Change Up

[mk_dropcaps style="fancy-style"]I[/mk_dropcaps]n week 1 and week 2 of Flying Solo to Dynamic Duo series, I shared some of the expected transitions that come with going from single to dating.  Now for the real fun, the unexpected surprises.  To be fully transparent, this is my first time dating a strong Christian man.  To add to that, Alex, my boyfriend, is a man who sets the standard of quality.  I do not say that purely from being biased (though that it is true).  When we first started dating and people began to find out those that knew him all used one word unanimously, quality.  I would have agreed with that even before we started dating.  You see the beauty with our relationship was we were friends for about 4 years before we transitioned to more.  Add to that the fact that for over a year and a half we have led a small group together it is safe to say we have a strong foundation laid even before we officially started dating.  In that time, I got to see how generous, wise, and fun he is.  As an added bonus he is strong both physically and in his character. Basically, I find him all around hot. Ok enough of me gushing and bragging on him. I really could go on and on and probably make you sick.  This is right here is a perfect example of the first unexpected change I have had. I am a hopeless, and yes even cheesy, romantic. Despite what I thought beforehand. During this relationship I have found I can be almost sickly romantic.   The sweetness that exudes is topped with abundant amounts of corny and cheesy. With Alex, I willingly share how I feel about him without fear of it being too much or scaring him away.  I think the beautiful part of us having been friends first is I know he has already seen the real me.  Somehow, he still chose to pursue me. Adjusting to this truth allows me to own my cheesy romantic side, even make light of it, but best of all I am nothing but me.  The best part is, Alex is right on pace with me in being mushy romantic.  I think we try to out sweet each other.  We are destined for cavities with all the sweetness to process.

The next thing that being in a relationship uncovered actually is parts of my character I did not realize were there. Being willingly romantic is a surprise to me because of how much of an internal processor I am. It takes me a while to figure out where I stand on things.  Before I share with others where I stand on anything I sort through all the emotions, looking at the situation from different angles to really find where I settle. If you are an internal processor (or what I call an outgoing introvert) you know what I mean. Before this relationship I just thought I was an independent woman.  I did not realize just how much I pull away to process or press in for certain situations.

While this behavior is good because I rarely say something I do not mean, this does not bode well in a relationship.  This is especially true because Alex is an external processor.  He shares things to process them and discover where he stands. We have quickly learned this about each other and as a result begun to make adjustments. Withholding where I stand simply because that is the way I have always done it only creates a divide between Alex and I.  It limits the level of intimacy we can have on a heart level.  Over time this will seep into every area of the relationship.  I have uncovered that in order to grow the relationship I must be willing to change my method of operation enough to include Alex in it. It requires uncomfortable communication, transparency, and vulnerability.  The result thus far (and I have been far from perfect in it), has already been incredible growth personally for both of us.

This brings me to the second major change I want to share: Willingness to redefine what your concept is of true love. Once I realized my communication style had to adjust to be more open to bring Alex into my world, understanding that I have the choice to do so willingly or fight against it.  God has guided me in the journey as I have sought His wisdom on the matter.  What I have seen so far is that my concept of what love is needed to change. To develop a relationship with a healthy rhythm and pattern (not too slow or fast) requires unconditional love.  There are many hicups that come when two independent people learn how to unify in a romantic.  You will see each other come undone in certain things.  What will your response be then?  To pull away because they are not perfect or lean in with grace?

What we see blasted in media are relationships that seem to be all rainbows, sunshine, fireworks and passion. The reality of true love is much less glamorous, but far more satisfying. The love we see glorified in Hollywood and in the media actually is not love but attraction, really it is solely a consumptive lust. There is no depth it. To call it love would be a lie.  It is selfish and inflexible.  With Alex, I see how generous love really is. How much true love willing give of oneself to strengthen the relationship and have deeper intimacy. Before this point I wanted that, but did not know if it really existed.  Sad to admit, but truly where my expectations where.  With God I knew there had to be more and believed for it.  Yet it was belief laced with unbelief.

To wrap it all up in a pretty bow the unexpected changes that came along with a relationship come down to three things:

[mk_blockquote style="line-style" font_family="none" text_size="16" align="center"]1.  Expect to change how and when you communicate.[/mk_blockquote]

Yes, even when you are processing challenging situations.  Talking about it even when you are in the midst of the mess is important.  But take note, you are not there to fix the problems for your significant other, but support them in the journey of walking them out.  You both must be willing to learn how to do it together.

[mk_blockquote style="line-style" font_family="none" text_size="16" align="center"]2. New aspects of your character will be uncovered[/mk_blockquote]

You may see parts of yourself you did not realize were there.  Be excited, you now get to activate new strengths simply because your life no longer is a one sided story.

[mk_blockquote style="line-style" font_family="none" text_size="16" align="center"]3. Shift your paradigm of true love[/mk_blockquote]

There is a refining to your paradigm of what true unconditional love is, and yes the way you frame your future and God will change as a result.

All of these things combined together adds up to A LOT of change at once.  And not on a surface level, but down to the core of who you are.  No wonder people say relationships are hard.  Relationships are by far the most rewarding and incredible experience you will have this side of heaven.  Learning to intertwine your life to love someone deeply is an incredible experience.  I am well aware I am just beginning so I do not have all the answers. But in sharing all this I hope you realize the common thread through the transition is willingness .

For those of you who are single and wanting to date let me encourage you to not lose hope for God's best for you.  My relationship would not be going nearly as smoothly as it has if both Alex and I had not made room for God to move in our lives resulting in this relationship.  I am grateful every day I did not compromise my vision of what character I wanted in my mate for something that was convenient or instant gratification. God has someone divinely designed for you. Begin now to be open for it.  That may mean going on dates with people you are not totally sold on based off looks alone.  He or she may not look like your definition of “picture perfect.” So what if it fulfills the desires of your heart beyond what you could have imagined.  For that to happen though you have to give God the creative rights to your dating life. 100% of the time you will find it exceeds what you had pieced together with your limited vision. That picture you had will then be easy to discard.

For my friends already in relationships, I pray we maintain a healthy level of respect and gratitude for our significant other.  Remember the fun, the price you paid to start your relationship, the unique strengths and talents of your significant other, and just how far God has taken you both.  Gradually gaining access to someone’s life on an intimate level is an honor. That can never be taken for granted.  I know it is easy to focus on when the relationship is new and fresh, but like anything it too is a choice.  My prayer is we all will chose as many times as necessary to keep our relationships full of love and respect.  Not just because it will improve our own quality of life, but others as well. Our communities and nation need us to operate in healthy, God centered, relationships to sustain its unique strength and freedom.  All of this is done when we learn to lean into God and draw our strength from the joy of walking with Him.