Caution, what lies within this post is the tale of my dating life. If you would prefer to never learn about such things here is your get out of jail free card. If you choose to continue even after such a warning, you clearly have no idea what you’re getting into. Therefore, you clearly don’t understand the warning, so welcome, I hope you learn something. Before we begin though I have a few disclaimers that I feel are appropriate to address. This is obviously my life as told by me and I only represent one of the interested parties in any of the relationships, therefore, the importance, emotions, experiences, etc are mine and may not reflect those of the other party. For that reason I will not be sharing names in this post as I don’t think it adds any particular value. Additionally, I’d like to say sorry for some of the things I wasn’t smart enough to understand along the way, and thank certain people for their patience, understanding, and their ability to make me better.
Because this article was agreed to with a certain outcome or experience as the main topic there are some parts of the story that won’t be included due to their overall relevance to the particular experience. This isn’t to say that some relationships don’t matter and others do. In fact for me every relationship that I’ve ever experienced and every one that I will ever experience are tied together and dependent on each other. For it is in failing that I learn to improve, it is in the successes that I learn what to do, it is in the observation of others that I learn what to do. This isn’t intended to be some manifesto aimed at telling you everything I’ve done wrong in my life, or to make you think that my way of doing things is better than yours. Rather this is simply a story of my life through relationships and how certain turning points explain some behaviors and experiences since then. If you learn more about me that’s great, if you learn something to apply to yourself even better, but in the end I just hope that this allows you to see the world through my eyes even if only for a moment.
While there are certain facts that some people are interested in there are still certain things that I will not discuss (the reason of which I hope will be abundantly clear in a little bit). While I don’t have a problem talking about relationships or most things in general, there are still certain things that as I’ve stated before involve other individuals and as such I don’t feel it is my place to say what may or may not have happened without their permission. With that being said one fact that is somewhat important to note is the number 2. This is the number of official dating relationships I’ve ever been in. For some of you this number is surprisingly high, for others it is low, and for some you know exactly who I’ve dated so it’s not anything too exciting. While there are are other in my opinion significant relationships, these were the only ones that were ever officially dating relationships. The reason I point this out is that for a very long time (possibly even before preschool) I have had relationships of various types, forms, seriousness, and purposes with females. While this should seem pretty obvious for some people the very fact that I talk to or am seen with a girl has at various times immediately caused there to be assumptions about what may or may not be happening. As such officially only ever dating 2 girls is seen through different lenses depending on the person reading this.
At this point for some of you, after a week (possibly longer) of build up you might be slightly disappointed. What is the purpose of me writing a blog about dating and relationships if I’ve only ever dated 2 people? Why would anybody think this is exciting and what on earth could I possibly share? As to whether or not this is exciting, that’s up to you. In terms of the purpose, it is entirely built into that number. Which we’ll come back to in just a little bit. First, there needs to be a little bit more context. Before college I had relationships that at the time seemed serious, but most ended or ended up without me dating for various reasons. While it is easy to dismiss them because no official dating occurred, the truth is that things that I learned or experienced or felt during this time had a profound impact on what would come later. As I entered college a somewhat similar trend of relationships occurred. During my sophomore year of college was when the second official relationship happened. Upon the end of that relationship and the subsequent end of the school year is the event that changed how I viewed the world, how I date, how I enter or try to enter relationships with others. I can’t really give you a specific date or even say that it was a rainy night or anything like that, I just know that by the time it was over it was morning.
What had started as a simple idea ended up being nearly a 5 hour experience that left me emotionally and mentally drained but physically I couldn’t sleep from both fear and excitement. You see it was on this night that I decided to take a year off from dating. Now again for some of you this will seem like a major let down from what suspense you may have felt. For others this might start to answer some questions, and for others this confirms certain stories you may have heard or heard pieces of. On the night this occurred nobody knew this was happening. After all I’m pretty good at not sharing things that are important to me (counter intuitive indeed). In fact I didn’t really tell anyone until about 6 months into the year. By the time the year was over I had only officially told 3 people. Since that year, some people have been told and some people found out, but the majority of people I know don’t know that about me. Even of the ones that do most don’t know why or what came about because of it.
At the time the college that I was attending had quite a few assumptions, thoughts, habits, rules, traditions or whatever term you would prefer about relationships, dating, marriage, and all kinds of other things. For some if you left college and you weren’t engaged, married, or happily dating it could be seen as a failure. While relationships were/are important to me, at the time I felt very frustrated by all of them. The biggest problem had nothing to do with the fact that I like to think a lot, but rather the opposite. For me I had never really taken the time to truly think about relationships. I mean I thought about the people in the relationships or about seeing myself in different forms/types of relationships with different people. I had never truly thought about the purpose or the conditions of relationships before. I mean there were certain traditions or principles that I held in my head that I didn’t share with others, and sure there were ideas like I’m dating to find my wife, etc. However, I had never truly expressed or considered my values, wants, needs, desires, passions, expectations, terms, offerings, and many other things.
It was on the night that I decided I needed to take a year off from dating that I decided I needed to start answering some hard truths about myself. I wanted and maybe needed to discover who I was in order to truly understand what it is or at least have some vague idea of what it was that I was looking for in a dating relationship and/or life. What started as me simply writing down questions I wanted to get answered in my life, led to things that were important to me, things that weren’t important, things I was sorry for, things I liked, things that challenged me. In the end I understood that it wasn’t fair to anyone else to enter into a relationship where I wasn’t being true to myself, them, or God. In addition to this I also decided that I needed to change the way I had any relationship with anybody.
By the end of the night I had lists, notes, quotes, and all kinds of other things, but I also had two other things, a letter and a contract. The letter was an apology. Not addressed to anyone in particular but rather just an open letter stating my flaws, fears, and desire to be better. It discussed every meaningful relationship I had been in and how I had failed to deliver what I needed to be. The contract stated some loose terms as to the fact that for the next year I wasn’t going to be dating citing some specific specifications such as time frame and reasoning. Included in the contract was also terms specifying that in addition to taking the year off I would also be completing two other important items, Paul 2.0 and “The List”.
Paul 2.0 was essentially taking the questions and quotes and lists and everything else that I was taking this year off from and creating a set of values, principles, vision, mission, core covenants or whatever else you’d like to call it. I was defining what it truly meant to be me. The original Paul 2.0 has since been burned in a fire (different story for a different time), but some various iterations have sprung up. There are certain core values that I hold onto from the original but some of them have changed over time as I have changed. However, the thing that most people who ever hear about the fact that I intentionally chose to note date want to know is what came about as a result of it. The answer to that question would in the most simple of terms be “The List”. Now I know what some of you are thinking that this is just one of those lists that has everything you want in the “perfect” spouse. To an extent this does exist within The List. However, at least in my opinion and in the opinion of those who I’ve explained it to or actually shared with, this isn’t one of those lists. Some of those types of concepts exist within this list, but this goes beyond that.
To me the “The List” was creating a system that has certain underlying principles to it. As you go through the List certain natural logical flows take place. This might be somewhat similar to the “perfect spouse” list in that there are some criteria that in order for me to consider dating you that you would need to meet. Some of these criteria are non-negotiable (think of these primarily as in terms of politics, religion, etc). Some of them are a little more flexible (it would help if you didn’t hate sports). As I’ve mentioned this post isn’t just about dating, and this List also includes normal non-dating based relationships. In fact in my opinion all relationships essentially start at the same point. Therefore, “The List” is as much about how I prioritize my friends and family as it is about finding a wife.
The original List has been destroyed (again potentially a story for a different time), but there are new iterations of it. Nobody including the people who originally knew about the year off have ever actually seen the List. Some people know of its existence (some wanting me to post it as I post this blog), some knowing of small parts that I am willing to share. The thing that makes the List important at least to me is that it is MY list. The purpose of the list is simple, make a system that helps me focus on the things that matter and spend less time on things that don’t. Anybody that knows me knows that while my life tends to look messy it normally has pretty good organization and structure, even if I’m the only person that tends to know where things are. If after reading this you think I’m crazy that’s fine. If you want to go make your own list that’s cool. However, as I’m explaining what it really means to me and some of the sections of it, there are things that I will not share. Those are things that I am reserving for my future wife, or are things that according to the List that I need to trust you enough to share. Some of these things change in priority over time, so some of you have actually heard some things that even some of my closest relationships at times haven’t heard.
Some of the sections include how I want to act towards other people. Whether that means being intentional about calling, texting, emailing, etc. It sounds fairly basic that the higher the priority the category you find yourself on the list the more often I’m probably going to try and reach out to you or respond back to you. At the same time there are people who I care about a lot who I don’t get as much time to talk to because of their busy schedules, distance, etc. I take this into account, but in any format that is somewhat static it can be easy to forget that things are flexible and always subject to change or personal discretion. Other section includes topics I’m willing to share. While I said I’m open to most things, sometimes the reason not to share is that in sharing it can create bonds/memories/feelings/etc that aren’t appropriate for the level/type/form of relationship at that moment. It’s not the best strategy at least in my experience to try and tell people you just met all your deepest, darkest secrets.
One of the sections that has been discussed with a few people over the year is a section for things that I keep set apart for my future wife. One of the examples I’m willing to share of this includes the use of the word beautiful. While I have complimented girls before on their appearance I am intentional about not using the word beautiful. Somewhere along the line I felt like this word should be reserved for my wedding day. Maybe that is being idealistic or cheesy or whatever, but to me there are things that in my opinion should be held sacred and set apart. While I don’t know who or when a wedding day might be, if I live a life that doesn’t save anything special for that person then I am not fulfilling my end of the relationship. If the person is amazing enough to want to be/deal with me for the rest of their life, if they compliment and complete who I am, and what purpose I’m looking for/being called/directed toward, then I want to honor them for that. I know there are people who don’t understood why I do certain things, or who say I over think things and should just go do stuff, this is fine. However, I don’t view being purposeful and respectful as overthinking, I intend for it to be honoring and serving.
As I’ve mentioned in other posts one of the things that I aim to do is have intentional relationships. If we don’t have the same purpose for a relationship then it makes it much harder to grow together. If we aren’t passionate about similar or compatible things it makes it harder to really grow a deeper more meaningful connection. What shouldn’t be hard to understand is that there is a difference between pure physical connections or actions and pure emotional, spiritual, or mental connections. If I’m looking at a relationship regardless of dating it is usually looking to fulfill multiple connections. I don’t intentionally aim to hurt anyone and while everyone appreciates being complimented or things such as physical actions like hugs or high fives, there are still certain things I would rather be intentional and meaningful with. I’m imperfect but I was made perfectly with the intent to help fulfill and add value to other people’s lives.
I don’t write this post with some intent to impress people with things I do or won’t do. I know I’m not perfect. I know life is messy and I know the List does’t fix everything. I don’t necessarily expect my future wife to read this article and be so impressed she falls madly in love with me in that very moment (if it happens, it happens but that’s all God). What I do know is that because of the list I still haven’t dated since I took a year off from dating. This should be fairly obvious considering I’ve only ever dated 2 people and took a year off after the 2nd dating relationship back in my sophomore year of college. There have been some individuals that I’ve highly considered dating, but for a variety of reasons that never happened. This doesn’t mean that I didn’t honestly care about these people or have real feelings, rather sometimes life just happens.
For the first time since the contract was created I have reached a point that I would be open to dating again (For the record, there are more expectations on me than other people on the List, which contributes to a large portion of the life just happens). This doesn’t mean that I’m actively taking applications although if you want to be a part of my life (dating or non-dating) I won’t stop you. I would just point out the purpose of the List is to filter all relationships and to help me pursue with passion and purpose meaningful relationships. I will not be disclosing what I look for or prefer or however you want to phrase it. After all you may just be a random person I’ve never met but I believe there is a reason you’re reading this or you may be someone I already know. You may be a friend or even a family member who just wants to connect more. Maybe you are someone that is more. Regardless, what I seek and who you are won’t always be the same thing, and sometimes things change (you might say, life happens… notice a theme?).
While I’m sure I could probably continue including more and more random events or thoughts. I will end try to wrap this up by referring back to the quotes from last week . The reason that I included those quotes was simple. For me the most important relationships have always been the ones that allowed me to be vulnerable and to be open. They are the types of relationships that allow me to feel safe enough to trust and grow. For me the two largest compliments anyone can ever give is to accept you for you and to intentionally want to spend time with you. That is why I see real relationships as those times people make it a priority to include, reach out, connect with, or otherwise engage someone not just because it’s polite etiquette but because of a genuine desire to want to connect, learn, accept, grow, and be with someone. I would rather be surrounded by a few high quality friends than hundreds of people who couldn’t really care less about who I truly am. I would rather be with the imperfect person who wants ME, than the perfect person who just wants someone.