On second thought, there is only so much I can do on a Friday when half Britain seems to be having a long weekend. So I have done what I can do to resolve business woes and go back to the problems that beset Single life.
From a reader, I had this question:
It seems this toxic glue gets its power from emotional attachment which comes, for girls, when a guy either has problems or opens his heart up to her. A reader in a comments box a long time ago said she wished guys would realize that opening their hearts up to girls is as powerful for girls as erotic images of girls are for guys. I really believe this is true, especially if there's already some attraction or chemistry there. A man's vulnerability can be so incredibly attractive.
I'm wondering if it's ever okay to let a guy know you don't want him to open his heart up to you. On the one hand, he'll have a better understanding of you and be able to respect you. On the other, if he's trying to, as you put it, emotionally seduce a girl, this will give him the exact information he needs to accomplish his goal.
Just something I've been wondering. When do you know if you're handing over emotional power?
Oh dear. Power. It's like an old-fashioned children's party game: "Power, power, who's got the power?" How I hate that word. Thank heavens it's been years since I worried about "who has the power" in a personal relationship. (You have to worry about it in ministry because a ministry job gives you a ton of power whether you want it or not, and generally you don't want it.)
Anyway, I agree that in an attractive man vulnerability is really powerful (although I would add that in an unattractive man it can make a girl wish immediately to flee). And I imagine that some crafty guys have figured this out. You may remember Wayne of Wayne's World trying to get out of trouble with his girlfriend by wailing "And I can't READ!"
The number one guardian of your heart is you. And the knowledge that you are a softhearted girl whose heart is easily won by sob stories (be they real or fake) should warn you to be a lot tougher about who gets access to it. It is always okay to tell a man who is neither your boyfriend, your husband or your blood relation that you don't want him to open his heart to you. It is always okay to say "I don't feel comfortable talking about this." It is always okay to say, "You know, that's really personal stuff, and I'm not sure I'm the person you should be speaking to. Have you thought of talking to Father Such-and-such/a guidance counsellor/your mother/my mother?"
You don't add, "Because I might fall in love with you if you tell me your problems." That would be crazy. You don't owe any man an explanation of why you don't want to hear his personal business. It's not about him "having a better understanding of you" other than, "Oh, I guess she doesn't want to hear my problems." Which, hopefully, you don't. (If you do, you can say, "It's not that I don't WANT to hear your problems, it's just that I don't think I can cope with hearing them. But I think you should talk to Father Such-and-Such..." By suggesting an appropriate person, you have sincerely helped.)
It is tempting to "be there" for an attractive man, even if he has serious problems. Such serious problems include his marital difficulties, his addictions, his brush with the law, his violent behaviour and his mental illness. The problem is that you are not qualified to listen and talk to him about such serious things. And if you were qualified, you would know immediately that he should either be your client, not your friend, or, if you want to keep him as your friend, someone else's client. Qualified people know how to detach from other people's serious problems; unqualified people, not so much.
Meanwhile, most of the above problems are clear red lights. Stay well away from attractive men who have marital difficulties, addictions, brushes with the law and violent behaviour. Mental illness is in a slightly different category; you can decide if you mind being stuck on someone with depression, OCD, etc.
The sort of non-qualified women who might be good for men to spill their guts to are older women. OLD-ER. Older nuns. Older married ladies with kids. Mom-aged ladies. Older women can be caring, and they are less likely to get attached in the way a young woman, especially a young single woman, would. If his own mum is overly cold or overly sensitive, it makes perfect sense for a troubled young man to ask the advice of his friend's mum.
Sure, it can be flattering that a man wants to talk to you all about his problems. And it can hurt to see his look of disappointment when you draw a firm and clear boundary around yourself. But I think all this comes down under the heading of emotional chastity, both for him and for you. Don't let a guy your age or older open his heart to you unless he's given it to you first.