Falling in love has got to be the most humiliating thing ever.

Call it a besetting sin, call it a weakness, or just call it the human condition — this is one of the biggest deals for me, and every time I think I’m all done, I get smacked upside the head with it. You’d think it would set off warning flags when I start to have thoughts like: “Oh yes. I used to be like that.”

Well, so it’s not the end of the world. A little heartache, I can deal with. The worst part is what it does to my sense of self: I mean, how embarrassing is it for a 28-year-old man to get all weepy because some guy didn’t talk to him at a party? To get jealous when he goes out with other friends? To start wondering if he should change the way he dresses, maybe start hitting the weights — so he can be more like him?

Just when I was starting to think I was a grownup.

I saw the danger, this time around: but I told myself I’d open up anyway, because it’s better to risk getting hurt than to keep people at arm’s length. Right?

Right. Oh, but ouch.

It helps to remember that it’s not really a question of friendship, or not wholly. I rarely fall for a guy if he and I are naturally simpatico. It’s always the ones who — poor guys, they didn’t ask for this — somehow symbolize what I’m not, the ones who don’t talk or think or dress like I do: the ones I’m always tempted to twist myself into knots for.

In a very real way, it’s not about him at all. It’s like a dream, where everybody around you is really a reflection of yourself. It’s not him, but some part of myself, that I’ve become obsessed with: the part I used to be, or the part I wish I were, or the part I never have been.

If this sounds juvenile and narcissistic, Oh Lord, is it ever. But knowing that doesn’t help a whole lot, any more than knowing you’ve got the flu brings down your body temperature.

Well. It’s not the end of the world, obviously, and one of these weeks the fire will die down, my stomach will unclench, and I’ll breathe easy again. I’ll remember that I am who God meant me to be, and be glad to be it. These things pass! They’ve passed before! And sometimes they leave real friendship in their wake — or if not that, some solid lessons in humility and self-knowledge, and a whole bunch of gifts to bring to the altar.

Just what I wanted for Lent. Lord, you shouldn’t have!

24 Comments on “Malleted!!”

  1. Paige says:

    No wonder you keep your identity on the down low 😉
    I appreciate your vulnerability…
    I think a lot of temptation to sin can bring a similar gut twisting ache. I’m sorry you’re in pain… And grateful you know my Jesus.

  2. Paige says:

    Ps – doesn’t the whole feeling of narcissism suck the worst? Ugh!

  3. George says:

    I know exactly what you are talking about. I’ll pray that this burden passes quickly. It is never fun to go through. I have also noticed the narcissistic thing you mention, and that whole wanting to change yourself to be like that other person you admire. I know I hardly know you, but you seem like an awesome person on the inside and though we all need to strive for perfection we are not called to remake outselves completely. I think Chesterton had something to say about how people are most themselves the more they ate identified with Christ. If not he then maybe Lewis … I forget and am too lazy to look up the reference. The point is you have an awesome personality, and since you are so close to yourself you tend to miss out on the amazing qualities and talents that make you special. Same thing happens to me; and it doesn’t always help knowing it … The emotions can get in the way (or the lack of feeling any admiration in oneself upon contemplating one’s strengths).

    Thank you for your blog bud!

  4. current lector says:

    Hi, Steve:

    Another incredibly honest and wise post.

    Thought you might enjoy this song by a band that I discovered recently.

  5. Tory says:

    I am perpetually in amazement at how alike your thoughts are with mine.

    Going through something eerily similar at the moment.

    Our Lady of Ransom, pray for us.

  6. SUZANNE says:

    To combat a vice, practice its opposite virtue. If narcissicism is the issue, then consider helping the genuine needs of someone in trouble, so that it doesn’t become about you. You can feel good about yourself that way.

    Another option: do the opposite of your feelings. If your feelings are jealousy for him going out, then make an act of will that you are glad (at least intellectually) that he has good friends. Or if you are weepy that he didn’t talk to you, then be glad because that way it would avoid complications. This is not about conning yourself. It’s about thinking through the situation and showing your feelings who is boss: your intellect. It is an act of mortification to purposely contradict your undesirable feelings with rational and truthful thoughts.

    When you don’t feed the self-pity, it stops bothering you.

  7. Chris says:

    This sounds a lot more like infatuation, but I’ve never really been able to tell the difference anyway, so how would I know?

  8. lowercase dylan says:

    I’m stealing the word “herzschmerz”

  9. Victor says:

    And once again, the superiority of the German language is proven! 🙂
    (of course I won’t tell you how many anglicisms I use every day… :))

    Steve: Hang in there!

  10. Sky says:

    Okay, now you’re really starting to freak me out, Steve. You’re getting in my head and I’m not sure I like it….

  11. Al says:

    Hey Steve!

    I’d just like to say that your blog is awesome. It’s nice knowing there’s people who are going through the same thing. Makes me feel less alone as a guy trying to live as a faithful Catholic, yet struggling with SSA or whatever you want to call it.

    I probably can’t say I’m going through the same thing since I’m like 10 years younger than you, but that first line just sums it all up. I don’t know if “fallen in love” would be the right term for me, but I definitely have a crush/infatuation. What makes this one so much worse than previous crushes is that it’s a new guy from my youth group. On the bright side, I’ve been a lot more active in it since then (I had been sort of been on and off with it for different reasons before then). The bad part is all the things you said. I’ve been thinking about this guy constantly. The sad truth is that I’d probably be well on my way to Heaven if I thought about God as much as I did him. I get jealous and depressed over things that shouldn’t matter to me. I did have him in mind buying a whole bunch of new clothes. I’ve been trying to be more active and play more sports too.

    I’ve had this mentality where I make myself think being friendly with him and trying to just be friends would help me, but I don’t know if it’s working because hanging out with him just makes me like him more. I don’t really understand why I like him like you seem to understand, but I pray I can get over it. For me, it usually takes liking someone else to stop my infatuation.

    Was this too personal of a comment? I’m sorry, I just have this urge to let it out and there’s not a lot people I feel comfortable telling. I guess it’s that sense of security in anonymity. Please pray for me though.

    1. Al, do you mind sending this comment to my email so I don’t forget to respond? In the meantime, you’re in my prayers. (It’s steve-dot-gershom-at-gmail-dot-com.)

  12. Peter M says:

    Steve and Al, don’t sell yourselves short. Yes, infatuation makes us miserable; yes, there’s selfishness and psychological issues involved; but there’s also some part that’s pure, genuine love. The guy you’re so wrapped up in is objectively beautiful. The best way I know of dealing with infatuation goes something like this: I admit that I love him, and then ask, what’s the most profound act of love I can do for him? Turns out, it’s to pray that God give him whatever is best for him, even if it’s not a relationship with me. I’ll give up my desire for more, if that’s what’s best for him. He’ll never know, but hey, that makes it even more romantic 🙂

    Also, don’t lose sight of what a blessing it is to feel so deeply. When I was in high school, for fear of vulnerability I determined to keep everyone at arm’s length; by the time I started college I discovered that I couldn’t feel even if I wanted to. By God’s grace I’ve gotten better, but I’m 25 and I still have trouble being human with people.

    As usual, C.S. Lewis says it best: “To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything, and your heart will certainly be wrung and possibly be broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact, you must give your heart to no one, not even to an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements; lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket – safe, dark, motionless, airless – it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. The alternative to tragedy, or at least the risk of tragedy, is damnation. The only place outside of Heaven where you can be perfectly safe from all the dangers and perturbations of love is Hell.”

    1. Good reminder, Peter, thank you. And the quote from CSL is scary. In a good way.

  13. Christine says:

    I think it’s okay to keep some people at arm’s length. Obviously you don’t want to be closed to all relationships and so afraid of getting hurt that you end up unable to feel or have relationships, but if a relationship is likely to bring you pain or undue temptation, it’s okay to distance yourself from that relationship.

    I knew a man who was discerning the priesthood but was attracted to a woman whom he was pretty sure was attracted to him. He decided to “guard her heart” by maintaining the relationship but not doing things that might lead her on. He eventually discerned that he was supposed to marry this woman, and then he obviously changed the way he acted towards and around her, but he realized that the gentlemanly thing to do was not to put this woman in situations where she might be encouraged in her crush on him at a time when he was unable to reciprocate.

    I think in a similar way, there’s a healthy way to guard our own hearts. I’m not very good at this; for a long time I was deeply attracted to someone who was completely off-limits to me, and I was probably attracted to him for much longer than I could have been, and was attracted to him so deeply, because I did keep encouraging a very close friendship between us. Luckily he never felt the same way about me or I might have been in real trouble!

    The difficulty (I think) is finding the balance between closing ourselves off to love and allowing ourselves to get into situations that cause us unnecessary heartache.

  14. Amy says:

    awesome post!

  15. Gabriel says:

    Urgh. Falling in love is (though it really, really shouldn’t be) the worst. I’m crushing on a guy I know and really hoping it doesn’t get any further, because of the risk of, uh, things, and also because aaaaaaaaarrggghhhhh.

    Re Christine: That’s a really beautiful story. I wish people were like that more often. Praise God for such integrity.

  16. Ann says:

    I’ve only really and truly been in love with one person. There was nothing narcissistic about my love. It was about him, not about me.
    So why do I identify so deeply with your post?

    I was afraid of my love (even though I was blessed to have it for someone of a different gender, thankfully. I’ve got a teeny bit of bisexual attraction, by the way. This was a different gender. Yet I felt guilty.)
    Keep writing. You’re speaking for all of us. All of us with hearts. All of us who’ve been through pain and humiliation.

  17. Ann says:

    How do you, in speaking about pain, create something that’s such enjoyable reading?

  18. Ann says:

    Re: Christine
    I am often hoping that it will turn out that it’s God’s Will this person marries me.
    But I think he’s no longer attracted to me.
    There seems no hope in that direction.
    So, I devote myself to praying for him, as he lost his faith. It’s far more important that he goes to heaven, then that he has affection for me.

  19. albert says:

    I love that penultimate paragraph, I’m going through exactly the same thing right now, but the fire is dying and I hope it will leave behind a great friendship in it’s wake.

  20. jp says:

    Fantastic quote from Lewis, that.

    i’ve never ‘fallen in love’ with another man, but that’s my personal experience. The men i’ve been infatuated with—obsessed with–have been guys who possess the qualities and physical characteristics that I wish I had, that I lack. My obsessions weren’t with THEM, necessarily, but with those qualities/characteristics that i longed for in myself.
    In my case, sadly, my hunger for these other things wound up making me less able to love the guys themselves, for who they were, for what God made them to be. Things really got messed up.

    this sort of begs the question of what love is: the love that Christ has for us, for me, and the love he wants me to have for others, particularly other guys, particularly the guys who i find extremely attractive.

  21. Mark from PA says:

    This is very moving. Do you like music, Steve? I know that when I was younger that I would listen to music when I felt down. I would sing along sometimes too. I don’t think I was as in touch with my feelings as you are. I was somewhat clueless, you might say.

  22. Lynn G. says:

    I am sorry for your suffering. However, “Lord, you shouldn’t have” made me laugh. I often feel like that.

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