If you’re as ancient as me, you might remember the band 38 SPECIAL. (Some of you are nodding; most of you are going, “Who?”). One of the group’s biggest hits was a song about a certain mistake guys make.
“Hold on Loosely” counseled over-eager suitors not to let romantic enthusiasm smother a relationship. “So hold on loosely,” the chorus instructed, “But don’t let go/If you cling too tightly/You’re gonna lose control.”
Now I know there have been plenty of conversations on Boundless lamenting some guys’ tendency not to pursue. But there’s also a subset of guys out there who have the opposite problem. We might call them “over-pursuers.”
I was one of those guys.
I wanted to be married from birth. My parents were married young. I thought it’d work that way for me, too. When I was 18, I figured I’d be married after college, and I wanted to be done having kids by my mid-20s. If you’d have told me at 18 that it would be another 16 years before I got married, well, sometimes it’s better if we don’t know the future.
I didn’t get married quickly, but it wasn’t for lack of trying. Between my senior year of college and the time my wife and I tied the knot, I think I pursued about 30 different women. OK, it was 34. I have the journals to prove it. That probably sounds like an outrageous number, but it works out to about one every three months. Out of those initiatives, I had exactly one relationship that lasted longer than three dates. A couple of times, for the record, I decided not to pursue someone further; but most of the time, I was the rejectee. The one receiving the delightful “Let’s be friends” chat.
I was so eager. I couldn’t stop projecting way into the future. And checking potential mates against my “list.” Pondering Myers-Briggs compatibility. And you know what? It scared the women TO DEATH. Why? Because I was too intense. I didn’t know how to be casual. Cling too tightly? Check. Lose control? Got the T-shirt.
So, if you’re an over-pursuer like I was, what should you do? (And though I’m writing to guys here, these ideas might apply to over-eager women, too.)
Go easy on your passionate self. More than once I lamented, God did You make me this way? Why do I want this so much? Why do I keep making the same mistakes? As I asked those questions, I slowly came to grips with the reality that God had made me a passionate person, and that was OK.
Trust God with your desires. Obviously, that’s excruciating at times. But keep talking to God. Keep pouring out your heart to Him. It’s so easy after rejection to flirt with the lie that He has it in for us. Resist the impulse to get angry (at Him and at all women everywhere) and to shut down emotionally — a road that leads to bitterness. Tell Him you’re angry and hurt, definitely. But keep talking to Him.
Give new relational possibilities room to breathe. This one is hard. But, as much as you can help it, don’t rush to define things as quickly as you possibly can with the next person who catches your interest. With my wife, I tried to initiate a “defining the relationship” talk on our third date. (And that was progress compared to the poor women forced to respond to me trying to define the relationship on the first date. Trust me — I got definition.) She told me, matter-of-factly, that she didn’t have enough information yet to define anything. Our first date was May 20 that year (2003), and it wasn’t until our fifth (Sept. 17) that she concluded she was interested. It was a long process for her, and it pert’ near killed me. But giving things space to breathe made the relationship possible.
Don’t jump into the emotional deep end. When we’re over-eager, it’s so easy to go too deep, too fast. Been there. But if you start talking about cherished hopes or fears or struggles on your first or second date, it screams, “I’m desperate!” As much as most women say that they want emotional intimacy, they also want some mystery. Mystery opens the door to possibility. Too much emotional stuff too soon will absolutely snuff that flickering mystery flame.
Give yourself space after rejection. Getting shot down hurts. Afterward, you need space to talk to God, to take the edge off the rawness. Jumping back into the fray immediately is generally a bad idea. The only thing worse than getting rejected once is getting rejected two or three times in, say, a month or so. (Been there. Ouch.)
But don’t give up! That said, dropping out of the game never seemed to me a very viable alternative. After all, if you quit pursuing, how’s it ever going to happen? That was my mindset, anyway, and on try No. 35, God finally answered my prayers.
So, get back on the horse and try again (when the time is right). Then again, maybe I don’t have to tell over-pursuers that.