What makes a healthy dating life? We recently did a video on this topic with a few ideas (see https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dWPLyayko-0). But if you’re asking yourself how to have a healthy dating relationship, there’s a good question to start with:
What makes any relationship healthy? A healthy friendship? A healthy relationship with your parents? With your siblings?
I recently got engaged (whoo hoo!!), and one thing that allowed me and my fiancé to continue moving forward in the dating process was something that we have lost in today’s culture—to put it simply, transparency.
We currently live in a world that is filled with masks. Especially now with social media, we all have the ability to portray images—any image we want in fact—rather than be who we truly are. And the more we rely on our image, the harder it becomes to reveal our true selves (with all of our weakness, brokenness, sin and defects).
There was a time in my life when I was terrified to be transparent—to say what I truly wanted to say, rather than what I thought the other person wanted to hear. To just be myself, whether someone liked and accepted me or not. I remember dating one guy when I was 19, and feeling desperate for his approval. So much so that I would never state my own opinion. I never dared to tell him how I truly felt, or what was really going on inside of me. I never wanted him to see even the tiniest imperfection. I’d wear tons and tons of makeup—because even for him to see just my bare face would have felt too vulnerable.
Not surprisingly, this relationship didn’t last long. Because how can you truly trust someone you can’t even be yourself with? How you have any kind of real intimacy with someone when you refuse to let yourself be seen?
After 5 years of friendship, my fiancé and I walked the Camino de Santiago together this summer. I never expected that we would start dating (much less, get engaged by the end of the year!). But the grace we were given as we walked and walked through Spain (and spent every waking moment together for 9 days) was the gift of transparency.
I don’t know if any of you have ever walked the Camino, but it’s an experience that involves quite a bit of discomfort. My fiancé and I were exhausted and sweaty in front of each other as we walked 15-20 miles a day through the desert. We were in a foreign country and knew no one, so we really only had each other to talk with (for hours on end).
I remember one moment, a couple days into our trip. He was giving me a hard time about something. (I was offended at the time, but later found out that he was just trying to flirt!) Yet in that moment, I had two choices: stuff it and pretend like nothing was wrong; or be honest about how I felt.
I took a risk and told him that I was a little hurt. I felt embarrassed to be so honest (especially about something so insignificant), but it was the beginning of a deeper vulnerability between us.
This kind of honesty and practice of vulnerability doesn’t just start in romantic relationships, however. The reason I have been able to be totally transparent with my fiancé (about my true wounds, fears, struggles, and insecurities, as well as my joys and successes) is because I practiced being totally honest with my friends and family first—even when it was difficult.
When Maria, Christine and I lived together, I told them if I was hurt by something; if I was struggling with something; if I was afraid, or had a past wound resurfacing that I needed to share about. And this practice of transparency I took into my relationship with my fiancé—and it has made all the difference.
Letting ourselves be seen as we are can be a very uncomfortable thing, but it’s one of the first things, I believe, that makes a healthy dating relationship… and a healthy life.