Flying Solo to Dynamic Duo: Tear Down the Walls
[mk_dropcaps style="fancy-style"]T[/mk_dropcaps]his month I am going to write about the shifts that happen when you go from being single to being in a serious relationship. Having been single for over 8 years until this last March, I had grown comfortable in the cadence of life that comes with being single. Things have as you can imagine shifted significantly. Being in a serious relationship has exceeded my expectations above and beyond what I thought it would. There have however been transitions that have come with it, both expected and unexpected changes. Expected changes like that of a change in schedule and routine in order to include another person in your life, as well as tearing down walls in order to all another person to draw close. The unexpected have included things I have been aware of, but not to the degree I have experienced. A few being just how much your relationship status affects your friendships and what vision you have for the future. While I have only been in a relationship for a few months I want to share with you my revelations while they are fresh. For my single friends, I want to equip you and prepare you now for what will come so you can walk through it with more ease and grace. If you are in a relationship, I want to remind you of what you probably have experienced as well. We all need a bit more awareness for how we impact those in a different season than us, especially when it comes to romantic relationships.
Of the changes so far I want to start with the most important, albeit expected, transition. It comes in the form of learning how you answer the question " How do I let another person into my world?" We have to willingly begin to tear down walls that we have had most likely for years if not our whole lives. There is a healthy and an unhealthy way to do this. In my last relationship I definitely did not do this the right way, and as a result I have noticed fear creep in this area more as a result. This is because in my last relationship since I gave up too much too fast I actually tore down what boundaries there to protect me. In the process I lost what understanding I had of my identity, all for the sake of the relationship. Talk about martyr behavior (Yucky!).
This time however things are dramatically different. First off and most importantly I have a strong personal relationship with Jesus. Equally important the man I am dating does as well. You operate radically different when God is at the center of your life. But behaviors and boundaries are not the same as a single independent individual who is anchored in her faith as that of one in a relationship. How do you make the transition?
As an internal processor I find it challenging at times to allow someone in beyond a certain point. Additionally, I have a tendency to be a people pleaser so when I see my actions rubbing those around me the wrong way, it causes me to dive deeper into personal reflection. I do not take for granted the love and connections I have built in my life, so much so that my response can be a bit extreme. Thankfully, I am blessed to be a part of an incredibly powerful and healthy community in both my church and my business so I see how certain behaviors are far more beneficial than others. I love learning by watching, but executing is a whole different story.
The issue with my internal processing and people pleasing is they push out those who are trying to get in to know me on deeper level. I withhold information as I am processing it because I know I have yet come to a conclusion. But relationships are not about having it all figured out, rather learning how to figure out things together. Having someone there to encourage you in the process, and to be there to challenge you when needed. In a relationship, you are a team. As a team, you need to be aware of the issues and challenges you will face and how to press through them together otherwise trust can not strengthen. The benefit of facing life as a team is that you are then able to tackle issues faster and more thoroughly because you each carry different perspectives, approaches, and skills. The challenge in being a team is that you must willingly be vulnerable to share what issues you are processing as you are processing them, allowing the other to see you at your worst.
Let me be clear. There is a progression of vulnerability in relationships and you cannot microwave the intimacy it brings by stripping down emotionally and spiritually too much too soon. You have to develop it steadily and over time, like a muscle. Too much too fast puts you at risk for strain. Also, the appropriate trust and commitment level must be present for the progressive levels of intimacy starting with emotional, spiritual and lastly physical (once covenant has been established). Scripture is clear and firm about waiting until marriage to have sex and here’s why. You can stunt growth and intimacy by pumping a relationship with counterfeit strength from the bond that comes through sex. Have you really taken the time to develop the relational intimacy by breaking down the appropriate walls together and slowly building trust through new and healthy boundaries? These walls are built to protect and strengthen the relationship, and require two sets of hands to establish and maintain them.
All that being said, when you transition from being single to being in a relationship, remember that growing pains will come. Do not fear them. Do not resist them. Communicate and be transparent with your significant other to wade through this challenge together. Breaking down old walls and establishing new boundaries is not a one-time event; it's an ongoing process of all healthy relationships. What matters the most is not how you start a relationship, but how you finish. When you begin to date whomever will end up being your spouse, there will be more error at the beginning. It is a learning curve, give yourself and your significant other enough grace for that. We have the choice to willingly accept it and learn to enjoy it because the outcome is a stronger and healthier relationship. Now that is worth it and much more!