DEAR AMY: A few years ago, I was assigned to work with a male colleague on a long-term project. As time went by, we became friendly. He often sought me out on our company’s instant message system. At the start of our work project, he was just out of a relationship, and so was I. We had both been hurt badly. We continued working and talking daily and over time, we realized how much we had in common. Our values were similar. I asked his opinion on houses I was looking to buy and I would send him small gifts of appreciation for the hard work he had done on our project that went unnoticed by others. We supported one another through the deaths of our mothers. Amy, imagine my surprise when he told me out of the blue that his long-distance girlfriend dumped him. A girlfriend! He had never mentioned her. She is significantly younger than he, has a baby with another man, and broke up with him after two months of dating because he wouldn’t relocate 250 miles away to be with her. Now he is chasing after her to offer her everything he has. I’m sitting here feeling like I got hit by a truck. I am avoiding him. I feel very hurt. Now I feel like I am done with men. I have been hurt over and over again, and am tired of being kicked constantly. Nothing I do seems to be good enough, and eventually I get left in the dust. The princesses of the world who treat men poorly are the ones with the diamond on their hand. Am I destined to be alone forever?
DEAR T: You are not destined to be alone forever. But you seem to have misread this particular relationship as being a romantic match, when your colleague saw it as a friendship. I don’t think it is fair to characterize this as being “kicked” by a man, so much as you sending out romantic signals that were either misinterpreted or ignored.
Missed connections are frustrating and painful. But an “all or nothing” and punitive attitude toward men won’t help you to find the right match. This is an opportunity for you to examine your own behavior to see what you could do differently next time you’re attracted to someone, and to see if you are overlooking some nice, sweet guy who might offer you a more balanced and authentic relationship.
DEAR AMY: I have a buddy with whom I occasionally play racquetball, have lunch or breakfast, and play cards. He’s a nice guy, but lacks certain social graces. Today, he called to chat, and asked if I was busy tomorrow afternoon. When I said I had no plans, he suggested we watch a ballgame together on television, and said he’d come over at around 1 p.m. In other words, he invited himself over. My wife enjoys sitting and reading quietly in the TV room and while we can easily change our routine, it just seems rude to invite yourself to someone else’s house. I don’t know how to deal with those kinds of things. I don’t want to be rude to him, but what can I say that won’t sound like I’m rejecting him?
DEAR PAL: Some people simply don’t read social cues very well. Unless your friend is (gently) corrected, he will never know how his behavior affects you.
The way to respond to this sort of breach is to be judicious, respectful, truthful — and to let your wife be the fall guy.
In the future, you could say, “Well, I don’t want to say yes to this until I run it past my wife. I’m not sure what her plans are.” Alternatively, you could say, “A ball game sounds great. Can we watch it at your place (or the corner tavern or sports bar)?”
DEAR AMY: I am a man who has been in the same position as “Frustrated’s!” husband, who would ask, “What can I do for you?” instead of just taking responsibility for his half of the household chores. I used to be like this. I just didn’t know how to be helpful and I didn’t want to get in the way. Honestly, my wife basically trained me how to take on more responsibility and now we work together.
DEAR REFORMED: I have received a huge response to this letter, and many men echo your statement — they needed some guidance and when they got it, they stepped up.