Thursday, September 25, 2014

Love and the Introvert

I hate being too comfortable. I have since my earliest recollections, and from the earliest told stories of my character. It's in my heart of hearts.

I understand that I don't share this with everyone. This is perfectly understandable, and I feel no superiority or inferiority where this is concerned. But I do feel the difference. It's one of the things I've learned to assert more and more as I get older. It's also one of the various reasons I struggle to feel known or understood. Where would I begin?

But one of these misunderstandings comes with the ever-interesting subject of dating and love. And before I divulge some of my thoughts and feelings, I would like to offer that I know I don't have all the answers. If any of them, for that matter. I would like to suggest that I have much to learn. And yet, and yet, somehow some of the suggestions I get from people make me feel that they underestimate the depth to which these ideas marinate within me. Or maybe it's the scratchy discomfort of a one-size-fits-all prescription for romance. I understand that my ideas are strange and conservative and radical and somehow awkwardly out of place in our millennial generation. I seem to sit on no side of any fence, but off in the woods somewhere. I jokingly posit sometimes that maybe I'll be single forever, but I follow that with the supposition that it wouldn't be the worst thing that could happen to me. Allow me to try to explain.

First and foremost, I do not feel the need to be in love with anybody. I would like to, I will admit. I think that it is ultimately a desire of mine to marry, and to be the kind of wife that brings utter depth and joy and love to life. But I have absolutely no sense of hurry about these things, at least at this point in my life. I like myself. My needs for love and acceptance are met in Christ and in a tight-knit community of friends, mentors, and peers. I have interests and a very busy job that occupy my time and mind. Is this everything I ultimately want? No. But it's sure a great place to be for now. I am content, to say the least. But more importantly, I would a thousand times rather be in love with the right person than settle on a person for the sake of being in love. Love is not an end. Love is a demonstration, a commitment, an ongoing joyful choice that I will fall into when I have found the person who inspires me so.

But on top of the lack of hurry, there is something that rubs me the wrong way about dating culture.  And I don't want this to sound like a gripe, because I would like to empathize in theory with the idea that many people are in a hurry to find that special someone. But I guess I get this feeling sometimes like there is a great rush about dating. (I just met you, and this is crazy…) And let me say, I've been there. I've so been that person. But on the other side of that, the weight of someone else's (especially a near-stranger's) hopeful expectation is…uncomfortable. And I promise I'm not saying that to be mean or inconsiderate. Gentlemen, I appreciate the courage it takes to pursue a woman! Lucky for you, I think I'm a minority in feeling this way. It's just, when someone acts really interested when I hardly know them, it strikes me somehow as inherently insincere, and therefore untrustworthy. Inauthentic. And I don't mean to be harsh in that, it just puts off that sense for me, and makes me back away, even involuntarily.

It just feels like everyone's ready to reap the benefits of having a garden without ever taking the time to plant one, much less cultivate it. We have a grocery store mentality about our love lives. No one believes that good things take time. We're all just roaming around, taking what's in our reach. And this idea terribly saddens me. I can't trust a culture that can't wait. It strikes me as impulsive, immature, not fully healthy. And maybe this is personal. Maybe it strikes me so offensively because that's just not the way that I operate. In a microwave generation, I savor the slow roast. I take time, I take patience, and I don't think that I shouldn't. That's not to be demanding, it's just because I know myself and I value myself. I'm not convenient, and I pity a culture that believes that I (or any other woman) should be. I promise I'm not saying that with an arch in my brow. It's just, from my heart of hearts, we're worth more than that, you know. Every one.

(A small word to the gentlemen, I do not envy you. For every girl like me out there saying 'take your time' there are eight other girls giving entirely different messages about how to be pursued. It must be so confusing. Stay in the game. I would just encourage you to ask yourself what you really want, and to pursue that. Don't take shortcuts. Don't fill the time idly. In whatever you do, have integrity and be a man both you and your sisters would respect. And then, don't worry about what we say.)

But anyway, if that weren't enough to perpetuate my singleness, there is also the deep wanderlust and husky thirst for adventure. I don't, as I've said, want to be comfortable. The very idea drives me insane. I want so much to learn, and grow, and be ever-better, ever pushing the pace forward. I get it - that's too much work for a lot of people. I never said I was what everyone wanted! But how ideal to be with someone who also desires to learn. To travel. To explore. To drink richly of life and hold hands through the danger. To read together. Journey together. Hold deep conversations that tunnel into the evenings. To respectfully disagree. To push ourselves. To make the most of our short time on earth for something meaningful, impactful…raw and real. This is ultimately what I want - my introverted heart beats for it. Which is why somehow casual coffees and the idea of "meeting someone nice" are appealing and even enjoyable…but somehow still lacking.

Every so often I get the idea into my head that maybe love is ultimately picking one imperfect person out of the multitude of other imperfect people and committing to commit. I ask myself if I could bite that bullet, and sometimes I think I could. It's what generations ahead of us did. Marrying for love is a relatively new concept. Love used to come after commitment, not before it. There's something to it. Ultimately I believe love is a choice. And yet, in a culture and a time when I have been given the opportunity to choose, ought not I make the best possible choice I am able? Is it the foolishness of the young that insists on idealism?

So what am I even trying to say in all of this? I guess it's this: that from the deep and winding adventurous heart of an introvert, I wish the ideas of 'dating' and 'marriage' weren't so wrapped up in 'hurry' and 'good enough'. I wish we were comfortable in our own skin, invested in good communities so we didn't pour out our loneliness in seeking cheap intimacy, or rush to find 'the one' as if they will fulfill us. I wish we were a people who coveted learning and exceeding what is expected of us in life. I wish we believed love was more about giving than taking, and strove to repair the holes in our own character before scrutinizing that of others…And yet, I understand that these reflections are based on what matters to me. Thankfully, this isn't another one-size-fits-all, but a breath of self-expression. This is me, however I differ from those around me. It's an exercise in being authentic, and I don't think I can back down on it anymore without betraying my own heart, the one thing I have fought so hard to protect.

6 comments:

  1. I loved reading this, Christy. A refreshing and thoughtful perspective on relationships! As someone who can speak from the side of having been in a hurry in my youth to "find the one" - I can also say with full confidence that God had my back, even in my stubborn rebellion of trying to rush things along. I wouldn't change a thing because God has used that for my good - but what a blessing it is for you to know you do not need a guy to complete you!

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    1. Thank you for your perspective, Sarah! It's so great for me to see stories like yours too because they offer me freedom to trust, not to dogmatize my life. :) I'm so glad for God's faithfulness to you, and for his undoubted faithfulness to me too in a different sort of way!

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  2. I really appreciate this. For a long time, up until about 6 months ago, I never wanted to get married. Mostly because I've watched firsthand from my parents how devastating it is for a woman to settle. Now, I'm defining the line between desiring marriage (which has created unbelievable confusion for me) and enjoying the season of life I'm in.

    One thing I would point out is that women really need to take the pressure off each other. A woman isn't lacking anything or being selfish by enjoying singleness and a woman who does marry isn't weak or co-dependent. I've noticed that both stereotypes come up in female relationships, especially because we do have a natural tendency to compete with each other. You're definitely right about there not being a "one-size-fits-all." God's way too creative for that.

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    1. Thank you for sharing. :) I too come from a broken home, which may be at the heart of my hesitance. I hope that God continues to show you clarity as you step out on the limbs of accepting your desires and following them in a healthy way. I wholeheartedly agree that the pressure needs to drop in either direction. We each arrive at our journeys from such different roads that we cannot compare to one another without comparing apples to oranges. Some of the marriages I most admire are between people who married incredibly young! Others I admire waited longer. All in God's time, and as you said, his creativity. Thanks for your thoughts. :)

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  3. As someone who is also single and currently experiencing the "dating scene" (with all the pressures and confusion), I relate to this in many ways. This is what I have learned:

    The "take your time" and "ease into knowing each other" is usually a sign of maturity and age. Any older male (usually 26+) I have met and who has asked me out on a date has this mentality. It's so refreshing! It's usually the younger guys who have that "let's rush this!! GO!!" mentality (and I'm also completely turned off by it). I didn't even realize the difference until I went out on a date with an older guy and was preparing a long speech about how I like to take my time and I just don't know him that well. Before I could even finish, he just smiled and said, "Hey, relax. I'm just interested OK? I'm not in love with you. You're right. We don't know each other. So let's just take it slow and see what happens. Is that OK?" I felt instant relief. That was the first time I saw the difference.

    So I'm all in support of one taking their time to get to know someone. Relationships are complicated and have many layers. Like you said, people shouldn't put so much pressure on themselves or on the other person. The best dating advice I was given recently was "Hannah, always go into it with a mentality of making new friend. Not a soul mate, or encountering a terrible threat, but with the idea that maybe you can just make a new friend." It takes the pressure off. :)

    I always have lots more thoughts. But those were just the few that I could jot down quickly.

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    1. Great thoughts! And good advice. I think your observations on age and maturity are interesting. And looking to gain a friend is always such a healthy place to start. Thanks for sharing! I'm happy to hear your other ideas, perhaps over coffee? :)

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