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Ghosting Your Friends for Love: Is It Worth It? Bela Lemon & Reagan Fillinger

with Bela Lemon, Reagan Fillinger | March 29, 2024
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Can you keep real affection for your bf/gf without ghosting a friend? Balancing loyalty gets tricky. Bela Lemon & Reagon Fillinger share tips to keep your ride-or-die while still getting that date night!

  • Show Notes

  • About the Host

  • About the Guest

  • Shelby Abbott

    Shelby Abbott is an author, campus minister, and conference speaker on staff with the ministry of Cru. His passion for university students has led him to speak at college campuses all over the United States. Abbott is the author of Jacked and I Am a Tool (To Help with Your Dating Life), Pressure Points: A Guide to Navigating Student Stress and DoubtLess: Because Faith is Hard. He and his wife, Rachael, have two daughters and live in Downingtown, Pennsylvania.

Can you keep real affection for your bf/gf without ghosting a friend? Balancing loyalty gets tricky. Bela Lemon & Reagon Fillinger share tips to keep your ride-or-die while still getting that date night!

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Ghosting Your Friends for Love: Is It Worth It? Bela Lemon & Reagan Fillinger

With Bela Lemon, Reagan Fillinger
March 29, 2024
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Reagan: I'm so different from when I was eighteen years old. I was just talking about this with my sister, because we were talking about high school relationships, dating, and I was like, I could not still be dating my high school boyfriend. Where I was, in my faith in high school is so different now. So, I can't imagine being in that relationship that, like, started when I was seventeen years old. Like, I'm just such a different person, and I think that the same is true of those friendships.

Shelby: Somewhat anxious, always authentic. This is Real Life Loading...

I'm Shelby Abbott, and I'm here again with the very easy to talk with Reagan Fillinger and Bela Lemon, best friends and both college students at George Mason University in Northern Virginia. So, this is actually part two of my time with them together. Last episode, we talked about a ton of stuff, including dating and breakups and how speaking the truth in love toward one another at the same time being rooted in Christ, actually makes for their friendship to be a better one. It makes it more unique and more important to one another. So, you're going to love this today too as we dive in with the topic of sacrificing your friends on the altar of romance. What does that mean? Well, you're about to find out. It's a good one. So let's get going.

One of the things that I'm glad that my wife and I did when we were dating, because I was a [Cru®] staff member, she was a student. We started dating when she was a sophomore. It was scandalous. I was like seven years older than her. I was like—

Reagan & Bela: --Ooh!

Shelby: --seven years older than her. Yes, I was like this single staff guy in my late twenties, and she was nineteen at the time. But anybody who knew me and her, they'd be like, “Well, she is more mature than him.”

Reagan: Yes, true.

Bela: Yes that's fair.

Shelby: She has always been that way. But, one of the things that I was really intentional about with her is communicating that, “Hey, just because we're dating, doesn't mean I'm going to take you away from your friends.”

Reagan: Oh, absolutely, yes.

Shelby: I really, really wanted her to experience, even after we got engaged - which was the summer after her junior year, so she had a whole senior year of being engaged to me. We were doing wedding planning and all that kind of stuff, but I was like, I am not going to hog you every weekend. I am not going to come over to your apartment, or your (she lived in a house) house every single night. I want you to be with your friends. I want you to spend time with women, because you're never going to have this again. You're never going to have an opportunity to live in a house with like other women and laugh and be silly and eat junk food and watch stupid movies and be silly with one another. I don't want to steal that from you.

Now, we did spend plenty of time together, it wasn't that, but like, we tried to be intentional about having a balance there. And that's something that you guys have with one another that sometimes, depending on how the situation goes romantically, if a boy comes into the situation, it can kind of throw a wrench into that system. It doesn't seem like you guys have that type of personality that would fall victim to that kind of mentality. Would you say that's true? I know you're kind of maybe predicting the future.

Bela: I would, simply, simply because in my last relationship that I was in, sometimes when I was like, hanging out with my ex, I would be like, I really wish I was with the girls right now. [Laughter] Like, only because like it's, it's true. You're only really have this time in your life once to be young and in college and have those really special friendships. It was so much to the point where I think Reagan literally said, “It's okay to like prioritize spending time with your boyfriend.”

Like, sometimes, like, at the time, and I was like, Okay! I felt so bad. But I also, because I've been in another relationship where it was so all consuming, that me and him only spent time with each other -which, if anything like this recent breakup I've been through, has also thrown me back into processing other relationship breakups that I might not have fully processed in the past either.

The Lord has me in this space of processing the recent one, which, you know, thank the Lord so much, I've come so far in it. But then also processing past relationships that I just don't think I was old enough or mature enough to fully process either. So, it's been a lot of okay, I need to take accountability for a lot of the things that I also did to contribute to the darkness that kind of like crept into those other relationships as well, instead of solely I think sometimes it's really easy to solely put the blame on the other person and be like they did this, this, this.

The Lord has kind of had to humble me a little bit and be like, “Hey don't forget that you also did this, this, this,” you know. And it's like, “Yes know what, Lord, you're so right.” I need to sit with this and please reveal to me things that I did that were unhealthy and also unfair to the person I was in a relationship with at the time, and also unfair to even my friends. And that was one of the things that, in one of my relationships, I just kind of didn't. That was a long relationship too. It was like over a year, and I just didn't really make a lot of time for my friends. When I did, I was like, “I miss him,” and “I just want to be with him.” I think we just had some unhealthy rules regarding the time that we spent together.

So, it's definitely something moving forward - that finding that balance of like, you of course spending time with the person that you're dating, but also [with] my friends [who] are so crucial and important to the person that I am today. It would be so cruel of me to just not even have them be a part of my life.

Shelby: Don't sacrifice your friends on the altar of romance.

Bela: Yes, yes.

Shelby: It’s something I've said before. Of course, you want to spend time with your boyfriend or girlfriend. Of course you do. But a lot of that kind of stuff can be really avoided too, if you're intentional about communication with the person you're dating.

Bela: Oh yes.

Shelby: If you are, “Hey listen, just because I want to spend time with my friends doesn't mean I don't like you.” And again, some people need to hear that because they're insecure or whatever. I needed to hear that I think. That was one of the things that was unique about my time dating my wife, as opposed to other people that I dated. We just talked about stuff, and then we acted on what we said. We didn't play games. We didn't like manipulate.

Reagan & Bela: Right.

Shelby: We said, “This is what we're going to do.” And then we actually did it. I was like, I was never wondering, and it wastes so much time wondering about those kind of things. When you talk about things and have healthy communication with one another, and then you actually follow through with the things that you talk about. Then that builds trust.

Then People don't wonder, like, “Oh my gosh, like, do they like me anymore?” Because there was a girl I dated when I was in college, I was like, literally every day I would think, “Does she like me today?” Because she's acting like this, and she's not responding to this. And then like, then she would be really like, lovey-dovey the next day, and I'd be like, “Oh, she likes me today.”

I'm like, looking back on it now, I'm just like, what a horrible relationship that was. It was so horrible. Like, if we would have just talked about stuff. But I mean, you learn through failure.

Bela: Absolutely yes.

Shelby: So, I appreciate you being vulnerable about that.

Yes, guys are obviously good friends. What do you think the difference is between a good friend and a great friend, can you give me some characteristics?

Reagan: I think one thing for me that I've found was a lot of my friends growing up weren't believers. I had friends at church, but my closest friends in the inner circle weren't. And some of them are still some of my best friends, and they still aren't [believers].

There's just such a difference in my relationships with my friends who are also living with Christ. I have some people in my life who are not hostile towards Christianity. But, if you're not living for the Lord, if you're living for self, like even if like you're still like a super moral person, there's just still like a difference and it outpours into your relationships.

And so, I think that there's just like a depth to my friendships, especially with like Dylan and Bela and some of the girls, that I keep in touch with throughout the year. Where I've never ever experienced that intimate of like fellowship with other believers before.

Shelby: Yes.

Reagan: Where it's like, it's not, that's not all we talk about, there's plenty of other things, like doing life together. And I know like they're constantly going to be pointing me back to Christ. And so, it's like they see me and know me in a much deeper way than any other friendships I've experienced, because like they're looking at me with Christ at the center.

Shelby: Yes, that's really, it's really beautiful that you have that. I have found that the people that I am closest with right now, whether that be geographically, or even they live two states away, I communicate with them, and they are people who point me to the goodness of Jesus. They actually believe the stuff that we talk about, you know, that we give verbal assent to in a Bible study or a church service or a large group Christian meeting. They actually apply it to their daily lives and that is different than nominal Christianity like in name only. And I found that a lot of “Christians” live a nominally Christian lifestyle. Their life does not look any different than the average person out there. Maybe they don't cuss as much, and maybe they know what they're supposed to do, when it comes to like moral lines that they can't cross. But in general, a lot of people would claim to be followers of Jesus, and the gospel does not affect their daily lives.

But when you get around people, like Bela, and Reagan, and some of your other friends, who actually believe this kind of stuff, and they believe that it not just applies like in the large frame of like, yes I want to do what the Lord calls me to do, but like genuinely affects the way you think about, how am I going to spend my time? What am I going to be thinking about? How am I going to respond to that person that cuts me off in traffic?

There's a difference between good friends and great friends. Great friends are ones that believe - I have a great friend who believes, and he taught me this - that the gospel isn't just an entrance and an exit.

A lot of Christians live their life. It's like, “Oh, the gospel that's for non Christians to walk through a doorway to become a Christian.” And then when they die, then they need the gospel to get into heaven as it, like a passport to get in. But that middle section, “Eh, just live your life, you know, be a Christian, be as moral as possible.”

Well, Galatians three has something to say about that. Like, “You idiots, like, why are you living like this?” [Paraphrased] is what Paul basically says. It's like the gospel is for every moment in between. If you can apply the gospel to your lives and surround yourself with people who want you to apply the gospel to your lives, that's the difference between a good friend and a great friend.

Those great friends will wound you, like what you're saying. Those great friends will care about you. They will cry with you. They will point you in the right direction. They will sit with you when things are hard. And I love that you guys have that. It's just so necessary. I don't know, it's so necessary and it's so rare. Do you guys know how rare this is? You guys are like, gems.

Reagan: Thank you.

There was one night, we were sitting in the car with Dylan, and I think we all were crying. I was like, I just have never felt so seen and understood before. I really think it is because it's they're not trying to see me and understand me, but like looking through, because they're seeking after Christ first. Then that's like happening and Dylan was like, no. Like she was like there's something just so like special about this that I've never experienced.

Bela: I truly feel like I could like approach both of them and be like, “Hey, I've messed up here, or this is what I'm going through.” I would fear them not being in my life anymore, simply because of say, like I messed up, or whatever. Because they're viewing, again, viewing me, and I view them through the lens of the gospel and through Christ and not through the world. The world is so quick to be like, “Oh, cut him off.”

Shelby: Yes, yes, for sure.
Bela: Like people give up on relationships and friendships so easily these days to where they're not willing to be like, is this person like repeating bad behavior that's harmful to me, or is it just a bad moment? And they're just having like a hard time, and they need some of God’s grace.

Shelby: Those are very different things.

Bela: They are very different, they're very different things.

So, I don't know, it's a very comforting and freeing feeling, but also, it's very edifying. It definitely, like, it's a different level of comfort in a friendship when you feel like, no matter what you're walking through, no matter what you've done, they still see you and they love you the way that Christ would.

Reagan: Very, like unconditional, versus, like a lot of previous friendships and relationships that I was in were very conditional. And so, even at the beginning of our friendship, there were times when there was conflict, because of struggling with anxiety and situations. And I was like, “I'm not them.” I was like, “Okay, but I'm not used to this. This is weird. Like you're supposed to have conditions and terms for our friendship.

Shelby: Yes. And you need friends like her, who's going to rewrite the script for you. They're going to rewrite things. Then I would hope, because of your connection that like twenty years from now you guys are still involved in one another's lives.

Bela: Oh, yes. [Laughter]

Shelby: Yes, if you guys buy a house next to each other that would be awesome. But like I was on a call this morning with one of my best friends. In fact, my wife asked me, “Who are your best friends for the new year?” You ask a bunch of new questions, and she asked me this question, “Who are your best friends?”

And I said, “Gabe and Brian.” Gabe lives here in town; he goes to my church. He does ministry at my church; and Brian lives down in Norfolk, Virginia. I only see him like once a month when we have a call together, but I feel like they're my best friends. Because I see one all the time in person, and I see one from a distance. I can be one hundred percent honest with him, one hundred percent myself, and he loves Jesus. That’s he common denominator between Gabe and Brian is that they both absolutely are passionately in love with the Savior. It just bleeds out from them. It pours over into me all the time. And I love Jesus as well, and we all kind of encourage one another.

My desire one day is to get all three of us in one room, because they don't know each other. Like I want to get us in a room at one point and just see what happens.

Reagan: That would be so fun.

Shelby: Yes, but I love that like you guys have this, and truth be told I do still keep in touch with people who I was In college with who love Jesus. Because of technology we could do that. You guys seem to be a little bit of a horse of a different color. You could live next to one another in your forties, that would be amazing.

Reagan: We could. That would be awesome.

Bela: I just sent her a reel, and it's like these two houses. They're joined together by a porch, and I was like, let's live here. I said, “Except your house will probably be bigger, and mine will probably be smaller, because I'm probably going to be poor.” But if I'm married and I have kids, it doesn't really matter.

Shelby: You guys are near the tail end of your college experience.

Reagan and Bela: [Cheering] I know, finally!

Shelby: Awesome. What kind of, like, maybe friendship advice do you think you could give to the eighteen or nineteen year old who's listening?

Reagan: Your friends from the first week of college are not going to still be your friends and that's okay. So true.

Shelby: You answered that really fast.

Bela: I was going to say the same thing. I was literally going to say the same thing. It happened to me. I was like, these are lifelong best friends, and then in like two months they're like nowhere to be found. [Laughter]

Reagan: Yes.

Shelby: Yes. Okay. Why? Why is that? Why is that? What happens?

Reagan: I think just, I'm so different from when I was eighteen years old. Like, I was just talking about this with my sister, because we were talking about high school relationships, and like dating. I was like, I could not still be dating my high school boyfriend. Like, I know we both have changed and grown, but like, where I was in my faith in high school is so different now. So, I can't imagine being in that relationship that like, started when I was like, seventeen years old. I'm just such a different person.

And I think that's, the same is true of those friendships. Actually, like, so some of my friends that I made, I like thought, I was like, this is my friend group. This is it. And I don't talk to like any of them now. And then my friends, I ended up like, I was friends with them my first two years of college, I think I'm still friends with like four of them. We'll check in occasionally and wish each other happy birthday sometimes.

And like one of my friends, Bela and I just went to Tennessee last spring semester to visit one of my friends from my first two years of college. We stayed at her house and like she and I are still really close, but we got close my second year of college.

Shelby: Yes.

Reagan: But like I think we saw like maybe one or two of my friends that I was friends with since Freshman year. But, it's one of those things where it's like there's no like ill will towards them. But like we have all just like changed.

Shelby: Chosen different paths.

Reagan: We're just in different places in life. I think one of them is in Maryland, now one of them is in Tennessee. I love to check in and like I love for us to catch up. But I think like we just have all like grown up and they're not my best, best friends now, and that's okay. They still hold a special place in my heart. You're going to change from when you're eighteen to when typically, you're graduating, when you're what, like twenty-two.

Bela: Yes.
Reagan: Like, you're going to be different, and that's okay if your friends change with that. It doesn't have to be a falling out, or, like cutting them off. But things ebb and flow.

Shelby: Yes, that's good. Yes, that's healthy.

Bela: Mm- hmm. I think, if I were to give any advice, and I was just writing about this the other day, just in my daily journal time. Like, again, as I reflect on my college years and just like life, that sometimes it's really beautiful how temporary some things are.

There is a certain level of excitement in the fact that yes, these people that you meet in your first week of college or first even year of college, you might not still be friends by the time you graduate. But like that's okay and to not settle for bad company just because you're lonely. It's so much better to be alone, and even not have any people you kind of call your close friends, than it is to be around bad company that are going to like to pull you into it.

Shelby: Make you compromise and stuff.

Bela: Yes, because I kind of found myself in that similar situation my freshman year.

Shelby: Very interesting, very interesting to say that—

Bela: --Worth the wait.--

Shelby: --because a lot of people wouldn't go, no I just rather would be with people and do stupid stuff. I did that. I mean my freshman year, I was hanging around guys in my dorm, and I was like we're doing stuff that I would never ordinarily do. But I never thought I'd rather just be by myself, not compromising, than be with other people.

Bela: Absolutely.

Shelby: It's an interesting insight into the human heart, that we would much rather be in community that stinks, than lonely and righteous.

Bela: Yes.

Shelby: What does that say about us?

Bela: It goes against every fiber of our human nature, because we're such communal creatures, you know like we desire.

Shelby: And it’s a good thing. Community is good, I’m writing about it now.

Bela: Yes, it’s so good.

Shelby: Loneliness is awful, it's horrible.

Bela: It’s terrible.

Shelby: It really is bad, and we need people, but we need the right people. That’s really good insight.

Bela: Absolutely, and just because it's taking some time doesn't mean that it's not going to happen. It will happen. You just sometimes have to weather those storms of kind of those lonely periods. I don't really have a large group or a large community right now that I feel like is healthy for me, or pushing me towards Christ, but it will come. And sometimes it also just takes seeking it.

Shelby: Yes, got to get out there and go find people be proactive about it. It's not just going to come to you. But, like you said, it's a storm, you can weather it. It will not stick around forever. There was even seasons too like, you know, I've been out of college for a long, long, time, but like I remember two years ago I was at a conference with a bunch of other Cru staff and someone goes how are things going at home? What's your friendship life like?

I was like, “I don't really have any friends,” and I was like, that sucks. This is really sad. I felt really bad stupid. I felt really lame. I found out later on my wife was intentionally praying for me that I would get some friends. [Laughter]

Reagan & Bela: I like your wife. I love her. She seems great.

Shelby: She's pretty amazing. My pastor told me yesterday morning, I was talking about, well, everybody knows that, like, there's an unequal balance when it comes to me and my wife, Rachel. And he goes, “Oh yes, everybody would make the comparison, and see you and your wife and go, “Yes, how did that miracle happen?” [Laughter] I was like both insulted and complimented at the same time, but I was like, yes, I'll take it.

Bela: That’s so funny.

Shelby: Sure. Why not? I married up. But she, she was praying for me for I think like almost two years that I would get good friends. Then all of a sudden, my friend Gabe, became it just kind of became this like amazing friend of mine. He loves the Lord, and he's one of those guys that always we can talk about stand up comedy. We could talk about sports. We could talk about silly memes and gifs that we see online. We could talk about tons of different stuff.

But the primary thread through our conversation is the gospel, and it's always going to come back to that. We're always going to push one another toward that. We're going to be vulnerable about how much we suck and how much we need to change. And we're also going to push each other towards Jesus. I'm so glad that I waited for that kind of good friend, and that I didn't settle for a friend that was just going to, you know. At my age, it's like guys just sit around and they like drink beer, and they like waste their night away. I'm not interested in that. That's not what I'm interested in. So, I'm glad. It's really good advice, very insightful.

Well, one of the things that I did not experience in college, the way that you guys are experiencing things, is the element of technology. And social media in particular. Because just, social media changes so much. I mean, BeReal [app] didn't exist two years ago?

Bela: Yes, yes.

Shelby: It wasn't even around. Snapchat is new, TikTok is new, relatively new in the grand scheme of things. It wasn't really around when I was your age. So how has technology impacted your friendship with one another, or has it?

Bela: Okay, well, honestly, like, when we first started becoming close, I don't even think Reagan had Instagram at the time. I think we communicated sometimes on Snapchat and would send each other funny videos or photos and like that, that was it.

So, I don't think it's had a negative effect on our friendship by any means. If anything, it's fun to like to send like reals or memes to each other, like on Instagram.

Shelby: It's a way of, like, connecting and communicating.

Bela: Yes, again, I think it's all about how you use it. But yes, I think it's, it's been what it's, was kind of designed to do for us, is like, it's just like a fun way to communicate, I think.

Reagan: We both have also taken breaks from, like, various social media platforms.

Shelby: Oh, like I'm going to be off of Instagram for like two months or whatever? Just totally like wipe it, and then start fresh?

Reagan: Well okay, I had Instagram, all throughout, I think, like for my junior year of high school I had it, and then I was like, I am sick of this.

I was like, you know what? I think that this is like, contributing to a lot of like, I'm comparing myself and like putting others down. It was kind of starting to like impact my like, how I was viewing my body. And I was like, okay, no I don't want to create any like harmful habits from this because of like this girl's body looks like this and mine looks like this.

So, then I completely like, I didn't just deactivate, I like deleted my account because I was like, I don't want it anymore. I had a Finsta because that was like the thing to do in high school. Then that just became my like main Instagram account again.

Shelby: The Finsta one?

Bela: Yes. Yes.

Shelby: Okay.

Reagan: Yes. So now I'll just go through periods of deactivating it. And like I'll stay up. Because I just like, I don't know, I get to a place where I'm like, there, like, it's not even like, Oh, like, I'm feeling bad about me. It's like, “That girl, like X, Y, and Z,” and I'm just being super judgmental and I'm like, okay, this is not life giving.

Bela: Yes, absolutely.

Shelby: So, it can positively impact your friendship because you can communicate humor or like you communicate quickly with one another, which is great. But then it could also be, it's the, it's a classic, like, Oh, I need to like make a note on my phone to remind me to do this. And then when you get your phone, there's like a bunch of things, like notices, and you get totally distracted and you go down a rabbit hole and it makes you feel horrible about yourself. Like all I was trying to do was make a yes, so there's like a positive and a negative to it It's two sides of one coin.

What I what I do like is your awareness of it. That like social media or even like a just a phone in general - it's a tool. You can use a hammer to like build a house or you can use a hammer to like break a window and steal stuff from a store. It's all in how you use it. If you think about social media or technology as a tool, like I'm going to use this for the betterment of my communication, for the betterment of my relationship with my friends, for the betterment of my relationship with God. I'm going to use this to spread the gospel to people. That's a totally different perspective than I'm going to let it use me, which is often what we let social media do. It just uses us.

I started with this, and I want to end with this. I sincerely appreciate both of you. Not only have you given me the opportunity to come into your lives and ask you some really vulnerable questions, and you've been vulnerable back with me. I think that's something that any person can listen to and go, well, if they can do it, I can do it.

You seem accessible in ways that make it hopeful for people to walk with Jesus despite the issues that they're going through and the struggles that they wrestle with. I love seeing beautiful examples of people who are friends, who walk with Jesus that I'm like, that's different. That's unique. I think we need more examples of it and you guys are leading the charge by doing that. I just want to say thank you. I'm really grateful for both of you sincerely really, really grateful. Thank you for being with me.

Reagan: Thank you.

Bela: Thank you.

Shelby: I loved having Bela and Reagan on together for a couple of episodes. I actually interviewed both of them individually, too, earlier this year. So, if you want to listen to those conversations, be sure to scroll back in the podcast feed and look for Reagan Fillinger and Bela Lemon.

If you liked this episode of Real Life Loading, or you thought it was helpful, I'd love for you to share today's podcast with a friend, or maybe even a dog, or perhaps a family member.

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I'm Shelby Abbott, and I'll see you back next time on Real Life Loading...

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