Tuesday, July 20, 2004

Advice to the Love Lorn

A while back a young friend on a message board was asking us older wiser heads for advice about his love life.  I admit I got a bit carried away, but perhaps someday I'll write a book and this can be a chapter:
Hey Matt….
Honestly, I WOKE  UP at 7:30 am thinking about your story.  This is WAY longer than I intended it to be. 
    I was thinking that I really can’t understand how YOU feel, in part because I am a woman,  and in part because I never had experienced the apparent intensity that you feel toward this girl.   THEN I realized I had felt like that once, but didn’t have the guts to tell that person how I felt. 
What I can share is a woman’s point of view. 
What we have here, to boil it down, is a young man, infatuated with a slightly older woman who prefers to think of him as just a friend, but he wants more than that;  what you want to know is can you  do anything to change that. 
Probably not much.  At least there is nothing you can do to change her feelings overnight.  One of the problems with the guys I dated who professed their “love” to me is that, when I said I felt only friendship for them, they weren’t interested enough to stick around and see if they could change that – except for two guys, Dave (not his real name) and Tim.  I married Tim. 
Dave and I were good friends in high school and after.  Then one day I received a letter from him in which he hinted around that maybe his feelings were becoming stronger than that.  When he came back from his tour (he was part of a touring acting company), he professed his love and actually said he wanted to marry me. (we were in our twenties, but the basic idea still applies.)  I explained that I loved him, but my feelings were of the “brotherly” love type.  I said that if he wanted to try and change that, we could do stuff together and see what developed.  All successful romantic relationships have a strong element of friendship, so that was a good sign.
 For two years we “dated”, and Dave was great.  He never made me feel pressured and we had a good time together.  He even lost weight to be more physically attractive.  There wasn’t anything he could have done differently or better.
  At the end of two years, he was preparing to go off to a university that was a long ways away.  He took me out to a very nice restaurant.  When we got back to my apartment, I gave him a big hug and said, “Dave, I love you, but I don’t think my feelings are ever going to become the marrying kind.   You have to know this before you go off to Wisconsin, so you can feel free to find someone there.”  He was sad.
 Two months later, he was engaged to someone he met at college.  Now they are married and have four kids! 
After Dave I dated a few guys who pushed for the physical aspect of the relationship before I had a chance to get to know them.  When I wasn’t ready to “make out” on the second or third date, they took it as rejection and “dumped” me. 
Then Tim came along.  We dated and when he brought me home, he gave me a little peck on the cheek and said good night and that was it every Saturday night for the first two months!  He gave our relationship time to develop and solidify.  By the time he was ready to give me those longer, slower type kisses, I didn’t feel as if I were kissing a stranger.  Every date was like another piece of the puzzle that we fit carefully into place to see what the picture would be.  He built our relationship slowly, patiently, and, over time, I grew to trust him and realize that this was the kind of man to whom I could entrust my future happiness and my future children.
 About a year later, we married, and now we have been married for over eighteen years and - it is good!  Our love, which started as a tender plant that blossomed and bore fruit, has turned into an oak tree with deep roots and strong limbs that shelter our children and don’t shake with every blast of wind that comes along. 
But, I wax poetic.  Teaching literature makes you subject to sappy metaphors.  (get it?  sappy?  a tree?  haha.)
Here Matt interjects, “Hey Piper, will you knock off the crap and get on with the lecture?” 
To win ABC, follow steps A,B, and C.
Step A:   Accept that you and she are friends and be content with that relationship for now.  Don’t put any pressure on her; just be your charming self.  If it is meant to be, it will happen without you forcing it.  Actually, it’s a good thing that she is reacting to your admission of love like she does.   If she was ready to rush into a girlfriend/boyfriend relationship with someone she knows only superficially, I would suspect she’s one of those needy girls looking for a man to lean on.  They can be clingy and whiney and that gets old real fast!  Her independence and clear-thinking indicates a person who is emotionally healthy, and that’s probably one of the things that you find attractive about her. 
Step B:   Don’t YOU be the needy/clingy/demanding one.  Be someone who is attractive because you are relaxing and fun to be with.  Girls like intelligence, self-confidence, and tender, protective strength.  Build the relationship slowly and patiently.  Show that you think of her and are considerate of her feelings and respectful of her opinions.
Step C:  If you want a Queen, you have to make yourself into a King.  Visualize the person you want to become.   Have some clear-eyed, long-range goals for your future and be working towards them.  Keep in mind that as you make choices now, you are building a foundation upon which the future structure of your life’s happiness will rest.  (more visual metaphors) 
How do you do this? 
      1.  Choose a talent and commit to developing it.  Whether you have ability in art, playing an
           instrument, singing, playing tennis, martial arts, acting, or maybe just involve yourself in
           community service,  becoming good at it will 
               a.  make you stand out from the crowd and get respect.
               b.  give you something with which to feel good about yourself, building self-
               c.  make a nice tool with which to woo your beloved.
            Most people have talents, but don’t develop them because it takes a long time and they
            just don’t have the gumption to stick to it.  That’s why people who are really good at
            something stand out.
      2.  Be a class act. 
                a.  Choose to do the right thing.   This will not only ultimately create a sense of self
                    satisfaction, but will result in you having a good reputation, which will ultimately
                    make you more attractive to the right kind of woman.
                b.  Dress neatly.  You can’t control the fact that you inherited grandpa’s big nose, or
                     your mom’s bad eyesight, but you can control looking like a lazy slouch or an
                     immature kid who thinks he has to look like a gansta to be cool, or dying your hair
                     bright orange, which only makes people think you are desperate to be noticed. 
                     All that kind of stuff does is make you fit in with other questionable characters who
                     are doing the same thing.  (How do you get attention?  Refer back to 1.)  How a
                     person dresses is only a surface appearance, but it is an indicator of what is going
                     on inside.  First impressions are important. 
                 c.  Watch your language.   I don’t wish to offend or be critical of others who use
                      profanity, so I’m not going to say any more about it here, but if you’re looking to
                      appear classy, it works against you.  
                 d.  Educate yourself.  Read a lot.  Go to college if possible, but it’s not necessary.  Be
                       a well-rounded person who has opinions and can back them up with intelligent
                       reasoning.  This requires a foundation of information. 
                 e.  Develop healthy habits.  Avoid McDonald’s French fries.  They make you break
                      out.  Get exercise. You don’t have to look buff, but you don’t want to look like a
                      couch potato either.  (On the other hand, buff is big points in the attracting girls
                 f.  And I hardly need to say this;  avoid drugs and alcohol.  I have seen nothing but
                      pain and trouble from using this stuff to dull your senses. 
3.  Dump the baggage.   Yeah, so your childhood wasn’t perfect.  Deal with it. 
          Some people have great sob stories that they love to share with everyone.  They use
          a difficult childhood to excuse their own failings and bad habits.  Initially, this
          whining gains them sympathy and attention.  But ultimately, others tire of being a
          listening ear and a leaning post.  These people end up sabotaging their
          relationships and are seen as a potential risk.  Or they will be picked up by a
          person who sees them as a sure thing – as someone who will put up with anything
          because they seem to need someone else so badly.
                 If you truly have serious problems, get help.  Some people have their hands so
          full of the baggage, they have no hands left to pick up and hold on to the happiness
          right there in front of them.
Step D.  I just thought of this.  Somebody once told me that a good sign when looking at potential mates was to observe how a man treats his mother.  They explained that, when a guy wants to marry you, you are their goal, and guys are very goal oriented.  Even if they treat you like a queen during the dating phase of the relationship, you still don’t know how they will treat you after you – the goal - have been obtained, and they have moved on to their next goal.  To get an indication of this, you observe the guy’s attitude toward the other woman with whom he has a close relationship – his mother, and whereas you don’t want the relationship to be abnormally close, you do want to see him treat her with respect and consideration, because that’s how he will be treating you, more or less, after you’ve been married a few years.   (This is a generalization, of course.  A friend of mine married a guy who disliked his mother, but there were extenuating circumstances.  The marriage is 20 years old and good.)  When I saw that Tim had a great relationship with his mom, that was a very good sign. 
     I said all that to say this:  Work on your relationship with your mom.  Your attitude toward woman in general is heavily influenced by the kind of feelings you have for your mother.  Scary?  You bet.  But you actually have more power here than you think.
     Teens tend to let their parents do all the work involved in having and maintaining a healthy parent/child relationship, and then resent it when things are less than perfect.  Some parents don’t know how to do this.  They haven’t had good role models in this area, so they are either too controlling, or too critical, or too hey, whatever.  An adversarial tone builds up, and life with mom and/or dad becomes a series of battles and one-upmanship.  Teens can work to diffuse this.
    1.  Always tell the truth so you build trust.  It may take them a while to realize they can trust
          you, but if you don’t betray that trust, you can point out to them that you have shown
          reliability and honesty and have earned their confidence.  My daughter used this on me and
          it worked. 
    2.  Be affectionate.  Tell them you love them.  Parents need your reassurance as much as you
          need theirs. 
    3.  Share when you have problems.  And if they start giving you the big lecture, gently explain
         that what you really need right now is someone to listen;  you’ll let them know when you
         want advice.   Then make sure you actually ask them for advice once in a while.  Even if
         you don’t really want to hear it.  There might be something in there you can agree with.
Learning to develop and maintain a healthy relationship will be a big advantage later on.  Some people spend their whole lives trying to find happiness;  some people create it. 
Now, if you’ve actually read all this, you must be serious.  Most of this stuff is long-term, and you want results tomorrow.  Sorry.  That’s life.  But life can be GOOD!
Good luck, God bless, and I hope you find happiness. 

No comments: