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On hope and 'acting like it'

Old Main on NAU Campus

Old Main on NAU Campus

by Starfoxy

I have a bike. I like to call it my stealth bike because it is not a mountain bike, and does not make the tell-tale clickety noise that mountain bikes make. Coasting on that bike in near perfect silence feels like flying.

When I was in school I rode my bike everywhere, to work, to classes, to church, on dates– everywhere. There was one particular spot on north campus, a quiet spot, with low traffic and a bike path well away from the street. Huge trees standing next to stately red brick buildings filtered the light over that stretch of the bike path. It had a downhill grade so I could coast and give myself over to my thoughts. On that path I had two life changing internal conversations with myself, both on the subject of hope.

In spring I was dating a young man who was hard working, ambitious, well-known, and likely to succeed to anything he put his mind to. The thing was, he was very busy. He often told me how much he loved me, how much he longed to spend time with me, and how ‘once the semester is over’ we could hang out all the time. One day, as I coasted under the budding spring leaves I found myself hoping that my boyfriend had called and left a message for me. Or that he had sent an email. Or that if he hadn’t already that he would later in the day. I imagine my brow furrowed as I reprimanded myself. “You know he’s busy. Hoping for stuff like that is just going to lead to disappointment.” And I was right, he rarely if ever called or sent messages, and when I did let myself hope I was disappointed. I reminded myself that it wasn’t his fault. He had an insane course load, and had bitten off far more than he could chew.

I kept telling myself it was just until the summer. But the summer came, and he wasn’t so busy anymore. And he still never sought out my company. In the weeks leading up to the end of our relationship I alternated back and forth between scolding myself for expecting more from my boyfriend, (after all, hadn’t he told me how much he loved me?) and anger at his failure to live up to his promises. When school started I saw that he was again, too busy for me, and always would be.

In October I was dating a different young man that I had known for several months. He too, was hard-working, ambitious and very busy. This time as I coasted under the yellowing leaves the thought occurred to me that maybe he had called and left a message for me. Or an email. Or that if he hadn’t already, he would later in the day. At once I remembered my earlier discussion with myself- remembered telling myself how foolish it was to hope for things like that. I laughed out loud as I realized how foolish I really was. If I hadn’t talked myself out of those hopes then I would have seen far earlier that, despite what he said, my former boyfriend didn’t love me, because he didn’t act like it. This young man made me so happy precisely because he made it safe for me to hope for all those silly little things that I had convinced I couldn’t expect from any man.

Later, after the young man had asked me to marry him, he said “I love you” to me for the first time. I pulled a Han Solo and said “I know.” And I did know that he loved me because he acted like it. He sought out my company. He asked me for my opinions. He smiled when I entered a room.

Far too often women are told they are too picky, and men’s lack of interest in relationships is brushed off as just how men are. We speak jokingly, almost fondly, of women ‘catching’ a man and dragging him kicking and screaming to the altar. We remind ourselves that men are only interested in women for the sex.

And so some women talk themselves out of expecting their boyfriends to act as if he likes her. She’ll bend over backwards to maintain a relationship by herself. She’ll set her hopes as high as a man who doesn’t mind her hanging around. And some men will find themselves carried by inertia into marriages with women they don’t especially like and no one will question whether or not it was a good idea.

It isn’t foolish to hope. It is foolish not to. And if someone says that they love you, they should act like it.

Starfoxy

Starfoxy is a fulltime caretaker for her two children.

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22 Responses

  1. adamf says:

    Really great post, with points that are backed up by attachment theory (which is based on evolution) even. In a secure relationship we are able to feel safe, be vulnerable and “hope” and have expectations, as you said. In addition, high expectations for the quality of a relationship generally lead to better relationships, although many people believe the opposite to be true.

  2. Alisa says:

    Beautiful examples, Starfoxy. DH and I are going to spend a lot of time together this weekend (yea!), and I am so glad I have this reminder to start me off – both on appreciating him for his love, and for making sure I return it.

  3. kate says:

    Good stuff!

  4. Linda says:

    I love your post! I went through a similar
    experience that taught me some valuable life
    lessons. 1) The actions and the words of a
    person – man or woman – have to match up other-
    wise I don’t view their words as sincere. 2) I
    don’t need to – and should not – spend my time
    trying to get a guy to like me or fall in love
    with me. If he’s not that into me – I learned
    that it’s ok to move on and find someone who is.
    3)I learned that facing my own insecurities is a
    an important part of knowing who I am and what
    type of person I want to spend my life and
    eternity with. Not until I was able to fully
    operate from the core center of myself, was I
    able to confidently (never arrogantly) be
    authentic in my relationships, recognize when
    “games” however unintentional were being played
    and conciously walk away from it. For example,
    after healing from a relationship much like what
    you experienced, which left me emotionally and
    spiritually exhausted, I spent time on me. I was
    able to come to a point of knowing who I am,
    being strong again and recognizing the “signs”
    and politely saying, I don’t operate that way and
    perhaps we are not a good match. I can’t tell
    you how interesting it was to watch the reaction
    of the men. When they realized that I was truly
    operating with honesty, love and authenticity,
    their walls came down and their interactions
    with me changed. I’m telling ya – it was like
    a guy magnet!
    The key for me was truly operating from my core
    center of beliefs and who I am. Never allowing
    another person the power to dictate my actions
    or reactions. It has been freeing for me. I am
    so happy to hear that you reached the same place.
    I am sorry to say that usually it is not possible
    to get to that place without the experiences,
    heartache and tears, but it is a place I hope
    all of us (women and men) can get to. Only then
    will we be able to stop wasting each other’s time
    and go about the work of loving, serving and
    caring. It also makes dating soooo much easier!I am happy to say that since I have come to my “core” I too have found the man whom I will marry and make covenants
    with. It makes me sad when I see women who
    don’t understand or have forgotten who they
    really are because if they could get it then the
    choices they would make would be far different.
    Thank you for the reminder of some important
    and for me, life changing experiences!

  5. stacer says:

    I completely agree, but when the only attention you get is of the variety shown by the first boyfriend, sometimes it’s hard not to just take what you can get, because your low self esteem tells you that’s all you’re worth. Nowadays I just shrug and accept that I’d rather be alone than treated like that, but it doesn’t change how much it hurts sometimes that that’s the way things are.

  6. G says:

    wow, this was beautiful starfoxy. I can’t express how much I wish every young woman could have such a confidence about herself.

  7. Starfoxy says:

    Thanks for the comments everyone. I really like where Linda said
    “2) I
    don’t need to – and should not – spend my time trying to get a guy to like me or fall in love with me. If he’s not that into me – I learned that it’s ok to move on and find someone who is.”

    And G, I don’t know that it is self-confidence per se. I’ve known smart self-confident women who pine for men that can’t be bothered to reciprocate. I think it has so much to do with expectations. There is this template for relationships that portrays men as completely uninterested, so this sort of inequality in a relationship doesn’t set off any alarm bells even for women who don’t put up with any sort of crap in other venues.

  8. G says:

    Starfoxy, I see what you are saying. My comment about self confidence is perhaps colored by my experience being and being with “older” singles on a LDS campus (I married at the age of 27. Many of my friends were 28 to 30+. We were definite old maids by Church Standards. Ha!)

    So when I say self confidence, I am referring to the belief that there certainly great guys out there who know how to treat a woman right, but they’re not interested in you so you take what you can get (before you get ANY older). The fear of being alone and/or the stigma of being unmarried facilitating “none-optimal” marriages.

    This may not be precisely what you are talking about in this post (ie general misconceptions/ low expectations about male behavior), it is just something brought to my mind while reading it.

  9. G says:

    /Cringing in horror…
    at all those typos in my last comment. It’s way past my bedtime.
    (Old woman that I am. HAHAHAH)

  10. Kelly Ann says:

    I really like this post and comments. I have seen my mom and others compromise for the fear of being single.

    For most of my life, I haven’t dated very much. And the bulk of my experience has been in first and second dates and creepy Mormon stalkers (who don’t even count as either). But for a year and a half, I have had a crazy on/off relationship. We have had at least 7 dramatic DTRs where we have ended it only to get back together after several days, weeks, or months …

    The constant has been a great friendship. In some regards it has been great .. He supports me no matter what I believe and we have a lot of fun when we are together. But the too busy thing rings really loud. I’m realizing that I am maybe compromising too much and am a gluten for punishment.

  11. Phannie says:

    Wonderful Post.

  12. Caroline says:

    I love this post as well.

  13. Naismith says:

    The catch is that “acting like it” is not one-size fits all. It shouldn’t be determined by societal norms, but rather the couple.

    My husband is an absent-minded professor. He always was, even when we were dating. A lot of friends and family said that I “deserved better.” One of the friends who was most adamantly against him is now herself divorced, so go figure. Other people say that we treat each other like brother and sister, and people are often shocked that we argue in public. To us, it is just disagreeing on a topic, not a put-down of the other person, nor lack of loyalty.

    Yes, my husband forgets about me at times. The thing is, my husband has a rare ability to fully concentrate on something. As a result, the rest of the world does not exist to him during the time he is focussed on something. It is really wonderful when one is the focus of that attention. And for the other times, he tried very hard not to forget about my existence. His PDA has three different alarms that go off each evening to tell him to go home. When we are on vacation and those alarms go off, I am reminded of the effort that he goes through to remember to come home for dinner.

    Whereas a lot of guys look forward to stopping work and going home for dinner. Do only the latter group get to marry? I don’t think so. And I don’t think they are inherently better husbands.

    I know my life is richer for the time we do spend together.

    I was not “settling for less” or desperate when I married him, because in truth I had no interest in marriage when I was younger (not raised in the church).

    People are different. Even when that first boyfriend met the love of his life, he may or may not have “acted like it,” in a way that would make YOU think he liked her. But it may be that SHE is happy and content with his expressions of love. It’s not always a matter of settling for less, but finding different.

  14. Starfoxy says:

    Naismith, I’m not sure if you’re disagreeing with me or not. It sound like you’ve dealt with a lot of people jumping to conclusions about your relationship because your husband doesn’t jump through some of the hoops society says he needs to in order to properly show love. I can sympathize with that more than you might think. To this day my husband refuses to hold my hand in public. All sorts of people, even his parents, have approached me with concern that he wasn’t showing enough affection to me. In the post I mentioned that the first time he said “I love you” was well after we were engaged. He still says it out loud only once or twice a month, and never in public. He’s just a very private man, and to him those sorts of things are far too intimate to be shared with anyone but me. The thing is, though, those things don’t matter that much to me, and I feel loved because of other things he does.

    Even though the first boyfriend might have really loved me, he was unable or unwilling to show love in a way that mattered to me. If he was able to find a woman who feels loved by him then that is great, that doesn’t change the fact that I was miserable when I was with him and we were all better off after I decided to move on.

    I’m mostly addressing the idea of moving on in search of a better fit when one partner doesn’t feel loved or safe in relationships. This is something I think women should be more willing to do when they are unhappy, rather than telling themselves that they just need to quit expecting to feel love from their partners. I think you would agree with this.

  15. Jessawhy says:

    I love your post, Starfoxy!

    I absolutely agree that some women talk themselves into staying in relationships when they shouldn’t. That said, I think some women talk themselves out of relationships because they’re afraid of something, maybe getting too close. I don’t know what is more common, those who try to “settle” for less than a good fit, or those who won’t settle for anything less than perfection. It’s a tricky balance, but I’ll bet most women know which side of the spectrum they’re on.

  16. D'Arcy says:

    Forgive the literary/movie example, but G’s comments reminded me of the heartwretching scene in the lastest version of Pride and Prejudice when Charlotte Lucas gives Elizabeth Bennett the reasoning behind marrying Mr. Collins. Truth is, she had NO choice. I often wonder would I have been a Charlotte Lucas or would I have been more like Jane Austen?

    I think I would have been more like Jane, because for many reasons I AM like that in the LDS culture. Everyone keeps saying I’m too picky or I don’t try hard enough, but because so many of the people I date have very clear expectations of who they want to marry–and so do I–it’s hard to find someone who can match up.

    I did go through a phase last year of having “no expectations” about my boyfriend…even so much as in NOT calling him my boyfriend that much. We were just “hanging out” when we both had time. And while we both liked each other and didn’t expect a lot from each other–we both kind of phased into friendship and realized that what we had was not anything that could be called real love.

    But when you don’t have a lot of practice with the second kind of relationship, it kind of knocks you off your feet when it does come, but you certainly DO feel the difference. And hope it nice.

  17. Sara says:

    “Even though the first boyfriend might have really loved me, he was unable or unwilling to show love in a way that mattered to me.”

    The only question to be asked is:
    Did you tell him how you felt and ask him to make you a priority?

    If you didn’t, the blame is on both of you. Not just him

  18. G says:

    D’arcy, your comment just brought to mind what a historical anomaly it is that women even have any sort of choice in the matter of marriage, or that romantic notions have any weight in the decision.
    Historic, and also geographic- even today men and women are given in arranged marriages without hardly knowing each other at all. Total threadjack. Sorry, Just had to say.

  19. Starfoxy says:

    Sara- your comment brings up something else that has always mystified me- the “If you don’t know what I’m upset about then I’m not going to tell you!” Nobody can read minds, even if they are in love with you. Just for the record I tried very hard to tell that boyfriend what I wanted from him in a clear yet undemanding way.
    However, I don’t think the rhetoric of blame is the one I’m after here. I suspect that he may have felt just as dissatisfied in that relationship as I was- he just wasn’t that into me. What I’m getting at is the fact that I was unwilling to drop the relationship because I didn’t expect any man to be into me. And conversely he was unwilling to send me packing because, as a man, he never expected to actually like the woman he was dating.

  20. Naismith says:

    “Naismith, I’m not sure if you’re disagreeing with me or not.”

    I’m agreeing that one should move on to find a better fit. I just wanted to stress (which wasn’t clear from the original post) that the determination of “acting like it” should be what works for you, not what anyone else says or a message that society sends.

    Which actually was one of the themes of Jane Austen’s PERSUASION.

    Also, sometimes what we think we want and what we really need may be different. My husband challenges and strengthens me in ways I could never have imagined before meeting him.

  21. Kiri Close says:

    Awesome!

    I’m kinda going through this thing right now–Rob and I have gotten so caught up with getting work experiences, and making sure the last of our school loans are annihilated by next summer, that we had gotten too tired to ‘date’.

    Okay, NOT a cool thing.

    So, last night, we had it out, and had to reaffirm that our marriage comes first.

    It’s amazing how quickly coupledom can disappear when other modes of life (that are important–don’t get me wrong) swallow up all our time, energy.

    So, tomorrow, I’m only at church to take sacrament, then we’re off for a picnic & some touristy sites nearby the rest of the day, all day long. Next weekend, Rob asked a co-worker to switch shifts so we can do a 2-day trip up north to be cheesy tourists at Mato Tipila Paha (historically, stupid people have renamed it ‘Devil’s Tower’) & pay respects to martyred Native Americans at Little Big Horn. We may do it again for the Mesa Verde Pueble Cliff Dwellings in a week or two.

    Marriage, honeychilds, is work – Romance, Kindness, & Compassion at the forefront of that.

    But man, oh, man! How quickly all that can dissolve if we ain’t careful, and stop ‘acting’ like we love each other, regardless of how committed & loyal we are to each other.

  1. February 15, 2016

    […] On Hope And ‘Acting Like It’ […]

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