Empty promises, false hope, so close but so far, yet just enough to keep you going… Is someone leading you on?
I think one of the most repeated experiences I’ve seen over the last month or so is the number of people who have gotten hurt through the channel of being led on. You know, being led on. Thinking there was more there than there really was. Having your heart further in the relationship than the other person. Starting to fall in love with someone or already all the way in, when they’re thinking about how quickly they can distance you from their lives.
I think most people have been on the receiving end of this form of torture, and in truth a lot of us have also been its harbinger in someone else’s life. Don’t act coy with me, you remember that time in high school, or that girl at church you showed questionable levels of interest in when you wanted to stay friends, or the guy at work who’s got the wrong idea because you gave him a whole lot of the right idea.
Or is it simply the fault of the person who got led on? Did you put in too much hope too early? Did you read in signs that simply weren’t there? Did you let this person take you for a ride because you hoped they would change their mind?
Such are the thoughts and experiences of those who have felt lied to in love and romance.
So, why are you here? Maybe there’s a relationship in your life that is starting to get ridiculous if the other person doesn’t commit a bit more. Maybe you’ve got someone in your life expressing interest and you’re not really sure about it. Maybe you’ve got friends or family in that boat going through a stretching relationship experience and you’re concerned for them/ready to knock that player’s lights out. Whatever your experience, it’s worth asking… Is someone leading you on?
It’s pretty natural
I think one of the most self defeating thoughts that consumes the mind when we feel like we’re in a situation like this is, “How could I be so stupid?”. You’ve put yourself out there so much with what now seems like so little return. You keep believing their excuses. How did you miss what was really going on?
Well, I think given the right environment and pressures, it’s very easy for people to fall in love. I remember someone falling head over heels in love with someone who still had a partner who they were saying exactly the same things to. No, not on The Bachelor or The Bachelorette, although it was a similar situation. But constant proximity, repeated exposure to the person every few days, deep conversations and opportunities to see their compassionate side eventually progressed into fascination and affection, regardless of their relationship status and the fact this person was offering to be with both of them with both partners knowing.
I think what it does show is that there are some very natural things that we can do to develop emotions for another person, and if we’re in those sorts of environments and situations with an attractive and available person, especially one we get along with, it’s only natural that love can grow there. After all, those are all the sorts of situations that dating and married couples endeavour to share together, so similar sorts of experiences with the opposite sex certainly fosters intimacy. Don’t be so hard on yourself or the other person if you’re on the giving or receiving end of unwanted affection. We just have to be more mature about what we do when it does happen, because it does.
Reading “The Signs”
“I liked all his photos on Facebook and I don’t like any guy’s photos on Facebook, why doesn’t he know I like him?”. “I only talk to her about those things, isn’t it obvious that I care for her?”. Two real metrics for communicating interest I’ve heard recently that highlight the peril of love by the signs alone.
The problem with signs is that they mean different things to different people, both in their communication and also in how they’re interpreted. Words without actions, actions without words, or an inconsistent hybrid of both is usually how we get stuck down the path thinking someone is more interested than they are. We really do need a level of maturity (there it is again) with words and actions in equal consistent parts to avoid folly and confusion.
Don’t underestimate someone’s propensity to be cruel
I think this has been a big point for me in my own life. In a particular situation, I really was taken back at the way I got treated by a particular person, especially given the length of time we’d been friends, and they really didn’t bat an eyelid at how it affected me at all. You make every excuse for them, you try to justify their behaviour based on what they may or may not be going through, and you shoot yourself down at every angle because it’s probably just you being too sensitive. But at one point I finally realised…
No matter what people may be going through, cruel actions are still cruel, especially when a person knows exactly what they’re doing. Even the most well respected and noble people are capable of destructive behaviour. A stand out line from the film Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon is, “When it comes to emotions, even great heroes are capable of being idiots”. Some of my friends who are pastors love to be mindful in their marriage that we usually judge others by our actions, but ourselves by our intentions. Even if we say we mean well, our actions may prove emphatically that we don’t.
I guess the point here is that all of us are capable of actions that can completely destroy a person’s life. It’s always a sobering thought for me to consider the potential I wield to do exactly that too. And it’s also important to be aware when you’re interpreting another person’s actions that you don’t understand and are really affecting you, there is a chance that really they are just being an idiot and demonstrating a complete lack of concern for how you’re feeling.
The first stage of the Kubler Ross model of grief is denial, and perhaps it’s progressing past the denial about another person’s actions that will help you move forward.
When you’re actually not sure
The ultimate recipe for being led on occurs when you have two people who are actually interested in each other, but one isn’t completely sure. It’s amazing to see how much we let our uncertainties rule us and rob our lives, and also how much our selective honesty can really leave another person confused.
How can you like someone and yet say no to building your relationship further with them? I don’t always know, but I’ve definitely seen it happen.
I think really the only defence against this in our lives is to get better about being decisive about everything. A mentor once said that if you aren’t willing to be fully committed to something, even if you’re just giving it a go, you’re going to develop a habit of doing things half hearted, and it will be a habit that you’ll bring with you into other areas of your life. He suggests being all in with your efforts or get out, whether it’s something you want to do or something you still have reservations about.
Make a decision. Be brave. Take a chance. Or don’t. It really isn’t as complicated as we make it out to be.
And I guess I would say here that the dating, or even the friendship, process is the process of becoming more sure in either direction. Maybe we’re making big decisions based on not enough information.
Don’t put it off
I was recently on a project management course where one of the management team quoted an older saying, “Bad news ages badly”. How true this is in the area of IT, and man how much more true is this in the area of relationships!
Do you feel like someone is treating you like more than a friend? Do you feel like someone may be getting the wrong idea from you? The worst thing you could do is to put off that conversation. Bring it up, or ask the other person, depending on your perspective.
I think the reason we put it off is because we’re afraid of the answer. Maybe we should be more afraid of the other person or us finding out the answer another year from now when their heart is a year into these thoughts.
We don’t usually lead people on who have zero potential
Here’s an interesting thought I heard from someone once, and I’m sharing it here because I think it’s a confronting thought worth considering. He said to a friend he thought was leading someone on, “You wouldn’t be acting like this if you absolutely saw nothing there with her”.
You get along with them really well to the point people may already think you’re a couple. You enjoy talking with them. You’ve shared enough about each other that you know this is a person you can trust. You share common interests, hence you always see this person around. People who know you well have suggested them to you as someone worth considering. And you want to say there’s no potential there?
Interesting thought. I’ll leave it with you to consider whether it’s relevant or wrong for you.
Love is always a risk
At the end of the day, and I think everything always comes back to this, but love is a risk. It’s a gamble with your heart. You really don’t know the way someone is going to respond to your affections. Will exposing your love be the thing that scares someone off, or drives them into your arms? Both scenarios occur every day. Will this person eventually be won over by your constant presence in your life, or will the overfamiliarity of it all secure your place in the “just a friend” category?
The answer is yes. And no. And maybe. Because each situation is as unique as the people we encounter. And it’s as unique as we ourselves are, too.
I think a biblical example that is always brought up on the topic of relationships is the one between Ruth and Boaz. Every woman is looking for a Boaz, but I think the realism of this situation was a potential “lead me on” scenario. He showed constant kindness to her. He kept her safe. She remained in his sight. She spoke favourably of him and treated him with great respect. And eventually, she made the first move on him (yes that’s right theologians, women are biblically allowed to communicate interest). But in that situation, so much could have gone wrong. So much could have been misinterpreted. So much could have been gained, or lost. And lucky for them, they gained great companionship after suffering so much in life.
But the same actions could have, and indeed have for others, produced a different result. You just have to put yourself out there, take a chance, and make sure you don’t walk away from a relationship in your life with regret that you didn’t give it your all.
And on the flip side, let’s recognise the risk being taken, and not waste anyone’s time. Leave #WasteHisTime2016 and #WasteHerTime2016 to die in a fire.
Touchy subject, and no doubt you have a lot to say. Have you ever been led on before? Has anyone ever falsely accused you of leading them on? How’d you go? Share your experiences below, because no doubt it’ll help someone out there.