“Dude, you were totally flitting with her!”
Flitting? I had no idea what the word was, but I told my good friend that, whatever it was, I was not guilty of it.
Justify it how you want, she told me, but the fact remains: You’re acting as though you’re interested in her without any intention of a serious relationship behind your actions. You’re not even being honest enough to flirt with her. In a word, you’re “flitting.”
I hated to admit it, but she was right.
I had never been one of those guys who was eagerly searching for the special someone to woo and wed with a “ring by spring,” nor was I in the crowds of bar-hoppers on Friday nights looking for nothing more than a good time with no strings attached. I was, in short, a proud member of the noncommittal middle—too scared to commit to asking anyone out on a real date, too self-absorbed to realize how much I had to grow.
I had seen some of my friends burdened with regret over becoming physically involved with someone too soon, and it wasn’t a path I wanted to follow. But what I didn’t realize was that getting deeply emotionally involved without intending any possible commitment could also cause a different, though similar, type of pain. Like a lot of guys, although they might not like to admit it, I didn’t have the foresight to see the long-term damage created by developing a level of closeness that I wasn’t ready for.
What can you do if you see that one of your friends risks hurting a girl by letting her think it’s more serious than it actually is? Here are some things I wish someone had told me:
- Don’t run from awkwardness. It’s okay for a woman to call a guy out on his intentions. Is it awkward? Heck yeah. But even before getting to the “D.T.R.” (“Defining the Relationship”) talk, either party should feel comfortable suggesting that while repeatedly hanging out may be fun, next time, let’s make it a real date.
- Take your time getting to know each other. When a relationship is just starting out, it can be easy to get carried away. If you find yourself saying, “I’ve never told anyone this before,” pause for a moment to decide if you’re revealing something more personal than your relationship is ready for at that point. Total transparency is not always a good thing, especially if the relationship’s ultimate destination is still an open question.
- Forget the gossip. Especially in high school or college, there is perhaps no greater paralyzing fear than the thought of what others might say when they learn that you went to coffee and a movie with a cute girl last weekend. It’s human nature to want to be in on the latest and speculate on who’s going to have the cutest babies five years from now. But feeling like your decisions are going to be fodder for the cafeteria chatter can easily dampen the desire to be forthright. Going on a date is just that—a date. Save the stop-the-presses, all-caps text messages for when there’s a ring.
- Keep your friends honest. While gossip is to be avoided, sometimes direct talks are needed—even appreciated! No guy likes to be the one to tell his gym buddy to bring his behavior in line with his intentions. But sometimes encouragement from a third party can be enough motivation to nudge someone thinking of asking someone on a date into actually doing it.
I had never heard the word “flitting,” before, but once I was diagnosed, it was easy to pick out the signs. Whatever you call it, jumping into emotional intimacy without intending a more committed relationship is something that’s easy to fall into. Thankfully, sometimes all it takes to build a healthy path is a friend willing to say something and a willingness to build relationships one layer of trust at a time.
And what ever happened to the friend who called me out on my flitting? I married her.