Aaron and I just started watching Friday Night Lights on Hulu. It originally aired in 2006 so it's decently old now but it's basically all about a high school football team in Texas. I watched the whole series a couple years ago, but Aaron hadn’t even heard of it so I told him we could watch the first episode to see if he liked it. Fast forward a couple weeks and we’re in season two now and it’s usually Aaron who suggests we turn it on. The best part is the way he has picked up a sporadic southern accent, calls Tim Riggins “Skeeter” for I don’t know what reason, and will now randomly offer up a Riggins-like toast to whatever we’re doing: “Here’s to God, and football, and ten years from now _________.” Fill in the blank with anything. All in a southern accent, of course. I love him.
The other night we were watching the show and if you know it at all, you know that Landry Clarke is desperately in love with Tyra Collette. He has done everything he can think of to prove that he loves her, and while she has sometimes reciprocated, it is a drama series, so it’s mostly unrequited love. If it were reciprocated, viewers would get bored. We love the drama, the uncertainty, the little bit of possible chaos. It’s what keeps us coming back for more.
So Landry is in love with Tyra and one night at a party he’s talking about relationships with another friend, Julie, and Julie has a little conflicted love story of her own but she has decided to give up on hers. To which Landry says, “You don't just give up, though. If you really care about something, you don't just give up. You do whatever it takes." And it took me a fraction of a second to respond out loud to the TV, “That's the dumbest advice I’ve ever heard.”
Here’s why: I used to live on that kind of dating advice. I used to follow all the rules of putting the other person first and not giving up and holding out hope, all in the name of love. I was interested in what they liked. I supported their hobbies. I jumped at the chance to cheer them on because, you guys, you don’t give up when it’s love! And you know what happened? Nothing. I just became the desperate, pathetic girl who thought of dumb things to say in the hopes of eliciting a response – ANY response. “Dude, you were in my dream last night, how weird is that?” I wish I could go back and tell myself to sit down and put my phone away.
But when I had the slightest inkling they were interested in me, I tried to do nice things for the boys I liked – ran errands, bought presents, left surprises for them to find, wrote notes, called, texted, emailed. I tried to keep it breezy, but honestly, it was never breezy. My heart was on the line 100% of the time, and 9 times out of 10 I received little to no response. The text went unanswered, the call unreturned. The gift unacknowledged until I asked about it and then, “Oh yeah, I saw that. Thanks.” Apparently that somehow translated in my mind to, “I love it and I love you.” Hahaha I am the worst.
So this was the entirety of my twenties. If it wasn’t one boy it was another. They offered me just enough of themselves to keep me hanging on and holding out hope, enough for me to think, “When you love someone, you don’t give up on them,” even though everything about the situation was a massive red flag. I wasted time and energy and love and tears on boys who were interested in one thing and it was not my heart.
But the truth is if they don’t love you back, you can’t make them. If they don’t love you, no amount of nice gestures or bending over backwards will make them change their mind. You have to let go of the notion that you are in some kind of romantic comedy or drama series where eventually he’ll come around and notice you. He usually won’t. And if he does, you better make sure he has made a complete 180 in his attitude, his heart, and his life before you ever let him in because otherwise you’ve just re-entered the same cycle.
The book that changed my perspective on dating was The Mingling of Souls by Matt Chandler. It was this book that helped me see I was wasting all of my time on guys who did not like me, did not desire to see me flourish, did not want to see me grow in the Lord and pursue what was good, but rather use me for their own gain, their own ego, their own pride. I know a lot of women who can say the same thing. After putting their whole selves – heart, body, and soul - on the line, they realized his heart was never in it.
In the book, Chandler says, “If you are in a relationship where the other person refuses to acknowledge openly his pursuit of you, delight in you... then you are not really dating. You are being played. You are caught in a game in which your heart is going to lose.”
My heart lost enough to know this is true – enough days and years of my life to tell you that it’s legit. If he’s not openly acknowledging you, delighting in you, shouting from the rooftops that he’s with you, then goodbye. You are not a secret. You are not an option. You are not a side chick. You are not a possibility. You are more precious, more important, more valuable than that. You are not a burden, you are not in the way, you are not a hindrance. You are beautiful and worthy and you do not sell yourself short.
This is your permission slip to cut ties with unrequited love. It’s not sexy or romantic or cute. It thrives on chaos and drama and you are above that. When it comes to love and possibly marriage, you’re looking for steady, reliable, reciprocated, and lasting. You want durable, not dangerous. You want secure and devoted, not distracted. If you’re holding out for someone who is showing minimal interest in you, barely reciprocating, acting like they don’t know you in public but texting you at 11 pm, then you need to remember that there are seven BILLION people in this world and you are better than waiting for that one moron to realize your worth. This is not an episode of Friday Night Lights. This is your life.
Later in the book, Chandler writes,
“Those of you who are pursuing a dating relationship right now, if your attraction has given way to a relationship that’s making you miserable, a relationship that’s emotionally exhausting and spiritually compromised, a relationship that’s a culmination of mixed signals and tears and confusion, I think you ought to get out. If the relationship is wearying, life sucking, or lacks clarity and intention, or if someone is just playing games with you, I would hit the brakes hard. The harsh reality is that behavior in these kinds of relationships doesn’t get better over time; it gets worse. Familiarity will not breed better behavior.”
That might sting a little bit, but it's true. If it starts out bad or goes bad over time to where you’re justifying his/her bad behavior to the people who know you best, I would also advise you to take a step back. Dating should be fun, not confusing! It should be open and honest. He should be available and kind and seeking your best interests. He should want to spend time with you. And listen, I'm not trying to verbally beat up the guys I pursued. I have to believe we're all doing the best we can with what we know and they just didn't know any better. Neither did I and I was part of the problem.
I’m about to step down from this soapbox, but before I do, let me just acknowledge that not all guys are like this. Some girls are like this and that’s a problem of equal proportion. Relationships require reciprocity on both ends. Commitment on both ends. While it might seem romantic for Landry to hang on to Tyra and hold out hopes for her, he’s wasting his time and his life and his heart. Are there times when it works out? Sure. But that’s usually when there’s a writer who is creating fiction for entertainment purposes. One of the reasons I knew it was finally right with Aaron is because he called when he said he would. He responded to my texts. He initiated. He pursued. He was interested and showed it. He asked what I liked or wanted to do and found ways to make it happen. No drama. No confusion. Because while unrequited love might be entertaining in a TV show or a book or make a catchy song (looking at you, Taylor Swift), it's not for your heart.
So start praying against drama. This has been really helpful for me recently in other areas of my life, but it's even more important here. Pray that you would not seek it out or encourage it in your relationships. Ask for eyes to see where you might be allowing chaos to thrive and that you might be able to discern where and how it can be removed. Maybe that means walking away from a relationship. Maybe that means setting the right boundaries before you begin the next one. I know for sure that it means rehearsing the truth about your infinite, eternal worth.
Listen, we're not quitting the show over one comment by Landry Clarke. It's a great show. I love the relationship between Coach Taylor and his wife. There are little truths tucked into the show in some places and humor in others. But I will try to stop taking it so seriously to the point where I write ridiculously long posts about it. I just figured if I believed that lie for so long, someone else might be hanging on to it as well. "When you care about someone, you don't give up," except you do - you walk away when they're treating you like dirt because you are better than that. And I want better for you. I believe better for you. Believe it for yourself.
Oh, and Texas forever.