It was one of those parties where old friends see each other after years. In this case, it was my husband Philippe talking to an old friend of ours. He remembered a party years ago where he may have acted inappropriately with our friend Stacy. Stacy didn’t recall that incident, but she did remember a time when Philippe had tried to kiss her.
Before that moment, she felt like they were buddies, hanging out occasionally, enjoying one another’s company. The kiss was a turning point.
“I didn’t put off any signals,” she said. “After that, I just thought, you’re like all the other guys. And then I avoided you.”
We sat in that space for a moment. I asked her if she wanted a private conversation with Philippe. She said she didn’t.
“I’m so sorry,” Philippe said. He had screwed up and wanted to repair the situation – if she was up for it. He had changed much over the past 10 years and tuning into women was one of the things he had changed. “I know this sucked for you, that you were part of my learning process, of learning how to calibrate. For that, I’m sorry.” For now, he listened about how a boundary had been crossed and a friendship lost. Now it was time for tough truths.
She told him how betrayed she felt. Disappointed. Had written him off like the other guys who has transgressed boundaries – far more than he had, but sometimes in the same way.
He didn’t try to deny his actions or justify them. There was no need. Right in front of us was a woman who was willing to be courageous and vulnerable. It was the listening, Philippe getting the impact of his actions on her, that made a difference. He wasn’t the man who had assaulted her in the past, but the random attempted kiss spoke of entitlement to her – and it evoked other past transgressions.
He told her if there was anything he could do to repair – through words or actions – he would do it, now or in the future. Part of this is the process of apology.
I asked her how she felt in that moment. “Vulnerable,” she said. “Really vulnerable.” I thanked her for her courage, her willingness to speak to Philippe – perhaps easier because another woman was there; perhaps harder because I’m his wife. But I was clear I wanted her to feel held in her experience.
And she did. In that space, Philippe could have taken over. He could have dismissed his actions as “just a kiss.” But it was more than that. When a woman has had her boundaries transgressed, each transgression seems to domino into other experiences. It is in stopping and taking responsibility, listening, seeing if he could do anything, that the healing would begin.
But beyond that, Philippe works with men, teaches them how to be more in their own bodies, feel their own feelings, more closely calibrate with the person they’re attracted to, listen for verbal and non-verbal cues. He teaches men to really care for that person even if it’s intended to be a short-term recreational connection. Even then. No connection is too small to not nurture carefully. Every connection attempted is one done with grace.
So maybe you are the one who went in for the kiss, and it didn’t work out. What now? Stop. Reflect. Evaluate. Ask. Reconsider.
It sucks to be rejected. You gathered your courage, got brave, and tried it. But isn’t it better to be rejected than receive a kiss a woman doesn’t want to give? Consider the rejection a gift. Better to make out with someone who wants to make out, who knows how to say no, rather than giving a resentful yes. Also consider the courage it takes to rebuff an unwanted advance. It can be hard, really hard, especially if you’ve been taught to please others and not say no.
Evaluate. What kind of cues were you getting? ]Was she being friendly? Or is she friendly with everyone? Was she physically affectionate with you, touching your arm when she was speaking to you? Or does she do that with everyone? What made you think you could go in for a kiss? How often is that effective? If it’s usually not, then you need to reconsider your game. It’s not working.
Ask. Use words. She turned her head. She wasn’t into it. Why not? IF she’s willing, check in. Hey, I wanted to kiss you. You didn’t seem to want that. Did I misread your signals? Be open to what she has to say. Don’t push for more. If she didn’t want it before, she probably won’t want it after. If she doesn’t want to explain why, then respect that. She is in no way obligated to explain why it didn’t for her. It’s your responsibility to do your work.
Consider a different approach with a different woman. Charlie Glickman, Ph.D. suggests beginning with a conditional statement: If you’re interested . . . And then add in an offer: I’d love to buy you a drink. Or, If you were into it, I’d love to kiss you. Wait for the answer. If she doesn’t really respond, that’s not a yes.
Consider non-verbal cues. Start with your own non-verbal cues. A small touch on the hand or arm to create a connection. Does she respond? Does her body lean into yours? Does she touch your arm in response? Does she mirror your body language or your touch? Feel into the response each time. If she is not responding, then don’t pursue. Another note on this: drinking can certain loosen you up, but also clouds your ability to perceive someone else. In other words, less is more.
Consider the kiss. So, she didn’t turn away. What now? Was she responsive? Did you create space in the kiss for her to respond and not just mash your lips on hers or jab with your tongue? Or did she seem passive? Did she finish the kiss quickly? Did she go for “seconds”? If she was not responsive or finished the kiss quickly, then consider that she might not have been that into it. In that case, ask.
It takes courage to make a move, to make yourself vulnerable, to kiss someone for the first time. So when it doesn’t work out, it’s time to slow down. Take a breath. Figure out how you can calibrate better with the person you’re attracted to. And if you screw up, like Philippe did, like men have done before you and will do again, change your approach. Find the “yes” in the woman in front of you, the yes that isn’t pressured or taken, but the yes that invites the woman to step towards you and ask to be kissed again.
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