Being in a relationship is hard, guys.
I’ve known this for years, yet I still feel like I’m punched in the gut with that truth again and again.
I have no idea how to be someone’s girlfriend.
It’s a daunting task: to be the person they run to, the person they want to pour their love into, the person they want to support and appreciate wholeheartedly.
Because when you are that person for someone, there’s that little voice in the back of your head that says, But I don’t deserve it. And there’s no way I could be that lovely, loving person for them in return. At least that’s how it is for me.
I’m too selfish, too emotional, too messy, too prideful, too insecure, too bitter… how could I rightfully treat this man with respect and love when I hardly know how to love myself? How can I support and encourage this man when I can hardly support and encourage myself?
And he claims he’s a mess, too. Everyone’s got issues, he says. Baggage. But often times, I can only see my flaws and his strengths (or in my prideful moments, it ends up the other way around). And sometimes that makes a relationship one of bitterness or insecurity.
You have it all together. And I’m just… me. Awful, messy me. You should find another woman to love. Someone who doesn’t cry when things don’t go her way, someone who doesn’t pick fights for no reason other than her stupid insecurities.
Someone who always says the right things and does the right things.
It’s hard to remember that that someone doesn’t exist.
The other night, my boyfriend and I had this realization that we call ourselves a team, but we haven’t been acting like one lately. And my first reaction was, It’s my fault, while his first reaction was, It’s MY fault.
Isn’t that so silly? We both were so quick to take the blame.
And we could’ve just left it there. We both could’ve silently come to the conclusion that we’re messy, stupid people who don’t know how to be a good boyfriend or a good girlfriend. Beat ourselves up further and resolve to be better.
But that’s not what I want for him and that’s not what he wants for me.
So what’s a couple to do? Baby steps, my friends.
I asked how he was doing and he shared– open, honest communication about his week, his fears, his struggles. And I listened. I tried offering advice, but didn’t know if it was what he needed. I do think he appreciated the effort. But our conversation didn’t really last long. He had to be up early for work and I was pretty tired myself, so we said goodnight and went our separate ways.
And despite how I felt at that moment– wanting to storm into every room of mess and misunderstanding to set everything bad on fire and leave only the good, perfect, lovely things– that small, honest conversation was a good start.
I’m realizing you don’t have to hash everything out overnight. Every single issue, weakness, and insecurity doesn’t have to be laid out there on the table from day one. You don’t have to fix, fix, fix until both parties are dead tired and there’s nothing left to say.
There’s always going to be something left to say. We’re always going to have bad days and stress. We’re always going to have secrets we hold onto until someone pries us open. We’re always going to have moments of utter weakness that we beat ourselves up over for days.
You’re not going to make a perfect team overnight. You’re not going to make a perfect team over A LIFETIME.
Relationships are hard for everyone. Even the loveliest, sweetest of seasons in dating/marriage are eventually followed by hardships and messes.
We are messy people.
I’ve heard it said that a perfect relationship is just two imperfect people who don’t give up on each other.
I think that’s only partially true. What should be taken out is the “perfect relationship” part because there’s simply no such thing.
No two people can have a perfect relationship because no two people are perfect. No commitment is perfect. Promises are not always perfectly kept. Support doesn’t always come at the perfect time and in the most perfect way.
There’s no such thing as perfection in relationships because there’s no such thing as perfection in life.
The only perfect thing we have is a perfect God, and He’s the only one who can make our relationships into the beautiful, supportive teams we desire.
And even then, they can only be so good. Never perfect. That’s just the burden we live with until we go home to heaven.
So here’s my take on relationships right now: you do what you can with what you have and rely on God to do the rest.
I can show love to my boyfriend in the ways I understand love– kind words, warm affection, gifts and sacrifices. But when I’m stuck in my pride or my foolishness and I don’t even WANT to be loving or kind, I can ask God to strengthen His love in me so I can see past myself and forego my selfish ways.
I can offer wisdom to him when he needs advice or counseling– wisdom I’ve gained from experience and study. But when I don’t know the answers and I’m just as lost as he is, I can lean on God to show us both the right thing to do and the right thing to say.
I can be a sweet, fun, caring girlfriend– when I’m in a great mood or things are going great in my life. But when I’m angry at God, depressed for no reason, and feeling insecure in every area of my life, I sure as heck know I need the grace of God and I can ask Him for that, too. Lord, help my boyfriend deal with me. Because I’m crazy.
Asking God for help in these areas doesn’t mean He’s going to mold me into the perfect girlfriend. What it means is that I recognize my inability to be that perfect somebody for my ever-so-forgiving boyfriend and his inability to be that perfect somebody for me. And in recognizing that, God has the opportunity to heal me of some of my fears and insecurities, offer grace in areas I so badly fail at, and show me how to love in difficult moments. It reminds me that I can’t do it all, and that’s okay.
All I can do is baby steps.
Particularly because I can only predict my mood at this very moment. I can only guarantee I’ll feel nice and loving for the next hour. I am messy and unpredictable. I don’t think that’ll ever change. So I must take just one baby step after another, and believe that it can be enough.
The other night, my baby step was just listening. His baby step was offering nuggets of his life.
Tomorrow, my baby step might be apologizing first. His baby step may be relying on God through prayer instead of trying to fix things himself.
This is what I think relationships are mostly about. Not who will do the right thing first or who will do the right thing better. Certainly not how to be that perfect partner.
Just simply: when will I take that next step, be it ever so seemingly small?
I still have a long way to go. I’ll never win that trophy for best girlfriend of the year. But I can win the heart of the man I love day after day as I become more of the woman– messy and imperfect as she may be– that God is shaping me into.
Relationships will still be hard, but I think I’m learning.
Oh, here’s a photo of me with my wonderful boyfriend, Grant, right before we went on our first Valentine’s Day date. This stud took me to Waffle House (yes, I shamelessly picked Waffle House over every other restaurant we had to choose from… jealous?). Grant is very sweet and understanding of my strange, crazy oh-my-gosh-is-she-even-sane ways. He calls it part of “my complexity”, which makes it sound rather romantic. Oh, and he loves nerdy things, God, and me. So obviously we’re just right for each other.
Love is something we all long for and crave, whether it’s from our friends, from family, from our significant others, or from God. No one wants to feel like they’re not valued or loved or cherished, especially if they make the effort to love and care for others.
An obstacle to love that I’ve observed in my life and also in the lives of those around me is all-too-consuming perfectionism that can go unnoticed and usually goes unchecked.
Perfectionism is defined as the “refusal to accept any standard short of perfection”, and unfortunately, this is a factor in many relationships. Instead of allowing their loved ones to mess up and make mistakes, many expect perfection and a completion of all their “requirements” to gain their love and affection.
I am also guilty of allowing perfectionism to affect my relationships. What I have found is that a lot of my perfectionism stems from insecurity and fear of not being loved as deeply as I desire. When someone I love makes a mistake or does something that disappoints or upsets me, I take it to the extreme- not because I think they’re awful human beings, but because I’m afraid that it means they don’t love me or won’t always treat me right. I turn one mistake into an entire war.
This perfectionism occurs in a cycle. I not only expect perfection from the people I love, but I also expect perfection from myself for the people I love. I’m afraid that I’m not good enough for their love, and then when it seems true, I turn it on them by saying they’re not good enough for MY love. Only bitterness and anger ensues.
The truth we need to grasp and firmly believe is this: We do not need to earn people’s love and we have no right to expect others to earn ours.
What I believe and want to suggest to you is that in order to break the chains and cycle of perfectionism, we need to first find the source of our perfectionism that is affecting us (i.e. insecurity, fear, bitterness) and then run to Jesus with what we find so he can give us the love and power to break the perfectionism we affect others with.
Because Jesus is perfect, all that He does is perfect. That includes perfect love. He is the quintessence of the love that we all crave and desire. Oftentimes, the problem is that we either don’t believe this or we don’t put much stock into this because we’d rather have earthly, imperfect, prone-to-fail love. It doesn’t make much sense when it’s spelled out like that, but when it comes to love, many things don’t. Why do we look to people to fulfill and satisfy us when only Jesus can? Jesus never asks us to earn His love; in fact, His love has already been freely given to us. Nothing we could ever say or do could change that.
God is love… There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love. We love because he first loved us. (1 John 4:15,18-19)
Once we let Jesus transform us from perfectionist beings to accepting-of-imperfection-ist beings, we then will be able to love people freely. This transformation only takes place when we grow in faith of His unfailing, perfect love for us.
Furthermore, when we love people freely, we then free them from expecting perfection from themselves, which helps discontinue the cycle that is occurring in many lives all around us. But the process starts with ourselves.
I warn you, the process is long and there will be many days, even months or years, where it’ll feel like nothing’s changing. One argument or fight or bad day can convince you that you’ll never change. My friends, this is a lie from satan. No chains are too strong for Christ. He can break every single one of them, and to think that one bad day or a string of bad days can change that is to doubt the power and freeing love of Christ.
We need to run to Jesus with our burdens and then let Him do the work in us. It will overflow into our relationships with others once we do. It will take time and patience, humility and self-searching, but it is all too worth it.
I hope this is of value to some of my readers. I certainly hope my experience and ability to relate encourages those who are suffering from relational perfectionism in some way, shape, or form. Perfectionism, whether diagnosed or just an undiagnosed observed part of your life, is able to be defeated and we can choose to end this cycle- not by our power alone, but through the power of Jesus Christ in us.
But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. (2 Corinthians 12:9)
Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. (1 Corinthians 13:4-7)
Here’s a word all girls are familiar with: Acceptance.
Every female struggles with it.
Am I pretty enough? Do these people like me? What should I wear today? Will they make fun of me?
Or worse: Who does she think she is? Why can’t he just be normal? Why should I bother getting to know this person?
Whether it’s trouble with accepting ourselves or trouble with accepting others, we are all guilty.
Today someone raised a question: Why do you want to be accepted?
For a long time, I literally did not have an answer.
We spend so much time putting on makeup, trying to impress people, working to achieve something of worth, hoping to getting someone’s attention, and asking ourselves if we’re even good enough.
It’s obvious that we all want to be liked and accepted.
Why does it even matter? Who cares if your hair looks like a mess? What’s the point in trying to gain as much approval from your peers as you can? Who are we trying to impress anyway?
Because we are like Eve. Every woman is.
“Like Eve after she tasted the forbidden fruit, we women hide. We hide behind our makeup. We hide behind our humor. We hide with angry silences and punishing withdrawals. We hide our true selves and offer only what we believe is wanted, what is safe… We will not risk rejection or looking like a fool. We have spoken in the past and been met with blank stares and mocking guffaws… To hide means to remain safe, to hurt less. At least that is what we think. And so by hiding, we take matters into our own hands. We don’t return to God with our broken and desperate hearts.” Captivating- John and Stasi Eldredge.
When we fail to accept ourselves, we are drifting farther and farther away from where God wants us to be. He wants us to run to Him, He wants us to put our insecurities behind us, and He wants us to find truth.
And the truth is that we were each created to be simply captivating.
“A woman in her glory, a woman of beauty, is a woman who is not striving to become beautiful or worthy enough. She knows in her quiet center where God dwells that he finds her beautiful, has deemed her worthy, and in him, she is enough. In fact, the only thing getting in the way of our being fully captivating and enjoyed is our striving. “He will quiet you with his love” (Zeph. 3:17). A woman of true beauty is a woman who in the depths of her soul is at rest, trusting God because she has come to know him to be worthy of her trust. She exudes a sense of calm, a sense of rest, and invites those around her to rest as well. She speaks comfort; she knows that we live in a world at war, that we have a vicious enemy, and our journey is through a broken world. But she also knows that because of God all is well, that all will be well. A woman of true beauty offers others the grace to be and the room to become.”
Once we break through those layers of hurt and fear, we find a capable version of self, a beautiful one. Once we see the true meaning of beauty and we learn to accept ourselves, we also learn to accept others. We are all so much alike.
Ladies, we all seek to be loved, we all want to be seen as lovely, and we all struggle with looking at ourselves in the mirror, some more than others. Once we realize how similar we really are, how can we not love and help each other? How can we not accept each other? You are meant to be captivating, and so is she. We all are.
Though we may not fully know why we want to be accepted, the desire is there. Instead of allowing it to control our actions and determine how we live our lives, we need to let it all go and realize what we can be, not what we aren’t.
Something I struggle with is comparing myself to other people. Am I as talented as them? Am I at the same point in my relationship with Jesus as them? Do they have more than me? Are they better than me? By doing this, I am setting myself up for discontentment with my life and even God. By focusing on what other people have or don’t have, I forget what God has given me and blessed me with. While this may seem like a good way to become motivated, it’s not fair to myself to measure my own success by comparing quantity or quality. It blinds me to what’s important and by continuing to do this, I’m allowing bitterness and resentment room to build up inside of me, which we all know is far from where God wants any of us to be.
When your desires and jealousy are getting the best of you and holding you back from contentment and gratitude, it’s time for a reality check. We’re all going to find something in others that we simply cannot have or measure up to. We’re not all blessed with musical talent, we don’t all have platinum credit cards, we can’t all possibly look the same or own the same designer handbags. By desiring and yearning for other people’s gifts, wealth, blessings, and lives, we are blinding ourselves to what we do have. Our Father who loves us more than we can fathom wants to give us the true desires of our heart.
The only thing standing in the way of our contentment is ourselves. When we start caring less about what other people have, and start to focus on shaping our lives to resemble that of Christ, our desires will shape themselves too. We’ll find ourselves not only satisfied with our lives and possessions, but also happy for others too. Instead of letting jealousy consume our chances of happiness, we’ll start to realize how we’re all blessed in our own ways.
If you’re like me and have some insecurities and jealousies holding you back from loving others and loving yourself, LET THEM GO. Stop playing the comparison game, and start to see yourself through God’s eyes. We’re all wonderfully and beautifully created, and we have no right to be unhappy with where we are in comparison to other people around us. He bestows blessings upon us that we may not even be able to see because of our insecurities standing in the way. I promise you that you will be satisfied with every bit and inch of your life when you put your trust in God and take to heart His promises- we are not alone, we are all created in God’s image, and we are loved for who we are.