Ladies, I went through something earlier this week that many young women have before, even though I was pridefully adamant that that was not MY situation. Pro-tip: The ugh-y ones almost always are. If you live life expecting to be disappointed, all the times you are not will be delightfully surprised. I may sound cynical, but the snarky slightly misanthropic attitude is much more mentally bearable than one of brilliant hopes that are continually dashed.
What happened, in a nutshell: Having no real discouragement, I put all my girlish hope and dream eggs in this one basket. Then the boy whom I wanted to find it (and he knew it too), picked it up, ran away, and gave it to another girl.
My editor, who is becoming more and more a Motherish mentor (solid Catholic counsel is not my own mommy’s forte), gave me some tough love (and soft love, too—she’s quite huggable). She shared with me the following hard truths about men.
*Now, you may say that Amazing Guy at Bible Study, your fiancée, your husband, whatever, is not a “guy,” thinking these things. He is more a man, and is actually quite rare. I have met enough “guys” in and out of Church to know this applies to most males ages 26-33. Especially the ones in big cities, with lots of secular friends, and poor familial formation.
Guys have marriage radar. And it is NOT a good thing. Rather, they can lock in immediately on a woman who hopes/desires/believes marriage to be a joyous good and will want it. Soon. And to guys, “soon” is more like 5 years, not 5 months. As soon as their radar has picked up the ring blip, they will do one of two things: 1) Go buy the diamond because they have matured and want to spend the rest of their lives with you. 2) Run.
Nearly all young men opt for action 2. Why? As my editor explained: you have answered a question they haven’t even asked or, more likely, are unsure they even want to ask in the first place.
Guys do not know when they become men. Women can mark it on a calendar—not just physically, but figuratively. We’re oriented to be self-intuitive and reflective, so we discern the change that brought us from being just a girl to a grown woman. It’s much harder for men to have this moment of certainty. Worse, some feel as if they’re never there. Or to go to there, they need to have A-Z accomplished, and if they fail at just one teeny tiny thing, that’s it, throw in the towel. And yelling at them to grow up and be a man just plumb will not work. Find and date men who already know they are men (this is why we’re all still single at 28.)
Guys will run if they learn you are starting to like them more than they know they like you. It’s probably why this weekend happened, likely why I was dumped by my one and only boyfriend right before Christmas in 2011, and credibly why some dates over the years never called back. My editor’s advice was to find a man who likes me just a little bit more than I like him (of course, you should actually like the guy a whole lot. he just needs that one more ounce). Why? Again, it’s that whole answering a question they’re not sure they want to ask. Plus, they like to win. Or, it could be that they are discombobulated by your adoration, feel unworthy of it, and honestly believe they’re doing the right thing by freeing you from their horrid selves. *rolls eyes*
Guys do not see marriage the same way we do. (Go re-read the paragraph above #1). Women typically are the gender to see marriage as a joyous good, get really into the ToB-spirituality-beauty of it all. We especially see at as a beginning. Men see it as a duty or an end—the end of his phase of life of accomplishing career goals, the duty to the woman they love, or in some cases, the only acceptable end to a sexless-relationship. Women want the dreamboat spouse-soulmate. Men want sex and a companion to live out their days.
Guys want to lead. Always. In everything. They will want to drive, maybe even if you’re in your car (I won’t fight this. Have you been on 93?!? And rotaries. Rotaries everywhere.). They will begrudgingly be dragged onto the dance floor by girlfriends, but if that’s not you, they want to be the one to take your hand (if they like you). And they will want to lead in the relationship. Don’t change your Facebook status from single prematurely (I will buy you your plane ticket to come over here and slap me silly if I ever do this). Don’t bring up “us,” “wedding,” or, God help you, “children” first or put them in the same sentence. But But But, you protest, your boyfriend won’t bring these things up and you know you want them. Here’s what you do: tell him you’d like to have a conversation in the future (not immediately) about big picture things (don’t be specific.) When you are with him in this week/month/semester’s time (they like to plan and prepare), ask “What do you see in the next three months for yourself? Year? Three years?” DO NOT say anything about what you see or try to lead him into talking about the relationship. Let him lead the discussion of his own future and mind excavation. It will be the most honest and authentic response you can get from him.
If he wants a future with you and the same future (marriage, kids), he will say so (and yay, you!). If he does not, well, I’m sorry sweetie. You might need to break up with him. When he is dumbstruck as to why (and they almost always are), then you can say it’s because you want what you want and he wants what he wants, and those versions of the future are incompatible.
Of course, this conversation is best reserved for like, 6 months in, in most cases. Definitely by a year.
Guys don’t know what they want until they want it so bad they’ll do anything and everything to get it. It’s why women get proposed to by good Catholic men. They want you, have to have you, and will lock that s**t down because they know if they don’t, someone else will take you away from them. Remember…they have to win. And lead. And are in some weird unspoken competition with the rest of the Y-chromosomed.
But if they don’t know what they want, you can’t make them know. And don’t you dare wait around while he figures it out. Go live your life. Yes, it will be crushing when you learn that he discovered what he really wants is Not You. I am there right now, and struggling to take my own advice. Someday, we will be healed, and we have to have hope and lightness of heart that one day you will be wanted. Because the last thing any sane guy wants is a woman who is entirely cynical, bitter, or sad.
Guys will say what they think they want you to hear and encourage physical affection, and do not think it is abominable behavior once they decide they no longer want your company. Oh, this is so unpleasant. Guys typically talk a big game, get you all excited, because hey, he’s interested! And ohmygoodness he’s holding your hand an stroking the elbow during the movie. And he shares things with you. And then three weeks later, he no longer feels it, wants to be friends, and two weeks after THAT, is with a new girl and touching her, but not sharing things, because hey, she’s not a deep, close friend.
Be very very careful when a guy seems to be intentional and touchy feely rather quickly. If he ends things, do not be his close personal confidant friend. What he is doing is segmenting his life: the deep stuff with one girl and the fun stuff with the other. A true man will see the value of having both in the same woman: you.
Now if you can stomach mommy and wive thoughts, go to Jen and the gang. 😛