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:


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?!?!


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


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?

Had an interesting talk with my buddy Russ last night…

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.

A Tale of Two Sides

One PoundThere are two sides to every story like there are two sides to every coin.
I would love to hear your version, and I’d love to tell you mine.
You’ve decided not to trust me, so yours I may never hear,
But if you have the time and are willing to lend your ears,
I’m keen to let you in and give you a look around
My tarnished, scratched-up side of our shared, once-shiny Pound.

I’ve loved you for some time now, but I never could discern
If my affections were reciprocated, so I aimed to learn
If you could ever love me; if you knew how to let me in.
But you mistook my caring for over-sharing, and that’s where we met our end.
If only you had shown me where I really stood with you;
If you’d held my hand, I’d understand you were invested, too.

I was unsure of your affection, and that’s why I acted out.
My heart just longed to better know what your heart was all about.
The conversations that I had, supposedly behind your back,
I only had with friends to learn where your thoughts were at.
They love you well; they want your best; their heart is for your good.
And my aim was just the same as theirs: to better know you if I could.

For months and months, I prayed that you would woo me to yourself.
I prayed you would pursue me and not keep your emotions quelled.
I longed to really know you, but I always sensed you had repressed
Your true self; it seems locked deep within, and no one gains access.
I wish you’d let me love you and that you’d loved me in return.
Is letting someone love you something a closed-off heart can learn?

I’d hoped that you would trust me, but we’ve gone the other way,
To broken shards and broken hearts and broken games we play.
But now the game has ended, and the pieces have returned
To their former lives; their former selves with maybe nothing learned,
Except that love is hard and requires both parties to fight
To fan the flame, to trust, forgive and choose the harder right.

Love is a commitment and a choice we have to make.
People are messy. Life is hard. And we all make mistakes.
Christ loved even the unlovely, and we are called to do the same.
All of us, from time to time, “unlovely” status claim.
I may never fully know how you truly felt about me,
But, if nothing else, I hope you look back and remember me fondly.

I think of you, now and again, and pray for you joy and peace,
With faith we’ll say hello again when this journey is complete.

Authentically Aurora

Can’t Sleep

I need advice.
Read on for why
And then, perhaps, leave a reply.

Screen Shot 2015-05-30 at 11.41.32 PMI’m frustrated and feeling stuck.
Conflict and angst abound.
Should I break from dating?
There are suitors all around.

My heart still longs for Bryan,
Though my head is raging No.
And two long months have passed
Without much more than a mere hello.

Sweet Jared and the nerdy Grant,
Plus S, G2 and N,
Have all served as distractions
From loneliness rushing in.

But if I’m honest with myself,
I don’t yet see a man
I could see spending forever with
So I begin again.

Then men roll in, the men roll out,
And all I have to show
Is a long trail of broken hearts
And more baggage to tow.

Who gets your vote:
Bryan or the still-elusive Flynn?
Should I give a shot to Jared
Or to Nick the Strict again?

Or has the time come for this Bloggess
To accept her lot
As the first date everybody wants;
Then the girlfriend they forgot?

Perhaps I am a “reason” girl –
Not just single for a time,
But single for a reason
Obvious to all eyes but mine.

I wish I’d found a remedy;
A way to dull the pain
Apart from dating four at once
To feel desirable again.

I know Jesus in the answer,
But He feels so far away.
And I know His timing’s perfect
But sometimes it’s hard to wait.

I think Bryan’s what I want
But maybe Jared’s what I need.
Bryan’s exciting; Jared’s kind…
But kind of boring. Would I mind?

Okay, dear readers. Share your thoughts,
But kind like Jared be.
I welcome your opinions
As I lay bare my heart for all to see.

Authentically Aurora

It’s Raining Men

It's raining menI keep thinking that I should take a break from dating. It’s been a hell of a year, and my heart needs a rest from the angst, stress and trauma of dating. It’s exhausting.

People tell me all the time, “You’re young! You’ve got time! Don’t be anxious about your singleness!” They don’t realize that I’m not anxious about my singleness. I’m not worried about getting married. I actually enjoy seasons of singleness, and I do hope to one day be married. The part that gives me angst is the season of dating. If there are no men in my life, great! If I’m married to my soul mate, great! But this in between gray area of I’m-not-sure-what-we-are-but-you’re-cute makes me break out in proverbial hives.

Do I like him? Does he like me? Do I like him more than he likes me? Are we exclusive? Is he seeing other people? Is he comparing me to his ex-girlfriend? Should I call him or wait for him to call me? Should I offer to pay? Is he going to kiss me? Should I dress up or dress down? When will I see him next? Do I want to see him again? Is this headed toward marriage, or is this just a fling?

Since my broken engagement last summer, I’ve been on dates with John, Nick, David, JonathanVictor, Philip, Flynn, Bryan and several others I didn’t blog about because either we only saw each other once or the dates were too bland to be notable. In December, I started to filter out unsuitable candidates in favor of Flynn and Bryan. By January, Bryan had earned himself exclusive dating rights (not that he ever claimed them).

After breaking up with Bryan in April, I seriously considered taking some time to sit back and re-evaluate my life – not just my love life. It’s been a whirlwind for as long as I can remember, and I tend to do well in long seasons of singleness. I’ve had multiple three-year stints of singleness that were some of the happiest stretches of my life. But the men just keep coming.

I’m not even seeking them out. Old eHarmony matches have come out of the woodwork, new guys have asked me out at church, and one guy even asked for my number at the retreat in front of my ex-fiance. Classic.

Over the past couple of weeks, I’ve had flowers sent to my apartment by one suitor and to my office by another. I’ve been taken golfing and have been escorted to the symphony. And these are just some of the messages I have received by would-be boyfriends:






Some of them are very sweet and affectionate, which is refreshing after Bryan, but none of them are clear winners. K is a very negative person, N does not share my faith, S has zero emotional intelligence, P is anti-vaccinations, G1 is deep in debt, and I know G2 to be a player. The only one with any potential is J, and we just went on our first date this past weekend.

I am still hearing from Bryan, too. He called me from London on Saturday and asked me to join him in Spain for two weeks come September.

I told him that I don’t have much vacation left. He told me life is too short not to be spontaneous, and besides, I’m probably leaving this job soon anyway.

I told him that I can’t handle more than one week with him at a time. He told me that he recalls things got a lot better (*wink, wink) after the first week of our sailing trip. He has a point… but of course I didn’t let him know that.


Again, I state:  Dating is exhausting.

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

Confrontation & Communication

This weekend, I posted a photo on Facebook of Bryan and me together on our sailing trip. He promptly untagged himself. And I wasn’t surprised. He’d also untagged our Valentine’s photo together a month ago. And he never posts on my wall or really makes any indication of our relationship existing. It’s like I’m his secret non-girlfriend.

Having been on the brink of breaking up with him all week, I decided to call him to confront him for yet again denying any evidence of a relationship. I am normally a sane, rational, cool-headed person. When I operate out of the frenzied crazy place, it rarely ends well. But I was fed up. And he could tell when he answered the phone.

When I asked him why he’d untagged the photo of us in the Grenadines, he reminded me that he doesn’t like other people to know about all of his vacations because he’s being considerate and doesn’t want them to be jealous of his awesome life. There’s that humility coming through.

“I didn’t tag the location. It’s just a photo of us,” I countered.

“It’s clearly on a beach. And I’m Facebook friends with a lot of coworkers. I don’t want them asking questions about how I spend my vacation time.”

“What about our Valentine’s Day photo?” I asked.

“What about it?”

“Why’d you untag yourself in that one, too? Do you not want any of your friends to know about me?”

“No, I’d been asked by someone else to go to that Cirque du Soliel show, and I turned them down. I didn’t want them to see that I’d gotten tickets to go after all.”

“So I shouldn’t take it personally that you don’t want any photos of us to exist for public viewing?”

“Aurora, that’s not why I took down those photos. And anyway, why do you need Facebook photos to validate a relationship?”

I returned his cutting question with stony silence. He apologized a few seconds later. “That was unkind and uncalled for. I’m sorry.”

“I don’t need Facebook photos to validate our relationship. But it would be nice to have some evidence that you exist. You haven’t met ANY of my friends because you’re always busy, and some of them are starting to wonder. I got grilled at the happy hour after work today because I’d invited you, and you didn’t show up.”

“I would have shown up if you’d answered your phone when I called to see if you were there. I was actually planning on going.”

“You called me almost two hours after it started. I was on my way out.”

“Well not all of us can leave the office at 4PM.”

We moved to another topic, and soon I started to wind down the call, emotionally drained. “Well, have a good weekend” (He’d be out of town again). “Maybe I’ll see you sometime next week.”

“Why do you always say it like that? Of course you’ll see me next week.”

“Will I? I am never really sure with you.” Past boyfriends would always set up our next date at the end of the prior date so we both had something to look forward to and could rest in the assurance that we would see each other again, and soon.

Bryan responded, “Well, I want to see you, and you want to see me, so instead of assuming something negative, you should expect that we will make it happen.” Yeah, we’ll make it happen. Spontaneously. Last-minute. When it’s convenient for you, I thought.

“That’s the thing. I’m not sure you do want to see me,” I told him. I hadn’t planned to go there, but the conversation naturally moved in that direction. The gloves were coming off.

“Why would you say that? What does the empirical evidence tell you?” he asked me.

“Seriously? The empirical evidence tells me that you don’t want to see me and that I’m not a priority to you. Bryan, I went on a date with someone else tonight. And he told me seven different times over dinner that I was beautiful. He also added that I am smart, talented and a godly woman. He insisted that we take photos together to remember the evening. And there’s another guy – one I haven’t actually been out with yet – who texts me daily to let me know he’s thinking of me and wishes I were there with him. You don’t verbalize to me that I am cherished and valued by you. So the empirical evidence tells me that you don’t want to see me. Your words right now say that you do, but your actions speak otherwise.”

He paused briefly, possibly hurt, but masking it as always. “And when I asked you to come to that party with me after bible study this week? And then invited you back to my place even later that evening? Those actions communicated to you that I don’t want to spend time with you?”

“Actually, those actions surprised me –”

“Wow,” he interjected.

“–and I hoped they were an indication of a new direction for our relationship, but to guard my heart, I considered them an outlier until more evidence proved me wrong.”

“Actually, I’ve been thinking our relationship was going well and had decided to try something new. Why do you always take a negative stance?”

“It’s a defense mechanism. Believe it or not, I am a hopeless romantic and one of the most idealistic people you will ever meet. But because I am such an idealistically-minded romantic, I have been burned and disappointed by people my whole life. So I’ve learned to expect the worst to protect myself from further disappointment.”

“I can actually relate to you in your idealism and subsequent disappointment, but I have found that holding onto bitterness isn’t healthy for me, so I just decide to be happy and let the inevitable disappointments roll off instead of trying to protect myself from them. I like expecting the best. I’m not telling you how to be; I’m just telling you that I find it to be healthier for me.”

“And I’m just trying to explain to you why I operate the way that I do and help you understand where I’m coming from. I would probably operate less out of that defense mechanism if I felt more secure in your affection. In a successful relationship, both people need to be selfless and seek to meet the needs of the other–”

“I agree.”

I continued, “–and I’ve communicated to you my need for words of affirmation, but I haven’t seen any change. Just the other day, you commented that I looked tan, and when I asked you if the tan looked nice, you missed the opportunity to give me a compliment and instead made some comment like, ‘You tell me if you think it looks good.'”

“You were fishing for a compliment,” he stated.

“Yes,” I confirmed, unashamed.

“And which is more meaningful, an unsolicited compliment or one that is prompted?”

“Honestly, Bryan, at this point, I’ll take whatever I can get! I can count on one hand the number of times you’ve complimented me in the past five months!” The exasperation came through in my voice.

“I told you on the sailing trip that you looked beautiful in your sundress,” he countered.

“Yeah, that’s one of the five.”

In response, Bryan told me that, in his life experience, he has come across a lot of people (“my mother, for instance”) who try to elicit a desired response by baiting him, but he is anti-manipulation and has learned not to respond to the bait in order to teach people that their negative behavior is ineffective.

I could psychoanalyze that to death, but… “And has that been effective on me? ‘Training’ me not to fish for compliments?”

“Actually, yeah.”

“…Do you even want to date me? Look, if you’re just really not invested in this relationship and want to break things off, just tell me. I’d rather know so that we can start moving on with our lives.”

“I do want to date you. We hit a low point right at the start of the sailing trip, but we’ve come a long way since that night you sat in my car crying and telling me you regretted booking that trip with me. On that trip, we were never more than 50 feet away from each other. For ten days. And I think we learned how to be civil with each other even when one of us wasn’t in a good mood. I think we’re learning about each other, and our relationship is moving in a good direction. It’s not perfect, so there’s room for improvement on my part for sure, but I think it’s moving in a good direction. And… for the record… I like having you around.”

I smiled in spite of myself. Why can he so easily flip me from almost ending things to being bought in again? “Thanks. I like being around.” I think.

Authentically Aurora