Some Thoughts on the “Blank Space” Dating Mentality (A Song Review…Kind Of)

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I am not at all ashamed to admit that there is a soft spot in my heart for Taylor Swift. Many a drive has been spent rocking out to her albums, and more than one of my teenage heartaches once found a balm in her lyrics.

These days, my appreciation for Miss Swift has less to do with my personally being able to relate to her lyrics about heartache, and more to do with the joyful confidence that exudes from my nieces when I get to see them rocking out to Shake It Off.

However, every time I hear the song Blank Space on the radio, my heart breaks a little. The lyrics are so relatable for so many in that stage in life when they are searching for “the one,” so in a sense I get it. In fact maybe my heart breaks partially because I’ve been there. I know that longing, I know that heartache. I know it can feel like a never-ending cycle.

But I also know now that it doesn’t have to.

The song is all about that willingness to put yourself out there despite past heartache. Swift sings in the song’s refrain:

“I’ve got a long list of ex-lovers, they’ll tell you I’m insane/
But I’ve got a blank space, Baby, and I’ll write your name.”

Apart from the rest of the lyrics and outside of the melancholic melody of the song, these words almost sound like a dare coming from someone who treats love and dating as if it were just a game. In fact, at another point early in the song she actually says, “Love’s a game, wanna play?” However, anyone who has actually listened to the whole song can tell you, Blank Space isn’t meant to be the happy refrain of someone who is content playing the field. Rather, it’s the jaded defense mechanism of all of us who have ever bought into the false promises associated with chasing “the one.”

“You can tell me when it’s over if the high was worth the pain”

I’m not picking on Taylor Swift. I actually like the song and am glad she wrote it. And its popularity attests to the fact that so many of us can relate—and so many of us are sick of it.

The problem with the Blank Space mindset is that it has a false premise. It assumes that your only two options in soul mate-searching are “forever” or “down in flames.” When faced with the latter, we are presented with the choice to become closed off and bitter, or to continue to be open in the hopes that the next one who comes along may actually be “the one.”  We justify putting ourselves on this merry-go-round by hoping desperately that any and all heartache or pain will be worth it once we finally find our happily ever after.

For what it’s worth, to anyone still caught on the merry-go-round, I’d like to offer another way. “Putting yourself out there” does not have to be synonymous with “giving yourself away.”  And not giving yourself away to everyone you date doesn’t have to mean becoming closed off and bitter.

I’m not promising that you’ll escape all heartbreak, nor that you won’t encounter pain.  But there is a way to avoid those feelings of emptiness, being utterly lost, or broken.  It’s called chastity, and it’s more than just not having sex.

2337 Chastity means the successful integration of sexuality within the person and thus the inner unity of man in his bodily and spiritual being. Sexuality, in which man’s belonging to the bodily and biological world is expressed, becomes personal and truly human when it is integrated into the relationship of one person to another, in the complete and lifelong mutual gift of a man and a woman.

2338 The chaste person maintains the integrity of the powers of life and love placed in him. This integrity ensures the unity of the person; it is opposed to any behavior that would impair it. It tolerates neither a double life nor duplicity in speech.

(Catechism of the Catholic Church)

Chastity means admitting that love isn’t a game and dating isn’t merely for fun.  (Dating can and should be fun, but “fun” isn’t the end goal.)  The chaste person agrees with the Blank Space mentality insofar as admitting that real love must involve an utterly terrifying, and completely vulnerable, total gift of self.  The difference is that the chaste person waits to do so until forever is promised— not with empty words, but with a lifelong commitment.

One of the first blog posts I ever wrote explains the way that I wish I had approached dating in my Blank Space days.  It’s still among my most visited posts on this site, so check it out if you’re looking for tips on how to get off that merry-go-round.  😉

I’ll be praying for you!

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