I got an email last week from a first year uni student who got a big crush on a guy in third year. After two months of being friends, the guy delighted the girl by "admitting" to "liking" her and then shortly afterwards asking to be his girlfriend. They adjusted their relationship statuses on Facebook, and spent loads more time together.
However, when the NCB told the NCG that he liked her, he added a qualifier. He said she should know that he was still getting over somebody else. But our NCG didn't pay much attention to this, so happy and excited was she that this NCB "liked" her.
Now, though, whenever the NCB mentions this other girl, our NCG feels extremely jealous, especially when the NCB thinks up excuses to visit the other girl at her home. After trying to hide her jealousy, our NCG blew up at him, and he said it was hard for a person to give up feelings for a woman he has had a crush on for three years.
Three years?! Where to start, where to start...
Actually, there was a lot more, so I started with that. The letter-writer is a teenager, so I was a lot more careful and soothing in my response than I usually am. But this morning I am in a stroppy mood, so I can go back to my preferred tone of outraged shouting.
What kind of guy tells a girl he likes her and wants her to be his girlfriend, but by the way he still isn't over this other girl?????!!!!
Why do we let such guys get away with that??????!!!!
If it were still the age of payphones, the only appropriate response to "I want you to be my girlfriend, but there's this girl" would be to hand the boy/man a couple of coins, stand up, and say "Call me when you're ready for a real relationship."
How many college freshman have that kind of spine, though, eh? And, honestly, it is so hard to hear the bad news after the good news. The words "I like you" out of the mouth of a guy you like are so wonderful, so magically potent, that it is very hard to make yourself hear the qualifiers that follow afterwards. If they are "but you should know I'm still not over another girl", not only are they unpleasant, they're crazy.
It's like being crowned Miss America and then kicked in the stomach by the same guy. You've got the crown and the flowers, the crowds are cheering, and you've been kicked in the stomach, which makes absolutely no sense in that context, so you ignore it and wave.
However, you darned well have been kicked in the stomach, and the sooner you face up to that, the better. Any guy who says "I like you but I think you should know that I'm still not over this other girl" is DANGEROUS to your happiness. He is dangerous to your happiness because he thinks his telling a girl he's asking to like him about another girl he likes makes everything honest and okay. But the fact is that he is not a good guy onto whom to pin your romantic hopes because he is stuck on another girl.
I am particularly passionate about this because nothing, NOTHING, has sucked me in like the bait-and-switch. For some reason my brain just does not go into red alert with shouts of CRAZY! CRAZY! WHOOP! WHOOP! but scrambles about madly tidying the crazy under a carpet so I can't see it anymore.
Sure, the NCB is lonely. And, sure, it must be nice for him to have a girl who is crazy about him after three years of hankering fruitlessly after Miss Perfect. But he's also not rooted in, or particularly interested in the reality that it is better to be involved with someone who actually cares for you than with someone who couldn't care less.
Then there's the fact that because Miss Perfect never does anything, she never does anything wrong. That leaves the poor girlfriend dancing about, second-guessing all she says and does, and wondering if he really cares for her, instead of cultivating the friendly remoteness that all smart women ought to have before feeling ready to place their hearts on the line.
It is never good to use a human being as a means for some end. Things are to be used, but people are to be enjoyed for themselves. It is not okay to "date" or, really, monopolize a girl's leisure time, as a means to get over some other girl. It isn't fair. And, in fact, any man who is trying to get over some other girl should tell a girl that if she is the one pursuing him. It is really NOT ON for him to go after a girl he is pretty sure likes him when he knows he really is stuck on someone else. In the old days this was called "trifling with a lady's affections." It wasn't okay in 1912, and it isn't okay now.
And this reminds me of how much I hate the "boyfriend-girlfriend" relationship and all the fake rules and fake traditions and fake expectations that grow up around it. It's a store dummy dressed up to look like marriage. It used to be people announced only their engagements and marriages in print; now they publish news of their "relationships" on Facebook, as if those "relationships" were built on a lasting commitment. We have all kinds of relationships with people who love us passionately, if without sexual desire, and we never click a button on Facebook to announce the start of those.
But I digress. The main point to take away is to be rooted in reality. Listen to everything a man says, not just the stuff that sounds great, and make decisions based on all the data, especially your gut reactions.
Update: By the way, there is something seriously wrong with chastity education when all we tell girls is to look out for guys who just want sex. We should also be telling girls to look out for guys who just want a security blanket (e.g. seminarians who date), or who just want a friendly smokescreen (e.g. gay guys who date girls), or who are too cheap to pay for a therapist (e.g. cute guys who meet up so they can tell you about other girls) or who are looking for the non-sexual perks of marriage without having to get married first (e.g. guys who "need" help with their laundry/cooking/cleaning).
And no doubt guys should be warned against NCG who aren't really interested in marriage right now as much as they are in emotional adventures and the rush of falling in love and the thrill of lover's triangles and all that powerful operatic crap girls read about in books.