It’s a new year, so naturally we’re all reflecting. During one of these reflections, I was talking to a friend of mine about the many many situationships that I had tortured myself (and my friends) through, in university. As usual, we spoke about how dodgy the guys were (and dodgy they were – from a guy making me an unknowing side chick, to being dribbled – we’ve seen it all). This time however, unlike just going down our usual tropes, I wanted to reflect on my complicity in these situationships. I am almost 30 now and feel that I should be able to reflect on the silly decisions made in my 20’s with a healthy ability to self-critique, allow God’s word to correct me and humbly ask the Lord to change me.
An ambiguous encounter where there are aspects of relationshiping without any clarity around the future or level of commitment involved. It’s a nice way to superficially get a companion without the cost of companionship.
Below, I reflect on a few of the reasons why I allowed myself to be complicit in ending up in situationships.
1. Letting the fear of not being chosen make me entertain anything that came along
To say the guys I got into situationships with were not really what I was looking for would be an understatement of the year (yes yes, I know 2021 just started). I deliberately downplayed my convictions about Godliness, intentionality and maturity in order to appease my desire to feel wanted. Yes, there I said it. I hope I have freed you enough for you to admit similar feelings you’ve had about yourself – Marianne Williamson said “And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others“, so you’ve been given permission, be liberated!
I remember telling a very good friend of mine at the time about a guy I liked and how we were “vibing”. She was one of those strange people who seriously relationshiped through our university days, and therefore sounded 50 when it came to relationships, so I took her seriously. She advised me to let the guy “pursue me” and to not be afraid to have a period of “holding hands” until I was sure about the guy. “Holding hands?!”. Ha! What a joke! I was already planning my future with this man, building castles in my head that we’d live in 30 years from now (here is a sober and poetic reflection on that situation: https://storyofmybecoming.wordpress.com/2014/02/18/make-believe/). The idea of having to “slow down my rate of catching feelings”, and to backtrack from the situationship felt impossible, so I didn’t. But also because I didn’t want to. I was enjoying playing make-believe too much to dial it back. Now as a 30 year-old, I can with shamefacedness admit that to some extent, I wanted the situation I was in. Sure, I didn’t want to stay in a pseudo-relationship but I was willing to play along with the hope that in the end, he would “pick me, choose me, love me.”
2. Setting a timeline for when I should be at certain milestones in life
When I was studying, I didn’t really suffer from the pressure of feeling like I “should be” in a serious relationship. As mentioned above, I think the challenge of wanting to feel desirable was more prominent. When I started working however, and started having friends getting married or getting into serious relationships, I got to a point where I thought I “should” be at least in one of those. Some of my single friends felt it too, so our conversations were filled with chats about finding the right gents. The blunder here was the lowering of standards towards the guys that pursued us that I saw in myself and in others. Sure, the ideals we spoke about were lofty and certainly not lowered, but the situationships we got into didn’t match the ideals. We let our abstract and random timelines/ expectations lead to some unsavoury situations.
3. Conflating having grapples with certain aspects of my faith, with having grapples with all of my faith
So I had a lengthy period of disillusionment with my faith in my mid 20s. While I was going through this crisis of faith, I took the opportunity to also “do all the things I was usually inhibited by my faith to do”. Ha!. Naturally, I ended up in a situationship with some gent who had no affinity to the faith. I remember consciously choosing this situationship as my moment of “choosing happiness”, while feeling none of that happiness I professed. He was nothing like the man I wanted to end up with, and did not do my grapples any favours – his preference was philosophy not religion (lol at the false dichotomy. Alas). My moment of clarity came when I realised that sure, my faith was in crisis regarding certain things but what I wanted in a man was definitely not one of those things. In my hiccups with certain aspects of my faith, I had decided that EVERYTHING I had believed was in crisis – it was not.
I think my biggest lessons from my situationships is personal responsibility and accountability. I have found that being in a good church with people that hold me accountable, having Godly friends that I can be transparent with has been such a treasure in finally properly relationshiping. As the 30 year old with years and years and years of wisdom that I am (not), I also think looking at the complicity from my side in these situations has helped in reframing these encounters not only as “what was done to me” but “what I should’ve set boundaries against”. This framing makes me more in control of how I respond to similar scenarios going forward that I may have previously been complicit in.