No Substance

QUESTION: Hi Guys, a friend just let me know about your blog and I was so impressed with the combination of frank honesty and respectful sensitivity that I thought I'd ask you about a recent situation that is now over, but I really am wondering, "What was he thinking?"

I'm an educator and a coach for one of my school's academic teams. Last year I met a "nice guy" at one of the tournaments; he paid me a nice compliment and seemed to want to talk to me, but then my team went one way and his went the other. In November 2008 we met up again at the same tournament, and this time he introduced himself (he approached me) and later on when we both had a break, I approached him and we had a pleasant conversation where we learned that we had common interests, including faith and values. He asked for my card so that we could continue communicating instead of waiting for tournaments, so we exchanged business cards.

A week later he sent me a sweet email that seemed to indicate interest, but also was very polite in case I was just being friendly at the tournament. Wanting to let him know that the interest was mutual (if I was reading him right), I took a chance and replied with a few flirty elements - nothing "over the top": he had complimented my smile, so I let him know I thought he was handsome. I also gave him my phone number in that email because I prefer conversation to emailing and we had already met face-to-face, so I was comfortable with that. I did not hear from him for about 10 days, then I received a VERY APOLOGETIC email that plainly expressed interest and explained that he had been extremely stressed lately. I got it because not only was it the busiest time of the semester, but he was stretched between two jobs about 200 miles apart. I would not have been the most pleasant person to talk to then myself, and I only have 1 job. I emailed "forgiveness," and we emailed back and forth that day... Then nothing for another 2 weeks. And the semester was over.

During the 2 week break I noticed 2 things: 1) there was no substance to his emails. On the one hand, I got firing off a quick note while at work, but in my emails I had deliberately included "meat" so that he could get to know me. Nothing intimate. Knowing we had faith in common, I let him know the latest lesson the Lord had taught me (dealing with student drama) and a book I was reading and that it was a blessing. Well, he would respond to the "light" or flirty content, but never touched the substance or offered any on his part. He would just flirt. Nothing nasty, but no meat. At first I was cool with the light, flirty emails because I assumed that substantive communication would take place over the phone, which leads to observation #2) He sat on top of my phone number for over a month with no explanation and these light, flirty emails and long breaks in communication.

At the end of the 2 weeks, I sent him a, "Okay, the last thing I want to do is add to your stress, but are you out there?" email and got a very sweet TEXT MESSAGE and another day of lightweight email volleys, beginning with another apology and him noting that this was getting to be a pattern with him. Then nothing again. 2 days later, I sent him an "I prayed for you this morning" text message, by this time not expecting a reply and not receiving one (one of the things I prayed for was for the Lord to show him what the heck to do with me because he didn't seem to know) and by the end of the day I noticed that I was referring to him in the past tense. OVER. Interesting, on Christmas day he texted me a somewhat cool Merry Christmas and I did not reply. My interest was in a diabetic coma (starved, and fed only sugar) and I had figured out that he apparently was not as interested as he had presented himself, so I was not quite sure how to respond.

Since it was over before it began, I'm okay, but I'm just wondering, "Huh?" I've never had a man APPROACH ME then sit on top of my phone number for over a month. In our conversation, he did not come off as a "player," and he certainly seemed to have some substance to share, especially since his new job was actually in ministry and the class he teaches in his academic job is about the Bible. He is white and I am black, but when we talked about race in our initial conversation it was very comfortable and I was impressed that when he shared his experiences of being ostracized based on his demographics he did not use that to say, "I know how you feel," but instead these instances made him realize that events that were isolated incidents in his life were a "way of life" for some of his friends - meaning he has black friends. So it's over and done now, but I'm curious about what on earth happened.

Any insight would be appreciated. Thank you!

GARLAND: Nice question. Thanks for sending it and thanks for the very kind words at the introduction.

I'm not 100% sure - keep that in mind - but this guy sounds either married or in a relationship. The whole "lapses in communication" and generally bland tone to his E-Mails sounds like a guy that wants to keep the damage to a minimum just incase 'The Missus' stumbles across his hotmail account or his Blackberry. Polite E-Mails 2 or 3 times a month with a fellow teacher from another school is probably pretty justifiable if he finds his wife staring at him angrily upon his arrival home one night. "Oh, honey. Sheila is a science teacher over at Polytech, really great lady. Great sense of humor always cutting up and flirting."

I hate to dismiss your E-Mails so lightheartedly, but that is a strong probability. He probably wasn't try to play you or hurt you, I certainly don't know his motivations or if he is married or involved with someone, but maybe his relationship is at a questionable point and he wanted to get to know you WITHOUT stringing you along and without too much cheating towards his faltering relationship. He may have overplayed his hand and didn't know what to do next.

The same holds true if he ISN'T seeing someone. Maybe he wanted to get to know you but wasn't sure how well or how far it would or should go.

He doesn't sound like a guy with bad intentions on his mind. A Player could have probably done a lot of harm to you emotionally, but this guy seemed unsure of himself and unsure of what he wanted. In the end I doubt if there was any real malice on his part, I just think he jumped into the pool before he really wanted to get wet. I can tell you, that you haven't heard the last from him. I bet that if you tell him it might be best if he not E-Mail you any more and then you wish him luck for next years tourney, he'll thank you and move on to figure out whatever life has instore for him next. That way you won't have to wonder about him everytime you login to your E-account.

Also, keep in mind that he is the one who lost out here - NOT YOU!!!

CHUCK: Garland's all over this one. Straight up-and-down, he's calling it. I believe that this guy was away from home, feeling a little firtacious, and when he got a nibble from the bait he was using, he was unsure whether he wanted to reel you in. Forgive the fishing analogies. He's probably got a girlfriend, has probably been caught cheating in the past. So while he can't help but contact you, but will not commit to anything but bland pleasantries, spread out over weeks.

You did more than you were supposed to do. You held out for a while, with little reason to, thinking that you had met someone who you had made a connection with. And when his neglect and lack or ardor wore you down, you moved on mentally. Great. And you didn't even say anything about closure. You're gonna be okay.

One thing, though, if I could. A word about faith and values: I don't want to offend anyone, but nearly all of us have "faith" and "values." They may be Christian faith and values, but that doesn't give them less merit, does it? Some of us choose to bang a drum about the supposed Christian values we hold to make ourselves look better. I've heard of many a slippery player, running weak game through a church that would get him a beating anywhere else. Don't necessarily assume that the person claiming to espouse faith and values is any more worthwhile than another person who is living the same way, but doing it quietly.

I'm not claiming that this guy was necessarily a charlatan out to exploit you, because he did not make an active effort to move on you. But you see what got the most attention from him in your communications? Not the Scriptures and affirmations, but the flirting. You felt that was suspicious, well, me, too.

Hang in there. Hopefully the next man you extend your self out to in the name of love, friendship, whatever, will be worthy of your efforts and reciprocate.

1 comment:

Pamela said...

A friend of mine went through this sad to say with a co-worker. It was evident that he found her attractive. My friend knew that the fellow was in a 3-year relationship. He has I think one or two children. For about two weeks or so he talked like he was interested in getting to know her but was not evident that he wanted a relationship. It appears like she tested him and make him think about what he should do. He ended up asking the girlfriend to marry him. She was not strung along according to her words. She was very upset because it had been a long time since someone was interested in her and that she found interesting. However he was not really available to be with anyone. She realized that.

It sounds like the gal that wrote this email did not have her heart all that set when she started referring to him in the past tense.