I had the awesome opportunity to have a candid conversation with Christian Influencer Jennifer Trotter about the single life. From dating in church, to situationships, to dating as a curvy woman, to the interesting world of online dating- we talked about it all. Honestly, you guys this was a tough one to write- it really needed to be a podcast episode! However, here we are- I tried to get it all in. If you already follow Jenn online then you know that you’re in for a treat.
But first, a little bit more about Jennifer Trotter….
Jennifer Trotter is a popular Christian Influencer and lifestyle enthusiast. Those of us who follow her social media platforms enjoy her honest, and often times humorous, perspective on dating as a Christian millennial. With a B.A. in Sociology from Morgan State University, and her current graduate level studies in clinical counseling at Trinity Washington University- who better to chat with about social and human behaviors in the dating world than Jenn! She is also the founder of Pretty Peculiar, an organization which empowers women to be confident and whole. Little Miss Peculiar, a cohort within this organization empowers young girls in the same manner. As Jenn says, “sisterhood is a God thing”. She and Cheston Green also created Single, Saved and Social, an organization that “brings young Christian singles together in a room outside of the sanctuary”. She is also the Director of Singles for Mark Moore Jr. 's highly acclaimed Young Leaders Conference.
Now to our conversation.
Which resonates with you more-Valentine’s Day or Singleness Awareness Day?
It can be whatever you make it. For singles, Valentine’s Day can be very daunting because the enemy tries to use that holiday to isolate us and remind us of what we don’t have or remind us that we aren’t in the place we want to be in. I don’t hate Valentine’s Day because when I was with someone I had really good experiences with Valentine’s Day. So it doesn’t make me angry or bitter or anything like that. I think we can use that holiday to really celebrate love.
Now the reality is that if you are single, you don’t need a Singleness Awareness Day because you already know that you are single. [laughs] Unless you’ve been talking to somebody and they don’t do right by you so now you’re like, “I’m single single”- then it may be a Singleness Awareness Day. [laughs] Sometimes Valentine’s Day is the day of judgement for some people. [laughs] Sometimes you think that this has been the one. You all have been kicking it and they’re like “naw we ain’t that close”-sometimes you get surprised. But for me Valentine’s Day is Valentine’s Day.
Between this past Thanksgiving and the New Year, it seems like Lottie, Dottie and e’rybody got engaged, married or had pregnancy announcements. How do you avoid the pity party with Etta James, Adele and a pint of Ben and Jerry's ice cream?
Be proactive. If you know something is coming and that you feel some type of way about it, get yourself in a position where you are not wallowing and feeling sorry for yourself. It’s okay to feel, it’s okay to be angry and be disappointed, but don’t wallow in those feelings. Be honest too. If you can’t handle social media on February 14th- don’t torture yourself and scroll- take the day off from it. It’s okay.
Godly friendships are important too. This is the time when you should be able to go to your safe place and tell your friends how you feel. You can go out with your friends if you don't want to be alone then. If you don’t want to do that have a “pamper me day” or stay in and watch Netflix. Create something to do. A couple of years ago I started celebrating love. I did a contest called She’s Pretty Loved through Pretty Peculiar and I popped up at houses with flowers and balloons. There were smiles and tears. It’s special to let someone know that they’re thought of.
Nobody can make you insecure about something you’re already confident about.
What’s the best thing about being single?
For me- it’s the freedom. Now I’m very candid about my desire to be married, but I’m very clear that singles are not desperate and we’re not settling. But being able to get up and go where I want to go and do what I want to do without having to weigh someone else’s opinion is really key for me. As single women, I don't think we always realize how much access we have to life right now in our singleness.
In 2018 me and my home girl went to Italy. She works for a university and she was like, “Hey it’s our spring break. I’m going to Italy and I want you to come with me." I was like- “Oh alright. Let’s do it." And in 3 weeks we did it. If I had a husband, if I had children- and this is not taking away from anyone’s experience- but I would have to say “Hey, can we do this? Is this okay?” Like I have a whole life and things that I have to do. I think we miss that part. I’m going to Africa this year on missions. If I had a family- that is a family conversation. That’s not just a Jenn situation. So I think the freedom is the best part.
Singles always get questions like "When are you going to get married?” or “You're so wonderful! Why are you still single?" How do you handle it? Grin and bear it or petty clap backs?
I think the most important thing for singles to know is that nothing is wrong with you because you’re single. You’re not broken. I think we have to be confident and okay with our portion. When you are confident it exudes and it shines to other people. With those questions I just let people know where I am. “I’m good. I’m just not married right now.” I put my timeline back on God. Everything about me belongs to God. So I don’t get real deep and spooky, but I’m just like” I’m cool right now.” You can kind of joke it off, but I also redirect it to what I have going on now. You don’t have to list your resume, but to redirect the conversation. Nobody can make you insecure about something you’re already confident about. Nobody can do that. If you’re confident in where you are and where God has you, those questions don’t sting as much as they used to.
I’d rather you ghost me than ruin me.
SITUATIONSHIPS: What are they and how do you avoid them?
A situationship is a relationship that has blurred lines. There’s no commitment that’s been established. It’s kind of like we’re dating, we have an understanding, but there’s no destination in view-we’re kind of just going with the flow. But our hearts can become connected and if we’re not careful it can get real messy.
I believe in being honest with your partner or whoever you’re dealing with. That honesty has to require boundaries and expectations. I think that we shy away from “the talk”, but “the talk” doesn’t have to be daunting. You kind of know when there’s a rhythm that’s happening. So I would say once the rhythm starts to happen, there should be a conversation. If you stop talking to other people and no longer want to give your number out- that’s a good time. Or even early on just a conversation saying what are you looking for.
God is not careless with our hearts so we shouldn’t be either. If God has a specific plan for our lives we should have plans in our relationships. Now that doesn’t mean that it has to be “Oh you’re my husband”. That can be the man or woman saying that they’re not ready for a relationship right now and that’s okay. Situationships occur when we don't listen to what the other person says. If a person says “I’m not ready”, believe them. Don’t create a relationship in your mind if the person has said this is not a relationship. You need to live in a place where you’re not in a relationship in your heart and in your mind with this person. They’re not ready so don’t give them relationship commitment and don’t give them relationship expectations. Again, situationships are blurred lines and to clear those blurred lines you need real conversations about expectations and boundaries.
GHOSTING: How do you move past it?
With ghosting you don’t have closure. You don’t really know what happened. It’s like, "Yo-you really stopped talking to me? Was it my tone? Was it something I said? Was it my attitude?” If for some reason you have been ghosted you have to be honest about how you feel and really pray it off of you.
That’s why I talk about confidence so much. If you really know that you are the bomb, that you’re a bomb friend, then somebody walking out of your life is a disadvantage to them. You literally missed out on the opportunity of a lifetime to be connected to me. And that sounds so like, “What? I can’t believe she really said that”, but when you really dig into your worth everybody that’s not connected to you- that’s okay.
We often pray to God, "If this person isn’t for me, close the door. " We pray for that a lot. We have to be okay with closed doors. Closed doors will save your life. I’d rather you ghost me than ruin me. I’d rather you walk up out of my life than me trying to get the pieces together after you’ve played over me for three or four years. So be okay with the closed doors. Bye. God bless you.
If the core of you is not convinced about you- then none of it matters.
Va-Va- Voom: The dating world for curvy women.
Girl! This journey is crazy. So it’s twofold. Sometimes you have the people that are plus-size lovers and you want to make sure that you’re not a fetish because that can get a little creepy. [laughs] Curves are so popular now. All of the plus-size movements and people like Lizzo- people are embracing the plus-size community in a real way. So you want to make sure that the person loves you and not just your body. You want to make sure the person loves your personality and the woman of God you were called to be and not just a figment of their imagination of you.
I also think that because the plus-size community and women especially have been shamed it’s taken us a long time to embrace our bodies, our curves, all of our voluptuousness and sometimes we either settle because we don’t think we’re good enough for the men we desire or we have a hard time in presenting ourselves in the dating world in a confident manner. So I think that all of it again just boils down to your self-worth and being comfortable in your body.
One of the questions I got a while ago was, “Do men date plus-size women? Do they like us?” My response was the reality is some people love us in private. Like people will say oh I don’t date plus-size girls, but they’re in every plus-sized female’s inbox. They’ll Netflix and chill with us, but they don’t really want us to be on their arm. Like that’s a real thing. But the confidence you should have in yourself is- “Why wouldn’t you want to date me? I am amazing.” I got a little extra, but I know how to carry this extra. People are amazed at my confidence, but I tell people the Lord has brought me too far for me to dumb myself down or think small anymore.
The reality is that some of us probably could lose weight. We probably could lose a couple of pounds, but if you're not confident in yourself then none of it matters. We all-not just the plus-size community-but we all have things that we may not like about our bodies or things that we could improve on, but if the core of you is not convinced about you- then none of it matters. You have to know that you’re good on the inside.
Online Dating: To try or not try?
I have done it. I absolutely love online dating. I think that as believers we have to be careful about the images that we project out there. We have to be clear about our purpose on there. I don't believe it’s for everyone. Online dating takes a lot of discipline and self-awareness because online dating gives you a lot of access that you may not ordinarily have in your day to day. So number one can you handle all of this attention that you’re getting? Are you presenting your true self? You’re not just posting pictures from 15 years ago because you're not comfortable with your looks right now- that’s a lie. You’re a liar. [laughs]. Are you making sure that you’re being safe? If you decide to meet someone do you have an accountability partner? Do people know where you are? Is somebody in close proximity while you’re meeting these people?
Also, I feel like Facebook, Instagram, Twitter are also modes of online dating that we don't really recognize. Facebook and other platforms allow you to see the friends that you have in common and that can make it [online dating] a little bit more comfortable- you can ask questions about that person and stuff like that to get to know them behind the scenes.
I think that in 2020 online dating is definitely a thing.
Once we are enjoying life and enjoying God, then love will hit us with a surprise and a delight.
Take it to Church
Here we discuss popular dating topics and relationship dynamics among Christian singles.
God does not look at relationship status as this lateral promotion.
What's the problem?
I think that we have an unhealthy perspective of Christian dating because it was something that wasn't taught for the most part. We were taught, keep your legs closed, don’t have sex before marriage and then boom you get married. That's pretty much it so the in between is not something that we’ve been privy to. Which is not necessarily the church’s fault because dating is a cultural practice-it’s not a Biblical principle. There’s no dating in the Bible. So I think that dating in the church becomes difficult because there’s no blueprint. The Bible does of course give us scriptures on how to conduct ourselves in a holy manner and I think that dating in the church can be tricky, but I think that we have to make it okay. If you like somebody or if someone finds you attractive, it’s okay to get to know them in a healthy and holy manner.
We also need accountability. We need a healthy community of singles. We have a lot of women who are open about desiring marriage, but don’t really have that population of men present with us that we can talk about that with or opportunities for mixing and mingling. There are no real settings or events besides conventions, Bible studies, or meeting someone who is a friend of a friend of a friend, where we can really get to know people in a casual space- hence Single, Saved and Social and the things that I do.
The Big Myth
We have this myth- and we won't say it out loud, but we have this myth that Christian singles are desperate, or they are broken or they’re still trying to be complete before they get married. Wholeness is not a destination, it is a process and we are all processing our different journeys.
I think that because of those myths we have this pressure that “I have to get myself together." Yes there are things that you do to prepare for marriage, but marriage is not a reward for good behavior. God does not look at relationship status as this lateral promotion.
Sometimes we get our heart broken because we put it in incapable hands.
The Temptation to Settle
I’m at a place in my life where God is doing too much for me to settle and be slowed down by anyone. Settling is me being deterred from the purpose and the plan and the destiny that God has for me. Sometimes we have believe this myth that it’s better to have somebody than nobody. Having somebody that’s not the person that God has for you could delay you -especially women. When women of God get married, we're literally saying you are approved to lead me. We're literally saying that I’m going to drop my name and take on your name. I’m going to multiply your bloodline. That is not something that should be taken lightly. My waiting would be a waste if I settled. Knowing what God has created you to do is worth more than temporary satisfaction.
Standards vs. Being picky
Preferences are okay, but I think that sometimes we put more rules than even God said. [laughs] So what’s your non-negotiables and what can you bend on?
Guarding your heart vs. Emotional walls
I think discernment is really key. I try to be as practical as possible. But I know because we have a relationship with God- God will give us the clearance and he will give us the red flags. The Holy Spirit should be our very best friend and He will let us know who to let in, who's okay and who to stay away from. Sometimes we get our heart broken because we put it in incapable hands. I also think that you first have to be honest about where you are and the condition of your heart. When you know where you are you refuse to allow people to take you to places you don’t want to go.
Being found vs. Being invisible
I think that when we say being found- some of us are in a cave. We don’t do anything and we don’t go anywhere. Go out and live. Break the routine. If you’re young and God has given you the ability to go to work and make a little bit of money- treat yourself. Go on a vacation. Go do something that you would like to do and I truly believe that once we are enjoying life and enjoying God then love will hit us with a surprise and a delight. Also, I'm not demonizing introverts, but whatever living life in a holy manner looks like to you-do that. When you do that you will not be invisible.
Interested vs. Clingy
My theory is, I throw out some bait and if you catch it- then we rolling. I’m not going to dangle it in front of you. I’m not going to do these back flips to let you know that I’m here and available. I know how to give you a nice smile. I know how to engage in conversation with you. And its up to you to take it further. You are being clingy when you’re latching onto something that doesn’t want to grab hold of you. If you find yourself chasing after someone, doing things to get their attention and they're not reciprocating that in any way-then you’re being clingy. It’s actually borderline desperation.
I’ve learned to actively listen. Meaning, when I’m talking to someone I don’t listen just to give my response. I'll listen to hear their hearts, and you really learn a lot about a person if you stop interrupting and just let them talk. Active listening makes room for good and effective communication. I’m also learning in my dating experience what I like and don’t like. I'm learning that every good guy isn't my guy. He could be amazing and have all of these great qualities and still not be for me and that’s okay. That doesn't mean that there’s anything wrong with either one of us. It just means that we aren’t compatible and mature Christians are okay with that.
I hope you all enjoyed our discussion. To my singles- live, laugh, love and dance like no one is watching. Happy Valentine's Day!
You can keep up with Jenn on the following websites and social media platforms:
IG @LadyInspiration https://www.instagram.com/ladyinspiration/