When I was a teenager, I met a girl at my high school who completely broke my heart. After six months of dating, I was sure we’d spend the rest of our lives together. I’d told her that I loved her, I’d shared everything about myself with her, and she’d shared deep things about her family and her past that convinced me that I was special. On top of that, we were already having sex. The relationship seemed, to my young mind, to be the end of my long search for companionship and intimacy.
I know as you’re reading this you can see the writing on the wall, but I sure couldn’t – and just like millions of teenagers before me, and millions of teenagers after me, I experienced a sudden, excruciatingly painful, breakup.
“So what?” you’re saying, “Big deal. Break-ups happen.” You’re saying, “That’s how you eventually find Mr. or Mrs. right… it’s just part of the process.” Okay, okay, that would be fine, except for one thing: The mental and emotional damage that occurs from broken intimacy is sometimes irreparable, personality altering, conscience searing, trust shattering, self-image distorting, and in some cases it can lead to destructive behaviors such as substance abuse and suicide. Here’s a shocking fact; you don’t have to have any prior mental or emotional instability for a breakup to completely crush your heart. All you really need is to make your relationship with your boyfriend or girlfriend the most intimate relationship in your life. This is where we begin our talk about dominoes and heartstrings.
- Introducing the dominos
We’ve all seen domino rallies, where someone has taken the time to set up thousands of dominoes, only an inch apart, with the intention of causing a chain reaction that topples them all. Honestly, it’s a pretty amazing thing to watch. At first glance it looks like an impossible task to set them all up. But when a domino rally’s being constructed there’s a safeguard. The designers place barriers every so often so that if they accidentally hit a domino, the whole thing doesn’t fall down ahead of schedule. In this illustration, the dominos are intimacy, and the barriers are commitment.
In a relationship, intimacy can be caused by just about anything. Touch, knowledge, time, secrets, promises, kissing, sex, and even struggle. This is why it’s so hard to break up with someone that’s bad for you. It’s because of intimacy. As intimacy grows, it can literally hold two people together that have no business being a couple. Now, let’s see what it takes to get the dominos falling.
Example A: Two strangers are standing just a few feet apart, gazing out at a scenic city from the same balcony railing. One smiles at the other and the other returns the smile. Unbeknownst to both of them, a domino just fell down. You see, attraction yearns for intimacy, and intimacy can begin subtly… and with these two, attraction is definitely there. So the guy asks the girl a simple question. He says, “Hey, I have to leave. You look like someone I’d like to know. Can I get your number?” and… the dominoes stop falling. Why? Because the girl has a barrier in place. She’s already decided not to give her phone number out to strangers.
Again, the barriers that stop the dominoes from falling ahead of schedule are commitment. In our example, the girl needed a certain level of commitment from the guy before she could offer him something as intimate as permission to push a few buttons and enter her life whenever he wants. Before she can lift that commitment barrier, she needs to know that she can somewhat trust him and that he’s not a psycho. Since there wasn’t time to find that out, she didn’t give him her number. Trust is just one of many healthy commitment barriers such as, respect, friendship, patience, accountability, willingness to grow, engagement, and ultimately marriage.
Example A continued: “I don’t give out my number to strangers,” she says, with a flirty smile. “But if you want to meet me here Wednesday at the same time, we can talk over coffee.” He agrees to meet her there Wednesday and they both leave. Okay, one more domino fell, but that’s it. They’ll be meeting in a public space. There’s some waiting involved for the attraction to possibly wear off. She didn’t give him her number because she didn’t know him. But he did seem interested, so she’s thinking, let’s see how interested.
Now, if the guy doesn’t show up Wednesday, is the girl heartbroken? Absolutely not. But say they’d talked on the phone for a few days and she was really looking forward to seeing him. She went to the meet-up spot and he didn’t show. Then, she called him and found out her number had been blocked. Would she be heartbroken? Maybe.
2. Introducing the heart strings
Whenever intimacy between two people occurs, a heart string is stretched around their hearts. More intimacy… more heart strings. So, what happened to the guy and girl when that domino fell by the balcony, and that heart string wrapped around their hearts? What happened to the string in the scenario where they didn’t talk, and guy never showed up? “SNAP!” A shrug of the shoulders from the girl, a sigh, and an “Oh, well,” might have been the worst of it. But how would she have fared in the scenario where she’d built a lot of intimacy over the phone and then got her number blocked? “SNAAAAAAAAAP!” More intimacy = more heart strings. More heart strings = a bigger snap. A bigger snap = more heartbreak.
Example B: Now, let’s see what happens if we put a more positive spin on the story. What if the girl came back Wednesday, the guy showed up too, and after spending an hour together she deducted that he absolutely wasn’t a psycho. In fact, what if they found out they had a lot in common and even knew a few of the same people. After enjoying his company for a while is she able to fully trust him yet? No, probably not. But is she able to remove the commitment barrier that kept her from giving him her number? Probably.
Let’s continue. Say they see each other at least once a week, and over time, trust, respect for boundaries, and friendship become firmly established between them. That’s three big commitment barriers that have just been removed from the domino rally. Is it safe to turn up the intimacy? Is it safe for them to begin sharing vulnerabilities, thoughts for the future, and maybe even hugging and kissing? Is there still a danger of heartbreak? Well, they’ve already established trust. They know that they aren’t playing games with each other, and that they’ll be up front and honest with each other if something comes up. Since respect has been established, they don’t have to worry about having their boundaries pushed by one another or being treated insensitively. Since they’ve established friendship, they have something valuable to protect that’s totally separate from their physical attraction to one another. You know, it might just be alright to turn up the intimacy a little. But remember, intimacy is like a domino rally, and once they start falling, without any commitment barriers, those dominos are on a race to the finish.
By this point you’re probably wondering what the end of the domino rally symbolizes. Well, the last domino of intimacy is none other than sex. Let’s look at sex a bit… well, at least let’s look at it figuratively. It’s a sad truth that in American culture, sex has been reduced from something sacred and symbolic to something casual and carnal. It’s been exploited by advertising, trivialized by the porn industry, and turned into a sport by free dating sites and night clubs. But in stark contrast to our day and age, in biblical times, sex was solely synonymous with marriage. As a matter of fact, in ancient Israel, the act of sex was the actual consummation of the marriage, not the wedding ceremony. In the moment that a man and woman joined themselves physical, they were also joined for life before God. As they became one physically, so they also became one in every other way. This is a far cry from what sex has become in most circles today. But regardless of what sex has become, it’s still the predominant force that pulls men and women together, and the inevitable end and pursuit of intimacy.
Now, back to our couple; with all the commitment they’ve been able to establish, maybe saying, “I really like you,” and holding hands is finally safe. Still, that’s an awful lot of heart ties. Hmm. But think about it; since there’s commitment, respect, trust, friendship, and even accountability with others, an eventual break up might not feel like the end of the world. It might not even mean the end of their relationship. This outcome is not only healthy, it’s possible.
Example C: Now, here’s a different scenario. What if a guy finds a girl… a different guy. He thinks she’s pretty and starts talking to her. He begins to share all kinds of deep things about himself and she does the same. He tells her he wants to be with her forever and she responds with a similar sentiment. They start making out whenever they can. Rrrrrrrt! Hold up. Where’s their intimacy level? Where’s their commitment level? Huge commitments have been spoken of, but nothing has been established.
So, they’re making out one day and he tells her he loves her. She says she loves him too, and that one day she sees them having a family together. So, all this happens after only two weeks of being together. The dominoes are flying by. There’s no commitment barriers to stop them. Heart strings are getting piled on, one after the other, pulling their hearts tight, with all the promises, and all the physical allowances… then, the dominoes reach the end of the rally and they have sex. They become one.
Two weeks later, the girl seems bored on the phone. “What’s wrong?” the guy asks.
“I don’t know. I’m just not happy,” she says.
“We’ll, what can I do to make you happy?” he asks.
“Nothing,” she says. A long pause ensues, as the guy’s heart strings tear to shreds.
“But I love you,” he says, with tears running down his face.
He can hear her crying on the other line. “I just can’t,” are her last words, and the line goes dead. Their two hearts are ripped apart and all their heart strings are painfully ripped apart also.
What’s the takeaway? God never designed you and I to go through this stuff. God didn’t create us to be heartache proof. That’s why it hurts. In fact, God designed us, first of all, to be in a close relationship with Him. It’s because He knows He’s promised to always love us, to never leave us, and to never forsake us. The Bible describes God as a loving father that will never break our hearts.
Maybe you’ve had your heart broken. Maybe you’re heart’s broken right now, and what I’ve been saying has been painfully accurate. Let this short amount of time be a time of learning and accepting facts about relationships that are bigger than us, and how we feel things should be. Relationships aren’t an idea mankind came up with. They’re something designed by God, to work a certain way in order to minimize heartbreak. When you’re not paying attention to the dominos and the heart strings in a relationships you will get your heart broken… and when that happens, one of three things will likely occur.
- You’ll harden your heart – Moving forward, you’ll keep your relationships shallow in order to limit emotional intimacy, thereby saving yourself from further heartbreak.
- You’ll embark on a desperate search for love – Unable to fully recover from your last heartbreak, you’ll rush into intimacy in an attempt to bandage your wounds.
- You’ll pay close attention to the dominoes and the heartstrings next time you enter a relationship. In addition, no matter what happens, you wont ever let intimacy pass your commitment barriers again.
Here’s an example of how you can apply what you’ve learned: Trust must be established before sharing anything personal. Respect must be established before spending extended amounts of time together. Friendship must be established before depending on them for anything. Accountability with others must be established before you share your feelings or introduce physical touch. Boundaries and escape clauses must be agreed on before entering into courtship or serious dating. Engagement with a ring must transpire before saying those three powerful words, “I love you,” or “you’re the one”… and marriage must take place before sex. The dominoes end at the honeymoon hotel. Nowhere else. No heartbreak, no regrets, no problem.
The method I’ve proposed here is old school, I know. But it corresponds better to the way our hearts were designed than will any contemporary advice on how people should get together. In my book, if you’re in a relationship, or desire to be in one, let the lesson of the dominoes and heartstrings be your guide and mantra, “always put commitment before intimacy, always put commitment before intimacy.”
- If you found this post interesting and would like to book me for a speaking engagement on this topic with a full media presentation, you can contact me through the email at the bottom of the page.
- If you would like to explore more of my views on relationships, promiscuity, and fidelity in marriage, I address them as topics in my newest novel Enhanced, which can be purchased by clicking the link below. God bless. https://www.amazon.com/Enhanced-Sci-fi-Thriller-J-S-Hudson-ebook/dp/B082KBJ2ZB