Moving On

Ah, social media… the fun games you allow us to play.

I removed Bryan as Facebook friend within minutes of hanging up with him after his angry verbal lashing. I still miss him. I still want to view his updates on Facebook. I want to be a part of his life and know what’s going on with him. But I know myself. And so I know that to heal means stepping away completely.

Unfortunately, he and I still have mutual friends on Facebook, which means that I occasionally have visibility to his updates when a mutual friend likes or comments on one of his posts. Which is how, today, I got to see that Bryan just updated his profile picture:

KB PP

He would never allow for photos of us together on Facebook. But this photo – with whoever this girl is – he not only posted on Facebook himself but actually chose to make his profile picture. And of course he has a ton of Likes from friends of his who didn’t even know we were dating after six months (and an international trip) together. WTF.

How am I supposed to move on when it’s not enough for me to drop out of our joint bible study, remove him on social media, block his number, and exercise self control in not reaching out to him? WHY IS THIS ALWAYS SO FREAKING HARD?!?!

AA

UPDATE: I’m glad someone finally asked… We’ll see what he says (if anything)…

KB GF

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Leavetaking – Part II

Walking Away with Suitcase“You won’t leave until you can’t stay.”


“Hello,” Bryan answered his phone. The anger in his voice was impossible to miss.

“Hi. Are you still at work, or can you talk now?” I asked him.

His response was brusque. “I’m at home.”

“Okay,” I began. “You seem to be upset with me.”

Without preamble, the floodgates opened, and Bryan burst out, “I trusted you! I trusted you, and you broke my trust!

Taken aback, mind reeling, I tried to stay calm. “I’m sorry you feel that way–”

He cut me off. “You keep saying that word – ‘sorry’ – but I don’t think you know what it means. You keep saying you’re sorry, but then you keep doing the same things over and over. How many times have we had this conversation, Aurora?!”

I wasn’t sure exactly what conversation he meant, but based on his texts, it had to be the variations on our conversation about not sharing anything about our relationship with other people. “Bryan, if you’ll just give me a chance to explain–”

“I feel violated by you.” He shot the word at me, wounding me.

I took a deep breath. “Bryan, I hear your hurt.” I tried to acknowledge him; let him know I was hearing him. Then I went on, “When I spoke with Marcia and Andie, it was like girls at a slumber party talking about their crushes–”

“I can’t believe you went behind my back. I trusted you.”

He wasn’t going to let me get a word in edgewise to defend myself. “Bryan, if you’re ever going to be in a relationship with a woman, you need to realize that girls talk–”

“There you go deflecting again,” he interjected with a steely edge to his voice.

I paused, trying to gather my thoughts. In the meantime, Bryan spouted accusations at me, telling me about my lack of character and integrity. “I’m just now finding out about your conversation with Russ months after the fact. How many more betrayals am I going to find out about in the months to come?!”

I care deeply for Bryan, and every conversation I had was because of that care for him. He was private, and I wanted to know him more. He was closed off emotionally, and I longed to know how he really felt about me. Bryan struggled to communicate where we stood even after six months, although I now think he wasn’t trying to communicate it because he wasn’t even trying to ascertain it for himself. And he certainly didn’t communicate it to his friends or evidently want anything about our relationship shared with them.

When Bryan eventually paused for breath, I said quietly, “Bryan, I don’t feel like I’m being heard by you. I’m trying to explain myself–”

You don’t feel heard my me?! I don’t feel heard by you! How many times have we had this conversation?! First, you went to my sister; then you talked about me to Toby; then Russ…”

He continued to give full vent to his anger, and my body went into fight or flight response. I felt my hands start to shake, my face getting hot, and tears started streaming down my cheeks as I tried not to sob. I loved this man, and he was attacking me.

“Bryan, you’re making me cry,” I choked out. “You’re hurting me.”

“Like the way you hurt me when you went behind my back to all of my friends?” There was no softness; no kindness; only rage in his tone.

Something broke in me, and the tears subsided. Now there was only a deathly calm; a painfully still deadness settled into my chest.

Bryan had started another impassioned tirade, “I trusted you, and you broke my trust. I’ll never trust you again!” I noted absently that this was the first time I’d ever really heard Bryan truly passionate about anything.

It was my turn to interrupt him, and I did so with an even, formal tone. “For the sake of closure, I need to hear you say that you’ll never pursue anything here with me again. I really care about you, and I’ve been hoping you would start to pursue me again. I had hoped -” I redirected mid-sentence. “I need to hear you say that you’ll never pursue me again.”

“No,” he declared with vehemence. “I’m done. After this, I’m done,” he spat at me.

I flinched involuntarily. “Okay,” I continued with as much external calm as ever. “Well is there anything else you wanted to get out of this conversation before we hang up?”

“I never had anything I wanted to get out of this conversation to begin with,” he snarled at me, voice full of bitterness.

“Okay, then. Have a good rest of your week.”

The click I heard on the other end resounded with finality. I’m done.

Authentically Aurora

Leavetaking – Part I

Walking Away with Luggage“You won’t leave until you can’t stay.”

My counselor used to say this to me while I was going through my broken engagement. I never realized it until last summer, but it’s true that I will not leave a situation until I am absolutely broken and beaten down enough that I cannot bear up under the circumstances any longer.

“You won’t leave until you can’t stay.”

I may have finally gotten to that place with Bryan.
(And there was much cheering from the peanut gallery.)

It takes a lot for someone to spark my attention, gain my trust and earn my respect. But once they do, I’m all in. Even when my ex-fiance told me I was so “Type A” I would likely drive to him to have an affair, I continued to love him and progress toward our marriage. I have found that I am faithful and loyal, almost to a fault.

“You won’t leave until you can’t stay.”

Bryan and I have stayed in touch in the months since our breakup. He called me when he broke his arm mountain biking in Utah, sent me beautiful photos from a hynotherapy course in Sedona, Arizona, and he kept up with me during my London trip, even going so far as to talk about how he’d like to take me back to London someday; show me his old neighborhood and what his life was like there.

I hadn’t physically seen him in three weeks or had a real conversation with him in two weeks when I sent Bryan a “Good morning!” text message last Wednesday. He just bought a new property in a nearby town and had mentioned wanting to take me to see it. I’d felt like we were headed toward rekindling our romance and reached out Wednesday morning with the intent of asking if he’d like to road trip there during the long holiday weekend. But I didn’t hear back from him all day. And when he did finally reply, it wasn’t at all the conversation I expected to have.

Hi there

Hey Bryan! Life is good, I presume?

Always.
Had an interesting talk with my buddy Russ last night…

Really?
Want to talk about your talk?

You tell me

…?
I would be interested to hear if you want to share

I think you know more than I.
It was about a talk that you had with him

Ah that. How’d it go?

A bit upsetting

I’m sorry

You keep saying that
…and then doing things to reinforce it

I had that conversation with Russ in March or April

After the one with Toby
& Chris
& Marcia
& my sister
& before Andie

Bryan’s texts came in such rapid succession that his anger was unmistakable. I had only seen Bryan this angry one other time – when he confronted me about sending a Facebook message to his sister; an event I thought we had already addressed. Even over text messaging, I felt my blood pressure rising in response to the hatred I read in his words. “You tell me.”

I have known for a while that Bryan is a private person. When he took me to Cirque du Soleil for Valentine’s Day, I posted a photo of us together on Facebook. He promptly untagged himself. Hurt, I’d asked why. He explained that a coworker had asked him to go, and he’d turned them down to take me. Bryan said he didn’t want to upset his coworker, so he didn’t want me posting photos of us at the event. Considering I was his Valentine’s date, and we’d been dating for three months by that time, this didn’t make sense to me, but I didn’t push it.

Similarly, Bryan asked me not to post any photos from our sailing trip together, stating that he didn’t want to make his friends jealous of all his travel adventures. But that same logic apparently didn’t apply to his trips to Argentina, Colombia or Canada with friends over the same time period. It would seem his requirement for privacy is specific to matters of the heart.

None of Bryan’s friends knew we were dating until the eve of our sailing trip in March – four months into the relationship – and, even then, I was the one who Toby approached to probe deeper. Toby walked me to my car one evening after bible study when Bryan was out of town. Once at my car, he asked, “So what’s the deal with you and Bryan? Are you guys dating or what?” I remember laughing and replying, “Great question! I wish I knew the answer!”

Chris was a friend who’d stopped by Bryan’s house once early in our relationship. I was still getting to know Bryan and hadn’t met many of his friends at that point, so – like I think many women would do – I’d tilted my head to the side and asked with a wink and a smile, “So how long have you known Bryan? Is he a good guy?” Apparently Chris had told him about it later and thought it was weird that I’d asked. I thought it was weird that he thought it was weird.

I’m an open book. I always have been. In high school, my choir director said to me, “You’re the real deal. With you, what you see is what you get.” Bryan knew this about me from day one. On our very first date, I told Bryan that I’m still a virgin. I wear my heart on my sleeve. I have nothing to hide. I am who I am.

So when Marcia and Andie – two female friends of Bryan’s – asked me what was going on with us, I was happy to tell them. We were like little girls at a slumber party, talking about the boys we have crushes on. It was a compliment to Bryan that we talked about him. But he obviously didn’t see it that way.

So what I am hearing is you saying all my friends are calling and asking you for all this...?

Toby asked. He approached me.

Just like Russ did

He’s the one who suggested I talk to Russ.
Marcia asked me.
Andie asked me.
I was the one to reach out to your sister, but I owned that.

Uhhh ok

I sensed the downward spiral starting. Bryan was irate and not accepting or even absorbing anything I was saying, so I asked:

Would you rather talk about this on the phone?
Or are you too upset to talk?

I received no response.

Or are you finished talking?

His reply was immediate:

I would hate for that to be a topic of future conversations behind my back.

Shaking my head – heart in my throat – I dialed his number and waited for the phone to ring.

Sweetly Broken – Part II

GoodbyeMy ex-fiance and I kept running into each other all day long – at the crawfish boil, the volleyball courts, in the cafeteria… It was like something out of an Agatha Christie murder mystery novel where all of the characters are trapped in a secluded set, snowed in at a log cabin or marooned on a private island.

My ex and I would inevitably pretend to ignore one another, avoiding eye contact but all the while keenly aware of the other’s presence. It was awful. Just when I reached another valley of desperation, mind spiraling to dark places, I spotted a familiar face: Patricia. Flynn’s ex-girlfriend. Oh, the irony. 

Patricia and I smiled and waved at each other across the meadow and walked toward one another. Still smiling, aware that my ex was watching me, I said to Patricia, “Will you walk and pray with me? I’m having kind of a rough day.”

“Of course!” She looked surprised at my vulnerability but genuinely happy to be there for me. We walked and talked; then found a bench in the warm sun. I told her about my ex; she told me about the pain of watching Flynn with his new girlfriend. We encouraged one another, laughed together, cried together, and prayed over one another, just as I’d done with Grace earlier. I’d known Patricia was beautiful. But before that afternoon, I hadn’t realized what a wise, godly woman she is as well. God truly works in mysterious ways.

As the sun was setting just before the final session of the day, I saw my ex yet again. Patricia had called me over to her table and started to introduce me around to her group. I shook hands with one person after another until I came to my ex, who was sitting in the circle. I played it cool, sticking my hand out to him and saying, “And you are…?”

He looked tired; emotionally drained. He didn’t complete my sentence but said simply, “Hi, Rory.” He reached out and took my hand, shaking it as the others had done.

I moved on to the next person in the circle, smiling broadly and playing the social butterfly I can be when I decide to be. After laughing and cutting up with a few new friends, I walked around the table and put my hand on my ex’s shoulder. “Can we talk for a minute?”

I hadn’t planned on talking to him; in fact, I’d been intentionally avoiding him all day. I had no idea what I was going to say, but after hours of unrest and internal turmoil, I just wanted to face the issue head-on and address the unsettled feeling in the pit of my stomach.

He looked pained and wary about talking with me, but he agreed. “Uhh… we can if you really want to.”

In response, I gestured for him to follow me, and we made our way to the tree line, along the edge of a wooded pathway away from everyone else. Once there, I turned to face him.

“I thought we should just acknowledge that this is awkward,” I began. “I’m uncomfortable, I’m sure you’re uncomfortable… this is just an awkward situation.”

“Yes,” he stated with emphasis, nodding.

“And we’ve been dancing around each other all day,” I added, “So I thought we should just acknowledge that, yes, this is uncomfortable. But I also want you to know that I’m okay. I’m really glad I’m not married to you.”

His change in expression was immediate. “There’s no reason to be mean,” he spat at me.

My eyes widened in surprise. “I wasn’t trying to be mean!” I defended myself as gently as I could. “I was trying to affirm you in your decision not to marry me!”

I paused; then sighed heavily. “This is one of the reasons it’s good we’re not married. I’m a direct communicator, and you’re sensitive. I wasn’t trying to hurt your feelings. I was just letting you know that I’m okay, and this doesn’t have to be so awkward. But I’m really doing okay. I’ve been dating someone the past six months –”

He interjected enthusiastically, “Rory, that’s great! That’s what I’ve been praying for!” What? His whole face had lit up with genuine excitement.

“I’ve prayed for you every day since we broke up,” he told me, “I’ve prayed that you would find a man who will love you well and that you’ll get married and have kids…”

“You’ve thought about me every day? You’ve prayed for me every day?” I was shocked. Even as heartbroken as I’ve been, I have not thought about him every day for the past year. And I stopped praying for him a long time ago. It engaged my heart too deeply, and I didn’t think it was healthy to keep that kind of emotional connection to him.

“Yeah,” he admitted sheepishly. “I’ve been kind of a wreck. I know I treated you horribly. I’ve been in a deep depression for the past year. I haven’t dated anyone, and I’m still seeing our old counselor every week.”

Wow. That shouldn’t make me feel better, but it definitely did. The last few prayers I prayed over my ex were for his ruin – financial, emotional, relational, etc. I know that’s not God-honoring at all, but I rationalized to myself that only through his utter brokenness could God truly reach my ex and make him into the man he was created to be. So it was really a loving prayer, right?

I knew my prayers had at least been partially answered when IBM and NOV tanked. My ex is a value investor who doesn’t believe in diversification, so he was only invested in five stocks, two of which were IBM and NOV. He also invests tens of thousands on behalf of his closest friends and family. I’d wondered how that affected their relationships (and hoped for the worst. I know, I’m terrible).

“Why have you been depressed?” I asked as casually as I could. “Was it all guilt… or did you miss me?”

He shrugged and hung his head. “A lot of it was guilt. Honor and pride played into it. I did wrong by you, Rory. But I also missed you. I revisited that decision multiple times a day, every day for a long time. I would have to call my mom all the time to talk back through the decision not to marry you. But it was the right decision. I totally butchered the decision and dragged you through hell for months – I know – but it was the right decision.”

Although I agreed with him that it was the right decision, I only felt that way because of the way he’d treated me near the end. I would have married him. I loved him. And so hearing him say it was the right decision not to marry me caused my heart to twinge, even though I knew it to be true.

“Why did you propose to me?” I asked suddenly. It wasn’t a premeditated question. It just tumbled out in my moment of insecurity.

His looked at me sadly; gently. “Because I loved you. I was in love with you. And you were the first person who ever loved me back. That’s why I proposed to you.”

“Then what happened? I hadn’t planned to get into this, but since we’re talking about it… You said so many horrible things to me those last few months. That I’m so Type A that I would drive you to have an affair. That I’m domineering and no man could lead me. That I’m cold and emotionless. That I’m too much… Even though I’ve moved on from wanting to marry you, those words play on repeat in my head. Did you mean all of them? What was the real reason?”

“Rory, do you really want to get into this?” He sighed and looked away, exacerbated. “You take everything to heart and twist it to see it in a negative light. I don’t know if I should tell you.”

I just looked back at him, waiting.

He sighed again. “Okay, first of all, I was a crazy person. Ignore everything I said during that time. My own parents didn’t recognize me. But what it all came down to is, I wear my heart on my sleeve. I’m an emotional guy, and I need a woman who is absolutely dripping with empathy. It’s not a knock against you because everyone has empathy on a different scale, and all kinds of personalities end up together, but it was just an incompatibility. There’s nothing wrong with your personality – please hear that! – but we just weren’t compatible.”

I thought we were.

He continued, “I would have seen our incompatibility sooner if not for my issue with lust. I lusted for you, Rory. I’m so embarrassed by it. It’s humiliating. I had a deep-seated sin of lust, and I’m so ashamed by it. And how it blinded me.”

That was hurtful to hear. “So you proposed to me because you wanted to have sex with me?” Although he wasn’t a virgin, I am still waiting even now, and he had claimed to respect and admire that, although his actions didn’t always align with his words.

“No!” he looked hurt and horrified. “I asked you to marry me because I loved you. I just didn’t see our incompatibility until after we were engaged. I felt like you changed.”

“The change in me – the hardening, pulling away, being less empathetic —” I looked pointedly at him, “– was a response to how you were treating me. I sensed your anxiety and emotional withdrawal and was trying to protect myself.”

“I know I wounded you, but you wounded me, too – in a different way. I was afraid to talk to you today because you know me. You may say you don’t know me – that I’m a stranger to you – but you do. You wounded me because you saw deeply into me and spoke truth into my life. And I was afraid you’d speak more truth into me. And the truth is painful. But I’m thankful for it. I learned so much from you. You have no idea.”

That had been my initial prayer when we first broke up. That he would grow and learn and have eyes to see the truth. He had been so blind and walking in darkness. It was an unexpected blessing to learn that he finally heard the words I had been speaking for months. I only wish he had appreciated it sooner and more fully. That he’d had the maturity to recognize that being married to a truth-speaker is a blessing. That much of marriage is encouraging our spouse toward greater Christ-likeness, such that we present them before the Throne of Grace more sanctified than they would have been if not married to us.

We both just looked at each other. And sighed.

“Well, is there anything else? Anything you need to hear from me?” he asked.

I shrugged. “I don’t think there’s anything you could say that would be helpful and not damaging. Because of your rejection, sometimes I don’t believe I’m marriageable or desirable, but there’s not much you can do to change that.”

“Rory, you’re a great girl. You have so much to offer. And you will get married someday. And that man will be a very lucky man.” He looked thoughtful. “I actually say that to our counselor all the time. You have so much to offer a man.”

I smiled sadly; then asked, “Is there anything you need to hear from me? Have I said anything in this conversation to hurt your feelings that I need to retract?”

His brow furrowed. “No, but I need to hear that you forgive me. Will you forgive me, Rory? I know we’ve been over this, but I need to hear you say that you forgive me.” He looked at me with big eyes. Vulnerable. He needed this desperately.

“Of course I forgive you.” I smiled sadly again. I forgave you a long time ago. Many times over. Over and over again. It’s a process. I was glad to help him move toward peace… and I was glad that I was glad.

We stared at each other again. “I don’t know how to end this conversation…” I trailed off.

“Well, we’re going to hug in a minute here…” he began before he, too, trailed off.

“The last time we talked, you said that you wanted to be friends,” I reminded him. “That you’d call me in a year and try to be friends.”

“Yeah, that was ‘pie in the sky’,” he admitted. “It was my way of comforting myself. I didn’t want to lose you completely, so I told myself I was only losing you for a month or a year. But I knew deep down it wasn’t realistic.”

I know it’s best we’re not friends, and I honestly don’t want the angst of him in my life – I’d never wanted him to call a year later – but it still hurt my heart to come to the realization that we were about to say goodbye forever… again.

Two girls walked past us, ranting loudly about something that hadn’t gone the way they wanted. My ex made his classic “uh oh!” face and started making high-pitched “meep”-ing sounds like Beaker from The Muppets.

I burst into laughter, and he looked surprised before his face relaxed into an authentic grin. He chuckled softly. “Oh, Rory, I’ve missed your sense of humor.”

“I’ve missed yours, too.” We smiled at each other for a brief, shining moment where time stood still and we were transported back to another season when we were deeply in love. My eyes started to water unexpectedly, and I blinked back tears.

He saw my tears, and his expression softened as tears welled up in his eyes, too. “Rory…”

I started laughing, embarrassed. “I’m okay,” I waved him off with my hand. “I’m okay. I know you’re not used to seeing emotion from me.”

“No…” he agreed.

“It’s just… I feel like you’re dying to me all over again. I had to grieve the loss of you like the death of a loved one, and now I know I’m saying goodbye again. It’s just… very emotional.”

He took a step toward me and said, “Who knows? Maybe five years from now, you’ll be married – to that guy you’re seeing; maybe he’s ‘The One’ – and maybe I’ll be married, and we can be friends. You never know.”

“Okay,” I smiled at him through my tears.

He closed the distance between us and wrapped me in a hug. We stood for a moment before pulling away and walking in different directions. As we parted, he called softly, “See you later.”

“See you.” …Just maybe not this side of heaven.

Authentically Aurora

Heading to the City of Love

paris-eiffel-tower-coupleBryan left for Paris on Friday. He’ll be in Europe for the next two weeks, and he called me on Thursday night to talk one more time before he left.

Although I broke up with Bryan three weeks ago, he has called me three times since then. The first two times, we just caught up on each other’s lives. “How was your weekend?” & “How are things at the office?”

Each time, I let him lead the conversation, thinking he had finished “processing” and might need to talk things out for closure. But Bryan initiated no closure conversations or even a re-evaluation of our status. Those first two phone calls, he seemingly just called to catch up on my life like we were old friends, which I guess is what we are now. But it felt strange that he acted as if our break up conversation never happened.

Then again, all we do now is talk on the phone once a week instead of casually hanging out once a week, so not much has changed except my expectations for our pseudo-non-relationship. And, as Bryan used to tell me, “Uncommunicated expectations are premeditated disappointment.” He disappoints me less now that I don’t expect him to behave like a boyfriend.

I’ve been perplexed by our casual phone calls, but Thursday night’s conversation finally dug a bit deeper and addressed the reality of our situation. I was glad. I don’t do well with ambiguity or inauthenticity.

Bryan had sent me a text during the day asking if I’d be interested in going for drinks after work. I knew it was his last day in the States for a while, so I agreed, but I let him know I had bible study at 7pm, so it would need to be an early Happy Hour (yes, on occasion I drink alcohol before bible study). I hung around downtown after work, waiting on his call, and Bryan called me around 5:15.

“Hey, I just left work,” he told me. “I thought we could meet near your place and grab a drink out west of town.”

“Um, I’m still downtown… near your place. Both work and my bible study are downtown, and I thought we’d be meeting over here since you always head straight home after work.”

“No, I actually have a retirement reception for a colleague at 7 out near where you live, so I thought we’d meet over there.” Classic Bryan. Typical failure to plan and epic lack of communication.

With rush hour traffic, there was no way we could make the logistics work, but had I known the time and location in advance, I could have driven to him. Or, you know, he could have for once made a sacrifice and driven to me. I ended up getting frustrated and telling him to just forget it – I’d go to my bible study, and he should just go to his retirement party.

I felt guilty for snapping at him and didn’t want him to leave for Europe with a rift between us, so I called him later that night after bible study. No answer. I was near his place, so I drove the five minutes to his house and rang the doorbell. His truck was in the driveway, but he didn’t come to the door. I called again and left a voice message saying that I was trying to apologize and it would be nice if he would stop avoiding my calls.

Twenty minutes later, as I was pulling into my apartment complex, Bryan’s name lit up the screen of my cell phone. I answered, and he sounded amused. “So… I got your message. I was in the shower… not avoiding your calls. If I’d known you were planning to stop by, I would have timed my shower differently.”

“Oh. Well, you know, I was trying out this whole ‘spontaneity’ thing you like so much.” I felt foolish, but I tried to match the playful tone in his voice. I could tell he was pleased I’d stopped by but sorry to have missed me.

“Why would you think I was avoiding your calls? Why is that the first place your mind went, woman?!” The teasing tone in his voice was more obvious now.

I laughed and said, “If I have to tell you, there’s no reason to try explaining.”

We moved on to catching up on each other’s day. I’d had a hard day at work, so we talked about that for a while. Bryan was actually a really good listener and uncharacteristically encouraging.

I’d been told I am very self-oriented at work and need to engage others more if I am going to learn to be effective. Since I care deeply about people and am also a self-critical perfectionist, this feedback was intensely hurtful to me.

Bryan asked if I believe it to be true that I am overly self-oriented. “Maybe at work… but not in my personal life.”

“I haven’t seen you at work,” Bryan said gently, “So maybe you are self-oriented there, but in your personal life, I can affirm for you that you are definitely others-oriented, giving and selfless. You love helping people and meeting their needs. You know that about yourself, so believe it about yourself.”

His kind words shocked me. When did he decide to start being so sweet and encouraging? After a few more thoughtful comments from him, I asked tentatively, “Why are you investing in me?”

He answered immediately. “Because I don’t like you to be down on yourself. I care for you.”

“You do?”

“Of course I do. You’re a smart girl. I would have thought you’d have figured that out by now.” He paused. “There are other ways to let a girl know you care for her than sending her flowers and picking her up at her apartment. I communicate my affection in other ways.”

My heart fluttered, but I raised one eyebrow incredulously as I mentally ticked through the five love languages and didn’t find a single one that registered with how Bryan had treated me the past few months. “How do you think you communicate affection?”

“Oh, I don’t know. Maybe by returning people’s calls even after they’ve accused me of avoiding their calls.” He was teasing again.

“You do have a pattern of being patient and long-suffering when you care for someone,” I thought out loud, alluding to his multi-year relationship with a girl he’d seen potential in and invested in for years, holding out hope and waiting for change in her.

“I’m not sure if that’s a rabbit trail I want to go down.”

“We don’t have to. I’m just glad to hear that you actually do care for me.”

“Of course I care for you. You broke my heart.”

His words stunned me. “…I did?” I’d never heard anything so vulnerable from him. Ever.

“Yes. You broke my heart. I care for you, even though you apparently couldn’t ever see it. I know we never put a label on our relationship, but I wasn’t seeing anyone else, and you hurt my heart when you ended things.”

I was speechless. Where had this outpouring of vulnerability come from? “Well, if it makes you feel better, it hurt my heart, too. I wanted us to work, but I just never believed you were invested.”

“It has been 9 months since I was in Europe,” Bryan told me. “That’s the longest stretch in 13 years.”

“Hm, you must have been dating a pretty awesome girl who was the reason you stuck around.”

“Yes, that’s exactly the reason.” His voice was serious; intense; adamant.

More shock on my end at his openness about his feelings. “…are you serious?”

“Yes. That’s exactly the reason. You’re the reason.”

“I didn’t know…”

“Well you were.” He shifted the conversation. “You should come to Paris. It’s supposed to rain all weekend, but Paris in the rain is still more beautiful than most other places year-round. I would be equally happy doing touristy or local stuff. I could show you local cafes off the beaten path, and the parks are beautiful…”

“Who is this man?” I thought to myself. “During this call, Bryan has encouraged me, been open about his feelings, and now he is being positively romantic. He took my feedback to heart. He is showing that he is teachable.”

But I knew I couldn’t go. I had no way of getting off work so last-minute, plus I’m nearly out of vacation for the year. I wanted to be free-spirited and just go, but (on top of my responsibilities back home) this was the first time Bryan had shown this gentler side, and one instance wasn’t enough to convince me it would stick.

Nevertheless, I missed him already. “When you come back, it will have been a month since we’ve seen each other,” I mused out loud.

“Maybe by then, you’ll be less frustrated with me.” I could just imagine his rueful sideways smile.

He couldn’t see my returning smile over the phone. “…Maybe.”

Authentically Aurora

The Dream of Someone Else

DreamingThank you to everyone who has lovingly supported me over the past six months – and especially over the past couple of weeks as I’ve wrestled over the way forward with Bryan.

A special thank you goes out to Ashley, my stalwart, steadfast friend through whatever comes. Yesterday (pre-breakup), she sent me pretty much the best email a friend can send to someone in my situation:

“Breaking up with someone to beat them to the punch is not a very good reason to break up with someone, but, breaking up with someone because they aren’t treating you like you deserve & not respecting/pursuing you is a good reason.  So, while you should not use beating him to the punch as a reason, based on your blogging and what you’ve told me you do have other reasons.  I don’t want to try and convince you of which direction to go or force my opinion on you. So just know that I will support you with whatever you decide to do.  But I will say, there is a lot of stress & frustration being put on you for a relationship that isn’t defined.  I love you lots friend and am praying for you!”

She gently pointed me in the right direction while reminding me that I am loved and supported by her regardless. She is seriously the best.

I’m doing better than expected today. Someone posted an article on Facebook this morning that reassured me of the rightness of my decision. It was a reminder of the kind of man worth waiting for. I want to settle down, but I don’t want to settle.

“Wait on the guy who finishes your chores for you – who comes through in little ways to let you know he cares. Wait on the man who looks you in your eyes and holds your gaze as he tells you you’re beautiful… Wait for that man who dreams big and invites you to dream with him. And when your dreams seem too big, too scary to ever come true, I hope you wait for the one who listens to your insecurities but then speaks truth into your heart and breathes confidence into your spirit. This man will bring you to tears by reading Proverbs 31 to you, telling you YOU’RE that woman, and believing it with every fiber of his being.”

That’s the kind of man I want – the kind of man I need – and Bryan was not that man. So I’m going to wait. Right now, there is not someone else, but as Kathleen Kelly said so beautifully, “There is the dream of someone else.”

Authentically Aurora

I Did It.

I broke things off with Bryan.

At least, I think I did.

I called him around 7:00 last night and left a short message saying that I’d just called to say hi and ask about his day. He didn’t call me back. So around 10:30, on my way to bed, I sent a quick text letting him know I was thinking about him and praying over his day tomorrow. He replied within seconds: “Thanks! I’m getting ready for bed… I may be in your area tomorrow after work if you are around?”

I replied with an enthusiastic, “Yes! I would love to see you 🙂 ”

…I got no reply back. No “Great, let’s meet at Stabucks at 6.” Or even an “I’m looking forward to it.”

And then he didn’t call until 5:45 this evening on his way out of the office. “Hey, I’m meeting some friends at a pub at 7, but I have some time to stop by if you’re around.”

He couldn’t have communicated those plans to me last night? And he was just squeezing me in between other commitments?

I sat anxiously for about 15 minutes. Then I got out my bible and read scripture after scripture. He didn’t show up until half an hour later. And he showed up with a Salata salad to go. For himself.

Instead of sitting snuggling on my couch like I had envisioned, we sat at my kitchen table, Bryan eating his salad and me with a yogurt. We made small talk. I asked about his weekend visiting his family. He asked about my week last week, since we hadn’t caught up in a while. I told him stories about the kids in the children’s ministry at church and about my night out swing dancing on Saturday.

As 7:00 approached, he glanced at his watch, leaned back in his chair, and said, “So there was something I wanted to discuss with you.”

“Oh dear,” I said out loud, an echo of my heart. I knew what he was about to say. I’d been dreading it ever since I hit the “send” button.

“No ‘oh dear’. I just want to understand something. My sister showed me some messages…” he began.

Yes. I sent his sister Facebook messages. Two, to be exact. On the evening Bryan untagged our sailing photo, his sister Haley was one of the first to “like” it before he untagged himself. I’d met Haley once. She seemed nice, although we didn’t talk long. The night of the Facebook fiasco, I was in the crazy place, frustrated and feeling insecure, and some warped part of my brain thought that maybe Haley and I could talk woman-to-woman, and she would help me understand the unusual dating approach taken by her brother.

I attempted to be light-hearted, writing, “Why does your brother untag himself in all of our photos together? Does he want me to be his ‘secret girlfriend’?!?! If you ever get this man figured out…. let me know…  😉 ”

As soon as I sent the message, I wished Facebook had a recall button. I called Bryan then, talking it out like I should have done in the first place, and I sent a follow-up to Haley telling her to disregard; Bryan and I had talked about it. But of course, she mentioned it to him during their weekend together just a few days ago. And apparently she was really weirded out and thinks I’m a crazy person.

“What were you thinking? What was the intention behind that?” Bryan asked me tonight.

I ducked my head. “I wasn’t thinking. I just reacted. I was feeling insecure in your affection, and somehow I thought Haley would help me understand why you operate the way you do in the dating realm. I have no further explanation. I have no excuse. I’m sorry,” I finished lamely.

He just stared at me, waiting. Expecting more.

“What else do you want me to say?” I asked.

“Is that really it? I thought there would be some kind of an explanation; a thought process behind why you would send those messages.”

I shook my head. “No.” I sighed. “There was no thought process. Not a logical one, anyway.”

He kept watching me. Observing.

I cleared my throat comically, trying to bring levity to the situation. “Well! Don’t you have a pub to get to?”

He glanced at his watch. “Yes.” But he continued to sit.

I cleared my place, putting the spoon from my yogurt into the dishwasher. I moved to my front entryway, waiting to escort him out. He didn’t move, so I said, “You know, I’m feeling really vulnerable right now, and I would welcome any reassurance you care to give.”

He stood, moved to the doorway, and leaned against the door jam. Why is he such an attractive man? He was wearing a red button-down shirt and had recently trimmed his beard. He looked nice. “What kind of reassurance?” he asked.

“Oh, I don’t know. Maybe something reassuring me of your affection for me?”

“What can I say? I try not to just react to things. I’m still processing what you’ve shared with me by way of an explanation.”

Bryan stayed leaned against the door jam, watching me, puzzling over me, trying to figure out why such a normally sane, rational, logical person would behave in the way that I had.

Clearly he wasn’t leaving until I said more, so I admitted, “I really regret sending those messages. I am ashamed of myself. Embarrassed.”

Finally he spoke. “There’s no reason to feel those things. I’m just trying to understand your thought process.”

“I was feeling insecure. I was hoping Haley could help me understand why you make such little effort to make the woman you’re dating feel cherished or valued.”

“And you based that on one short meeting with her?”

“Yes.” Man, but he was kicking a dead horse. “I already acknowledged to you that it was foolish, irrational, and I regret it. So I guess you think I’m a crazy person then, huh?”

“No, I don’t think you’re crazy, but my sister might. I am a very private person. I try to keep things to myself. I don’t talk to my sister about my relationships because, in case things work out, I don’t want to risk tainting her opinion of the girl early in the process. And if they don’t, well,” he shrugged, “Then it wasn’t worth burdening her with anyway.”

“I know you’re a private person,” I told him. “But I wish you would open up more. I think it would be so good for you. Do you know how to be emotionally intimate?”

“Yes,” he said evenly. “I am emotionally intimate with people when they prove themselves trustworthy and I know sharing with them isn’t going to backfire.” He looked pointedly at me.

“So… that’s it then? No reassurance? We’re just going to leave it at that? I don’t know where I stand with you. Are we breaking up?”

“I think you know me better than you let on, so – as I’ve stated – I’m still processing everything, but I think you know where I stand. I don’t want to risk you making any assumptions, but I also don’t want to have to restate the obvious.”

The “obvious” wasn’t obvious to me. I had asked for reassurance of his affection, but he wasn’t giving it. I’d been considering breaking up with him for weeks. And now it looked like he might very well have a reason to end things with me. I can’t go through another rejection like that, so I took a deep breath and decided to beat him to the punch.

“Bryan, I need to be with somebody who’s more encouraging and affectionate. I guess there’s no reason to have a breakup conversation because there’s nothing to break up; we were never boyfriend and girlfriend. But I don’t do well with ambiguity. You know my history. I need to know where I stand. I’ve been patient as long as I can, but I can’t do this anymore. This isn’t healthy for me.”

He looked stunned. “I don’t want you to do anything that isn’t healthy for you, but do you want to take some time to think things over?”

“I have. I’ve been thinking about it for two weeks.”

Oh, said his face. He hadn’t realized.

“Well I’d like to take some time to process all of this,” he said.

I paused, trying to understand his request. “Are you asking… me… to revoke…” I wasn’t sure what to say.

“No, I’m not asking you to revoke anything. I just need to process what you’ve shared.”

“Which part of it?” I asked.

“All of it,” he said.

“Okay.” I felt oddly calm. I was glad I was the one to pull out the dagger and watch us bleed, rather than leaving the death blow to him.

He opened the door for himself but didn’t walk through. He stood in the slanting sunlight, looking at me. “May I bid you good day?” he asked, in his usual British fashion.

I didn’t know what he meant, but I said yes. He stepped in for a hug and held me closely for a long time. I thought he might kiss me, but after a moment, he let his arms fall and stepped through the door, walking backwards to watch me as he parted. He waved, eyes never leaving my face, as I shut the door.

Somehow I still don’t know what to expect.

Authentically Aurora