Wednesday, 15 December 2010

Auntie Seraphic & Cutting the Cord

When people think you're dating each other, but you're not, it's not cute. It's sad.

Dear Auntie Seraphic,

Your posts "Treated Like a Yo-Yo", and "Right Now Just Friends Man" really hit home.

I have been "friends" with a Nice Catholic Boy for longer than I would care to admit. By reading your posts, I have come to realize that as much as it deeply deeply hurts, it is time to say goodbye to the NCB. We text, call, and email almost everyday. Most people think we are dating, but we are not, and it has gone on all too long.

I know that I need to say goodbye to the NCB, but I also don't want to be rude and just drop off the face of the planet and not return his calls, emails, or texts. Like you said in your post, the "NCB wasn't wicked". He has actually been there at some of the most trying moments, I do deeply value his friendship, and all that I have learned in our friendship. He has been a good friend, even a great friend.

Once or twice I have thought of writing him a letter explaining that I need to step back and not have contact so he understands but have never followed through. So, all-wise Auntie, what is an NCG to do? How do I cut the cord without coming off as cutting and cold?

Most sincerely,

Cutting the Cord

Dear Cutting the Cord,

You might as well go for broke. He's your boyfriend in all but name and (I assume) kissing anyway, so this may call for one, go-for-broke, betting the rent money on one roll of the dice verbal question from you, which could be "So, want to be my boyfriend?" or "I was thinking of us getting married a year from June, what do you think?"

Normally I would never suggest this, but you are stuck in a total friend zone, thanks to all the daily phone calls, texts and emails.

If you're going to go down--and it looks like you're willing to crash-land the plane--you might as well go down in a blaze of glory. Obviously don't do this if your NCB is a priest or seminarian. But, frankly, if you two are such great friends--and you love him--why aren't you getting married? At least bring up the issue. That way, if it doesn't go the Hollywood way, and if you really never do want to talk to him again, he will definitely know why it's over. Anything is better than the slow death of love.

Yes, I am advocating The Talk. The Talk should not be dramatic or surprising or involve cupcakes with hearts on them as I saw quite horribly done on a British TV program about internet dating. It should merely be something like "We're such great friends; why aren't we more than friends?" (If he says, "Do you want to be more than friends?" Say "Yes." It's been more than a year; either he does or he doesn't. Time to find out.)

This should lead to an important conversation that might be painful, but might also bear a lot of fruit. If the outcome is that (for whatever reason) your friend wants to stay "just friends", you can gently tell him that, as much as you care for him, you need some emotional space so that you can find a husband. Be that blatant. Every woman called to marriage deserves a husband and shouldn't be impeded by less committed men from being available to real, honest-to-God suitors.

As I don't know if there are other women in his life, I have no reason to think he might be gay. However, I have to say that this is certainly one explanation of why a man might have such a close relationship with a woman without ever making a move. In the Catholic world, especially, such men are so terrified of rejection and isolation that they might take a very long time indeed before outing themselves, as one NCB eventually did to one of my letter-writers. If you have a sneaking feeling that this might be the case, I recommend reading "Always Our Children" by the American bishops.

The worst thing to do is to just try to starve the friendship to death. In your case, I really think it is time for The Talk. And I would say the same thing for a woman who has been dating the same man for a year without his ever mentioning marriage. One year, boyfriend or crush, is enough time to spend on a man who has no marriage intentions.

One last word about male-female buddy-buddy relationships. It's too late for you now in this case, but I think there is a real danger of falling in love with the wrong man when a woman's best pal is that man. Male-female friendships can be great, but I am very suspicious of buddy-buddy ones that don't soon blossom into romance.

I very much hope this is helpful. As a reader, you've been added to my Sunday prayer list.

Grace and peace,

AND NOW: a special treat!

Dear Auntie Seraphic,

I just wanted to write to you and say thank you. I finally got up the courage to have "the Talk" with the NCB. The NCB was shocked to learn of my feelings although he has since admitted that he realizes he has been leading me on for quite some time. He found it quite shocking that I would want to step away from our friendship to guard my heart. I had to laugh. Hearing him say this helped me to understand how much I have been torturing myself. I am so peaceful now that I have been able to step away. We haven't had any contact.

Also, I should let you know that no sooner did I say goodbye to NCB then a GCM (GREAT Catholic Man) magically appeared in my life. While it has been a short time I have not met a man with more purpose, character, and chivalry than GCM. He has pursued me and made his intentions very clear.

I have you to thank, Auntie, for this new adventure. Had I not said goodbye to NCB I would have missed out on GCM! Thank you for reminding me not to settle and to have faith and hope that there are great Catholic men out there.

Cut the Cord


Jen D said...

How wonderful! Great advice, Seraphic; and way to be courageous, CtC! :)

Clare C said...

Auntie, I have a question for you:
Do you think any close male friend distracts you from suitors, even if you are very publicly just friends/have been pals since age 13)or do you think the problem arises mainly if you start developing romantic feelings for your man friends?

Seraphic Spouse said...

No. I think this should be judged on a concrete, case-by-case basis. It depends on the specific girl, the specific guy and their circumstances. If all around you think you are dating, you have a problem. If your close guy friend has a wife, girlfriend or is dating up a storm, you probably don't have a problem.

I am utterly opposed to snuggly we-are-just-friends-but-we-cannot-go-a-day-without-seeing-each-other boy-girl relationships in general. In my opinion, a girl's best friend should be another girl. Otherwise, why aren't you married to the man?

I also believe that it is a bad idea when a young priest or seminarian is THE most important man in a woman's life, either before or just after her father.

Personally, I don't have close male friends. I have a husband, father, brothers, nephews, male editors, male mentors, priests, male colleagues, male former classmates, male pals of my youth, and male chums of my present, to whom I relate on an intellectual level, and the occasional protege. Oh, and then there's the husbands of my friends, and the friends of my husband.

I like them all, appreciate that many of them are handsome (without getting squirrelly about it) and consider myself enriched by knowing them.

That adds up to a lot of men friends, actually, but I don't feel a need for emotional intimacy with any of them except my husband and occasionally my brothers. If I feel a need to discuss my feelings, I usually restrict them to women friends, my husband or whichever poor priest whose attention I can grab.

VERY rarely do I ever sit and listen to man talk about HIS feelings, although I would if I were paid to do it and I read letters from male readers with interest. Of course I listen to B.A., since I am his wife and that is my vocation. I have happily listened to my brothers emote, and if my father ever did, I would listen to him too.

Julie said...

Ooh, it *is* a special treat.

dark but fair said...

HURRAY! Hurray for CTC and Seraphic! Great post!

Nameless for this post said...

Auntie, this is sound advice that I should have read years ago. I am equally stuck in a friend zone for almost six years now. We are not in the throes of youth, but rather 40-somethings and both with annulled marriages. We first became friends with me married and him discerning the priesthood. He got rejected (well told to "wait" and we will see). I then (not because of him) I left an unhealthy civil marriage. Friendship deepened with dinners, church stuff and talking and texting. However he was still focused on waiting to reapply to the seminary.

Last year he got rejected again (told to wait so they could get to know him better, huh??). Anyway he chose to wait. He has applied again and with the change in bishop and vocations director, he thinks this could be his shot.

I chose to continue to be his friend but have been working at detachment. I no longer call, text or suggest doing things together. He though continues to call and we see each other at least once a week, sometimes more. We've gone to dinners, even a wedding together, all at his suggestion. We both work for the church (different areas) and have found that our friendship has helped us both through difficult times.

I am just not sure where to go from here. I know he is definitely attracted to me, and I to him. But for the greater service of the church he will pursue the priesthood until he gets a final yes or no. It may come as he believes it will this time, or this could be his final rejection. I am trying to gently separate myself but I will continue to see him for many years to come if he enters the seminary and becomes a priest. I don't want to completely eliminate the friendship as he is one of my favorite people in the whole world. I would like to emotionally detach and continue on but I have been trying this for the last year and it is still difficult. Having the talk at this point would just blow up the friendship and I'm not sure I want that either. But not having the talk prevents me from meeting anyone available (as my Catholic therapist says).

Sigh, I don't have the answer but to wait it out for the next few months. Your advice was sound about becoming too buddy-buddy with a guy.

Shiraz said...

Oooo, that was a Special Treat! What a great outcome! Yay!

On being friends with men: I have lots of male friends, some of them very close, in that they Tell Me Stuff About Their Feelings (I think largely because I'm quite sympathetic and take their feelings seriously, and they feel more comfortable talking about that stuff to me than their men friends). That said, none of them are people I speak to every day, and although they are good friends, my best best best friends are women. (And I share things with my women friends that I would never in a million years tell my men friends.) So I wonder: are you mainly talking about unhealthy closeness with one man, which comes to be a sort of quasi-relationship, rather than having good male friends? I wondered :-)

Shiraz said...

PS. A secondary wonder: perhaps I haven't run into this problem (i.e., having good men friends didn't prevent me from acquiring boyfriends and now -- eee!!! -- a fiancé) because what goes on is I'm in a more sisterly role than pretend girlfriend. Do you think there's a difference?

Seraphic said...

Shiraz, really, I hope you get Purgatory time (or intensity or whtvr) for spending so much precious time listening to men try to figure out their feelings. I hope they were actually interesting or at least nice to look at. On the other hand,you may have stealing the bread from the mouths of several nice professional therapists' children, so shame on you. ;-)

Nameless, oh my dear Nameless. You are not Nameless to Him on high, who loves you and wants more for you than to be a security blanket for a guy in his 40s who keeps being rejected by the seminary. "For the greater service of the church," my Aunt Fanny. Is he really that big a prize? Scripture scholar? Brilliant theologian? Financial wizard? Leader of men?

Walk away. I'm not saying you should never see him again. I'm saying walk awaaaaaaay. If you can't, you need the magic words.

Here are the magic words: "Oh my God, who knows and loves me better than I know myself, I can't rid myself of this six-year attachment to a man who doesn't want to marry me. I can't do it, but You love me and can do anything. Please help me. Please take these feelings away."

Repeat as necessary.

Seraphic said...

I'm going to pray for you before I go to bed, Nameless. I mean this in a nice way, not in the mean, fake-pious "Hmph! Illprayforyou" way. And I pray for all my Seraphic Singles readers at Sunday Mass anyway, after the consecration of the Precious Blood.

Nameless for this post said...

Seraphic, thank you so much for your prayers. I will repeat as necessary, ten times a day if needed.

I can see the fault was mine in many ways. In the two and a half years since the divorce/annulment, it was a comfortable and safe friendship in which to exist. No dating, no pressure. But if I truly want to find a nice catholic husband I am going to have to be a little less safe.

Wondering but not Waiting said...

Well stated. I have a friendship with a guy who I have vacillated between BF: Best Friend (well..."friend" not necessarily "best" or Boy Friend. We are both in our mid-30's.

Lately he seems to be showing particular interest-he keeps you know, doing that dance around me thing, but I know that he is slooooow and uber uber careful.
He has not-and may not-pursue me until he feels like it will be a sure thing.

I'm rather irritated because I want to know that a guy is intentional, willing to risk for me, willing to chase off other guys for me, willing to chase me. Is that asking too much?

So, I've pulled back on the Hanging Out Time, even choosing to spend time with other people in his presence to let him know I can't keep deepening this friendship without some sort of intentionality from him. I don't know that we are at the point of a "talk" but I think I'm right to pull back and see if he makes a move. ANd if he doesn't, it keeps my heart free for the GCB!

Anonymous said...

I'm finding this new 'GCB' thing very inspiring...forget NCB I want GCB! Or at least 'NCB' on his way to 'GCB For Me' ha-ha!


Seraphic Spouse said...

Nameless, don't be TOO unsafe. The first year after a divorce is often very rocky: spiritually and emotionally dangerous. So actually it was probably a very good thing at the time that you had a comfortable and safe friendship with a nice Catholic man. It sounds to me that this close friendship was a very good thing, but now it is past its sell-by date. The important thing is that you be freed from an emotional attachment from a man who doesn't want to marry you.

Wondering But Waiting: if you're not in love with him, why do you care? Frankly, he sounds annoying. If you are besmitten, and you suspect that all he needs is encouragement, pat him on the arm. I patted my now-husband on the head, and a few hours later he seized me in his now-husbandly arms. It was a bit like a python landing on a wild pig. Men tend to run after what they really, really want.

Anonymous said...

You should also offer advice, Seraphic, to those women who gobble up the time and friendship of nice Catholic men while having no serious intentions towards them.

As I've grown older (and married), I've realised I was sometimes guilty of this myself. Tell your readers to examine their consciences!


theobromophile said...

Oh, that update was a treat! :)

Wonderful advice. Having man friends is one thing, but there should be many of them (as in, more than One Man Friend Who Is Just A Friend), and they should be friends.

Also, to quote my father, "texting is for girls". While he means that he doesn't like getting and sending texts and prefers email, I also think of it as in "Do not text back and forth with men". Just don't. Do not respond to their texts, and don't text him. It's so easy for men to send a quick text, rather than to actually call you up or even put a bit of thought into an email. It's fake intimacy. Just don't do it.

Wondering...(BNW) said...

hm. No, not in love with him. I guess I was wondering if waiting until he makes a move to decide this is right.

I usually jump in emotionally to early and the guy ends up saying he's not in that deep. So this time, while I like this person as a friend, I've deliberately waited until he pursues to answer the question if I want him to. I don't know if I want it~he's not offered anything as of yet!

It's that unsure, unclear, dance that is bothering me. Do it, man. or Don't do it. But stop hovering around me waiting for me to tell you yes please pursue me. Take a risk, man! I don't know how it will go, I don't even know IF I want it to go-maybe I do! But if he doesn't pursue, I'm choosing to keep any "feelings" at bay.

A great friendship could turn into something, but I'm not willing to make it so easy for him that there's no risk.

Is that too harsh? Isn't it ok to want to be chased? I want to be chased! :)

Seraphic said...

What you should want is to find a man who truly wants to be with you and lights up your life. Wanting chasing-for-chasing's sake is a mug's game.

Alisha said...

"In my opinion, a girl's best friend should be another girl. Otherwise, why aren't you married to the man?"

I agree that things should be judged on a case by case basis...I don't know if this helps but I have a few answers to the above.

1)You are not attracted to the person at all in a romantic or physical way - this may seem shallow but I think it's actually super important. There's a lot of Catholic men out there that it's just lovely to be in great conversation with forever, but there is no spark.

2)This person is very loyal and helpful as a friend but just doesn't get you or isn't capable of caring for you in the way needed from a husband.

3) You or he are not available for some reason (serious single, etc.)

4) There are no good compatible girl friends who understand you as well. (A lot of my girlfriends are unable to sympathize with my motives for things...they are 'supportive' but don't get it)

seeking God's will! said...

Well, this one hits pretty close to home and is quite timely, as well. Auntie Seraphic, I need your prayers and advice here. While the communications in my own situation have not been every day, they have been frequent enough, and over a long enough period of time (about 8 months), to make me completely confused and to allow me to get started down an unhealthy mental and emotional path. I have already spent an undue amount of time wondering, and based on your sage advice here think that perhaps I should also should have 'the talk' or write 'the letter.' I am a bit concerned, though, for these reasons: 1. I still wonder, in my situation, if I am not just being somewhat impatient and if doing this will make it seem that I am trying to initiate a romantic relationship (I was recently annulled, and he may not have thought that I was available/ interested in a dating relationship initially); 2. we are involved in some church ministry activities together that require some ongoing contact, so if he says he's not interested it might make for an awkward situation for both of us. Although for this same reason, I probably should not let things go on forever without knowing what his thoughts or intentions are, since seeing him regularly even in that context continues to fuel loving feelings toward him in my heart, where if I knew there was no future, I might be able to guard myself better. HELP!!!

p.s. Thank you for this lovely ministry you provide - I am happy to have stumbled upon your blog, and will keep you in prayer, as well!

Seraphic said...

STOP! What is this " the letter"? There is no "the letter"--ever, ever, ever. Are you trying to give me a heart attack?

NEVER write personal letters to men. Emails to them should be short, dry and possibly witty. They must NEVER contain a sentence beginning with the word "You" or the expression "I feel." Paper is forever, and emails can be spread to the entire world with the pres of a button.


Okay, you've had a crush on someone for 8 months, and you're both involved in parish ministries. Good for you for realizing that anything you do could jeopardize your parish ministries. By the way, does this mean the choir and the altar guild, or are you an M.Div. helping run the parish? I find the word "ministries" confusing in a lay woman although of course I used it all the time when I was in theology school. If you are an M.Div. engaging in almost-really-truly ministry, you know you have a special responsibility not to allow your personal feelings get in the way of your work and you ought to have been trained for that.

Now, I don't know how soon after your divorce you got your annullment, but you might not be ready to date, as a matter of fact. Divorcing and recently divorced people are often bonkersville, as I know firsthand. Have you spoken to a counsellor about your divorce-and-annulment? I spoke to one for almost five years.

I don't have enough data here to guess if he's a slow mover or just not interested. You're not in a bestest buddies situation, so I really don't see what can be gained from a heart-to-heart.

Unless you tell me more, my verdict is that you need to give your heart a stern talking to and pray the great unfailing prayer of "O God, You who know and love me better than I know and love myself, I can't get rid of this inordinate attachment to this man who isn't interested in marrrying me. I can't do it, but You can do anything. Please help me and take away these feelings, Lord."

Repeat as necessary. God has a special plan for you, and it doesn't include you making yourself miserable crushing on men who aren't interested.

seeking God's will! said...

Hahaha - my heartfelt apologies for nearly causing you a heart-attack! I appreciate the letter-writing advice, and in the case that anyone else should have the same misunderstanding I did, I thought that when you were referring to 'letter-writers' in your reply to Cutting the Cord, you were referring to women who had written letters to the NCBs in question. I actually agree with what you've said about the dangers of letters and e-mails from women to men, and now understand that you were referring to the women who had written letters to YOU! Understood. In any case, you have offered many important questions and insights for me to consider, and I am grateful. If I may, I will reply with more details in an e-mail when time permits, as I am impressed with what you have shared with so little detail and would like to hear more of your thoughts. Thank you for your prompt and thoughtful reply. Peace and all good, Auntie Seraphic!

nightfly said...

The update made me very glad indeed. Good for Cord (and GCM)! I'm a sap - I love a happy ending.

Christine said...

Wow what a treat. Congratulations to CtC for your guts and for your Christmas present :-)