I met him at a college dance. I had gone with some friends from the design program and we were dancing together, the three or four of us, enjoying ourselves and our singlehood. It was a private, religious based school, and the pressure to get married was high. I felt it. The fact that my peers felt it was evidenced in the dwindling number of single people I knew and socialized with. Even my best friend, with whom I’d come to school, and without whom I’d never had the courage to leave home, had married last Christmas. I wanted it too. I wanted the safety and security, the love and companionship I thought such a commitment would guarantee me.

And so, when he interrupted our happy circle to reacquaint himself with one of my friends, I took great interest. He had known my friend before, having lived for a short time in the suburban town from which she had come, a couple thousand miles away. He was good-looking, polite, gentlemanly, and when my friend introduced him to me, he looked at me as if he actually saw me. It was nothing like the usual, hungry, assessing (and oft-times disapproving) looks I got from men. His gaze did not sweep the length of my too tall and angular frame, but held my own. He looked me in the eye and smiled. I smiled in return and accepted his invitation to dance.

It was a slow dance. We talked easily, laughed a lot. He danced well, though I struggled to follow him, trying to anticipate where he would go next, and struggling, in my uncertainty, not to  lead him instead. I enjoyed it nevertheless, and when the song ended, I hoped he’d ask me again. He didn’t. I inquired of my friend about him and she offered to set us up on a date. It was an offer I eagerly accepted.

Our first date was on Valentine’s day. He made a heart shaped brownie with berries and ice cream on top. He was thoughtful and sensitive. He was also a little awkward, which I found endearing. Here was no Casanova, spinning silken words I was never likely to believe. He was genuine, honest, and unassuming. I liked him. We had dinner and talked, then went for a drive so that we could talk more privately, more intimately about our lives.

It was when he shared with me the story of how his sister had been assaulted and had consequently born a child as a teenager that I knew I could trust him. I had a secret of my own, though the consequences had been more psychological than procreative. He loved his sister dearly and in spite of the embarrassment her situation might have caused him, and apparently did cause others of his family. I felt it brave of him to share that story with me. I’m not sure even now why he thought to do it. Maybe he wanted to know if he could trust me. But I knew then, at that moment, that I could trust him.

When the date ended, I knew I wanted to see him again. I’m not a patient person, and when I want something, I go for it. I didn’t wait for him to ask me out a second time. I asked him. A band I liked was playing locally, and I wanted to see them. He hemmed and hawed at first, but at last agreed to go with me. Before that date ended, he asked me out again. The band was playing a second show. We went and had a wonderful time. But then he disappeared. It was harder to chase a guy down in the early 90’s. There were no cell phones, no internet, which probably has a lot to do with why he reappeared when and how he did.  A month or two went by and I had given up on him. I had decided to go to school abroad, to pursue my dream of living in England. I had walked to the college administration building to mail my letter, and on the way back, I ran into him. He had no explanation for why he had disappeared (though I understand it quite clearly now). Our meeting seemed to him propitious. He thought we ought to meet again. He came over to my house later that day and we had a lovely conversation. With that encouragement, I began to pursue again. Within a month he moved to another state. Eventually he came back to visit, and we began seeing each other again, though mostly on long distance terms now, I seeing him every other weekend, when he made the four hour drive (presuming the weather was good) to see me.

And that was how it went, for the most part. Me leaning forward and him running away. Me backing off, growing comfortable again in my own space, and he reappearing. As long as I wasn’t leading the dance, he was happy to keep dancing. When I gave up trying to direct the relationship along my own course, he was happy to take me anywhere I wanted to go. Almost. For he had reservations about love and intimacy (which I’ll save for another post.) Reservations, as it so happened, that I shared. We were a good team then.

The inability to recognize the natural push and pull of masculine and feminine energy sabotages a lot of potentially great relationships. There are a lot of these misunderstandings, in fact, and I’ll discuss these in more depth in the coming weeks. (Misunderstandings which include men v. women’s differing views on commitment, sex, and emotional needs, to name a few. [links to come])

Women generally struggle in society to know how to behave in order to get what they want and need out of life. We often feel powerless and unheard when it comes to getting what we need from the men who repair our cars and homes, who employ us, who try to sell us products we may or may not want. We often feel we need to be bold and assertive to survive. And sometime we do. In a relationship, however, unless the man is a “feminine energy” sort of man and you are comfortable wearing the hat of the leader (and sometimes this dynamic does work) then a man wants you simply to enjoy the ride, to enjoy him. He takes pleasure in pleasing you and making you happy. And while he may know very early on in the relationship, perhaps even during the first date or two, if you could be relationship material, it very well may take him a long time to be ready for the sort of commitment. Too often we get impatient, feel insecure, or feel pressured by timelines (which only exist in our own heads) and so we begin pushing and prodding him to do it our way, in our time, on our schedules, and according to our agendas. That doesn’t mean we can’t have exactly what we want from the relationship. We can! But we don’t do it by steering him in which direction and how quickly we feel the relationship should progress.

In fact, getting what we want from a relationship has far more to do with where we are than where he is. Any man can be inspired, even taught, to “dance”. If we are the women we want to be, we will often find that we are the very women men want as well. If we are happy and confident in our own lives, men will be drawn to that. They will want to be a part of it, to share in what we have. And while a man loves the idea of making us happy, he does not want the responsibility inherent in our being unhappy. It isn’t his responsibility to make us what we are not. It isn’t anyone’s responsibility but our own.

So how do we move a relationship forward that seems to be stagnating? We do it by communicating and trusting our own boundaries, and by respecting his as well. If he hasn’t said it’s an exclusive, committed relationship, even if it looks that way to you (sex, living together, meeting his family, none of these indicate to a man what they do to us about commitment) then don’t assume it is. We inspire him to move toward us when we are comfortable in our emotions and making him feel safe enough to share his. We do it by showing our appreciation and admiration for him, by never being too available. By having our own lives and living them with joy. When we expect the best for ourselves, oftentimes the men in our lives will rise to that expectation.

Over-functioning is a bad habit many women bring into a relationship. Men may enjoy a woman who is willing to bend and shape herself into anything a he might believe he wants…for a time. And yes, if a man can have it easy (uncommitted sex, free housekeeping and custom catering) he’ll take it, but that doesn’t mean it’s what he really wants. It’s not what he needs, and it’s certainly not in your best interest to give what he hasn’t earned. In fact men tend to feel obligated by gifts and they often distrust a woman who will sleep with him too soon. He knows you don’t really know him, and while he wants it (and he’s not a pig for wanting it; it’s biological) it doesn’t mean you’ll earn anything for giving it to him. While women often feel bonded to those we sleep with, men’s physiology doesn’t work the same way. Making a man feel obligated might win him for a little while, but it is far more likely to foster resentment than love. Leaning forward always makes a man feel the need to lean away.

What does leaning forward look like? It is any time we are giving too much of ourselves in order to get more of him. We lean forward when we call him or text him too often, when we initiate contact, when we give too much of ourselves, or of the things we can buy him or do for him. It’s when we complain that the relationship is moving too slowly, or even when we don’t agree with a decision he’s made, however small. It’s when we do anything at all that violates our own boundaries for the sake of his “happiness.” A man isn’t truly happy who doesn’t have to work for the relationship he’s in. We each of us value more anything we have to earn. And men want to feel inspired, bettered by the woman they are with.

So what do we do instead? We relax. We just be. We find balance and peace within ourselves. We show appreciation for the pleasing things he does for us. We be the fabulous, beautiful creatures we are. And if we believe that of ourselves, so will he.

Of course it’s all more complicated than I could possibly hope to explain in one blog post. There will be others to follow, so stay tuned. In the meantime, please visit my library to learn more about the subjects covered here. My Pinterest also has links to books, articles, and inspirational quotes and materials you might find helpful and…er..inspiring. For more information on relationships and the concept of “masculine” and “feminine energy” and what it means to “lean forward” in a relationship and why you should never do it, (and what to do instead) I strongly encourage you to explore the work of Rori Raye. Her newsletters are free, and while she does charge for her programs and ebooks, they are well worth the money.