Wednesday, 18 July 2012

Auntie Seraphic & the Vague Signals

Thanks, everyone for the requests. That gives me a lot to work with! I sense I'll be reading and rereading them all week.

This morning I'll look at the comment about the NCB, as I think this is one for the emergency room. Oh, wait, the one about not wanting a relationship with the Excellent Husband Material is an emergency room situ too, so I'll stick on a bandage: You don't HAVE to meet him in person or go out with him. Honour your gut. Your gut knows. More on this later.

Okay, today's issue:

Crush is on a NCB I’ve known for a decade. We’ve crossed paths over the years through various Young Adult groups, had some friendly fun conversations, and he dated one of my close friends for a couple years (she broke up with him and broke his heart—she later married someone else).

I never thought of this guy as anything more than a nice acquaintance, until I ran into him several times this spring and WHAM. Sudden hopeless, helpless, crush. I’m surprised it never happened before—we do share a lot of the same interests (including some very obscure authors and musicians).

Anyway, during one of our recent conversations he remarked how strange it was that he’d known me almost ten years and never realized how much we had in common. Twice he’s suggested things like “we should go together to see X Musician next time she’s in town” (Me: “That would be fun!” But nothing came of it.) and “if you’d ever like to get together to talk about Y writer, let me know” (Me: “I would love to do that!” But being a good Trying to Be Good Rules Girl, I did not follow up by setting a date).

A mutual acquaintance told me he brought me up last time she saw him, and was remarking to her how much he and I had in common. He has forwarded me a couple of links and articles around our interests—I reply commenting upon and thanking him for each, but never get a follow up response.

My intuition tells me he may be casually intrigued by me, but I don’t sense strong interest. I think he may also casually be seeing someone else (although unless he’s committed relationship, he tends to date multiple people). He’s a naturally outgoing and friendly person, with a wide circle of male and female acquaintance. I’m an introvert, so it’s possible that what I’m reading as “slight intrigue” is really just (inscrutable to me) natural extraversion.

The process of writing all this down now has my heart sinking and my head perhaps sadly clearing. But I’ll brave forward and ask anyway: Do I have any hope here and, if so, what can/should I do??

Thank you!!!

-- Another in her late 30s, Catholic, decently pretty & bright, but still single (and who chased a crush for years in her early 20s and is STILL mortified by it)

Dear Another,

First, thank you for buying my book, and thank you for stating your problem so clearly, honestly and fearlessly.

When in doubt about a relationship, it is a very good idea to write it out as truthfully and fearlessly as possible so that you can see it out there before you on the page or screen. Truth is what is, as St. Thomas Aquinas wrote. Theologian Bernard Lonergan noted that we often run from the truth. (It's called "the flight from understanding.") Intellectual integrity means looking truth in the eye.

From what you've written here, I'm with your gut. A girl should always honour her gut anyway. Your imagination is complex and will lie to you all the time, but your gut is simple and has no time for lies. It can be wrong, but it will be honestly wrong, if you see what I mean.

But in this case it doesn't look like your gut is wrong. Men say all kinds of things; it's the follow-up that counts. I don't believe in men's vague words of "we should get together to do something sometime"; I believe in "Let's go to [specific thing] on [specific date]." Confident, outgoing men tend to do exactly what they want to do, so if they want to take a girl out, they take a girl out.

This confident, outgoing guy makes vague "we should" noises instead of firm plans, so that's not good. And although he writes to you, sending you links to things you're interested in, he doesn't follow up your thanks with invitations, so that's not good either.

And you've heard that he dates multiple people and you think he's naturally outgoing, so now a picture is developing. It doesn't sound like he's that into you, but just a friendly guy who likes to have a big circle of friends and acquaintances.

I'm sorry about that. That sucks. And there's nothing you can do to make it better but get over your crush. Of course this is easier said than done, but if you hit the post label "Crushes" you will find umpteen posts with suggestions on how to do it.

For now all I'll say is that crushes are as common and annoying and generally harmless as the common cold. Everybody gets them, including married people and priests, and it is important to take care of yourself during them, being careful not to do anything to develop them, so that they don't turn into pneumonia of the heart.

I hope this is helpful.

Grace and peace,


Lilly said...

This is relevant to me too. Thanks for your sound advice, Seraphic.

Anonymous said...

Dear Seraphic,

Thank you very much for responding, and for confirming what I rather feared as I explained the situation yesterday. You are absolutely right that seeing things laid out in black and white has a way of forcing one to evaluate clearly. I also think that writing about the situation to someone else has a very different effect than writing it out in one’s journal (which I’ve done, but in trying to give you a full picture yesterday and I was forced to confront things I’d glossed over in my self-mulling because I was focused on the “hopeful” bits).

Sigh. To indulge in a moment of self-pity, these kind of disappointments seem keener the older I get. To segue into your other ER case, I can SO relate because my dates of the past year have mostly been of the “Well, he’s Catholic, and interested, and not repulsive, so let me see if I can make this work” variety. I’m hard pressed to decide which is worse: facing alone the final countdown of my childbearing years or the experience of recently praying on a fourth date “Please God, don’t let him try to kiss me. Please God, just give me a little more time to get adjusted to the idea. Please God, just don’t let him try to kiss me.” Which is why the crush, and the prospect of being excited about a date again, was so, well, exciting.

(Last night in my Love & Responsibility reading group we discussed the dangers of un-integrated sensuality and sentimentality in the early stages of a relationship, and all I could think was that all my recent short-lived relationships could have desperately used dashes of each!)

Apologies for whining, but with sincere thanks again---

Another Struggling-to-Stay-Seraphic Single Across the Pond :)

Marie Louise said...

Seraphic, why is it, in your opinion, that so many faithful Catholic girls who want to get married don't/aren't able to? It seems so strange. Admittedly, I don't have many Catholic friends around here, faithful or otherwise, but my non-Catholic friends seem to have no trouble finding husbands. It perplexes me, since most of these women aren't particularly feminine, don't necessarily value marriage much and certainly are a far cry from what most NCBs would want in a wife. And there are certainly lots of young NCBs about. What's going on, in your expert view?

Seraphic said...

I have some thoughts on this. The first is that non-Catholics don't have to think quite so much about the "until we part" part. Catholics are naturally going to be a little more careful about marriage than people who think they can escape unscathed "if it doesn't work out."

The second is that there are more non-Catholics than Catholics in English-speaking countries, and some of the non-Catholics are marrying the Catholics, including some of the Catholics of the very large number of Catholics who are functionally Protestants or agnostics. And this means there are fewer Catholics for the kind of Catholics who would only marry Catholics to marry.

The third is that we don't play the date--sleep together--date and sleep together--DECIDE IF S/HE MIGHT BE THE ONE--move in while sleeping together--get engaged while sleeping together--get married--try for a baby now game. But most English-speaking people do play this game. Which makes us "weird." We aren't really weird, but we don't necessarily know how to work around this script.

The fourth one is that young NCBs don't usually have "enough money to get married on." Non-Catholics just move in together as students and go on the Pill, if they're not already on it, and don't have babies until they both have salaries and have been working long enough for the woman to get maternity leave.

Aw, snap. It's all so depressing. The answer is: sex, money, birth control, easy divorce.

We should ALL move to Poland. Notice how I'm learning Polish? Eventually we might HAVE to move to Poland.

Seraphic said...

By the way, I think "Love and Responsibility" groups cause a lot of angst and unhappiness.

My pal Boston Girl went to a "L & R" meeting to meet NCBs, and she wore a shirt cut down to HERE and all the NCBs stared at her cleavage while the organizer went on about how men should see women as their sisters and self-gift.

And Boston Girl said in the discussion period she was not interested in her future husband giving himself to her as a gift, she was interested in her future husband ripping her clothes off and taking HER as a gift. The ceiling did not quite cave in but the temperature in the room dropped several degrees Fahrenheit.

So BG went home and didn't go back to the L & R group, and eventually met a really cute Christian engineer, and has been married for almost three years now and just had a baby.

TGWWS said...

Hahaha! I can only imagine if that happened at my local L&R.

It's a shame, but most of the people who go to L&R groups don't really need them. What they (at least the guys) DO really need is a swift kick in the seat of the pants.

Andrea said...

"To indulge in a moment of self-pity, these kind of disappointments seem keener the older I get."
Agreed. It is awfully hard to keep your head about you when decent men are so few and far between, and actually liking one of them rarer still.

But I think a forum like this is a perfect place to express such feelings. I certainly have felt exactly the same thing in the past and it makes me feel less alone to know others are in the same boat. Of course as Seraphic puts it, these things come and go and are generally harmless like the common cold. I also take heart in knowing that at such time as God wants me to be married, I will be, and I can't very well disturb his perfect plans.
Hope you are feeling better soon.

Charming Disarray said...


Don't we girls also get told not to expect too much too soon, and to let the guy do things in his own time? To just date for fun? Don't we get told that we make ourselves both too available and too scarce? Didn't we all just recently get told that men don't feel any incentive to marry us because we're not charming enough? But we also get told that if a guy isn't pursuing very hard from the beginning, we are supposed to ignore him and act uninterested?

How does all this work together? How can you be charming and available and keeping your distance and flirty and fun and not being too much of a friend so the guy learns he has to date to get female company and to remember that in other countries people don't date at all because they just hang out but really it's the man's job to do the pursuing but if he likes you he might need some time to come to that conclusion on his own and meanwhile it's our job to make him want to come to that conclusion by not taking ourselves so damn seriously. It just seems like there's a lot of conflicting advice, even among the stuff just aimed at traditionally-minded girls who want to get married. It just seems like it shouldn't be this complicated.

Magdalena said...

Poor anonymous Struggling-to-Stay-Seraphic Single, I hope you are feeling better soon!

I've just moved to Switzerland. Maybe I should consider moving on to Poland directly, before digging my roots in too deeply here in Calvin's country?

"Why is it that so many faithful Catholic girls who want to get married don't/aren't able to?" That's what I keep asking myself, too. In my case, the answer is: The properties I require can't seem to be combined in one person. I am a scientist with (hopefully soon) a doctoral degree in agronomy. I am working in a research institute. If I meet a nice colleague, he is not catholic. The nice catholic boys I meet don't have university degrees, or they have them in such obscure fields like economics and work for big Suiss investment banks (shudder). Then there is the additional thing that it would be nice if he were a little musical or would like to go hiking in the mountains. And, on top of that, he and I should both fall in love with each other.

The only thing which happens to me is that I get completely useless crushes on my boss (who is married with children and absolutely no option, but those stupid pheromones or what's it are just doing what they want). Vigorously praying to St Joseph has helped me out of that, thank God.

So in order to cheer myself up I read a lot of Jeeves and Wooster. I am still hoping Bertie will make it to be Swashbuckler Protector once :-)

Charming Disarray said...

Oh PLEASE can we have Bertie? Hugh Laurie looked like a peeled shrimp in his younger days!

Urszula said...

I feel like Jeeves and Wooster are top reads for single gals - funny, light, and quite the antidote for bitterness. I add my voice clamoring to those requesting a Bertie Swashbuckler protector! (But the current one isn't too bad either - thanks for featuring the hearty and strong Polish Swashbuckler Protector!)

Caelaeno said...

Just have to say--Magdalena, I feel your pain. Starting my PhD in Biochemistry this fall, and I realized a couple months ago that the probability of my marriage is remarkably low. Spent most of last semester bewailing my virginity a la Jephthath's daughter; at this point I figure it's time to just buck up and let God do His thing, whether that includes marriage or no. I wouldn't wish this predicament on anyone, but it's nice to know there are others in the same boat.

Eowyn said...

Oh, man, Charming Disarray... you've articulated the problem very well.

JoanOfQuark said...

Seraphic, you said a mouthful with the story of your friend at the L & R group. I agree; such groups are a snare and a delusion for the Seeking Catholic Female.

I'm afraid my experience on AveMariaSingles was similar:
* being in my early 40s, I was invisible - especially to the men in my own age group and older, who wanted a 25 year old to give them the five children that are their birthright as a Nice Catholic Man. (I would happily say a great many things about these men which are not charitable, but it's probably enough just to say 'Good luck with that'.)
* having a PhD, I was obviously armed and dangerous;
* worst of all - I have pixie hair, so I may well be completely unmarriageble!

You know what? This is where you say: 'I give up. Let go, let God.'

And maybe that's why God lets us go through all the angst - to bring us to the point where we realise that no matter what we do, it's not going to work until - and IF - He wills it.

I haven't read your book, Auntie, but I have read Dawn Eden's The Thrill of the Chaste and found it a huge help.

And anyway, I was praying for the grace of patience, and God always answers those prayers by giving me opportunities to practise it!

leonine said...

"these kind of disappointments seem keener the older I get."


MichelleMarie said...

Charming Disarray, your second paragraph = my inner monologue within any hour of any given day. Lol!

What has recently helped me is focusing on the creator, and repeating "I am a woman. I work as designed". I don't know why such an obvious thing has helped me; maybe because it just lets me be. I think it's because I've been subconsciously allowing myself to feel like I'm wrong to have all these desires, and to be following such a counter-cultural script. I've realized that I've even been feeling somehow deficient because I'm not following the dominant paradigm of sleeping around / birth control / etc.

But then I had a grace-filled moment of realizing that the opposite is true - I'm trying to follow my creator's designs for womanhood, for sexuality, for love, for family life (by waiting for marriage to be sexually active, by not tricking my body into thinking I'm pregnant with artificial hormones, by expecting men around me to be MEN and acting as such). I work (more or less) how my creator designed me to work! It's the culture around me that's messed up, and a little confused by me. But somehow I believe everything's working together for the good.

Again, it was a grace-filled realization that I'm probably not conveying very well, but it filled me with a lot of peace.

Magdalena said...

Oooooh, we got Bertie! :-) :-)

Magdalena said...

There is one side aspect I have to remember sometimes (RE: I give up. Let go, let God): Maybe all these other people, those non-catholics who get married, couldn't endure to be alone, so God doesn't put that burden on their shoulders. We, who know that in offering up our suffering a lot of grace can be found, and who can (try again and again to) let Jesus carry our burden with/for us, are much more able to live "alone". But then, hey, we aren't alone! God is there!

And God wouldn't put a burden on our shoulders which we wouldn't be able to carry... For me that means (in my desperate moments): Hey, if God thinks I can manage, then I can! Yay! Isn't that great?

Ryan said...

Crushes are as common and annoying and generally harmless as the common cold!

That is the best metaphor I have ever heard! Made my night.