Western Massachusetts is a small place, and if you go to UMASS it’s even smaller. If you’re single and dating, it becomes tiny. If you’re black, single, and dating, it’s infinitesimal. I always end up running into men who once expressed interest in me. It makes me feel like this:
Even though it was really only like this:
I learned a lot of valuable lessons about dating.
Here’s what I learned:
1. What is your moral code? Stick to it.
As a Christian, I don’t believe in having sex before marriage. Sticking to this principle has protected me from numerous things, including heartbreak, vicious rumors, unwanted pregnancy, diseases, etc. It also makes it easier for me to make a clear decision about whether a man is right for me. Also, I try to treat each man I’ve dated with love and respect. My goal has always been to point each man to Christ.
2. Be clear about boundaries
I tell men up front that, for me, sex is not an option outside of marriage. I was surprised by how many men were willing to be in a faithful, committed relationship with me even after I told them that. This has led to a series of really terrible, but amusing marriage proposals.
Beyond physical boundaries, I set up emotional boundaries so that I wouldn’t be too invested in a man I was dating. A date does not mean a relationship; a relationship doesn’t necessarily mean marriage.
3. Be clear about expectations
I’ve had to be honest with myself about what I expect from a man on a date, or in a relationship. After I’m honest with myself about what I want, it’s easier for me to communicate that to them. I expect for a man to open up every single door, pick up every single check, listen attentively, etc. And when I don’t get that treatment, I already know how I’ll respond.
4. Be gracious
I always run into old guys when I’m with a new guy. And a few times I’ve run into a new guy’s ex as well. I’ve learned the necessity of a polite smile and a thoughtful introduction.
5. Claim your space
If I dated a man and we hung out at a space I like, and then we stopped dating, I still go there anyway.
6. Keep it to yourself
The rumor mill in a small town can be vicious. I’m careful not to say too much about a breakup, because even if a guy has hurt my feelings or been trifling, I don’t want to hurt his reputation. Only one of my girls gets the details. The rest gets bits and pieces of the story.
7. Have your own life
I always make sure I have time to spend with the Lord, myself, family, friends, career. This way, I’m happy, healthy and can have fun on my date.
8. Stay in the moment
Even if I’m dating the perfect guy, I could get hit by a bus tomorrow. Marriage is not a certainty. So I have fun when I’m out, and focus on Jesus, who loves me unconditionally.
9. Trust God
Relationships end. And it sucks. But if I trust the Lord in the beginning, I can trust Him in the end, and I know that He is protecting my heart!