.’ And how much better does that sound? To be courted makes me feel as though I am wanted and held on a higher pedestal. That I am more than important, treasured, adored, and (dare I say it) loved. Yes, the L word is quite frequently professed, and is definitely meant to be taken seriously in type three.

Another way to look at this season in a relationship is pre-engagement bliss. You met the family, the high school best friends, have been taken to the hometown, visited churches together, and might have even traveled together…you’ve taken the time to understand and accept their faults, embrace their flaws, and enjoy daydreaming what your kids would look like. Your dates become more creative, more heartfelt, more meaningful. Life has molded both of your lives together, and surely has been sweeter with a significant other. A routine has set in, a timeline of love has started-you’re pretty sure you’ve found THE one. Ah-this type of dating could be exactly where the butterflies kick in, and your world starts to revolve around others, rather than just yourself. Time to make the biggest decision of your life. But no pressure, it’s also the BEST decision.

4. Dating after marriage
- At last, we have arrived to my personal favorite- and quite possibly the most important category of dating that helps maintain the love in your marriage. You heard me! (One of these things is not like the other…that you are right!) Absolutely, 100% can you ‘date’ when you are married. Now, do you think I am telling you to date other people when you’re married?! (for Heaven’s sake) I am encouraging you to date your S P O U S E! Plain and simple, just because life has moved on, you don’t have left over wedding cake in your freezer, you’ve made a couple of (very cute) kids, gained a few pounds, gotten a few happy wrinkles, and ran out of time and money to take a tropical vacation, doesn’t mean that your relationship should be put on the backburner. Kids might think you’re “grose” for smooching in the kitchen-but in the waaaay back of their tiny mind-they appreciate seeing their two favorite people in the world, be in love. Cherish the marriage you have-because it’s for a lifetime.

We’ve all learned from Carrie Bradshaw’s mistakes, but let’s be honest- we live in Bryan/College Station, TX people- dating is not Time Square perfect, it has its blemishes but can always be looked at in a positive light. Instead of pondering on the useless thought of why your past relationship didn’t work out…relieve yourself with the thought that you’re taking your time deciding how you want your life to be and who you want to spend it with. And just like that, with a new revelation detouring away from the norm, a new idea is sparked, and the dating life is easy enough for even Forest Gump to understand-it’s like a box of chocolates, you never know what (or who) you’re going to get.

So sit back my friends. God has everything under control. When we start putting our lives in our own hands, things start to crumble, pieces start falling apart, and life gets messy. But He puts the puzzle back together once you let Him take control. When He has the reigns, prepare to be blessed beyond comprehension. The moment you let go and let God, the moment you become free of worry, fear, distress, and anxiety. It’s C R A Z Y to think that before we were born, long before we were even thought about-he already had your perfect match picked out-for you! Don’t you want the King to hand select your husband/wife? I sure do-and I sure did, and can I just say-God is good, and faithful, and loving, and so so very wise.

Yes, we can giggle (and we should laugh, because we’ve all been there-and let me admit-it’s not always a proud moment) about this topic and snicker at those who we know that have faults discussed above-but lets not forget the Maker of love and the Creator of YOU who has also invented this idea of dating. And the crazy thing is too-that he knows temptation is hard to surpass. He knows the world’s choices are easier to make than those of the Almighty. He also knows-we’re human-we’re not perfect-and He gives us the freedom to make decisions and learn from them. Yes, learn. He’s not up there with popcorn and a coke-he is deeply engaged in your life, yearning for you to seek him, because man oh man-does he love you. And you (single/dating/married/widowed/etc.) should be humbled, and rest in that. For He is enough. He is our lover, he is our portion, and we are his bride. How stinkin’ cool is that my friends?

Be smart, let Jesus take the wheel, stay true to yourself, and enjoy the ride and the idea that is dating.

Once again, thanks for hanging out with me! It’s been fun recalling memories and having my friends share theirs.

And please (from the kind words of Ellen DeGeneres) be kind to one another!

Just as it is true that behind every great man there is a great woman, so too are there great women behind a great woman. Without their shoulders to cry on, their hands to hold when life gets crazy, their advice, their encouragement, their never ending love, their contagious laughs, their patience, and their accountability,
I truly wouldn’t be the woman I am today. With that, I would be hindering myself if I deprived you from getting advice from them. So without further adieu, may I present you with four of the best:

Lauren: Realize that every individual and every relationship is different. Sometimes we fall in to the trap of comparing our lives and loves to other people, or even to the image we have in our head of what it should be. Things like Facebook and chick flicks don't help with this. Even if you are the strong independent type, we all fall into this trap due to one thing or another, just as I did due to having parents and a best friend who all found their perfect match at age 14. It plants in our heads the ways we think things should be.

When I was 16 it was feeling behind because I didn't have someone serious, so I tried to create something that was never going to be MY love story, but really was just an image of what I thought it should be. And when I eventually found the person who I will soon call my husband, I fell in to a different yet similar trap that made me question and listen to those around me as to how to be in that relationship when all along the best expert was the two of us. I not only learned that we were the experts, but learned that by trying to play out a love story that wasn't ours was more depriving us of an even better one that was ours. When we fall in to this trap we lose a few things that you DO NOT want to give up!

1. By trying to keep up or emulate other's relationship it sacrifices your own. Everyone out there is looking for a one of a kind love... and it's called one of a kind for a reason. I have many friends who are in serious relationships, and they are all happy and leading to a walk down the aisle, but not one is like the other. The truest test of our friendships have been learning (sometimes the hard way) that we will not all have the same relationships or make the same choices as each other in those relationships. But, because of it, we all have our own happily ever afters and know it is what is right for each of us.

2. Advice can be helpful, but you have to make sure the WE in the relationship is only the two of you. I have fallen in to this trap personally. My parents have been married for close to 30 years, and my mom and I are very close. But I got to a point where I realized that my relationship was not only just me and my guy, but seemed to be me, him and my mother! Now, before that gets weird, I mean due to all the advice I was asking and using under the assumption that if it worked for them, it will work for us. THIS IS NOT ALWAYS TRUE!! As soon as I changed the go to person from my mom, to the first person being my partner there was a change that I hope everyone experiences.

As much as I love and appreciate my mom, it created a trust and bond between me and my fiancé that was almost an US vs. the World, a you and I can tackle anything together mentality. Our relationship grew into a new level, a new bond that is hard to break and this may not have been achieved if we hadn't focused on what we thought was right first and foremost.

3. The 3rd and most important thing I feel you cheat yourself out of by trying to vicariously live or wishing you had another life or relationship is that you may miss and strip God's amazing plan away. Of course, God's plan will always win, but my point is that sometimes we get so caught up in how we think things should be, and plan out our lives and relationships that we forget that God already has it all planned out, and it is probably 10x better than we can even comprehend.

I can speak from this personally and say that if I went back and made things go the way I wanted them to I would have never gotten to live out this amazing ride God had planned for me and my future husband and we would have never known what real happiness could be like. So as hard as it is, don't deprive yourself of an even better happily ever after and just trust God and His plan to bring you more than you ever could have imagined.

Lisa: I’ve learned a lot from my past relationships. But the most important are: never regret any relationship. Every relationship teaches you something! You’ve grown in some way, even if you can’t see it. Always trust your instincts and your gut, and always pay attention to the red flags. And probably the biggest is to take the little things that bother you in the beginning, will bother you even more in the end. So don’t wait to tell your partner if something bothers you, it will undoubtedly escalate and become an even bigger problem. Also take the time to learn about yourself from relationships!

Camille: I think the key to a successful date is actively engaging in conversation and listening to what the other person is saying. Chances are, you’ll relate to them somehow and that will make the conversation flow better. Don’t just worry about there being an awkward silence by asking questions that you don’t listen to because you are to worried about what to ask next. Focus on them and stem off of each other. Also, naturally, people LOVE to talk about themselves, so asking them questions direction upon them and their interests is a great go-to! At least, it worked for me 

Megan: Something that I've learned (through trail, error, heartbreak, and finally success) is that the worst thing you can do in a dating situation is to force it. Whether you’re forcing it based on a desire for happiness and love, security, fear of being alone, or appreciation of someone's material aspects (such as looks or money, popularity, etc), forcing something that isn't meant to be always ends in frustration, and someone is always hurt. There is no quality in the world that is worth forcing a relationship that is not meant to be. Not only are you depriving the other person of a fair shot, but you're also depriving yourself of happiness. With that being said, I've learned that the best things come when you aren't looking for them.

In all honesty, I was desperately wanting to get back together with Matthew when I met Mark. I initially wasn't even interested in Mark, but he ended up sweeping me off my feet and this is definitely the happiest I've been with anyone in a long time. So now I'm a firm believer in the notion that instead of actively looking for a relationship, you should sit back and let fate take its course.

Check out these websites for more info!

Valentine’s Day <3/Single Awareness Day/Love yourself day/or just Feb. 14th: Loveology: Jealousy/Trust

Feb. 21st: Rock Me Momma Like a 3rd Wheel-How to be the rejected friend and break up counselor at the same time-I’d like to call this the “Break Up Diaries”

Feb. 28th: Season of Singleness

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