I get an awful lot of emails, mostly from young women. They ask for my opinion, and I give it. I suspect my replies may come somewhat of a shock, since successful female social life is based on softening opinions or just murmuring pleasantries. I know that some correspondents take my advice, for a few write back to tell me. Most don't, possibly because they are furious.
In my M.Div. program, we were taught not to give advice but to ask searching questions that would bring people to their own answers. This is not so easy on the internet. Thus--blunt opinion. Caveat emptor.
It's not easy to keep a cheerful, even tone at times. If you were in the room listening as I read a new email, you often would hear something like, "Uh huh. Uh huh. Fair enough. Fair en--WHAT?! OHHHH NOOOOOO!" And sometimes you would see me bounce up and down like a monkey on speed, so horrified am I at what is going on.
I try to keep the horror out of my replies, but I was really upset when I wrote this one. And yet I know our dreams, no matter how unlikely or dangerous, are very precious to us. Tell me in the combox if you think I'm too harsh on this one.
Dear Auntie Seraphic,
Having thrown myself at [a man], I've now been courted, taken for granted, and dumped by him [X times].
I've thought from the second time I ever spoke to him, [Y] years ago, that I wanted to marry him, and in spite of all the stuff that's happened over the last [Z] years, I know that I still love him and still want to marry him.
A lot has changed in the last year: he's made some drastic life changes and become a lot happier and calmer; and I have changed my habits and developed rather more self-restraint than I had before.
I do not chase him now. I'm fairly careful not to appear to have any emotional investment in him. I'm not being nasty or cold, just not adoring him like I used to do. My confidence has returned and I'm back to being the person he falls for - happy and fun.
So here's the thing: he's lately started acting interested in me again. I know him quite well; I can tell. My question is, if he starts pursuing me again, which I think he will, how do I test him and try to make sure he's not taking me for granted, without being - well, a bitch?
How do I make him really work for [my attention] without being nasty or shutting him down and killing my chances? I don't want to go through that hell of dating someone who's not really sure if he wants me or not again. At the same time, I don't want to say "Don't ask me out unless you've got a ring ready" because I wouldn't want to accept a proposal without our dating for at least a while first, considering our history and his lack of staying power. Help!
Maybe This Time
Dear Maybe This Time,
I'm confused as to why you want to give yourself body and soul to a guy who has dumped you [X times].
You do realize what marriage means, right? It means washing a man's underwear and scrubbing the toilet because he never gets around to it and fighting over who trod what into the carpet. It means tons of menial work that isn't menial because you truly love each other and he got down on his knees to beg you to take him, his underwear, the dirty toilet and the carpet on. It means [doing wifely things] when you don't really feel like it because it's a nice wifely thing to do.
It means trotting out the history of your relationship when people ask how you met, and so far your story is not heart-warming stuff: "I knew from the second time we met that he was the man for me, and even though he treated me atrociously over [Y] years, dumping me [X times], I've hung in there."
I do not know this guy at all, but he has a history, so since he has already courted and dumped you [X times], I would not be surprised if he decided to court and dump you AGAIN. After all, there's no point in you being happy and confident now, is there?
Sorry to be so blunt, but you're fixated on a guy who sounds like a creep, and your first fear is seeming like "a bitch" and "ruining [your] chances." Chances of what? Wondering for the rest of your life if he'll be out the door because you're not always happy and fun enough?
If I were you I wouldn't give him the time of day, let alone any encouragement. In fact, that is all my conscience will permit me to say. Well, one last thing: the longer you are stuck on Mr. Wrong, the more impossible it will be for you to meet Mr. Right.
I don't want to end on such a negative note, so I'm glad you've managed to get your equilibrium back and at least to look like you're no longer fixated on him. If you don't take my advice and forget him, at least do your best to make him work for [your attention]. This may not bring the results you long for, but at least you will keep your dignity and maybe even earn his respect, if not his love.
Grace and peace,
Bottom line: Girls, stop imagining you've met the man you're going to marry when he hasn't given you any solid evidence that he might want to marry you.