Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Climbing Out of the Bog: Ending the Dating Drama

I was munching on surprisingly good chicken marsala at lunch today, listening to my good friend talk about ex-boyfriend drama, when I felt myself get mad. “He doesn’t respect me or my feelings,” my friend Isis* said while picking at her beef steak. I crammed a potato in my mouth to hold my tongue.
“I’ve told him over and over, but he doesn’t listen. It’s like he won’t get it”, she continued. My anger was beginning to rise. This was not a red hot anger, but a slow simmering one, built up over years. It’s the result of watching a friend repeatedly get her hopes up, just to have it not only squashed, but nearly decimated. It’s the anger borne of wiping away your girl’s tears, knowing that more would come. And then watching her get hurt again, and then seeing them come.
“When is he going to change?”, she asked, even though it was really more of a statement. And as I watched my beautiful friend across that lunch table, I couldn’t help but wonder, “When would SHE?”
I met Isis a couple of years ago while working in my former position in Hell. Ok, so it wasn’t literally “hell”, but to everyone working there it was. We felt we were being eternally punished for some kind of employment sins, even though “eternally” was actually just 9-5, M-F. But anyway, Isis and I quickly bonded. She has a natural eye for design, and helped me decorate my first apartment in my favorite autumnal colors. She dresses to the nines almost every day: 4 inch pumps, thrift shop finds with a mix of Target and Old Navy sweaters. Her gift for the aesthetic shines in her extremely large wardrobe.
However, it wasn’t long before I realized Isis’ gift for transforming the outside, was in SHARP contrast to her emotionally messy inside. She had fallen in love years before with the handsome Ex-Bf, and had a beautiful son as a result. The fairy tale began to slip away at the point; Ex-Bf began showing he was for more of a boy than a friend. She wound up handling all the business- doctor’s appointments for the baby, making sure bills were paid, food was bought and cooked. Even though they lived together for years, the long hoped for ring never materialized. They were playing house. This non-commitment was modeled for her growing up. Isis’ parents never married; her father was always an unknown. So she clung to Ex-Bf, even when he didn’t come home, crashed up her car and failed to spend time with their son. Her journal entries were full of anger, desire for change, but mostly, a desire for love.
As a dutiful girlfriend, I stood on the sidelines of the drama, cheering on her decision to end it with him when she moved into her own place. And when she chose to give it another chance, I likewise supported her decision. But when this cycle repeated itself, over, and over, and over, and over… I found my own heart hurting for her. We prayed on it and believed God would lead her out. Yet, the cycle remained. And still does.
So as I finished up my lunch, and Isis’ litany of recent charges against Ex-Bf continued, my anger reached it’s boiling point, and I asked: “WHAT ARE YOU GOING TO DO ABOUT THIS?” “Li, I told him ‘We’re over!’”. She said this like I had suddenly become simple. To be more precise, I responded, “Ok, yes, you SAID it. To HIM. But what are YOU going to DO now? Honey, you’ve been SAYING to him now for months that’s it’s over. But your actions aren’t lining up with your words. He knows not to take you at your word because you keep going back on it.” Isis looked down. “That’s the second time this week I’ve heard that. My cousin said it and my other friend, too… but how do I do it?” I had to admit, I didn't have a simple answer for her.
There are a ton of great books on relationships out there. “The Five Love Languages”, “Act Like A Lady, Think Like A Man”, “Boundaries in Dating.” Isis has read a number of these. She has even read the ones I find slightly deceptive, like “The Rules”. But the first book that pops in my head when I think over our lunch is simply the Bible, and not just I Corinthians 13, either. When I think of her situation, I actually think of James 2. Ok, so that chapter is not typically used regarding relationships. I know. It’s been used as a never ending debate between Catholics & Protestants. But let me explain. Verse 14 says, “What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him?” Many Christian women, like my friend, have faith that God will change their dire dating situations. They know God can change things. They pray earnestly for their hearts to be healed. Some go so far as to thank Him for the healing that hasn’t occurred yet. But then time passes, the guy reappears, and then, in the words of “Seinfield”, yada, yada, yada, they find themselves stuck in the same place. I don’t think it’s not a matter of not having faith; it seems it’s the next step that trips many up. And that’s to actually TAKE THE NEXT STEP- to do the “works” part. “So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead,” says the seventeenth verse (emphasis mine). This passage is making it clear. We must actually step out on our faith, otherwise it’s not only useless, it’s dead. Verse 18b says “Show me your faith apart from your works, and I will show you my faith by my works.”(emphasis mine). If we really believe something, then our actions should show it. It’s like the old saying, “You can talk the talk, but can you walk the walk?” Still not convinced? Let’s read the rest of the chapter then:
20Do you want to be shown, you foolish person, that faith apart from works is useless? 21 Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered up his son Isaac on the altar? 22You see that faith was active along with his works, and faith was completed by his works; 23and the Scripture was fulfilled that says, "Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness"—and he was called a friend of God. 24You see that a person is justified by works and not by faith alone. 25And in the same way was not also Rahab the prostitute justified by works when she received the messengers and sent them out by another way?. 26For as the body apart from the spirit is dead, so also faith apart from works is dead.(emphasis mine)
This chapter screams the way I wish I could: “Don’t be a fool! Without actually DOING something about the problem, just BELIEVING it’s a problem won’t change your situation!” Please don’t think I’m implying God can’t heal. He has, can and will. What I believe many women (and men, too- there are heartbroken brothers) must do is take the steps necessary for God to do His wondrous work and heal. When we sin, and want to be forgiven, it’s not enough to just know or believe we did wrong. We must go to God, and repent. Action must be done on our part.
While I did not have a simple answer for Isis on how she could escape her "Groundhog Day"-type relationship, I did give her some suggestions on how she could start taking action. "You know when he shows up at odd hours at your place, you don't have to let him in. And when he calls you late at night, you know he's not checking up on your son. Just because he calls doesn't mean you have to answer." She responded, "You're right. You know, last week I hung out with him because he took our son to the movies. I even asked myself while I was sitting in the theatre, 'Why am I here?' I didn't have to be there."

As we wrapped up our lunch, I told Isis about an episode of "Family Guy" that I had seen last night. (Now bare with me... you might be thinking "What the heck, what is she doing combining Scripture with that crazy cartoon in a single blog?" Good question. All I can say is that I have a wacky brain. C'est la vie, folks.) In one scene, Stewie, the youngest Griffin, was lamenting his loss of a girl he had a crush on. He asked Brian, the dog, how he should get her back. Brian took him outside and told him the best way to learn would be to watch their neighbor, Quagmire and how he handles women. Just at that moment, Quagmire appears outside following behind his date who ran angry out of his home, upset by, how should I phrase it, a very inappropriate request he made. She refuses to come back in, and stands on his front lawn yelling at him. Quagmire responds by calling her, among other things, "fat" and "stupid." She then asks, "I am?", and then walks back inside his home, agreeing to his assessment of her and deciding to fulfill his request. Stewie, still watching with Brian, has learned the lesson. All he had to do was treat the girl he wanted pitifully, and he'd be able to get what he wanted.

Reflecting on that scene again, it struck me how so many women fall in that trap. They allow guys to use their own insecurities against them- that they are fat, ugly, stupid, unlovable, cheap or slutty. They feel their biggest fear is being confirmed, and continue to remain in misery, believing deep down that no one else will want them. This is definitely not love, just control. I pointed out to Isis the characters in that scene were also revealing. There was a baby, a dog, and most tellingly, a guy named "Quagmire"- which means "an area of miry or boggy ground whose surface yields under the tread; a bog, " according to Dictionary.com, with synonyms like, "predicament" and "dilemma." Is the guy you find yourself going in circles with an immature baby, a low down dog, or a life sucking bog? Because if you're finding yourself in a never ending drama, you might be dating a guy with those characteristics.

So to my lovely Isis, and anyone else who is going through your own "dilemma", I leave you with I Corinthians 10:13: "The temptations in your life are no different from what others experience. And God is faithful. He will not allow the temptation to be more than you can stand. When you are tempted, he will show you a way out so that you can endure." And when God provides that way to stop the cycle, do your part, living out your faith through action.
*This is her nickname; there will be occasions, from time to time on this blog when I will use aliases to protect identities. As "Dragnet" use to proclaim, “Names have been changed to protect the innocent.” Lol.

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

The best blog ever!

Alisha De Freitas said...

Thanks, Anonymous. It's so long, I'm glad you got through it!

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