One Thanksgiving I was excitedly making plans for my boyfriend to come visit for the holidays. He was from out of state, and we didn’t see each other much. Coming together on a holiday was a BIG deal. It meant sharing families, sharing lives, and sacrificing traditions that were important to us. The deal was that he would come see me for Thanksgiving, and I would go to him for Christmas.
As excited as I was to have him come and share my home, though, I remember feeling pressured and embarrassed. My home was not fancy, nor was it as pristine and spacious as what my boyfriend was used to. I felt pressure to make everything perfect for his arrival, but there were some things I could not change. For example, I could not add on extra rooms to provide separate spaces for all the family coming home for the holidays. When my boyfriend stepped off the plane, he stepped into a whirlwind of holiday activities, cooking, and guests packed so tightly in that they were sleeping on couches and floors.
While he kept his polite composure through most of the holiday, he flew home, called me, and broke up with me thereafter. His reasoning went something along the lines of “we have too many different values” and “I don’t see this going anywhere”. I should have considered it a sign that I felt like I had to struggle to measure up for him. How can you really love someone when you are always looking through them to the person you want them to become? Still, I stayed and ignored all my own red flags until I had grown so acceptant that the breakup hit me like an unexpected car crash.
My head swirled from the accident, and I struggled for the right words to say back to him. I was convinced that only a coldhearted, miserly Scrooge would break up with someone at Christmas, and I poised and email to tell him just that. Before I hit send, I read it to my grandma. Grandma Irene was well known and admired for the fact that she never said an unkind word to anyone. She listened to my email, put down her needlepoint, smiled at me, and said that was not the way I should use my words. No matter how badly he hurt me, she said, I should not strike back. In the midst of my pain–and her own disappointment with the man that caused it, she encouraged me to check the motives of my heart and make godly choices.
Our lives are shaped by the choices we make, the opportunities we take, and the obstacles we shake.
Break ups are especially hard on holidays. Movies, stores, family, and friends all work overtime to find you someone to love and a box with a diamond ring in it for Christmas. But as much as we want to believe that only a Scrooge would break up with us at Christmas, that’s simply not true. There is no good time for a break up. When you know that a break up is inevitable, you just want to get it over with as soon as possible. In fact, it can seem even more cruel to hang onto a relationship through the holidays knowing all along that you want to break up with them. It can come off like you just held onto the person for more presents.
I love presents. Anyone that knows me knows I put a lot of thought into them. I search throughout the year for just the right gifts to buy at just the right deals, and I make handmade gifts too. I enjoy making gifts that surprise people and bring them joy. Most of my Christmases are ready before December ever arrives because I am on this perpetual elf duty. Some people say that holiday break ups happen to save money on gifts, but a break up at Christmas costs me time and money.
Knowing all of this, I still chose to break up a nearly five year relationship at Christmas. I loved the man with all my heart and planned to marry him. He was warm, romantic, and passionate and he loved me purely, the way a woman only dreams of. But for five years I listened to him promise me things and never follow through with them. For five years I watched him live his life in a circle; he was always fighting the same battles and never getting anywhere. I began to wonder if five more years with him wouldn’t just be five more years of circles.
When you love someone enough to plan a home and future with them, you don’t want to let them go. Nevertheless, when you have loved someone that seems to be a waste of your time, you are anxious to end it so you have the chance to find a working relationship elsewhere.
My Thanksgiving Scrooge wasted no time getting back on the market. He went online before the dust settled from our relationship and met another woman. He married and divorced her within a year of dropping me. He reached out to me, thereafter, asking for a second chance. Fresh from the break up, I would have said “yes!” in a minute. Years down the road, I had the insight to see that I didn’t want to be his wife number three. It’s funny how time has a way of bringing such clarity.
We talked for a while as casual friends after that. That was another thing we could not have done fresh out of the break up. When emotions are fresh and raw, talking to an ex just keeps the wound open and alive. You can’t heal and, nine times out of ten, you end up going back to him.
Loneliness creates a powerful hunger in a person. You will convince yourself things weren’t so bad and you’ll take back even the most abusive ex if you think it will save you from the dark abyss of loneliness.
I am old enough now to feel the tick of the biological clock and the fear of loneliness that comes with it. Most of my peers are married with children. Children are having children now before me. I feel dangerously close to spinsterhood in a house full of cats, yet I will not pick up the phone and text my ex or go see him again. As hard as it is to close the door to a man that passionately loved me, I have done it. Now what?
I have a lot of questions for God on this subject. Like much of my life, I felt God had a hand in my relationship. I was committed to working through our issues and getting married. I was committed to being patient with him to change. I was convinced this was what God wanted for me, and yet I couldn’t understand why God would saddle me with a man as disrespectful of my views as Hosea’s prostitute wife. I yelled and screamed at God for giving me a man that so repeatedly disrespected me.
Did you catch that? I loved a man so much that I stayed with him past all good Christian sense. I fought God about him and never once considered that all the warning signs were God’s voice telling me to leave not stay.
There is a thing in Biblical theology called the “revealed will” of God. It means there are things we already know are right and wrong because of the Bible, and we are expected to be obedient to those clear instructions. When we know the truth and don’t do it, we step in clear defiance of that instruction and build barriers around ourselves that block other opportunities from getting through. God’s specific will for our lives in relationships works in connection with the revealed will of His Word. More specifically, God is not going to ask me to stay in a dating relationship with someone that doesn’t honor the same values as I do, nor will he expect me to be patiently dating a man that is not actively pursuing God more than anything else in his life.
A break up is a horrible, heart wrenching thing, but it is also a learning opportunity. Every break up gives us the opportunity to evaluate ourselves, realize our strengths, learn from our weaknesses, and reset our priorities. With a truthful eye, you can evaluate your self and learn what kind of person you truly are. Analyzing the types of people you gravitate towards dating can also reveal your expectations and what you think you are.
I learned a lot about myself from breakups.
I learned I am a strong, beautiful woman with a big heart and patient endurance. I am an optimist, and I believe in what can be far more than what is. I have always doubted the transparency of my value, so I have settled for troubled men believing that they would rise to their potential…eventually. While it is true that people change with time, our love should be for who they are as they are whether or not they ever change. Unfortunately, I have not loved like that. I hope I get the chance to love better in the future.
In the meantime, I am determined to live as happy and fulfilled as I can as a single woman. I will surround myself with friends and family, and I will pursue my God-given purpose and leave it up to God to figure out the husband, house, white picket fence, and 2.5 kids. 😏