Dear Auntie Seraphic,
Your blog has become part of my daily fare--it sure helps a lot with the singles blues! Also, I've ordered your "Ceremony of Innocence" and eagerly await it's arrival!
I've written to you before, and received words of wisdom--which encourages me to ask again, in hopes of the same.
Last summer I met a Awfully Nice Catholic Man [online]. Now, I have very strong reservations against such sites...but my circumstances are such that I very rarely have the opportunity to meet young men.
After about a month of experiencing the craziness of the online "scene", this young man wrote to me. I corresponded with him in a desultory fashion, and then, suddenly, I realized that I liked him! He was intelligent, and funny, and manly, and sweet, and it seemed to me that we spoke the same language--I got his jokes, and he got mine, and it was nice. Also, he was very clear. He said that he liked my profile, that he wanted to keep corresponding, that he'd like to ask me out, if only he didn't live [MANY] miles away.
When this correspondence started, he was on vacation, preparatory to beginning [a new job]. All in all, we had (sort of) known each other for about six weeks, and had been writing pretty regularly, and it was sort of getting to the point where we would have needed to talk about arranging to meet in person, if we were going to keep being so interested in each other. Then one day, after a short lag in correspondence, he wrote a rather dejected-sounding note to the effect that he was very sorry and sad, but that he wanted to ask to put our correspondence on hold. He had started [work] some weeks previously, and he said that work-load was steadily increasing to the point that he simply couldn't give the time and attention to growing our friendship that he would like to until X; that it wouldn't be respectful or fair to me; and that he hoped I could understand and forgive him.
Well, I believed (and do believe) him, of course. I understand from women who have tried to date [men in his profession] that it is simply horrific, the way they have to work....they basically turn into zombies. So, though I felt terrible, I wrote at once, telling him that I quite understood, that there was nothing for me to forgive, and that I very much appreciated him being decisive and honest. I also said that if he wrote in X time I'd of course be happy to hear from him, and to pick up our correspondence, unless I should happen to be dating someone else, of course. I said that so he'd be sure to understand that I wasn't going to be spending [all that time] waiting and mooning over him when he wasn't there.
Then I felt AWFUL. I felt like I'd just told him I didn't care how he felt, and that I'd be perfectly happy to go off and date somebody else, while there was nothing he could do about it. So I wrote again and asked if he would call me, which he did. Well, all I really had to tell him was that I wanted him to know that I was sad, too, and that just because I understood didn't mean it was easy. He was very kind, and said sure, he understood, and all that. And then he sounded kind of worried, and said there were to be no promises. "Of course not!" I said, because really, it would be very silly for either of us to make any kind of commitment based on a six-week correspondence; it was perfectly clear to me that he had no right to ask me to wait for him, and I have no right to expect him to write back in a year and want to date me.
So that was that. We talked for five minutes, and said good-bye, very calmly and sensibly.
And oh, how sensible I determined to be! I wasn't going to think about him! I wasn't going to wait for him, at all! I was going to be very determinedly happy, and make the absolute most of the single life! Anyhow, I [kept busy, with new interests.} I also re-committed to frequent Adoration.....
But, O Seraphic, it is SO HARD to persevere in these good intentions!! I find myself dreaming even during Adoration about how soon he might write back, and what he might say, and then what I might say.... Also, this little clock is ticking in my head saying "X days down, Y hundred and sixty-five to go....etc." Even though I decided to stay on the dating website in order to help me consider myself free and single (which I am, obviously, even though I like this guy!) I find that I'm not interested in the men who write to me, and keep unfairly comparing them to him.....
The rational part of me is saying, "People forget. X is a long time. There are NO PROMISES!!! I need to be okay with it if I never hear from him again! I also need to be okay with it if we end up being friends someday, but not dating! He is under NO OBLIGATION to me, nor I to him. In X time, no matter what happens to my heart, there's no reason why I shouldn't have [achieved some great goals.]
My mother says, very briskly, "Forget him! He's not interested!"--but I am pretty sure that she is just saying that because she doesn't want me to get hurt. The thing is, I don't believe that it's TRUE; and I find I cannot believe untrue things simply as a maneuver to not get hurt.... I don't have crushes very often, and I'm always doubtful about whether a man likes me--but not this time. Deep down, I feel absolutely sure that this guy is good, and honest, and truly interested. I couldn't doubt this if I tried, and actually, I did try. But the thing is, he seems like a kind and honorable man, and I am certain that if he just weren't interested, he would have said so, gently and kindly. I cannot believe that he would create an impression that would encourage a woman to hope when he was really trying to let her down easy. I think some men might, but I don't think he would.
Meanwhile, my brother, whose advice in these matters I greatly respect, tells me that it would be fine for me to send this guy an occasional postcard or fun little note, to encourage him during what must be a very difficult time for him. "If it really was mutual, and you really want it to go somewhere, it's okay to show a little ankle!" says my brother. "Don't be scared about seeming needy and being rejected. It's not needy if you only write every couple of months; it's encouraging. He'll be really happy that you thought of him--I would, if I were him." (Up to this point I have not contacted him in any way whatsoever since our last talk). Am I being rigid by holding off? Am I going too in my adherence to the "No call, no response" rule? I mean, after all, he was very clear about liking me!
I see my brother's point, but I also feel like it's important to take this man at his word. He said he liked me. He knows how to contact me. Shouldn't I be able to leave it at that? As much as I truly do want to write him little notes and things, I think I want even more to be validated in that gut-feeling of mine that he really cared, that he cared enough to remember me, and to contact me again when he felt free to do so--without needing hints and reminders from me. Unless and until he asks me to date him, I feel that it is not my business to cheer him up. Also, maybe I'm a little more reluctant because he felt like he needed to SAY "no promises". It makes me worry, just a little bit, that he might have thought it was needy of me to want to talk on the phone (even though I don't really regret it, because it really helped me to get over the initial disappointment.)
Any advice, Seraphic, for getting through this time without going crazy--and for not going crazy if, after all of that he doesn't ever contact me again? And DO you think it's okay to send the occasional postcard, and maybe a Christmas card?
Trying to Be Sensible
Dear Trying to Be Sensible,
First, I have to say that this situation sucks, and I think you may be in the psychological position of a woman who actually dated a great guy...for six weeks before he dumped her, saying "I'm too busy for a relationship." They say you get to grieve a month for every year of a relationship, so you get six whole days from the day you accept that it is over.
My opinion is with your mother on this one, and I don't know where your brother is getting this "show a little ankle" stuff. That option got torpedoed when you called up [Mr Wonderful] and told him how sad you were to lose him. I think it is over--and it WAS a thing: even if you never met in person, it WAS a thing--because of three things he did: 1. he asked you to stop writing to him, 2. he asked that he hoped you could understand and forgive him & 3. he made that panicky "no promises" remark.
You are in an agonized purgatorial state at the moment, full of day-dreaming about what could be, but fear might never be, and although it will hurt horribly to accept that it is over, you will at least be able to move on. I speak as someone who has gone through several break-ups and crushes that went on for years before I got the message. I know it will hurt, and I know the hurt will end.
I suspect you're hanging on to that "his [current duty at work] is so awful--he'll want me back in his life when it's over" thought. But the thing is, unless my memory is mistaken, [someone now in my family] was [in similar circumstances] for most of the first year she was dating [someone else in my family]. She lived five hours away from him, seven by bus. And they made it work. So although I know that [such work] is tough, I don't buy that it is in itself a relationship killer.
Personally I think he is a dummy for not wanting to keep in touch with a great Catholic girl--a weekly email wouldn't kill him. On the other hand, maybe he is already dating a fellow [worker]. You have no way of knowing. The thing is, you deserve the kind of guy who MAKES time for you, in whatever way he can, because he would go crazy if he didn't. Guys who are sent to the THEATRE OF WAR write to their sweethearts that only reading their messages and writing back to them keeps them sane. You also deserve the kind of guy who wants to meet you in person and spend some time with you and MAKES IT ALL HAPPEN. You DON'T deserve a guy who tells you that corresponding with you is an intolerable burden.
We all have vague ideas in our mind of who Prince Charming is. Maybe he's a fantastic writer of emails, or has a great sense of humour, or is astonishingly bright, hardworking and ambitious. Maybe he looks like a Croatian male supermodel. But there is no guy like the guy a girl thinks is fun, bright, hardworking AND wants her in his life. There's no substitute for the feeling that a guy would quit a job or pass up Christmas with his family or do basically anything to be with you.
And this is not likely to happen with a guy you know only through the internet. [I have friends] who met through the internet, and agreed that they should meet as soon as possible. They lived in the same town, so they met up and discovered that they really liked each other in person. In contrast, my friend E met a guy she flirted with happily over email and discovered she was NOT attracted to him in person. And in my case, I never took my husband's internet flirtation--which was very sporadic--seriously. I thought he was clever and funny and not the male model I deserved. It wasn't until we actually met in person that I allowed myself to think seriously that we could get involved.
I didn't daydream. And the problem with the internet is that it encourages daydreams, and those daydreams become a trap, a drug and ultimately a prison. But I encourage you to indulge in one last, final daydream: the break-up daydream. Go through a ritual in which you say "Good-bye" to your daydream version of him; maybe even write a never-to-be-sent pen-and-ink letter and then burn it and let the wind carry the ashes away. And then tell your mother and whoever else that you have mentally broken up with him. And then call up a girlfriend or two or (best) three, and ask them to drag you out for a "post break-up girls night."
So, in the cold light of reflection, don't send that Christmas card. You never really met, after all, and you owe him exactly nothing. Don't give him any more of your imagination or time. And for what it's worth, he was a coward to blame his decision to end it on his work.
Please feel free to share this email with your mother and/or your friends, if you like. Tough talk is better shared.
Grace and peace,
To everyone wondering how I can just stuff my reader's hopes about Mr Wonderful in the trash can, it's because Mr Wonderful, despite his ham-fisted attempt to "let her down easy" by blaming work and saying "on hold" instead of "no more", said "Please forgive me" and ESPECIALLY (in a panic so palpable my honest reader heard it and mentioned it to me) "No promises".
Your fellow reader, being a generous soul, told him that "there was nothing to forgive." But I think Mr Wonderful knew better. In my experience, men hate apologizing and only do so when they are darned sure they have something to apologize for. In this case it was pulling a plug on a fun and flirty online friendship he initiated. Like so many guys on the internet, he enjoyed the sexy intellectual thrills of corresponding with a witty lady when he was in no position to meet her in person. And this, dear poppets, is yet another reason why I can't stand dating sites.
Incidentally, Eavesdroppers should know that I don't doubt this guy really did feel regretful and misses the kick he got out of getting emails from a pretty girl--unless he's already involved with another pretty girl. Oh, Eavesdroppers, Eavesdroppers! What a tangled web you weave. Well, maybe not you. I am sure you are very open and up front and clear about your intentions and prudent in your correspondence, etc.