Everything happens online nowadays — even dating. You don’t even need to be physically present to break up and make up. The illusion of safety that online interactions offer has perpetuated a culture of emotional detachment in dating.
We play the game: We don’t want to reply right away lest we come across as being too keen. Desperate. So to make ourselves appear more enigmatic, we pretend to be busy and end up waiting 3 hours before we reply.
Or worse still, when we’ve decided we’re no longer interested in the other person, we end up not replying at all and without any explanation whatsoever. This is otherwise known as ghosting.
Some of you may even know that ghosting has a new sister that goes by the name zombieing, which is when someone who’s ghosted you suddenly pops back into your life.
Harmless dating terms? But by making light of commitment, we’re effectively legitimatising irresponsibility in dating.
Why are we giving ourselves the licence to remain emotionally unavailable, especially when it comes to something as precious and sacred as our hearts?
By remaining detached, we don’t need to care if someone’s feelings get hurt in the process, since it “wasn’t anything serious” in the first place. You can’t hold someone accountable for something they’re not responsible for.
In essence, emotional unavailability is self-serving behaviour. Everything’s in it for the emotionally unavailable, but the other party has everything to lose.
The one who has been set up for failure ends up wondering what they did wrong; they obsess over what they could have done better or differently. They start sizing themselves up, wondering if they’ll ever be good enough.
I didn’t want to be vulnerable again so I put my walls up and remained detached from the people I dated. But I was setting myself up for failure.
After being cheated of a potential shot at love, they end up blaming themselves for their perceived unlovability — when the problem lies with the other person, who didn’t know how/want to love others the right and honest way.
But you know what? I get it. It is a precarious business – extending someone your heart, vulnerably bare, knowing there’s the possibility of having it ripped open or mishandled. Better to protect yourself, right?
After an unpleasant experience with someone who was emotionally unavailable, I ended up convincing myself that adopting the same detached attitude would help save me from further heartbreaks. So for a while after that, I got caught up in the push-and-pulls of dating — the game, as they call it. I found it intriguing; it felt like a dance.
I didn’t want to be vulnerable again so I put my walls up and remained detached from the people I dated.
But even though I enjoyed getting to know people, I was still scarred from my previous experience, so I made sure to remain the least emotionally invested one. I liked knowing that I could walk away whenever I wanted to.
Was this plan foolproof? No. Actually, I was setting myself up for failure — I started out wanting to be the aloof one for a change, but my personality — naturally curious about people — wouldn’t allow me to stay disconnected for long.
All the plans I made to not be emotionally invested never worked out — and my unmet desire for emotional intimacy would leave me to nurse a broken heart all over again. And for the few unfortunate guys who’d try to win my affection, my aloofness would only serve to hurt them the same way I’ve been hurt.
It was all just a vicious cycle. Hurt people hurting people.
We need to start taking responsibility for our actions, especially in relationships. We don’t need to play the games so common in today’s dating culture.
We need to do better; we must be honest with ourselves and with the people who come into our lives. In this age of self-indulgence, we have to be all the more countercultural, to love others like Christ loves us. This applies in all realms, which would include our pursuit of romantic love.
Maybe you’re struggling to trust people and you don’t want to risk getting hurt again; ask God to restore what has been broken. Ask Him for a renewed heart, that you might learn to love without walls around your heart.
In this age of self-indulgence, we have to be all the more countercultural, to love others like Christ loves us.
We shouldn’t shortchange ourselves and others of healthy, uplifting love. We need to be available with our emotions, to be able to love without baggage or reservations.
Yes, your heart is precious, and worth protecting – but so is everyone else’s. Yes, you have been hurt before – which is all the more reason you shouldn’t do it to another.
The Bible doesn’t have much to say about dating, it’s true. But it has a lot to say about marriage, primarily in the parallel of Jesus’ dedication and patience as the bridegroom to us, the bride. At the heart of it, marriage/dating is about a relationship that points everyone – those in the coupling, as well as everyone looking on – to the goodness of God.
Are we acting in a manner that testifies to the love we live out of?