Romance and the Single Woman

Sometimes I honestly believe that there are no good women left in the world. I know that this isn’t true, and this isn’t a boohoo, woe is me, I’ll never find a wife kind of post.  I’m completely aware that sometimes this feeling has everything to do with me. However, I spent tonight with a bunch of college students (the vast majority of them female) watching a bollywood romance movie (I think I’ve had nightmares about this scenario). The movie was… not great. The female lead was clearly narcissistic and quite possibly a sociopath.

This womn was obsessed with ‘adventure’, by which she meant the adrenaline rush she got from lying, cheating, stealing, and generally ruining other peoples lives. The story opens with her father forcing her to marry against her will. Her answer to this problem? Take advantage of a hard-working man whom her father had cheated by forcing him to kidnap her at gun point (even though she was actually the one holding the gun) and demand an outrageous ransom. She forces/convinces him to steal for her, help her con an innocent gas station attendant out of 10,000 rupies (I think its rupies at least), break into a strangers house and set it up as their home base, and by half-way through the movie this poor man is madly in love with her… this is clearly stockholm syndrome. So, as it turns out, this man’s father is the premier kidnapper in northern India and he has both of them kidnapped to bring his son home. His son, the hard-working man, originally left home because he wanted nothing to do with his father’s business of kidnapping people. He wanted to live an honest life, which this woman has now ruined. She, however, gets along great with his family (half cheats and half decent folks… maybe) and insinuates herself into the fold, even convincing his father to raise the ransom he is demanding for her to a point that will leave her own family impoverished. When her father finally does show up with his daughter (because, what do you know, he actually loves her… can’t figure out why), the kidnapper’s family wants her to stay. The kidnapper, however, leaves the choice up to his son. He, of course, tells her to go home with her father because he wants her to be safe and happy! Of course, this will never happen with a family of thieves and kidnappers, and so she leaves in a huff, deciding that she hates him. The movie does manage to salvage a half-way decent (though non-sensical) ending with the kidnapper’s family mending their ways and the hard-working man winning her back (though why I still can’t figure out). However, it’s a movie so, what do you really expect.

My biggest problem though was not with the movie, but with the women who were watching the movie. The women who found the woman’s clearly horrific actions to be cute, endearing, and romantic. The women who saw every reason for this poor young man to fall in love. The women who were furious with the hard-working man for acting in her best interest even though it hurt him (I believe I heard one woman shout ‘I’ll punch him!’). Honestly, the woman in this movie was the kind of woman that any sensible man should run from, far and fast. She was Emma from Madame Bovary or Scarlett from Gone with the Wind. She was a selfish, childish woman with no moral compass, and no care for others, who wanted a man who would simultaneously be her slave and a dangerous bad guy. In short, she was the farthest thing from romantic, and certainly not a woman that anyone should attempt to emulate.

So, this left me ultimately frustrated. A frustration which I now vent here. Tonight has not been good for my hopes of finding a quality woman somewhere out in the world. Still, as I said at the beginning, I do know a few women of high quality, so at least they do exist.

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Truth and Honesty

So, I’ve mentioned before that I don’t post comments on this blog, but I welcome people to send them to me. On my last post I received the following comment from fatgirlsblog:

I think your on the right track by admitting your not attracted to the lady. If I may make a suggestion…be truthful and tell her. That will hurt her “a little” instead of a lot later.
Great honest post. :-)

First of all, I want to thank you for the comment, the advice, and the encouragement. I plan to be honest with her. Tactful, but honest. I am hoping that she feels the same way. That will make everything much easier. However, whether she does or not, I think she’ll be better off if I’m honest with her, so that’s what I plan to do.

I’ve mentioned before that I struggle with my view of women, largely because the majority of women in my life haven’t been truthful with me. So, much as it’s difficult to risk hurting someone, I believe strongly in honesty and openness at an level of a relationship, whether it’s only a friendship, a burgeoning romance, or a full-on romantic relationship. I think that’s it for me today, but I did want to make sure that I responded to that particular comment.

Waiting, Still

I hope that you caught the play on words in the title of this post. I finally told flowergirl that I have feelings for her. This wasn’t a romantic confession and I didn’t ask her out, it was just something that came up in a conversation. We had a nice little chat about the fact that she thinks I’m really great, but just not what she’s looking for, which wasn’t in any way a surprise. I have to admit that, even though I’ve know this for a while and generally come to terms with it, I’m still a little disappointed. Nonetheless, I am still striving to reach a place in which I can simultaneously strive for those things that I desire, and those desires that I believe God has put on my heart, and trust in him for their timing. I’m generally good at doing one or the other, but I’m really not good at doing both.

That being said, flowergirl said something to me that I’ve heard all too often. Something that I find is very common in women, and increasingly common in men. When I asked her what she was looking for her response was: ‘I don’t know, a feeling I guess’. She didn’t elaborate much, and I didn’t ask her to. However, I’m guessing that I know what that feeling is, even though she doesn’t. American culture has built a view of ‘love’ that is focused entirely on romance, or on feelings of passion. I hear people commonly say that ‘you know you love someone when you get those butterflies in your stomach’ or ‘I want to just be swept away by love’. Here’s the problem with these ideas: while they are commonly portrayed in the media, and while ‘love at first sight’ is a real thing (I can say this from experience) it is also incredibly stupid. I’m not saying that it’s stupid to believe in love at first sight, or that its stupid to follow those feelings (though I will argue that it generally is), but that this form of love is, in and of itself, stupid. To be swept away by feelings of passion for someone is a good thing… when that someone is a person who you can be confident cares for you, values you, respects you, and will put your best interests first. To be swept away by feelings of passion for someone you’ve known for five and a half minutes is a very bad idea. ‘Love at first sight’ is based entirely on an initial feeling of passion that cannot take into account the kind of person the passion is focused on. It can’t take this into account because it can’t know the person in any real or meaningful way.

The thing that the movies repeatedly leave out is that healthy passion is something that you build in a relationship. It comes from time invested with the person. It comes from repeatedly seeing that person actively care for you and put you first. To follow passion is an act of absolute trust in the person towards who that passion is directed, and to be healthy that trust must be both given freely and given carefully. If this following of passion is forced on you by another person, whether through emotional manipulation, charismatic charm, etc, it is not freely given and extremely unhealthy. Similarly, if this following of passion is not given carefully, then it is unhealthy because it cannot take into account the nature and personality of the other person. This passion is similar to handing over everything you own to a stranger. He might be a philanthropist, but he might also be a thief. You have no way of knowing.

Similarly, healthy passion is something that you create and something that you control. By choosing to repeatedly to act towards another in love, you create that passion for them in your own heart. Love is, first and foremost, something that you choose to do towards others, not something that you feel. Honestly, I think that many of use know quite well how to say this, but have no actual concept concerning how to do it. Something that flowergirl told me yesterday, and that I’ve heard before, is that I work harder to love others than anyone she’s ever met. This didn’t used to be true, but it is something that I have put a lot of effort into developing. God loved me through some very difficult times, and now I try to always choose to love others, even when it is difficult. Sometimes I have to work hard not to be swept away with passion for the people (well… the women) that I work hard to love because I know that they do not love me in return. However, this is how I know that repeatedly choosing to love someone creates a passion for that person.

What I am trying to say here is that chasing after passion as the foundation of a relationship is similar to buying a bachelors degree and assuming that you’ll do the work to build a necessary knowledge base later. 1) You haven’t done anything to earn it, 2) since you already have it, you aren’t going to bother putting in the effort to earn it, and 3) just like the bought degree, this passion is meaningless and fickle. As soon as any real pressure is put upon it the passion will fall apart, and shortly after the relationship will also fall apart. There was a young woman several years ago who broke my heart (gave me a heart attack actually). I’ve mentioned this before. While I am not seeking after a romantic relationship with her (primarily because of some things that she did during the years when she wasn’t speaking to me), I still love her with all of my heart. My love for her was not built on a feeling, it was built on a series of choices, and the passion with which I feel that love may have changed its focus, but it has not dimmed in any way. This is what we should be looking for, but I’m afraid that the majority of us have forgotten that.

Rain

I was going to write another entry on my thoughts about manhood today, but it’s just not coming to me right now. Today has been a rainy day. Unlike the short, sudden downpours that we’ve been having all summer (the ones that I can only describe as God pissing on Lynchburg), today has been wet, dreary, and rainy all day long. Yet this somehow seems appropriate. Water is cleansing, and at the moment my mind and heart could certainly use a cleansing. I made dinner for flowergirl and her roommates last night, and I think it went fairly well. We all ate, and everyone enjoyed the meal, and then one roommate left for a concert and the other went to bed, leaving flowergirl and I alone. We cleaned up and talked for about two hours. I think it was a wonderful conversation about philosophy, politics, and life… I have no idea if she would agree with me. Much as I think the dinner went well, I am now more convinced than ever that she has absolutely no romantic interest in me. Still, God hasn’t told me to date her, or to romance her, or to pursue a relationship with her. He’s told me to love her well, and to expect nothing in return. This, I think, is thoroughly annoying.

I am left with the feeling that no woman will ever truly love me. I don’t honestly believe that this is true, and yet at the same time I do. As much as God has grown me this summer, as much as he’s taught me about joy and satisfaction in him, the idea that a woman would ever put my needs and desires before her own seems anathema to me. Yet, now more than ever, I know that the most significant thing that I am looking for in a romantic partner (among an array of desires) is a woman who will make me a high priority in her life. Actually, I’m looking for a woman who will make me the second priority in her life, right after her relationship with God. I think that this is personal growth, at least growth of a sort. In the past I’ve always pursued women who needed me or women who would let me love them, and I’ve always been hurt.

Earlier this week (…I might have written this down, not sure) a friend of mine, in an off-hand comment, told me that I should be picky. I honestly don’t know what he intended when he said that (though, given the context of the conversation is was clearly about my dating life), but the comment has stayed with me, and it’s meant a lot to me. Honestly, I’ve always felt like the bottom of the barrel romantically. A part of me wants to say that I’ve always been made to feel like the bottom of the barrel, and I’m not entirely sure that statement would be untrue, but it feels like a lack of responsibility. Regardless of how others treat me, I decide how I see myself. That being said, I have generally been treated like the bottom of the romantic barrel by the majority of the women in my life. However, the key here is that I’ve always felt like the bottom of the barrel.

Regardless of how people have treated me, I’ve looked at myself and seen someone that no woman would want. I’ve seen someone who’s place is to give love, but not receive it. I’m not completely sure that I’m past this. I still look at myself and can’t imagine a woman ever wanting to love me. I still see someone who is fundamentally undesirable in some indefinable way, and at the moment I’m still not sure how to change this. However, I think actively looking for someone who is willing to love me as much as I love her, instead of looking for someone who simply needs love but won’t give it. I also realized a couple of weeks ago (and I’m pretty sure I did mention this) that it actually wouldn’t matter to me if flower-girl wasn’t a virgin. This is the first time I’ve been attracted to a woman and not truly and deeply worried about this.

Don’t get me wrong, I certainly hope she is, even if only for her sake. I also still hope that I wind up marrying a virgin. However, in the past I have been afraid that I’d wind up with a woman who wasn’t a virgin. I’ve been afraid of being judged, or of not measuring up, or of… whatever. Of something going horribly wrong and my new wife, whoever she may be, finding herself completely sexually dissatisfied with me. I have not had this issue with flowergirl. It really just hasn’t been an issue. At the moment I’m not entirely sure whether to attribute this to some personal growth in myself (conceivably possible) or to something about her (…also possible…) or to something particular about my feelings for her (also possible… perhaps the most likely, not sure though).

Ultimately, I think I still have some growing to do. Probably a lot of growing to do. Its entirely possible that I’ll spend my life alone, and I think that’s something that I’m still afraid of. However, I also think that this summer has brought a lot of spiritual and personal growth in me, and that is most definitely a good thing.

Humbled Like Christ

I’ve always loved the beginning of the second chapter of Philippians. Christ humbled himself for us because, though he was equal with God (i.e. he was a co-equal member of the Godhead, of which no member has primacy), he did not view that equality as a thing to be taken, but instead he gave it up to become a man. Not only did he become a man, but he became a poor carpenter’s son who, thirty-three years later, was crucified by the Romans to pacify the Jewish religious aristocracy. This picture of complete humility, from all-powerful creator of the cosmos to condemned man, is the ultimate example of Paul’s charge in the same chapter to view others as higher than ourselves, and of his charge in Romans to view ourselves with right minds. Christ, though he was the second person of the living God, did not view himself so highly that he refrained from becoming a man that would be shamefully hung on a cross (for in Jewish culture this was a shameful way to die). Why then do I think so highly of myself that I believe others should gather around my feet to be taught, or that women should love me, or that I am, in any way, deserving of respect or love.

Today we are enamored of the concept of human rights. I blame this largely on the enlightenment, culminating in the Declaration of Independence – the first wholesale statement of rights rather than responsibilities. We focus on what we deserve as individuals: I should be loved, I should be respected, I should be given work, I should be happy, I should be…, I should…, I…, I…, I…. In this obsession with selfishness we lose one of the most fundamental aspects of the Christian faith: life is not about me. If Christ can put aside his rights as the creator of all things and subject himself willingly to torment and execution, then can’t I put aside a few of my rights? I’ve been up all night, vacillating between prayer, watching Lindsey Stirling videos (the young lady I’ve mentioned introduced her to me in a facebook conversation last night), and looking at porn. In this case, two of the three have the same impetus: I am afraid. I am afraid of getting hurt, afraid that putting myself out there will lead me to another heartbreak, and all God keeps saying is to ‘trust him’, which generally isn’t helpful when I want emotional reassurance. So, after a night’s worth of struggle, sin, repentance, and pleading, my devotions this morning were Philippians 2.

Christ, in all his deific glory, found himself worthy to be born as a man and die a painful and humiliating death so that God could be glorified through our salvation. And here I am gnashing my teeth over the prospect of getting my heart broken again. Honestly, it really is incredibly ridiculous. If it is God’s will that my heart be broken again, and I truly hope that it isn’t, then I should rejoice in that as it glorifies him, and he will use it in my life to make me better. This is a part of what it means to be humbled. To give myself entirely over to the calling of God in my life, no matter what that calling might be, and allow him to shape me as he wills.

So, now (finally… you’d think I’d catch on sooner) I find myself praying that God give me peace, whatever he leads me to. Instead of begging him for someone’s love, or pleading with him to protect my heart, or raging at him for putting it in danger yet again, or fleeing into sinful comforts, I am simply asking for his peace through everything. The truth is that I hate the beginning of things when it isn’t clear which way a relationship will go. I want to be in a comfortable, committed relationship that is going to turn into marriage, and I’d honestly rather skip the ‘getting to know you’ phase entirely. However, in this also, I will ask for peace.

Flowers

So… I may have done something stupid today. Of course, it could also be something awesome. It’s all kind of up in the air. Remember that young lady I mentioned (yesterday, I think… I don’t remember what I write in these things)… well, I sent her flowers today. Anonymously, of course… I’m still worried about making things awkward for her, and I’m worried about getting my heart broken again. I’m really not a fan of getting my heart broken. Here’s the thing, every time I pray about this lady (and I’ve prayed about her a few times) God tells me to ‘just love her’. He tells me not to worry about whether a relationship will come out of it, or whether she’ll like me, or whether my heart will get broken, but to just love her. In keeping with that idea, the flowers were anonymous, and I’m trying to keep in mind that I’m nothing more than her friend until she says differently. I’m not trying to win her heart. I’m not trying to seduce her. All I’m going to do is do my best to make her life better. I’m trying very heard to guard my own heart through all of this, not to get my hopes up or to fall in love or… anything like that really.

Honestly, I find the entire thing both exhilarating and terrifying in the extreme. I have no idea what she thinks of me, and I’m not sure that I’m really comfortable putting myself out there again. That honestly makes me wonder if I need to spend more time being intentionally single. Nonetheless, she’ll get the flowers in a couple of days, along with an encouraging note, and hopefully it will make her day a little bit better. Seriously though, flowers are expensive! I’m not going to say how much I dropped on this, but man… expensive.

Honestly, there is a part of me (a small part) who wants to ‘make sure I get my money’s worth’ here… whatever that actually means. The thought has crossed my mind that I spent all this money and I deserve something in return. It’s ridiculous, of course, she doesn’t owe me anything, and I honestly feel ashamed that the idea ever entered my head. I did this to make her life a little better, not to get something for myself. However, there is that selfish part of me that wants to get something for myself anyway. Honestly… that part of myself is pretty disgusting, and extremely exhausting. I’m really tired of him making everything about me, and that is one of the reasons that I’m trying very hard to keep my focus here on God. I keep telling myself, ‘just love her, don’t look for anything in return, just love her’. It’s harder than it sounds, which is kind of strange.

I have a number of friends who I care for deeply (heck, I was going to drive one of them to a town an hour away so that she could pick up a new ID), and with them I don’t have any trouble with expecting a return. It’s just not an issue. However, with a woman for whom I have feelings… it’s far too easy to do things in order to get things, and I don’t want to do that. I have no interest in manipulating the people that I care about, and that makes me wonder why it’s so easy for me to want to do exactly that.

Honestly, God still has a lot of work to do in me.

Out, Out Damn Spot!

As I write this, I’m sitting on my bed seriously considering not ever pursuing the lady that I’ve mentioned in a couple of posts now. This isn’t because anything has happened between us, I haven’t seen or spoken to her since the game night we were both at last Friday, but it’s been a stressful evening, and I’m rather down on myself right now. At the moment, I just don’t really see the point in trying. My thoughts keep coming back to a single question: Who could ever love me? No one ever has, so why would this woman? I’d just be setting myself up for more pain.

Often we let discouragement convince us to give up before we’ve even made an honest try at something. We get depressed, or we get hurt, or circumstances turn hard, and we just give up because there’s no point in trying. The above paragraph shows two major problems: 1) Will I create a self-fulfilling prophesy? And 2) If I honestly think this little of myself, then am I really ready for a relationship?

Honestly, I’m not sure I have an answer to either one. If I can’t believe that she might be interested in me, then is there really a chance that she would be? Not to say that I’m not a worthwhile guy, but my perception can have a strong effect here. If I convince myself that she couldn’t be interested, and act accordingly, then chances are that if she is interested, she’ll lose interest pretty quickly. Thus, I create exactly the response that I expect.

However, I really think the latter question is the more important one. This is the question to which I keep returning. Am I ready for a relationship? I want a relationship. I want someone to love me, and I want to love someone… ….those should probably be reversed… but am I ready for one? I’ve been through a lot in the last couple of years, and there’s been a lot of pain and rejection, not just from women, but definitely from women. I like this woman, but I’m really not sure that I’m ready for anything even remotely smacking of romance at the moment.

I have a friend who has recently started dating a guy in this same situation. Well, he was in the same situation when she first got serious about him a year and a half a go. I actually find the similarities somewhat amazing. He’s a little older than me, so at the time he was the same age that I am now, with a similar history with women (I don’t know if he was celibate), and the same questions and concerns that I have now. My friend, we’ll call her Jill 2, waited for this guy for a long time, loved him, and didn’t pressure him, and when he was finally ready they got together.

A part of me wonders if maybe this woman that I like could be Jill 2 for me? At the same time, I wonder if I would want her to be. While I have no idea where I am right now, I’m not exactly keen on making someone wait like that. I have waited (2 years at one point) for women and I know how much it hurts to wait for someone you love. I also know how much more it hurts, and how unfair it is, for that waiting to wind up being for naught.

Sometimes we get discouraged. Sometimes that discouragement is because of guilt or depression, lies or foolishness. Sometimes that discouragement is because we’re trying to do something that we really shouldn’t be doing in the first place. Sometimes we need to play through the pain and keep on going, and sometimes we need to stop. The problem is trying to tell which is which in a life where we generally don’t get second chances.

My answer? I’m going to pray about it… a lot. I’m going to pray and pray and pray, and then I’m going to pray some more. Then, I’ll probably ask her if she wants to see a movie with me and see what happens. Ultimately, I don’t know where this goes. I wish I did, and I hope God tells me to either go for it, or to leave it alone… very, very clearly. However, I do know myself. I’m not generally one to let an opportunity go by without at least giving it a shot.