Can you believe that 2016 will be complete in just a couple of weeks?If you are surprised by how quickly the year flew by as much as I am, you are most likely also thinking about the things that you wanted to accomplish over the past 12 months. This has been a crazy year for me; there were a lot of ups and downs, actually lots and lots of downs, but somehow I've come out in better spirits than I was in at the beginning of the year. Didn't complete any of them, at least not in the way I had measured success previously.A friend suggested I needed to do “damage control” – or to stop doing things that made things worse (like stalking my ex-girlfriend’s Facebook page, and staying out too late to avoid my empty apartment).Staying home and staying off social media didn’t cure my anguish, but I noticed that the more I stayed in, the less alcohol I drank, and the less exposure I had to my ex’s new, 22-year old girlfriend on social media, the better I felt.The topic of dating and relationships came up and we started talking about my story. In my life it meant never having a crush on a guy, never allowing myself to “fall in love.” Basically, training myself to shut down a normal, healthy, functioning part of my human heart. I told her if she was to walk out of the room, leaving me and her husband in the same room, my first reaction would be one of panic. Sometimes it’s actually comforting to me to be met with blank or incredulous stares from people I consider “normal,” good Christians. I’m 27 years old, and I’ve been married for almost 7 years. Shame because sometimes you can’t help but like one guy a little more than another. Pride because you are so much more spiritual than that poor girl over there who is crying because her boyfriend broke up with her. They made up laws that God never condoned, then patted themselves on the back for keeping them, while looking down on those who didn’t.
After some initial weeks of making not so good choices, I realize step one is to stop making myself feel worse. In my suffering, I noticed that I had little tolerance for other stress.But I realized that was self-judgment, telling me that being single meant I was pathetic.I began telling a new story that said being single meant I was no longer in an unhealthy relationship and was taking better care of myself than I had perhaps in my whole life. I ran, pounding out my frustration with every step on the pavement.It somehow validates my belief that some of the teachings I grew up with were very wrong. I rejected the teachings of courtship and emotional purity when I was 19. In fact, I have identified several ways that these teachings can damage a person’s heart. Shame because that’s “sinful” and “emotionally impure.” Shame because it sets a standard and proclaims that you are somehow shameful if you cannot keep it. Because your heart is whole and she just gave a piece of hers to a guy she isn’t married to. You have more to give your future husband than she does. This has nothing to do with the righteousness and grace of God, and everything to do with the accomplishments of man. I was trying to explain this to my friend, and it came out sounding so . Lately, I’ve also started facing the ways in which the teachings of “emotional purity,” (a la Josh Harris, the Ludys, and others) have damaged the part of my brain that makes healthy relationships function. You are considered damaged goods if you have fallen in love and had your heart broken. I remember watching a video in which one of the biggest names in the courtship movement bragged with obvious arrogance that he didn’t tell his wife he loved her until their wedding. We took something as simple as saying ‘I love you,’ built a straw man rule around it (‘saying I love you is defrauding’), then hung it like a trophy on our walls.” Job well done, folks. They create skewed views of relationships which lead to dysfunction. Where others see nothing wrong, I am suspicious of every look, every situation, every witty exchange. I feel ill at ease sometimes even talking to other men. I’m really good at pushing those feelings away and acting “normal.” But I am bothered by my reaction to everyday situations.