I have two very distinct memories of the times I spoke up and said something.
We were sitting in his living room. And I think my heart knew it was ending. I was furious at him. Furious for something he did that broke his promise to me and made me look like a fool. When I went over there I wanted to yell and throw things and hurt him. I needed him to hurt as much as he hurt me.
Yet as I sat there and I looked in his eyes, I saw sorrow and confusion. I saw regret and pain. He knew he hurt me. He knew he was wrong. He knew he crossed over a line that would never allow us to go back to where we had been. I think he knew it was over too.
His pain caught me off guard. It softened and settled me. I realized I had a choice — I had one last chance to fight for him, for us. I could tell him what was on my heart and walk away with no regrets, or I could lash out of my wounds and sever a tie that had been tightening for a year.
I chose to fight.
I sat there and I told him all the things I loved about him. I told him he was brave and strong. I told him he was enough. I told him how he had changed my life. I told him I wanted to be his only choice. I told him I would never walk away if he chose me. I cut my heart open and let him see all the wild feelings that had been growing for the past year. I told him I understood if he chose her, but that I had to walk away. It had to be the last time.
And he did choose her. And I did walk away. And it was the last time.
Earlier this year I was involved with a complicated long distance situation. We did a complicated long distance thing off and on for two years. He kept saying he was coming to Colorado to see me. To take me on a proper date. He wanted to be sure what he thought was happening was true. But every time he bailed. He didn’t show up. He’d cancel his plans. I cared about him more than I was willing to admit. I liked the person I was when he was in my life. So I fought for him. Because that’s what I do. I fight.
We had a conversation similar to the one I had two years prior with the other guy. But in the end he couldn’t be certain and I couldn’t let myself keep trying to convince someone to be certain about me. These two times are the only times I’ve spoken up. I figured it should probably be the last time.
There have been other times I’ve wanted to. To share what was on my heart. To confess that honestly, I just wanted them to take me to dinner. I wanted to go to dinner and see if maybe what I thought could be there really was. I wanted them to take a chance on me. Not that I assumed we were going to be in a relationship and get married but I just wanted a shot.
Sometimes I wonder what would have happened if I had spoken up with some of the other guys. Would it have changed the scenario? Did I read the situation wrong? Were they interested and I missed it? Should I have shown more interest? Was I cold? Distant?
I found out recently that I’ve got pretty high defenses when it comes to men. I didn’t know that. I thought I was unguarded, easy to pursue, open. But apparently I was wrong. They think I hate them. I’m rude and withdrawn. I don’t want to be around them. I act like at any point they’re going to reject me or they already have rejected me. But they don’t know I’ve already given them that power. And my fatal flaw is that I interpret everything they do as if they know I’ve let them in to the tender places in my heart and every glance, smirk, sigh, or awkward pause feels weighted with significance.
So here’s what I’m trying to figure out — what is the balance between encouraging pursuit and waiting to be pursued? Is it wrong for me to speak up? Is it unattractive if I admit that I’d just like to go to dinner with you because you make me laugh and I’m curious to know how your brain works? Will that turn you away from me because I’m being too forward?
I’m truly at a loss here… I know we’ve screwed up pursuit and relationships and gender roles and it’s all one big confusing mess. So friends, what’s the cure? How do we navigate this?
Ladies? Any good examples of how you’ve done this well?
Men? What are your thoughts on the matter?
(and because this always gets taken out of context, I probably need to be clear that the “you’s” and dates and dinners at the end are hypothetical. So please don’t ask me if I’m writing about you…)