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Over the years, I’ve heard (and given) a lot of advice on how to navigate the dating waters. I think the piece of advice that has stuck with me the most was shared a few months ago from the pulpit. Bro. Drummer, in his usual fashion, had somehow taken a detour to talk about relationships, and was sharing a piece of advice he had given to his son. He said that he told his son never to take anything from a girl that he couldn’t give her back if the relationship didn’t work out. Hmm…

I sat thinking about this for a while, especially in light of my book (queue the *she’s talking about her non-existent book again?! groans) and my current relationship. Even being as intentional as I have been about not dating until I was “ready” to be married and not dating anyone who wasn’t “marriage material” for me, there’s no protection from being wrong about someone or it not working out. The reality is you may break up. Breaking up is hard to do, but there are things you can do to lessen the blow.

Taking nothing you can’t give back is integral to my approach to dating in theory. Of course, there are always things you can’t really give back. For example, I won’t be repaying all the money Mr. Perfect spent on food, parking and gas during our nearly five years together. I’m equally positive I wouldn’t see a return on all of the meals I’ve cooked for the two of us either. But the really important things, the things that create such soul ties to one another, haven’t been exchanged.

There’s a decided lack of chemical bonding due to lack of a sexual component to our relationship. We don’t have a child together. We haven’t purchased any property together. I haven’t even made that scrapbook of our relationship yet (which I’ve been threatened to complete and given a deadline on, LOL)!

But you know, there are a few things that you can’t give back that you can’t prevent giving or receiving. For example, memories and experiences. A LOT of memories have been created the past…four years and nine months (o_O). We have shared a lot of laughs, discovered shared loves of a lot of things, served at church events together, taken a trip or two together. We’ve met a lot of each other’s family members and spent time bonding with them. I can’t give back my love for Grandmother Perfect or the time we explored an old battleship in Mobile. Those are mine to keep.

Relationships are an investment, and every investment has a risk factor, however tiny. It’s one of the things we must evaluate and pray about as we begin to imbark on them, in every relationship area of our lives. I’ve had some pretty painful break ups with friends–people that I’ve trusted, shared secrets with, thought were in my corner. It can be difficult to emotionally recover from having your trust violated, or having your vision of forever meet up with a hard reality.

In any case, I think this piece of advice is valid. The one who makes the concrete commitment of marriage should be able to receive certain gifts, gifts that can only truly be given once. This necessitates an examination of our motives and ultimate goals that “seeing where it goes” does not. I like the thought of being heart whole and happy again one day soon after a break up, eventually being able to smile about the memories and not be a bitter fruit on the tree.

What’s the best dating/relationship advice you’ve received?