I’m 26, and I have only ever dated two girls. Both broke up with me. The first was long distance, and I didn’t put as much into the relationship as I should have. The second I tried much harder, doing everything I could to follow Christ and do His will. We ended up breaking up after about nine months because I was ready for marriage, and she was not. I know it was for the best, but it was still tough.
It got tougher over the next few months when one roommate got engaged (and married), and now two more roommates have gotten engaged. It is hard to see them so happy and to have what I always wanted.
It has been over a year, and still some days I am so lonely and lost, I don’t know if I want to get married at all — which isn’t true. I really do want to get married, but I feel like I never want to date again.
But God (as always) seems to have other plans, and He has put a girl in my life that I have been thinking and praying about pursuing. The problem is I don’t think I have the courage to ask her out. I’m afraid that she would say yes and then down the road it wouldn’t work out and I would be even more devastated than last time.
I have no idea what to do. Part of me doesn’t want to wait any longer, because I believe it is better to get married at a younger age, but part of me says if I go through another breakup, it may ruin me for even longer. Then I may be 30 or older before I am ready to date again.
What are your thoughts on recovery time from a breakup and how to know if you are ready to date again?
You are the only one who can determine when you’re ready for a relationship, whether after a breakup or any other time. As I mentioned in a previous column, I can’t put a specific timeframe on it. There are so many variables to consider; each person and situation creates a unique dynamic that will be different for everyone.
I understand your fear of initiating again, but as an outsider looking in, and based on your descriptions, I think what you’ve experienced is not extraordinary rejection — just a couple of attempts that didn’t pan out for ordinary reasons. Because they were your first experiences, it feels like that is all you’ll ever know, but rest assured there are better days ahead.
We talk a lot about how to pursue God-honoring relationships, but we also need to understand what honors God when pursuit doesn’t make it to marriage.
I think one way to honor God when a relationship doesn’t go as you had hoped is to not give up on God’s plan and purpose for marriage and family for you as an individual. He’s the one who put the desire in your heart in the first place, and trying to stuff it away brings Him no glory and you much frustration.
What honors God is when we look to Him for comfort, understanding, healing, insight and discernment. We let Him walk us through whatever we need to know about our past experiences. We receive whatever counsel He has through His Word and through others. And we stay moving (not rushing) forward on the journey He has for us.
Whatever we did wrong, we repent and correct. Whatever others did wrong, we forgive and release. Where there was no wrong but merely circumstances beyond our control, we trust in a sovereign God who has our good and His glory as His mission.
Fear is the enemy of trust, as you know. As fear grows, trust shrinks. It is a strategy of our enemy to create fear that leads to our being paralyzed and destroyed. God advances His kingdom through us and uses marriage as one of His tools, so we can expect attacks on that institution at every level, even scaring us out of it all together.
Satan tries to use our past experiences to tell us things about God that aren’t true: that He can’t be trusted with your heart. That He is unstable in how He will handle your future. That He is asleep at the wheel of your life.
You might not think these exact thoughts, but if you became convinced that God is your tender Father, your passionate Savior and your powerful Helper, fear would begin to lose its grip on your heart. You would find courage welling up in you, not because of you or even the potential of a new relationship, but because God is who He says He is.
Now, I don’t know everything there is to know about pursuing this particular girl, but if you don’t do it because of fear, God can help you overcome that. There might be other legitimate reasons not to pursue, but fear of rejection or failure is not among them.
When you pray about it, as you mention you’re doing, ask God to show you what He thinks about it. Ask Him to take away the fear and replace it with courage. Ask Him to correct any wrong thinking you have about who He is and how worthy He is of our total trust in all things.
Maybe you’ll feel impressed to pursue her or maybe not. That isn’t the main issue at this point. The main issue is healing and freedom from past experiences and living with complete trust in a God who looks over every detail of your life with tender mercy and infinite wisdom. Once you start growing there, fear and discouragement begin to lose control. Your heart will open up again to the thrill of running alongside the Lion of Judah.
You might look up and notice she’s running the same path. That’s a great place to start a conversation.
Copyright 2011 Thomas Snow. All rights reserved.