My daddy has gently told me, over and over again for years, that it’s a whole lot easier not to be disappointed in people when you stop having expectations for how they should behave.
But for the life of me, I just can’t seem to stop hoping for better for people. It’s a blessing and a curse. I always want to see the possibilities for redemption and the potential for greatness, which is a beautiful part of the way God made my heart, but it also leads to a seemingly perpetual string of woundings and disappointments. It’s part of the paradox of the INTJ personality – we can be both the most hopeful of idealists and the bitterest of cynics. It’s a delicate balance to walk and an often frustrating way to live.
Anyone who has been reading my blog for a while knows that I love personality types. I’m an Enneagram Type One, and I subscribe to weekly emails that give me encouragement for personal growth specific to the way I’m wired. Earlier this week, I got this email: “Today, notice if you are playing the role of the ‘Educator’ or the ‘Teacher,’ the superior person whose place it is to instill wisdom in the ignorant, uplift the fallen, and show others how to do something useful and productive with their lives.”
It’s true. I do try to be the mentor type, speaking wisdom into the lives of people I sense need direction, often because they overtly ask for it, but sometimes simply because my intuition (in truth, the Holy Spirit) prompts me to speak. It’s usually well received (largely because I know all too well how annoying it can be to receive unsolicited advice, so I am careful with how I phrase my encouragements). Just this morning, I got a text from a younger colleague who sought out my advice the day prior:
“hey, just want you to know that your comment about focusing on what my current role gives me the ability to do really helped a lot… greatly appreciate you aurora!”
He’d been frustrated with his job and needed some perspective, which I was all too happy to provide. But it doesn’t always work out so well. In fact, one of the last times I ever saw Cory, he, Noelle and I went out to coffee together. He was preparing to drive to go see his ex-fiance Mary over Christmas break, and we were sending him off as he embarked on his quest to win her back.
Near the end of our time together, I offered him some insight based on my own experiences with a broken engagement. “Cory, she is the one who broke off the engagement, so I can tell you from experience what she is going to do. She doesn’t want to let you go, but she also doesn’t want to commit to you, so she is going to try to convince you to start dating again but not get re-engaged or set a wedding date. This is the best possible scenario for her and the worst possible scenario for you because it keeps you from moving on but also doesn’t lock her in to commitment.”
I continued, my voice adamant. “If I were a betting woman, I’d put a thousand bucks on the fact that she’s going to want to start dating again long distance but not put that ring back on her finger.”
Noelle agreed with me, and Cory made us both pinky promise we wouldn’t let him do such a thing to himself. “I deserve better than that,” he acknowledged. “I need to stand strong and either win her back as my fiance or start moving on with my life. She’s already put me on hold for six months.”
That conversation was in early December. I knew I needed to take a step back from our interactions for all the reasons I’d written about before, so I didn’t make an effort to reach out to Cory at all over Christmas. Conversely, he had no reason not to reach out to me, so I suppose he was too busy winning back Mary to bother even sending a Merry Christmas text. Either that, or he sensed my desire for space. But if the latter were the case, he probably wouldn’t have sent me this Facebook message one Thursday in mid-January, about a month since our last interaction.
“Staying dry in this crazy weather?” he wrote.
Seriously? A month with no communication whatsoever – while he’s off trying to win back his fiance – and his first comment back to me is about the weather?
I simply replied, “Yep, sure am!”
He tried again the next day. “How was your winter holiday?” A much more acceptable opener.
“It was great! I spent a lot of quality time with family,which was nice. How was yours?”
As expected, he rattled off all the things he’d done: time with family, reading, studying, and… oh yeah… “Mary and I started dating again.”
Of course that was the whole reason he reached out to me. Could we do away with the facade and the games? He just wanted me to know he was back with Mary.
Cory continued, “We’re just dating for now – no engagement yet; we’re taking it slow.”
I was incensed. Wasn’t that exactly what I’d warned him against? I’d had feelings for him but shared my wisdom with him anyway, because I cared about him and wanted what was best for him. “Congrats on winning her back,” I wrote, typing furiously into the Facebook message box. “I know that must make you feel great, even though she’s not ready to commit to being engaged again.”
I paused; then continued, “You may recall this outcome is exactly what I predicted at Starbucks.”
He was ready for my comment. “And you recall I promised you that I wouldn’t settle for less than what I deserve,” he shot back, already defensive.
“Yep. So this is what you believe you deserve.”
He replied with a novel. “We are taking things slowly. We have both grown and changed for the better these last 6 months, but we still have some work to do individually and as a couple before we are entirely ready for marriage. While I am ready to commit and then do the work as young married people, Mary is more cautious and wants to get everything squared away first and make sure our foundation is strong. She says she is still in love with me and can see herself spending the rest of her life with me, but that she’s not ready for that concept YET, especially with 4-5 years of long distance staring us down. I am ready for commitment, but given my medical schooling, I am also not in a rush to run down the aisle.”
I was furious. Furious that he used me the way that he did – no one ever made me feel like a piece of meat the way Cory did; I was just the in-between girl; meaningless makeout partner while he got himself in shape and played hard-to-get games with his ex-fiance to try to get her back.
I was furious that he ignored my advice. Even if he didn’t respect my body or emotions, couldn’t he at least respect my mind? My wisdom and insight, shared lovingly for his good? He and Mary are both first-year med students. They are at separate universities on opposite sides of the country, and neither one will transfer schools. They have – as Cory himself admitted – 4 to 5 years of long distance ahead of them, not to mention a broken engagement behind them. There is no scenario under which this is going to end well.
And to top it all off, Cory had the audacity to reach out to me with no purpose other than to let me know he was back with his ex! After a month of no communication whatsoever, while he bedded (but not wedded) his ex-fiance-turned-girlfriend, he wrote to let me know he’d gone against my advice – advice based on painful personal experience with dating an ex-fiance in the wake of a broken engagement. What was I supposed to say? What response was appropriate? Couldn’t you just let me be? Haven’t you done enough damage in my life?
I gave some trite “I’m excited for you” answer, logged off and closed my laptop. Two weeks later, when I couldn’t handle the combination of mushy I-love-Mary Facebook posts and nauseating videos praising Bernie Sanders, I removed Cory as a friend on Facebook. This week, I got the following text:
I really wanted to type back, “Perpendicular lines 4ever!” …but I refrained. Some jokes are better left unsaid. Especially when the joke is you.