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.