Breaking Up Is Hard To Do

Post Author: Amy S.M.

A year ago I was dealing with all of these questions and more. A handsome, compassionate, and intriguing man started sporadically attending the church I serve and immediately, I took notice. Now, cute fellows have come into our sanctuary doors before but nothing sparked. This guy was different. The first Sunday he attended, he was adorable in his awkward flirting with me at the door and I couldn’t help but feel that pull.

After several months of friendly invitations to do things with the other young adults (he was new to town, after all!) and his more overt signals that he was interested in me (dropping by my house with a “church question,” baking me bread, etc.), we finally established that yes, we did in fact want to try dating. I believe the exact exchange after our last “friend” outing went like this: Him: “Is this a date?” Me: “It can be if you don’t join my church.” Him: (laughing) “Oh, I won’t join your church.”

The next morning I told the other pastor (who happened to be the former best friend of my new guy’s father – another story in and of itself), and proceeded to fall in love while everyone at church looked on.

Then, as relationships do, ours hit a bump. And then it fell apart. He wasn’t in the best place to do a serious relationship and wisely (which I can say now) ended things. The day after we broke up was the church’s Wednesday night dinner and Bible study  – which he would have come to – as well as an evening worship service, which I would normally lead.

I barely made it through dinner and Bible study(“Where’s the boyfriend, Amy?” got really old). I had the other pastor step in for the evening’s worship service; I knew I wouldn’t make it through a contemplative prayer service in my emotional state. For the next week or so I was seriously moping; friends hosted a love letter burning party to help me out of my funk! Having your heart crushed is never easy, but the pain didn’t last forever. Time passed, my heart healed, and I started dating again.

My congregation, however, has taken a little longer to adjust to the break-up. As you might imagine, the ex-boyfriend hasn’t been around since we ended things. Going into our relationship, we both understood that was a possibility. During the break-up conversation itself, I made it clear that his instincts were right: he would not be coming back to church. I didn’t feel too bad: he had seriously been thinking about finding a church that fit his theology better and besides, you break the preacher’s heart, you don’t get to come back seems a pretty decent rule to me.

While we both understood that his time at my church had come to an end, my parishioners were quite a bit slower on the uptake. It’s amazing to me how integral my personal life had become in conversations parishioners had with me. I never noticed that just about everyone asked after “that nice young man.” The immediate weeks following our break-up, it seemed everywhere I turned someone wanted to know how he was, where he was (he’s a wildfire fighter so his absence was often interpreted as being job-related), or – my favorite – if I thought he’d be interested in joining X,Y,Z activity at the church.

Having to tell people over and over again that we weren’t dating was challenging enough, but their reactions didn’t help matters. It’s like having over 100 grandmothers to disappoint. More often than not, when I diplomatically told members, “We aren’t seeing each other anymore,” and tried to leave it at that, I got a question similar to, “Oh Amy, why’d you let him go?” Given that he initiated the break-up, the assumption of that question (that I ended it) was flattering and frustrating at the same time. I tried to respond graciously (not airing out any dirty laundry) and ignore the looks (or actual words) that said, “Oh, that’s just too bad.”

But again, time passes and eventually people stopped asking after him every Sunday. Still, when you have a church of over 500 members, it’s not all that unusual, I suppose, that people still haven’t gotten the memo. We haven’t been dating for half a year now and still, I get people asking me, “Whatever
happened to that nice-looking young man?” It doesn’t hurt anymore to tell people he’s no longer in my life, but it sure does get annoying. And then there are the members who still ask after him, even though they know we broke up. Though he and I have been long done and resolved, I don’t think they’re all quite over him.

The moral of my story? Well, it isn’t don’t date in your congregation. No matter the frustrations, while it was good, that relationship was really good. I learned a lot about myself and my own ability to love from it. What I would say is that any future boyfriend I meet outside the church will be highly discouraged to start attending on any regular basis. Maybe he can come once and see what I do, but that’s it until we’re
serious enough to be talking the big M. And if I ever do meet someone again with whom I seriously spark within the church walls, not only will I make it clear that we can’t date if he is a member, but I’ll highly encourage him to check out all the other wonderful churches in the area. I’ll even make a list.

Image by: LunarSeaArt
Used with permission
2 replies
  1. mary g
    mary g says:

    thoughtful and honest. I don’t know many who’ve been brave enough to try that.
    It’s hard to establish and maintain the personal/professional boundary in the parish.
    Congratulations on your effort. Let’s hope that the congregation learned through your shared experience as well.


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