Don’t Tell Her How You Feel

Back when I was in college the show ER became a sensation. One of the best parts about it was that the characters were believable. One of the intriguing relationships that developed on the show was between Doctor Mark Green (played by Anthony Edwards) and Doctor Susan Lewis (Sherry Stringfield).  They were both sort of the “good guys” in the ER.  They also developed a sort of friendship/relationship.

In the third season Susan decided to move away.  In her final episode, Mark had to decide if he should (or could) tell her how he feels.  They were great friends and had chemistry and it’s been obvious for years.  Dr Ross (George Clooney) tells him, “Tell her what you’ve wanted to for years.  Tell her how you feel. . . ”

Then comes the scene I’ll always remember.  Mark leaves work and goes to her house but he’s too late.  Then he goes to the train station.  I mean it’s an epic deal.  He goes to the wrong place as the train’s leaving point changes.  But he makes it just in time.  He calls out to her.  The train is about to leave.

He tells her that he loves her and should have told her long ago, and he wants her to stay.  I’ll never forget her response to that.  She says that she knew, he is her best friend, and that she is leaving.  Then she gets on the train, waves good by and says, “I do love you.”

I remember watching that scene and just being smacked upside the head.  For years I thought about that scene because it pretty much defined me.  Always the friend of the girl who I liked. Always carrying some sort of hope that at the right time, if I just shared it in the right way, everything would change.  That scene was a picture of how I felt.

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Car Shopping And Dating

About six weeks ago my car got totaled.  Actually it got flash flooded out.  (By the way if you have ever wondered how long you would have if you crashed into water before water seeped into your car – answer – not very long, as in get out of the car immediately).

At any rate, this meant I needed to go through the insurance process and then go find a new car.  My insurance company was very fair, and I had a little extra money to spend.  So I went about trying to find a car.  Now here’s the deal, I was committed to not take out a loan so I had exactly what I had.  I also knew what kind of car I wanted.

I visited around 20 different dealers, looked on all the websites (even craigslist).  There were lots of ok cars, but not so much “my car”.  I’m 6’4″ so there has to be room.  I’m in it a lot as most of my job is out of my office.  It needs to run a long time – my last car (not the totaled one) lasted for 322,000 miles.  And I wanted a V6, because, hey, I’m a man.

About two weeks in I found one.  All the cars I had seen like the one I wanted were at least $1500 -$2000 more than I had and this one was no different.  We met, I drove it, but at that time, the dealer couldn’t go that low.  His price was fair, I just didn’t have it, and I had to walk away.

You see the key to car shopping is actually pretty simple.  Don’t quit looking, don’t buy something you aren’t a little excited about (aka spend a fortune on something you don’t like), and always be willing to walk away.

I could have bought a car the first week and it would have been fine – but I would have been disappointed.  I also could have become discouraged – which I actually did.  But I had community and people to encourage me and loan me vehicles etc.  Finally I could have caved and spent more than I wanted to.  But I was able to walk away.

I share this way too long example because I think it totally relates to three traps we can fall into in looking for a spouse.

Let me just come right out and say that I’ve done all three of these things wrong. . . many times actually.

First, we can for sure quit looking.  There’s are lots of ways to get discouraged.  Maybe we go on a lot of dates, but after a while get dating fatigue and we just want to stop trying.  Or maybe we go on no dates and after a while we just quit asking.  Maybe we get our heart broken and we just don’t want to go back out there.  I’ve for sure been all of those places.  The key in my opinion to this is not dating alone.  In other words you need people in your life who walk with you in this area.  People who can encourage you, tell you what they see you could do better, or just let you vent.  But we needn’t give up.

Secondly we can go with something we know in our heart either isn’t right or just doesn’t excite us.  We say things like, “there’s nothing really wrong with her”, or “I know he’s not a believer but we get along great and he’s open to it”.  Now we have to be careful here.  If anything we in our culture have overplayed the whole don’t settle thing and instead often turn to consumer dating where at the first sign of trouble we bolt.  That’s not what I’m talking about.  But I’ve stayed with stuff longer than I should or tried to make stuff work that I wasn’t into, and that’s at best a waste of everyone’s time.

Which leads to the final trap. We have to be willing to walk away.  Here’s what I mean by that.  Again, I don’t mean run away.  I don’t mean that we walk away because of consumerism or because of fear.  But we need to approach the whole deal with knowledge of “I don’t have to do this.”  I can either choose to do it or not.

This is especially key as a guy.  You have to realize that you don’t need that girl.  You may be willing to wait a while for her, or be willing to listen if she changes her mind but that’s different than chasing her.  When we like someone as a guy, we can often get locked in to the point where “getting the girl” becomes the point.  And this just crushes us.  And it makes us less attractive and keeps us from moving on.

We can get in our head that there could never be anyone else.  But here’s the truth.  There will be. To be honest, knowing you CAN walk away, makes it more powerful when you choose not to.  Knowing that there is not this one perfect soulmate, frees you up to choose to be with someone and begin to become that.

The main key to all of this is having our identity and confidence in Christ.  Knowing that I’m ok no matter what allows us to keep risking, not make desperate choices and know that our life doesn’t depend on it.

Which of these traps do you mostly fall into?  What drives you to that?

How Do You Respond To Attraction?

Here’s a question.  What is your immediate response to attraction?  How do you respond when you are attracted?  Do you move with ease?  Do you hesitate?  Do you let it build up and then blow it up?  Are you relaxed or nervous?  Why?

What most guys feel is some combination of excitement and fear.  What most guys do is nothing.  They choke.  I know, I’ve choked many, many times.

There is almost nothing that tells us more about ourselves as men than how we react to the threat of rejection.  And when we are attracted to someone, that threat is imminent. It tells us the truth about how we feel about ourselves, where we rank ourselves on the totem pole, and how much power we give other people that we think are “above” us on that same pole.

This by the way is why women are attracted to confidence.  It’s a natural test and one that we actually need to pass, not just fake our way through.  If we fake our way through it with posturing and gamesmanship then either we will come off “try hard” and unattractive, or we will attract her only to get crushed later.  That doesn’t mean technique and approach don’t matter, they do and we’ll get to that, but they are hard to pull off if you don’t really own it.

Here’s the questions you need to ask.  What is it that I’m afraid of and where does that come from?

Essentially we are afraid of rejection.  This leads to two other questions.  Why do you think you will be rejected (what are your insecurities) and what do you think rejection will mean (embarrassment and discomfort).  We need to face these fears head on.

What is it that makes you insecure?  In other words why will she reject you?  You know the answer to this by the way so just man up and say it.  Maybe it’s that you think you don’t make enough money.  Is it that you don’t think you are good looking enough?  Is that you aren’t fun or successful enough?  Not smart enough?  What are you insecure about?  Then ask, is it true?  Talk about scary stuff!

When you start actually working through it often you find that it isn’t true or that it doesn’t matter.  I’ve struggled with almost every one of the above mentioned insecurities.  Most of them had WAY more to do with how I viewed me than how women viewed me.  For example, I thought of myself as not good looking, but no woman had ever told me that. The thing is, when approaching a woman, how you think of you is infinitely more important than what she thinks of you.  If you project high value, chances are she will see that in you.

Again, you can try to pose your way though this.  You can try to amp it up and cover it up. But that’s like looking the answers up in the back of the book.  It works for the assignment that day, but it doesn’t help much on the exam.

David DeAngelo (“dangerous” secular guy) calls this improving your inner game.  But really as a follower of Jesus I should be facing my insecurities.  I should be finding out who I really am in Christ, which is usually a lot better than I thought.  Jesus was the most confident person ever.  We should be on that path.  If we aren’t we’ve got way bigger problems than handling attraction to women.  It’s just that attraction brings it out.  That’s why it’s good.  If we engage it, it can force us to deal with the rest of our life.

The second part is the fear of rejection itself.  As men we hate to be embarrassed or uncomfortable.  But this is where we need to relax.  What is the worst possible thing that can happen?  If she rejects you, you don’t have a date with her.  That’s where you are already.  Most women are not mean about this.  If anything they are too nice.  As long as you aren’t a jerk or a stalker you’re probably good.

Sometimes we need to remember we aren’t in 10th grade anymore.  It’s not like you are going to have to sit in class with her all day, while her friends make fun of you.  The only way to get into trouble with this is if you chase her after she says no.  Don’t ever do that.

The final reason we freeze is that most of us haven’t been taught how to approach a woman.  As men we don’t do well when we don’t have the skill to do something.  We are afraid of failure when we don’t know how to do it.  I’ll toss out some thoughts on that next week.

But for today, let me leave you with what I started with.  How do you react when you are attracted?  What are you afraid of?  What are you doing to change that?

What To Do When You Just Aren’t Into Them

Here’s a crazy thought I had today.  I’ve been dating (or trying to) for over 20 years.

Now there are lots of stories here, many of them fairly entertaining.  But one thing that is true of all of them, in the end, for all of the dates, none of them worked out.  Which leads me to something I haven’t talked about yet.  Ending stuff.

Now I haven’t been in a lot of long term relationships and in some ways those were actually easier to figure out.  I mean if you’ve been in the relationship and then it is determined that you are not going to get married, well then as painful as it might be, at least there is clarity of some sort.  But what I have always struggled with is how to cut it off early on.

For example, at what point do you owe an explanation?  If you meet up one time and then we don’t go out again, do I need to call you and explain why?  Two dates in?  Three?

I have often failed miserably here and I’ve been failed by the ladies as well.  Why is this so hard?

A lot of it comes from passivity really.  In other words I can easily justify in my mind that the other person probably isn’t really that into me yet anyway so it’s no big deal.  But that is so weak.  I’ve been that guy.  The one who took you out three or four times and then just didn’t really call you.  That’s not ok.  This happens all the time.  So here are some thoughts about what to do and not do.

First of all if you go out with someone and you just aren’t interested don’t keep dating them.  I would occasionally fall into this trap.  Usually it was because I liked the person and didn’t really have anything to say bad about them.  I just wasn’t interested in dating them.  But if I had to do it again, I’d just tell them that – not exactly like that maybe but something close to it.

I was seeing one gal for a while and then I left for a month.  While I was gone I realized it just wasn’t really there between us. When I got back I called her and we chatted.  She was great and we both agreed it just wasn’t really a match.  It wasn’t that anything was wrong with either of us, we just weren’t going to pursue it.  But this was a lucky example.  Most of the time, one person is more into it than the other person.  This leads to the second reason we avoid the conversation.

We don’t like hurting other people.  But the problem is that it is actually less hurtful to have a one time conversation.  Now girls and guys avoid this different ways.  Guys just kind of disappear, which is pretty gutless.  Again, I say that having been “that guy”.  Ladies typically mishandle this by coming up with reasons to say no – that aren’t no.  “I’m not free that weekend” or “I see you as a friend“.  We both need to just say it.  “You’re a great person, but I’m just not attracted to you.”  It hurts a little but it’s clear and it’s over, hopefully.

The truth is, for the most part, if you are not attracted you are probably not going to be.  I’m not saying it never happens that you become attracted later, but you probably won’t be more attracted by continuing to “half-way date” them.  Again I think I’ve fallen into this many times.  I like the person and think they’re great.  They love Jesus etc. so I keep trying to be attracted.  This is typically a waste of everyone’s time.  It would be better to walk away.  And you know what, if you walk away and then decide, “wait a minute I really like them” you can call them back and see what happens.

Finally when we are on the other end we need to assume the best and move on.  If he doesn’t call you, there is not some mysterious reason, he’s just not into it.  So move on. If she always has a reason to not hang out, she’s not really that busy.  If a girl likes you, she’ll find time.  So move on.

We can save ourselves a lot of time and a lot of hurt if we are just honest.  So learn to man up (or whatever a woman calls that) and just end it if it’s not going anywhere.  We owe the other person that.

So how are you at ending stuff?  How do you handle when a person is into it and you aren’t?  What about when you are into it and they aren’t?

Frozen Masculinity

My sophomore year I played varsity basketball.  I didn’t typically start but I played (a lot) on a team made up of 7 seniors and 3 Juniors.  I was the future.  But my junior year, while I was a better athlete, I was a worse player.  It was hard to describe.  It was like I was out there but I couldn’t fully engage.  I was kind of frozen.  There were many different reasons. I broke my thumb, we switched coaches and systems etc, but really, I was just off.  It was like I wanted it so bad that I couldn’t get it.  I was a starter, but honestly I shouldn’t have been.

One day after a particularly bad game my dad pulled me into his office.  We had a man to man.  He said, “Look, you’ve probably lost your starting job.  I wouldn’t start you.  You’ve got to turn it loose.  Somehow you’ve got to find some reckless abandon.  Sometimes you just have to say F it and go.”  My dad never cussed.  It’s maybe the best advice he’s ever given me.

That night I did start.  I also played freer.  I finished the last few games a little better and then had a good senior year.

Here’s what crazy.  The same thing happened to me in dating.  As a kid I had no game. But when I got to college I suddenly had dates.  I gained confidence and I was fearless.  I’d ask out a person in a store, the waitress, whoever, and they’d say yes.  But then some stuff changed. I had a long relationship that rightly ended but it was then that I knew I needed to date to get married, not just to date.  The pressure kind of mounted.  I was 22.

It was at this point (in my mid 20’s) that the whole “biblical dating” movement happened. Being a young Christian leader I of course wanted to do right.  So I didn’t date to date, never kissed anyone and even did the whole “courting” thing once.  Turns out you can get hurt there too.

When I turned 30 I moved to St. Louis, a much more target rich environment.  But there was a big problem.  I was frozen.  It was like I couldn’t pursue.  I over thought everything.  I was still too religious and when I did like someone I was too try hard.  I over thought, over pursued and felt awkward.  I was the nice guy.  It was seriously crazy.  It was like I was on the court, but not really able to engage.

There are a lot of guys in some sort of similar boat.  We talk all the time about how guys are passive and don’t pursue.  And many times when they do it’s all wrong.  A girl once told me, “I’m so tired of Christian guys.”  This was a gal who loved Jesus.  What she was really saying is, “I’m tired of wuss Christian guys who either won’t pursue me at all or who chase me and are constantly needy.”

We have a serious problem.  Many guys are frozen.  The reasons include but are not limited to:

  • Over-spiritualizing the whole thing.  This includes all I talked about here.  
  • Over-thinking the whole thing.  All of the pretend conversations with girls, trying to figure out if they like me, speculating on how it will all pan out, trying to avoid hurt and on and on
  • Fear of rejection – we are often afraid to ask out who we really want to.  Part of this comes from over thinking and building up the situation to begin with.
  • Fear of commitment – a lot of guys are just scared of marriage
  • Not knowing how to attract girls.  Most men have no training or help on how female attraction works.  They don’t know how to do it.
  • Waiting for the perfect person – you know the one who looks just right, talks just right, and acts just right – before you even know her
  • Worrying about what others think – both the girl we might ask and what others will think of her if we do
  • We’ve spent too much time having our sexual needs met other ways, which drives down the desire for marriage and drives up our shame – bad combination (more here soon)

All of these can play into each other.  It’s a cycle.  I think about it more, which steals more of my identity away from Christ, which makes me more worried about how it will go, which makes me less likely to act, which means when I do it will be awkward, which will make me more unattractive, which will mean I’m rejected, which will make me think about it more . . . . Whew I’m tired.

We’ve got to figure out how to stop it.  We’ve got to figure out how to act with some reckless abandon (which by the way is extremely attractive).  We have to break free and just go.

What freezes you?  What keeps you from fully engaging and pursuing marriage?  What has helped you get past it?

There Will Always Be Someone Else

Ever since I was a little kid it seems like there was always ONE girl that I liked.  And this didn’t have to be a girl I knew well, just the one that I wanted.  This lasted all the way through high school, kind of changed in college (I mean target rich environment right?) and then returned for my twenties.

In a lot of ways this is similar to what I talked about a few months ago about there not being THE ONE.  This idea that if I can just get “this girl” to like me or be with me then everything will be right.  This is not good.  That’s called an idol.  The idea that if I can just get this or that, things will be right.  Bad news.

It also crushes any hope of actually dating that person because you end up caring too much which in turn makes you unattractive.  It also keeps you from seeing other potential people around you, because you are so focussed on that one person.  If I could change anything about my high school (and to some degree later) dating experience it would be that I wouldn’t get so focussed on one person, that frankly I usually didn’t even know that well.  Looking back there were other just as attractive people that would have gone out with me.

You shouldn’t get focussed on one person until you are actually dating that person (obviously at this point you should be).  It puts too much pressure on you and them.  It distorts the image of this person and makes them more of a goal or object than a person to get to know.  Even if you “got” this person you’d be in trouble because they’d have all the power, and you can’t love someone who you need constant approval from. It also can make you pass on others that you should not be passing on.

Here’s what we need to get in our head: There Is Always Someone Else.  Always.

Now you would think that I would have figured this out a lot earlier than I did.  I mean in middle school I was obsessed with one person.  Then in early high school there was a different person, and in later high school yet another.  There’s always been another. Hmmm.

Look, I don’t care how hot she is, how much you like her, how perfect you would be together, there will always be someone else.  To have a chance you have to keep this in mind, otherwise every time that you meet someone you like you’ll try too hard, push too much and/or not know when/if to walk away. But if you know there will be someone else, then you can relax and be yourself because if it doesn’t work out, you guessed it, there will be someone else.

I don’t care how old you are either, or how long you’ve waited, or how tired you are of being single – there will be someone else.  If you get this in your head, there really is no fear.  Go get rejected, no big deal, there will be someone else.  Seriously.  I know it sounds kind of cold but it’s actually vital.  Even if you find someone you want to marry.  This is what makes you free to choose to marry that person.  If I know that there would be someone else then I can choose not be with anyone else but instead to be with only this person (sounds kind of like a wedding vow huh?).  Be sure you understand that you’re not choosing this person because they are THE ONE. You are choosing to make this person the ONLY ONE.

Gentlemen, this is why I keep urging you to get in the game, to get out there by any means necessary, to engage with women, to learn how to quit being nice and learn how to be attractive.  The more you know that there will be someone else, the more free you are to pursue anyone you want.  The more you think there is not someone else, the less you will be able to pursue anyone at all.

There’s a flip side here obviously. You can use this knowledge to treat people how you want, or wait for someone “perfect”, or figure why commit all because there’ll be someone else – I get that, and that post is coming asap.  But I think any honest assessment of most single guys I’ve known (including me) would show this is a huge deal.  It is killing us.  It leads to chasing instead of pursuing, not being able to get out there at all, or even marriages that are set up to fail.

If you’ve been single a while (and heck maybe especially if you’ve been married a while), you know this is true intellectually.  You’ve lived it – but do you live out of it?  Most truth is that way.  We know it but we don’t live out of it.  That’s the battle, but it’s one we have to engage.

Don’t Blame Women

Last week I shared that a lot of our bitterness comes from the fact that we are mad at God. We also often get mad at the opposite sex.  Here’s the reality – rejection hurts and there’s only so many reactions you can have to that.  What can happen is over time we end up kind of mad at the opposite sex in general. This doesn’t mean that we are mad at every person of that gender who we know.  That certainly isn’t usually the case.  But we can begin to have an attitude that can cost us.

Every guy is asking if they are a man, if they are successful, if they have what it takes. What often happens is we end up taking this question to the woman.  What I mean is that if I’m asking in my life if I am a “man” when I ask a girl out, I’m often taking that question to her.  Now she doesn’t actually know that, and it’s completely unfair to ask her to answer it, but inside, mostly subconsciously, that is what we are doing.  So when she says no, she’s not just saying, “No I don’t want to go out with you”, we are also hearing, “You aren’t man enough (good enough, successful enough, strong enough, or other enoughs).”

Most guys are fighting against failure.  And we often use women as the grade card.  This is a really bad idea.

First of all, whether you are single, married or whatever, if you as a man are going to have your date, lady of interest, or even your wife as a grade card, let me go ahead and give you your grade right now.  You fail.  You can not ace the date, boyfriend, husband test.  It’s not going to happen.  If you get your identity from that you are screwed.

Typically when we “fail” we respond in one of several ways.  All of which are bad when it comes to being single.

One way we respond is to keep trying harder.  When it comes to pursuing women its a disaster.  I’ve already talked about it but you do not want to chase the girl.  It makes her a goal instead of a person.  Additionally, being try hard is not attractive and won’t make her like you.  You can’t talk her into it.

Sometimes guys also just decide that women aren’t going to like them and just quit trying. This is no good either.  Just because you fail with one person doesn’t mean you can’t ask someone else.  It may mean I need to look at what I might be doing wrong but constantly beating myself up (next weeks post) doesn’t help at all.

A third reaction is to be mad at the her or women in general.  This is where we automatically think all of the bad things about her.  We say that she likes the wrong guys or that she just doesn’t get it.  Maybe we judge her faith and assign all sorts of false reasons as to why she wasn’t attracted to us.

A woman is either attracted to you or she isn’t.  If she isn’t attracted to you then what is she supposed to do?  She doesn’t owe you attraction.  She doesn’t owe you a date because your such a “Great Christian Guy”.  You are not entitled to a date with anyone.  It’s actually fairly ridiculous to be mad at someone who doesn’t want to date you.  Making matters worse is that when you begin to have this attitude, you get even less attractive.  It comes through in how we interact with women.  They can feel it, trust me.  They are extremely uncomfortable with the “angry” guy.

To be honest, most of the time when I’ve been mad at a woman or women for not liking me it’s pretty much a cop out.  I might actually be mad at them but really I’m more mad at myself and God.  It’s yet another way I can blame someone else for why I’m not with someone.  “Women just don’t want good guys.”  “Women are only interested in guys with (money, success, titles, etc).” “I’m just not good enough for her”.   It’s Adam in the Garden, “It’s her fault.”

The truth is that “women” are not the problem or the reason I’m single.  Thinking this way is a colossal waste of time and emotional energy.

We need to focus on us and God.  I need to take my questions of worth and manhood to God.  If I let Him answer those, an amazing thing happens – the woman is no longer my grade card.  I’m free to pursue or not, free to invite instead of chase, and free to walk away if she isn’t interested.  Which might just make her interested.

So have you been mad at women?  Ladies how does this work from your angle?  Have you blamed the opposite sex for your singleness?