Guest Post: Strengthen Your Relationship with Shared Goals

Hello everyone! I’m coming to you from the great multi-colored cloud of activities, events, obligations, stress, thoughts, and feelings that has become my life. My hope is that one day the cloud will separate so all parts of my life fall perfectly into their own categories and I can take a breather… but until that blessed day comes, I am happy to share a wonderful post from my friends at First Beat Media.

I was approached by First Beat Media quite some time ago. The company focuses on online dating niche and similar services, and a content manager of theirs happened across Wine Dipped Quill. Some of my posts resonated with him to the point where he opted to get in touch with me and discuss options of guest posting. Being ever enthusiastic to grow my blogosphere network, I jumped on the idea. So without further ado, here is a wonderful article on sharing goals to strengthen your relationships brought to you by the authors of First Beat Media…

Every romantic relationship is a combination of three lives. Yours, your partner’s, and the life you share together. The strongest relationships, counseling professionals agree, strike an effective balance between the partners’ individual lives and their shared life as a couple.

It’s hard to make the shared life a priority, experts say. Work responsibilities, personal commitments, family issues, separate interests…all of these factors tend to draw partners into their separate lives.

One of the best ways for couples to sustain their connection is to set goals that both partners share. Whether you’re just entering your first romantic partnership or you’re eligible for senior dating status, you can benefit from establishing shared goals in your relationship.

WHAT SHARED GOALS ARE – AND AREN’T
Many couples put a lot of energy into relationship goals. They try to improve their communications, to show affection more often, to work on compromise skills.

Those goals are important, but they are not what we’re talking about today. They don’t have the same impact as working together on a shared external goal.

For example, some couples set shared fitness goals. They agree to modify their diet, to work out together, and to support each other in nixing unhealthy habits. Adopting shared fitness goals can give you and your partner more quality time together, improve your physical and mental health, help you make new friends who share your interest in physical fitness, appreciate and understand each other’s bodies more, and have better sex. That’s a lot of benefits!

WHY SHARED GOALS ARE IMPORTANT
Sharing common goals can help you get past the ups and downs that come into any relationship. Your perspective includes a bigger picture based on saving up for a down payment or sending one of you through college.

Talking about your goals helps keep you focused on the life you share with your partner instead of external details like your job or the problems you’re having with your car. You and your partner get closer every time you talk about your progress toward your goals.

Shared goals give you a purpose. They point you toward a vision. Maybe your goals include recycling more or volunteering in your community. Sharing the goal with your partner not only makes it more likely you will stick to your commitment, but it will strengthen your relationship.

HOW TO ESTABLISH SHARED GOALS

The first step in creating shared goals in your relationship is simply to talk about your values. What are your dreams? What makes life worthwhile to you? How would you like to make life better for yourself, your family, and your community? Exploring these issues with your partner can lead to a productive brainstorming session.

Then start small. Identify one or two small, easily accomplished steps toward achieving your goal. Maybe you’ll take lunch to work with you twice a week instead of buying unhealthy fast food at the company cafeteria. Maybe you’ll set aside an hour for reading two or three nights a week. Start with little tasks that you can accomplish easily.

Give each other plenty of reinforcement and praise for succeeding at the little steps – and understanding if you slip. Keep your eye on the big prize and understand that the little steps are cumulative.

Over time, ramp up your agreements until you have changed your relationship by making your shared goal central. Talk about your progress.

REAP THE REWARDS
Making shared goals the center of your relationship makes them the center of your life too. You’ll find new alignment between your personal life and your life as part of a couple. The distinction will start to merge and in the long run your conception of yourself as a distinct person will blend with your understanding that you are part of your relationship. The same process is happening with your partner. Commitment to shared goals makes your relationship stronger – even if you don’t go to couples camp and learn new communications skills and conflict resolution strategies.

Don’t be surprised if your life feels more meaningful. You might be embarrassed at first, ordering a salad when you go to lunch with co-workers. Don’t be. Tell them that you and your partner are working on eating in a more healthy way, or losing weight together, or eating less meat. Your friends will respect you for it and you’ll have the satisfaction of supporting your relationship even when you aren’t there in the house with your partner.

Imagine how happy you and your partner will be when you buy that house or earn that diploma or hit that target weight. You did it – and you did it together. It’s a great feeling of accomplishment and it will help make your relationship stronger and more fulfilling.

Why not start today?

No Rhyme or Reason

I’ve never been depressed. Sure, I’ve had bad times and I’ve had my own share of craziness. I’ve laid in bed at night and started crying for no rhyme or reason at all. But overall, even when things are as dark as can be, I am lucky enough to have the ability to say “I’m feeling depressed,” as opposed to “I have depression.”

I’ve never been depressed, but I’m slowly learning that there’s a big difference between those statements, and the key word is feeling.

In Driving Off a Bridge and Other Fears, I discussed a very confusing and difficult situation between Wilbur and myself. It was written out of pure and raw emotion at, what I thought, was the end of a promising relationship. That post was written from the perspective of a sad, rejected, and very confused young woman with no idea of the horrors depression can have on a person; this post is being written from the perspective of the same woman, now humbled and contemplative of what two months difference can make in understanding and education.

Following that post in January, Wilbur contacted me only three short days later. We talked. A lot. And some hard things were discussed as to what had caused the entire “Hiccup” in our relationship. The underlying factor was his depression.

I had known he struggled with depression, but I didn’t know to what extent. In all honesty, I hadn’t considered his condition to be more than just something to be aware of, and I definitely never thought it would wiggle into our lives and cause such destructive thoughts. Since our make-up, though, I’ve done a lot of reading on depression and cannot believe how off I was in my thinking of the condition.

Depression is literally one of the most helpless and frustrating experiences a person can face. It’s sometimes feeling sad, but it also brings feelings of emptiness, isolation, and self-hate. Those afflicted can feel paralyzed in their own minds and bodies. It’s not something they can simply “get over.”

People who suffer from depression often feel frustrated with feeling like they are a burden to those they care about. With this, they tend to push away people they need the most and end up mentally exhausting themselves with worrying about if their sadness is bringing down their loved ones as well.

Does this sound incredibly disheartening to you? It does to me. It breaks my heart that this person I care so deeply about has this internal battle going on and there’s nothing I can do to help. And that’s the worst part: there is nothing I can do to help!

In addition to taking the time to educate myself on what Wilbur goes through sometimes, I also have been teaching myself some self-bettering skills. One is patience. Another is that words are not always the best gift. Seriously, saying things like, “Things will get better.” or “You’re going to be okay.” are not ideal. Instead, I’ve begun training myself to simply be there for him during the times he needs me, and stressing that I will be beside him through everything for as long as he asks me to be. Offering advice isn’t helpful because, well, I simply don’t know exactly what he is going through. So just being there for him, believing in him, and encouraging him are some of the only things I’m able to provide.

I won’t pretend to understand depression as a whole. I’m not sure if anyone can actually claim such a thing. However, I am slowly treading the waters, becoming more knowledgeable of an invisible poison hidden in this sinful world and also becoming more compassionate to those in our society who have suffered for far too long from something beyond their control. Educate yourself, friends! And maybe then the world will begin to become a bit more welcoming on an environment for all…

Change has to begin somewhere.

10 Rules of Christian Dating and Why He’s Not “The One”

I’m a Christian, in case that hasn’t been clearly stated yet, friends. I’m a Christian who values her faith and Lord above all things, but I am also human. I ache to love and be loved in return by those I can physically embrace. I’m beside all the people in the world looking for a place to belong, a group to belong to, and a person to make my life better. So when it comes to dating and looking towards the future, my thoughts are a jumble of what I need, who I like, and how the two can intertwine into respect for my faith. I’m not the type of girl to believe there is only “One” person out there for me. I believe there are many people who fit the bill and who are compatible with my beliefs. This fact makes dating even more difficult though… or does it?

A friend of mine posted this article on Facebook a few days ago and the first time I read it through I was like, “Yeah. He is so right. This is what I feel.” I mean it, the entire article speaks so perfectly on my beliefs and morals and faith it’s almost spooky. It is a discussion on society’s views for dating, a personal view of dating, and God’s call for dating. Considering these 10 rules might just make things a little bit easier for those needing the strength and guidance. So for those of my readers who are Christians, I urge you to read through this article. I know it has some length, but Frank’s words are true, justified, and right on point.


Originally posted on To Save a Life:

It is time for Christians to start talking about dating. The trajectory of lives and eternities are in the balance.

“Careful, there, cowboy. You startin’ kinda strong!”

Yes, I am. Church, this issue shapes our young people, friends, and family more than we could ever imagine. And we have been passive too long. “Let’s just sit back and see what happens” might work in certain scenarios, but Christian dating isn’t one of them.

Establishing principles for Christian dating could set men and women on a course towards Christ-centered marriages. Laying out guidelines for dating as followers of Jesus could alter the lives of men and women by keeping them out of toxic and unhealthy relationships (and ultimately marriages).

Most importantly, guidelines and principles for dating could transform lives and shape eternities.

So, this is incredibly important. And we have a responsibility as men and women of God to be pro-active. But we can’t be pro-active unless principles are established. So, I am starting the conversation.

I hope and pray the words from this post will spark further conversations in your ministries, relationships, and homes. Here are 10 really important principles for Christian dating.

1. Stop looking for “The One.”

“Frank, how will I know when I find ‘the one’?”

You won’t. Mostly because “the one” doesn’t exist. The truth is you could spend your life with more than one person. If you need to take a minute to let that sink in, I will be here when you get back…

…Alright, glad you returned. Here’s the deal: God doesn’t set up marriage as a divine lottery where every person has one winning ticket. That would make God a gambler, and the Bible clearly says gambling is from the devil (only joking). But “the one” very much paints God this way.

Look, marriage isn’t as much about finding someone totally compatible as it is about committing to someone despites difficulties and differences.

“The one” says you need to find the perfect person. And discovering one flaw means it’s time to move on.

But the beauty of marriage is God sustains you despite your flaws. The brokenness you see in yourself and the brokenness you experience from your spouse point both of you to the only perfect one, God.

The brokenness in a marriage should point you to the only perfect one, God.

2. Date with a trajectory toward marriage.

This quote sums it up:

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

That’ll preach right there. If you are a Christian, there is no reason to date without a trajectory towards marriage. Now, I want to clarify what I mean.

If you are a Christian, there is no reason to date without a trajectory towards marriage.

Dating with a trajectory towards marriage means dating with a purpose. It means dating with an understanding of the gospel. It means dating someone who meets the values and goals you have for a future spouse (more on that later).

Casual or purposeless dating has no benefit for Christians. We are intentional beings. We are designed to know why we do stuff and where we are going. Dating is no different.

Now, please, please, please don’t be a freakish weirdo. Dating with a trajectory towards marriage doesn’t mean you only date one person ever. That would be awesome, but it’s not always realistic.

You might get into a relationship with someone who loves Jesus, meets the values you have in a future spouse, and is compatible with you. But once you get into the relationship, you realize things aren’t as they seemed. Maybe they like to cuddle with cats or something. That’s always a deal breaker.

Just end the relationship, and continue to seek the Lord.

Disclaimer: A date is not dating. Again, please don’t be a freakish weirdo and give Christians a negative label. Having coffee or going to eat dinner with the opposite sex is not dating. That’s a date. Dating is more intimate. Dating involves D.T.R talks. It involves sharing personal struggles and vulnerability.

So, if you choose not to get coffee or watch a movie with the opposite sex, then whatever. But don’t place that expectation on others.

3. Don’t date non-Christians.

The ultimate purpose of marriage is sanctification (becoming like God). So, my question is, “How does dating a non-Christian aid you in this?”

If you are a Christian, God isn’t a piece of your pie. He is the pie. Why date someone who doesn’t even have God as a piece of the pie?

My wife loves the Lord, and I can say with all certainty I wouldn’t be following Jesus without her. There will be days when life is crashing down, your faith is wavering, and the only thing left will be your spouse. This is the beauty of a sanctifying marriage. In this scenario, your spouse is there to pray for you, put his or her arm around you, and walk with you.

Without a Christian spouse, one of two things will happen: you will drift away from God or your spouse will become a functional god (more on this later). Both of these are bad.

Without a Christian spouse you will either drift away from God or make your spouse a functional god.

There is another dangerous mentality in Christian circles I want to address…”flirting to convert.”

Look…Christians are called to be missionaries. The dating world, however, is not the place to be a missionary. Don’t allow pride to deceive you. You can’t change someone. That’s God job.

So, date Christians. Marry someone who loves Jesus. And spread the gospel as missionaries together.

4. Have a list of values and don’t compromise them.

If you have no idea what values are important to you in a future spouse, exit the road to marriage at the next off ramp. Pull over at the closest gas station and decide what you want in a future spouse. It’s dangerous riding on the road to marriage without an idea of where you are going.

Now, when you form this list, don’t be legalistic. Don’t sit someone down on the first date and interview them to make sure they meet all of the qualities. That’s freakish, weirdo stuff. Again, don’t give the rest of us bad name. Your list is designed to give you a framework for dating, not be a checklist for it.

On the other hand, don’t compromise. Your heart and the holiness of marriage are too important to flippantly give away because you are frustrated, impatient, or settling.

One more thing: have primary and secondary values. And filter appropriately.

Let’s practice. If you believe God is preparing you for foreign missions, is it important the person you marry shares this passion? Yes…this is a primary value. If you love the Cowboys and your future spouse loves the Packers, is it important to work through this before marriage? No…this is a secondary value.

Primary values are probably deal breakers. Secondary values are probably not.

5. Don’t “shotgun” date.

Ever handled a shotgun? If not, let me fill you in. The shells of a shotgun are stuffed with tiny round balls. When you pull the trigger, these balls spread over a large range, increasing the chance you hit the target. It’s great for hunting…it’s terrible for dating.

“Let’s see. I am going to ask 20 people on a date. Five of those should be keepers. Hopefully one will end up as my spouse.”

Not a good idea. I fear this mentality in the dating culture is actually promoting divorce. Let me explain.

The culture says, “Date around. It’s okay. Get to know yourself.” And as soon as the person you are dating smacks his or her gum the wrong way, you are out. So, the default for years is to leave as soon as a flaw arises. Suddenly, when marriage begins, you are asked to flip a switch.

You are asked to go from a mentality that says “End a relationship as soon as difficulty arises,” to one that says, “Don’t end the relationship regardless of the difficulty that arises.”

That’s a tough switch to flip. Date with a trajectory towards marriage. Date intentionally.

6. It’s OK to want to get married.

You desire marriage. Praise God. He gives you the desire. Let me prove it.

The first instance in the Bible where God is not pleased comes when God sees Adam living in the Garden of Eden alone (Gen. 2:18). God knows it is not good for man to be by himself. Enter Eve, pro-creation, and marriage (not necessarily in that order).

People are created to be in community. And the most intimate community on earth is the relationship you will have with your spouse. So, pray for God to send you a spouse. But don’t allow the desire to consume your life.

Be patient. Wait on the Lord. If you are confident God called you to marry, he will deliver.

7. It’s OK not to get married.

While marriage is a huge sanctifier, it is not something God says is mandatory. If you aren’t ready for marriage, or if you do not want to get married, you are not sinning.

I am fearful the Christian community has irresponsibly coerced men and women into marriage through cultural pressure. There must be a secret bylaw passed down from the early church fathers, but once you reach the age of 25 you will be asked the question almost weekly…”When are you getting married?”

Can you imagine how constantly hearing this question from friends, family, and unsuspecting old ladies at church can make some people believe they have a problem?

If you aren’t ready to date, don’t allow the cultural pressure to override God’s plan.

Disclaimer: If you are single, understand it is your responsibility to steward your time well. Singleness is a gift from God, but singleness is not an excuse to be lazy. It is an opportunity to serve the Lord.

8. Have a community of Christians around you and listen to them.

Don’t date alone. This sounds lame. But so is marrying a sleezeball.

When you date, allow the community of people around to speak into your relationship. Your feelings can deceive you. Your friends are able to see inconsistencies and problems you can’t because they are outside the storm.

I know too many men and women who refused to listen to people around them, and their prideful arrogance resulted in a failed marriage. Don’t fall into this category. Find men and women you trust, and allow them to speak into your relationship.

9. Pursue a pure mind.

“Sex before marriage is bad.” This was the extent of my understanding of Christian dating as a teenager and young adult.

And to my church’s credit, they drilled this one point home constantly. Like that annoying kid at church camp that wouldn’t leave you alone.

I heard don’t have sex before marriage so much I actually believed getting to marriage a virgin was the only important thing. The problem? In the process, I filled my heart and mind with lust, and I secretly struggled with pornography. Big uh oh.

What the church needs to teach is the importance of a pure mind. This requires discipline, restraint, and abstinence from activities that don’t promote holiness. But the sacrifice is worth the prize.

A pure mind might be the greatest gift you can give your future spouse. It allows you to jump into marriage with a clear conscience. No baggage. No comparisons. No regret. Just you, your spouse, and God.

A pure mind might be the greatest gift you can give your future spouse.

Don’t ever date someone that won’t honor purity with you. Ever.

Remember…If you are dating, you have not entered into the sacred bond of marriage. You have not made covenant vows to one another. So, the person you are dating is not yours.

Practice purity. But understand purity begins with the mind and heart.

10. Don’t date if you are dependent on someone for things things only God can provide.

If I could get on my knees and beg you to follow one of these principles, it would be this one. Dating and marriage are not for those who rely on another person for joy, peace, and purpose.

Co-dependent dating leads to co-dependent marriages. And co-dependent marriages will eventually crumble because the weight placed on them is too heavy.

God must be at the center of your life before you consider dating. If not, purity will take a back seat. Dating towards marriage will take a back seat. In fact, every principle discussed in this article is null and void without God at the center.

Don’t start dating without an assurance of God’s love for you and a solid understanding of the gospel.

I hope this discussion continues. I pray parents, church leaders, friends, and family begin to spark conversations about God’s design for dating.

I believe these principles could change lives and alter eternities. If you want to share a story or have a principle to add to this list, leave a comment below.

I love you all. To God be the glory forever. Amen!

This article was originally written by Frank Powell on January 21, 2016.

Driving Off a Bridge and Other Fears

The end never happens how you expect. Sometimes the end happens when you expect, or where you expect, but it’s never quite on the dot of how to expect it. Sometimes this is okay. Endings can be good things in Life. The saying goes, “Every ending is a new beginning.” However, sometimes endings are not okay. Sometimes they are a storm of uncertainty, confusion, and sadness that leave you swerving in their wake and flinging yourself into a river of unknown.

One of my top three fears is driving off a bridge into a river. Another is not being good enough. Endings are good at making you feel like you’re not good enough. That you’ll never be good enough. That you just can’t reach that certain something

The clock reads 3:43am. It’s late… or early, however you want to think of it. I haven’t been able to sleep since I went to bed. I’ve been crying from the bruises. And now, when the tears are finally dried up, I still cannot drift into any sort of slumber. Even a restless snooze would be good at this point.

I ran off a bridge yesterday. I went full-throttle, end-over-end, head first into the brewing water below. The free fall took my breath away. The impact buckled me into a fetal position. The frigid water mingled with the tears of my depression. Yet the worst part was having no understanding of how such a terrible accident could take place at all. The knowledge that the roads were completely dry. The knowledge that there was nothing I could have done differently — whether change my speed or take a different route or bring out the snow tires — to change the impending doom.

Sometimes endings kill you. I didn’t die when I went off the bridge, but the feeling of drowning has yet to subside and neither have the icy prickles to my heart making me numb. I remain in the car, watching the water rise, half-hoping the end is quick and painless while also searching for a way to escape.

Giving up on the things you once treasured can be far harder than simply letting go. Letting go of the person you are, the person you want to be, and the person you thought you were being directed towards. The You of your wants and dreams.

Somewhere between the road, the bridge, and the river below I lost the will to care for which of these two I want to fight.

And I feel lost in my loss.

I’ve mentioned Wilbur a few times over the past couple months. I’ve considered before why I didn’t discuss him more on Peonies ‘n Mint. I mean, I had full posts on my relationship with Army and even posts dedicated to the Golfer. But why not Wilbur? The answer is simple: there was no need to discuss what was, in all aspects, a very content relationship. I wrote of Army at first because I wasn’t aware of how I could feel after X. Then I began to write of Army in an attempt to hide my discomfort and agitation in a relationship that wasn’t completely fulfilling. Ultimately, my Army posts were a comparison of life before and with him. They may have had some substance for those who were processing a broken heart, but to someone who was truly happy they were only fragments of what a relationship could be.

Wilbur is different. I would find myself spending time with him and just marveling that I was able to do so. To write of him would have been bragging. Boasting of my happiness. There was no reason to boast or brag, there was only the want to remain content and comfortable in a relationship of warmth. Caring and understanding and appreciation were our lone bunk mates, I didn’t need the Internet’s help in being happy with this man. I just was.

Wilbur and I took things at a slow pace at the beginning. We explored one another’s minds by questions ideologies, beliefs, histories, etc. Anything we could get our hands on, we made it our mission to discover in one another. We discovered neither of us are perfect by any means, but  we were okay in our faults together. We confided in one another, we talked about anything and everything, and before we took our relationship to the level of “exclusive” we were best friends.

This was something I promised myself before jumping into the dating scene again: I would be friends first and a couple second. It is too difficult to attempt to build a romantic relationship when there is not a foundation of friendship. With Wilbur, this never became an issue.

One of the happiest moments in my Life resonates in my mind. It is the moment I knew I wanted to keep Wilbur in my life. Past being a date. Past being a friend. We play Ultimate Frisbee with a group of friends every Monday during the warm months of Michigan. One particular Monday, over a month into dating one another, I returned home after Ultimate to find my right knee twice the size it should be. I played harder than usual that day, in shoes that were far past their expiration date.

So instead of showering and keeping to the usual Monday tradition of heading to a friend’s house for a movie night, I settled down to Netflix and kept myself in bed. Wilbur texted me and asked if there was anything he could do to help but of course I said no — I’m always afraid of appearing weak in front of people. (Remember those faults I mentioned…)

However, a half hour later I heard a knock on the front door. I stumbled my way to see who it was and guess who? Wilbur stood in the doorway with a half bottle of Ibuprofen and an ice pack. Knowing M and I had just moved into the new house, he thought we wouldn’t have the needed supplies to take care of a swollen knee. He was right. And as soon as I accepted his offer, gave him a quick hug, and thanked him profusely, he left. Gone. He didn’t expect me to cater to him or thank him like most guys I’ve dated would have hinted. No, he was a complete gentleman and simply wanted to make this random girl he liked feel a bit better. It worked.

I don’t think the smile from that October evening has left my face. Until the Bridge, that is. The water wiped the smile away pretty quickly.

In the following months Wilbur exceeded all my expectations in the person I prayed to date. He was kind, he was generous, he apologized, and he forgave.  One of the most meaningful traits: we prayed together. Perhaps only for meals, but we discussed our faiths with one another at depth. We discussed a lot at depth. He questioned his future and he wondered at mine beside me. We didn’t know where either of us were heading, but for now, we were happy where we were. We questioned why some things had happened in our pasts the way they had. We became one another’s confidants.

Or at least, that’s what I thought. I was happy. He said he was happy. He acted as if he were happy. And then all of a sudden…

Yesterday.

The Bridge.

He was no longer happy.

He said I’m not the One. He doesn’t feel that connection with me. “We don’t have chemistry,” was how he put it. He is worried that my feelings surpass his and that his might never catch up. He’s not sure why; I’ve cared about him more than anyone he’s dated ever has and he feels completely happy with me but yet… He doesn’t want to go forward and find out his feelings don’t grow, can’t grow. He doesn’t want to hurt me in the future, so he’ll just do it now. Less investment.

I could have handled those excuses. In my head, all that he was saying was, “You’re good, but you’re just not good enough. There’s something about you that’s just not there.” Are those not the same words Army used on me? I think I would have handled the situation better if Wilbur had ended there. Got up, no goodbye, no hug, just left with me wondering what more I could have done and never having closure to what I thought was the best relationship I’d experienced. I handled it fine with Army, I could have done it again.

Instead, Wilbur continued. He told me he doesn’t feel as if he deserves happiness in his life. He confided that there might never be someone for him, that that’s his fear.

This. Broke. My. Heart. This, these words. How am I supposed to continue on grieving a relationship where the real reason we ended was because the best man I’ve ever met believes he is unlovable? The chemistry thing just blew up — he’s doesn’t feel I’m not the One, he feels there is no One.

Let me be the first to say, if there were ever a person who deserves happiness, it is Wilbur.

Ben Higgins, this man makes you truly look unlovable.

I am a big girl. I know how to express my feelings, I know what I want, and I go for what I want. I’m a strong, independent woman. I pride myself in my strength because in the past it has always been me, in the end, to have to push myself into being okay and happy.

This marks the Free-fall. I felt strong during the Free-fall. I voiced my disapproval of his decision. I told him I didn’t agree. I showed him that this situation was not one of my choosing.

Unfortunately, I tend to think of what to say after I’ve had some time to think. I shared these disagreements with Wilbur but I had no real reasons as to why I disagreed. I’m not sure it would have mattered to him anyways — its like he has a mind block — but it does matter to me.

Wilbur believes we have no “connection” or “chemistry”. That’s what he said first. I think I laughed. I hope I didn’t, but I might have because that  is absolute bogus. In the context of relationships, chemistry is a complex emotion that two people get when they share a special connection. (Thanks, Wikipedia!) It is the impulse making someone think, “I need to see this other person again.” — that feeling of “we click.” Wilbur and I have this. We like being together, we like doing activities with one another. Or at least he led me to believe he felt that way; he told me so only Friday that he did. This is because we have similar interests, but it is also simply because. Plus, beyond just having a connection with one another, we also are attracted to one another. I still get butterflies when I catch him looking at me and he appreciates my appearance any chance he’s given. Pardon my lack of etiquette, but Wilbur saying we have no chemistry is total BS.

I do agree my feelings for him are farther along than his. I am aware of this. I am also aware of the fact it has been only five months. Five good months, but everyone progresses in relationships differently. This is why I hadn’t told him the exact extent of my feelings; this is why I hadn’t told him that I love him. Why put pressure on a happy and healthy relationship? I was more than willing to bide the time, see if the tides might come together in some sensible way. I have no doubt that given the time, our feelings for one another would only strengthen and grow. I am in no rush for this occurrence, but I still have no doubt that it would have happened.

He is worried we were moving too fast. If he had communicated this fear with me, if I had known, now that I know…. there are so many solutions. There are so many ways to make us work.

I’m pleading to the water below. To the moving River before I’m washed away in it.

I don’t know if Wilbur is afraid of being in a successful relationship because it limits options, scared of a potential future of dating someone long term only for it not to work out, or if he honestly has a block disabling him from believing he deserves happiness in his life. It might be a bit of all three. And this, this is the Impact.

Relationships are something Wilbur and I were never afraid to discuss with one another. I know his past and having this knowledge makes the Impact so devastating. How could someone so wonderful think so poorly of himself? What was done in the past that it has been brought into our relationship, darkening the light that we have and casting shadows on what we could be? Those close to him say his ex “screwed him up.” This is heartbreaking. Not only because it literally has caused Wilbur to break my heart but also because it is unfair.

It is unfair to me. It is unfair to our relationship. Most of all, it is unfair to Wilbur.

And so here I am, after the Impact, waiting in my own personal River of despair. The sinking is happening much longer than I would prefer. I want the hurt to halt. I want to not think about it, him, us anymore. I want to be there in what I can only imagine is a very confusing and conflicting time for Wilbur. And yet, I need to take care of myself too. I’m the one in the car. I’m the one who can’t decide what is worth fighting for more in her perspective views.

The one thing I keep questioning as the water around me rises is Wilbur saying we aren’t meant to be together, that he can’t be happy. This could be true, most definitely. Every relationship is either going to succeed or fail for a number of worthy reasons. However, only Friday we had a moment alone together that crushes all of the air out of him saying this…

Friday we attended a concert of a friend. We went with House and enjoyed a few hours with good company and good music. Afterwards, Wilbur asked if I would like to spend more time together which I replied, “Of course.” Our plan was to go back to my place and relax to a movie. M and her boyfriend inquired if we might want to watch a movie with them as that was their plan as well. Wilbur said sure at the concert, but once we were on the short distance between the concert and home, he confided to me he’d rather just spend time with me. As we hadn’t seen each other alone in a few days, I completely agreed. So we took to watching a movie alone and catching up on our week’s events and lives in general.

During this time, I turned to Wilbur and asked if he was happy: happy with us, happy with where we were. He responded with no hesitation that he was. No thinking, no debating, no battling behind his eyes as to whether he should say Yes, No, or begin a discussion that we had ample opportunity to have.

I asked this question after two weeks of him appearing rather distant from me. Week 1 I was ill with the flu and I wouldn’t have wanted to see Wilbur anyways in fear of giving him the bug and also not wanting him to see Sick Ashley. (It’s definitely not a pretty sight.) I questioned his distance, though, at the end of Week 1. Another opportune time to discuss with me what seems so abrupt from yesterday. Instead, he said it was an argument with his brother and difficulty at work that had him on edge. And on top of these two issues, he visited the doctor and was scheduled for surgery in February. Worried over the recovery time, the inability to be active during that recovery time, and the finances towards the surgery only added to his stress level. He explained this as we entered Week 2 and I made it my mission to take a step back in an attempt to not add to his stress.

On Saturday he seemed to have a bad day. I picked him up for dinner with some friends and he told me right away that he was a bit stressed and that if he was quiet throughout the night it had nothing to do with me. He made sure to quiet any discontent I might have even when he was suffering inside. This is the kind of person he is. Asking if he was sure he wanted to still go, he replied definitely and we had a fun evening together.

Throughout the evening Wilbur inquired if I might want to see a movie if we returned home in time. He had looked up times for 5th Wave, a movie he knew I wanted to see as I am in the process of reading the book. Unfortunately we realized en route that we would not make the movie time and instead discussed watching something on TV. It was only 9:30pm when we returned back to his house so there was time to do so. However, when we came to the driveway he turned to me and asked if I was okay just dropping him off. He wanted to just head to bed early after feeling so awful all day. He asked if it was okay, if I was upset at him. I replied I wasn’t upset at him at all but that it still sucked. I didn’t like that he had to go through these feelings. I didn’t like not knowing how to help.

We kissed our last kiss goodbye. If I had known then…

He sent me a text message about an hour later reading, “I’m really sorry about tonight. I think the world of you and appreciate you very much.”

I kept reading through that text message yesterday, trying to decipher the hidden message between it’s two short sentences that led to the Bridge and Impact. The message was the first few drops of water the River pushed into my car.

The tears of confusion are what keep its level rising higher and higher.

Why did he go out of his way these past few weeks to make sure I knew he wasn’t being distant from ill feelings towards me but rather in life in general? Why want to be alone on Friday when he was given the opportunity to be with friends? Why stare me in the eyes and tell me he was happy with us? Why send that infuriating text message Saturday night if he didn’t expect to be with me anymore?

Everything Wilbur has said over the past three days is contradictions. Yes, no. Me, not me. Happy, unhappy. Life, feelings. “To be or not to be,” that really is the question, Hamlet. And soon enough I’ll be Ophelia, drowned in my own maddening thoughts.

As I daze off into my own slippery mind, I am thankful of the people who are in my life. M is an amazing friend who does not push me to talk when she knows it is not my way. My parents wiped away my tears and allowed me to recant the same things written in this post over and over again, expecting my mind to run itself tired and hopefully sleep soundly. House friends have reached out in understanding and concern, not fully comprehending why things are processing the way they are either.

One friend brought me back to God’s word and connected yesterday’s church sermon with this difficulty in Life. The sermon centered around using God as our GPS in life. He will always set us on the direction meant for us. Sometimes we head off towards dead ends using our own man-made compasses, but when we falter in our steps and realize where we went wrong, God directs us again.

I have felt from the very first date with Wilbur that God led me to him. He is the exact person I prayed to meet. He has faults. He has baggage. He isn’t perfect and there are a handful of things that drive me crazy when I think about them too long about him. But… I don’t care. I’ve never cared. I’ve only ever wanted to encompass him in love and caring and respect knowing that is what I need as well. He means the world to me, and since I have the same problems in my own right, how could I ever downgrade the person he is for the flaws he carries? All in all, we were working through our issues, together, one step at a time.

Or at least that was my intent.

I saw a quote last night that I would like to share:

An arrow can only be shot by pulling it backward. When life is dragging you back with difficulties, it means it’s going to launch you into something great. So just focus and keep aiming.

This has made me think: did I stumble over this quote for a reason? Is it directed at me? I’ve been sick for months, I’ve had personal problems with friends, I’ve felt difficulties for awhile, and now Wilbur.. I only have to wait for the arrow to finally be released, right? But no… My stresses are nothing I cannot handle. So I think this quote found its way to me for another reason.

I’m thinking this is for Wilbur.  His stresses seem to be escalating at an alarming pace. The only constant he has are his relationships. His family is the steel core, his friends the feathers, and the razor-sharp tip? I’m presumed to think it is me. Me. It’s me, Wilbur! The target is Happiness and all of us are helping you fight through the strain of the pull-back and when Life finally lets go, it’ll be the effort you put into focusing your aim at the target that will provide you with either success or failure.

The fact remains, though, that even if your aim is on-target, without a part of the arrow you’ll never fly true. If you lose the feathers, your aim will go off course. If you lose the core, you’ll never get anywhere. And if you lose the tip, even if you hit the target, you won’t stick. The arrow will fall right off, doomed to lay on the ground until you have the nerve to enter the shooting range, retrieve it, and attempt reattach a tip to the strong core.

Why in the world would someone not take a chance on the strong arrow already before them? An arrow provided by God in the expectation that it’ll be shot. I feel as if the opportunity is being tossed aside, and one day in the future the shooter will realize exactly how easy pulling back that arrow, firing, and making a perfect bulls-eye could have been. One day in the future might be one day too late.

I can be dramatic here, right, blogosphere? I can tell all my woes and wishes to the Internet and the only impression someone can make on me is a small Like or Comment. I’m not too worried about believing my interpretation of this quote is exactly how I just portrayed it.

And the fact remains, Wilbur will never see this post. He’ll probably never even seen this quote. He’ll never wonder at its meaning and ask me to explain my thoughts. He’ll never know, and I’ll never have an answer on whether or not he thinks archery might be a good hobby for him to partake. I don’t know if he cares to think about how I feel or what might God be trying to tell him. But, in time, God will get through to him and I hope that there is still an opportunity for him to find peace and happiness in his life.

Even if it is not with me — though I definitely feel like it should be at this moment in Life — I hope he opens himself to what he ultimately deserves: pure and utter contentment.

To the Guy I Thought I’d Grow Old With

A few days ago my friend Meghan reblogged this article written by Anna Bashkova and reading through it gave my heart a pang. I’m not the type of person who likes to openly hurt myself; I am no masochist. So it is not very often I try to think about my past. Sure, I’ve learned from my choices and the people who have come and gone throughout my life, but to actively consider these things every day? Not a chance. However, when those rare occasions happen — and they are bound to through social media postings, run-ins, and flashes of memory — it is sometimes hard to connect my current self with the former.

I have been in love twice. For some of you reading this post, this is old news. I’ve spoken about these loves in bits of Peonies ‘n Mint (okay, so maybe more than “bits”), and as you might know, I loved these two with my whole being. I even accepted a ring at one point. Thinking about how strongly I felt about these two people brings back a lot of mixed emotions. At the time of our romances, they were each my world. I loved them and a future together was all I could imagine. Looking back, though, I remember feeling that a future was set but I cannot always remember why I felt that way. Too often hurt feelings and sad memories block this aspect, the why did I see a future, and I’m left clinging to the reflections, dazed and confused. Then I read Anna’s post, and most specifically the Elizabeth Gilbert quote she used as an introduction, and it was as if a light was shone on these moments…

If you haven’t skipped to Anna’s post yet, let me share with you the quote that shook the dust from my mind:

A true soul mate is probably the most important person you’ll ever meet, because they tear down your walls and smack you awake. But to live with a soul mate forever? Nah. Too painful. Soul mates, they come into your life just to reveal another layer of yourself to you, and then leave A soul mate’s purpose is to shake you up, tear apart your ego a little bit, show you your obstacles and addictions, break your heart open so new light can get in, make you so desperate and out of control that you have to transform your life, then introduce you to your spiritual master.

After reading this quote and considering my relationships, I am certain of one thing: X was my soul mate. At least, in the concept that Elizabeth Gilbert talks about here. We may have been young, we may have been naive, we might not have had a full grasp on what a future meant, but in the complete meaning of this quote, there is no doubt. During the nine years of our friendship, X was the one person who tore down every single wall I had ever built. I was adamant I didn’t want to date, but in all honesty I was scared of commitment. X pushed enough to knock down that wall and I had an incredibly meaningful relationship for four and a half years. I consistently doubted myself: my intelligence, my worth, my appearance. X chiseled away at those bricks by continuously telling me how much I meant to him, how beautiful I was, and making attempts to show how much he cared. When I was wrong, he’d point out my flaws. When I was right, he’s stand behind me. When I needed support, he took my hand. X shook me up, tore apart my ego, showed me my obstacles and addictions for the majority of our relationship… and then finally, he broke my heart.

There was no way X and I could have lived forever together. Even though he had torn down so many of my walls, if we had been allowed to stay together, there would never had been someone to rebuild me. It was not until our break up that I emerged this “desperate and out of control” creature. I transformed my life, and in turn myself. X truly introduced me to my spiritual master: me.

It was not until X and I went our separate ways that I was forced into control of my own life. He was someone I had relied on for so long, and then suddenly I was alone. No longer did I have someone to tell me my worth; I had to prove it to myself. No longer did I have someone to pick me up when I was down or congratulate me when I succeeded; I began to do so on my own. With every new experience, I questioned my intentions, weighed the outcomes, and ultimately grew. I slowly began to piece together the woman I am today, and this was due largely to X, the man with whom I had once thought I’d grow old.

There’s no way to say who I would have become had X and I continued longer than we did. Given enough time, too many of my walls may have been torn down, and I could have been an entirely broken individual. As grace would have it, the timing was perfect and here I am: strong, independent, and blessed with a bit of wisdom.

The breaking of my heart was exactly what I needed in my life. Love is a silly thing. It can start slowly or it can act as a whirlwind. My two loves were polar opposites of one another, but both were essential for my growth as an individual. Now my past is simply full of strangers with memories, but at least the majority of the memories I have are happy ones. Anna says, “When someone touches your heart, they will infinitely be there.” How brutally honest this statement is. Where there was once so much anger and resentment, there is now a peace. When I finally realized that the love I once thought I had wasn’t the kind to result in the fusing of our lives into one, but rather the kind to give me new life and necessary life lessons, that’s when I received the calmness I desired.

As I move forward, vaguely looking back on my love and loss from time to time, it is comforting to know that though there is pain  and sadness in my memory, there is also the reassurance that the guy I thought I would grow old with was not meant for me. Instead, he helped prepare me to become a better person for when the right guy steps into my life. Isn’t it funny how life takes unexpected, yet happily blissful paths?

So this is for you, the guy who I thought I would grow old with: thank you. Thank you for being my soul mate, and allowing the opportunity to pass in order for me to prepare for my true future.