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Chaplain has a crush

Posted by Meredith Goldstein  March 26, 2009 03:29 AM

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Sister Christian, oh the time has come ...

Q: I am a chaplain for a Christian organization. I met a man who is very much like me who has called me baby, stares at me from across the room, has told me that he thinks about me all the time, and has asked for my number.

He has been connecting with me for a couple of weeks, but I am not sure how INTO ME he is. We spoke one night for five hours and laughed all night on the phone. The conversation was about some serious issues he has in his life. I left that conversation feeling that we had fun and that he trusted me with some deep issues but not feeling that he WANTED me.

I know that he respects me deeply and values my opinion but I am not sure if I have heard the KISS OF DEATH yet (you're a great friend). He has told me that I am great and that he values me. My work is to counsel but I am not sure if that's all there is, one way or another.


-- Everthecounselor, Toronto

Q: Everthecounselor, I hope this man is not a member of your Christian organization and that you are not his chaplain. If he is (and you are), pursuing him is a no-no. Chaplains are like therapists. I’m going to assume you know about the boundaries.

If this man is not a member of your organization – if he’s a man from the outside world who happens to stare at you, ask you for advice, and call you “baby” (is that a good thing?), you’re allowed to behave like a normal person and ask -- as you wrote to me, Owen Meany-style -- “I’m wondering if you’re INTO ME.”

Chaplains, therapists, and regular people who just happen to be good listeners often wind up taking on the role of the impartial, trustworthy platonic friend in their personal relationships, even when they don’t want to, even when they’d rather be perceived as a sexual being/romantic partner.

If this person is fair game (not a member of your organization), it’s worth letting him know you’re interested in more than a friendship before you wind up becoming his unofficial counselor.

I can’t say how he’ll respond, but I can say that at the very least, you can thank him for serving as a reminder that you want to be more than just a good listener, more than just “ever the counselor” to everyone. You’re human. You want a partner. Good for you.

Readers? Does this man sound INTO THIS? Should this chaplain come clean? Share your thoughts here. Read yesterday’s chat transcript here. See where I ate for dinner on Wednesday night here. Submit a letter to the right.

Again, I’m on the West Coast (flying back Thursday night), so Globe staffers and I will be posting your comments as quickly as we can.

-- Meredith

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26 comments so far...
  1. Plain and simple one here. Meredith has it correct. Everthecounselor has forgotten her role as a counselor. The most telling line of the letter is: "The conversation was about some serious issues he has in his life. I left that conversation feeling that we had fun and that he trusted me with some deep issues". He's spilling his guts and she's thinking about crossing boundaries that would betray the trust. Either serve as his counselor or cease all night phone calls.

    p.s. What's with another letter about a guy who stares at his prey? I've never done that in my life and never met a woman who actually thought it was a legitimate mating ritual.

    Hoss has spoken.

    Posted by Hoss March 26, 09 07:55 AM
  1. The staring guy is religious? who would've thought?

    Posted by spaceman March 26, 09 09:35 AM

    if you want him that bad go for it, but when he kicks you to the curb, RICO's BOY told you NOT TO DO IT,

    Posted by RICO's BOY March 26, 09 10:06 AM
  1. Obviously this man is a part of her organization or she wouldn't have mentioned that part....innappropriate for sure.

    Posted by DG March 26, 09 10:17 AM
  1. He sounds creepy (calling you Baby, oversharing serious issues too soon, staring, need I say more). And why would you want someone who drives you to a public message board to try to figure out if he's "into you"? Really, you deserve better -- there are other fish in the sea, throw this one back and try again.

    Posted by Jennie March 26, 09 10:26 AM
  1. I believe we've already established that men who stare are creepy. This situation sounds like something that won't end well.

    Posted by J March 26, 09 10:45 AM
  1. Rico's opinion...

    Sorry but today I don't have much of an opinion on this one. Rico is unsure if this is a woman and a man or 2 men. He is also unsure of what the situation is at the "church" since Rico is not of the same religious background.

    Rico would like to see some better questions from the population.

    Sorry I couldn't be of more help today...for once I will say Meredith has a better answer than me.

    Good luck

    Love Rico

    Posted by Rico March 26, 09 11:32 AM
  1. I'm not sure whether the chaplain is male or female. Your job is to help people as therapist, not sexual relationship. If you're female then, he target you as "virgin nun" as sex prey. And if you're male then, he might turn you into attraction with young boys. Do you want to be next John Geoghan or Paul Shay? Your church would fire you if they caught you. I hope you stay away from the potential mess.

    Posted by KL March 26, 09 12:22 PM
  1. I agree with Meredith; if he's not a member of your organization, it's worth bringing up the subject. Worst case scenario, he's not into you and stops flirting with you.


    Posted by sabend March 26, 09 12:43 PM
  1. First, I happend to assume this was about 2 guys. (that was my own prejudice that a "chaplain" was a man; admittedly, it could be a woman.). That part doesn't really matter.
    Second, I also assumed that the writer was this man's chaplain, not just somone who met this party and HAPPENS to be a chaplain.

    Posted by AreYouKidding? March 26, 09 12:48 PM
  1. E.t.C., As Hoss (#1) & DG (#4) already stated, if you are the chaplain for a group this man is in, a relationship with him would be highly inappropriate (not to mention a possible breach of ethics.) If it came out at work that your were dating this man, would your employers be ok with it? Also, if it doesn't work out and you still have to be around him, will you be comfortable with that? Dating men that you are "employed with" works out sometimes, but there is a reason they say don't mix business with pleasure.

    Not to mention, as Jennie (#5) stated, the whole calling you baby & staring thing could be creepy for a lot of people.

    Posted by sundiego March 26, 09 01:29 PM
  1. Meredith ,
    Post love questions that are hard to answer. You know the ones that involve infidelity, drama of huge magnitudes, etc. The questions this week have been too obvious like plain vanilla. Post some good ones that make your readers go "ouch!" We like those types. I love Love Letters!

    Posted by blueberry pancakes with crispy bacon March 26, 09 01:38 PM
  1. When you're together is he talking about himself all night, his issues and problems but never asking about YOU and what 's going on with you? Does he pause in his conversation to get to know you? If he's asked you for your phone number but he hasn't called you up for a date and taken you out, then my guess is he using you to get free counseling.

    Posted by exvermonter March 26, 09 01:51 PM
  1. Funny. I read this and just assumed the chaplain was male also. I don't know if my assumptions were inherently sexist or if everyone else's are inherently hetero-centric. Assuming that both parties were interested in taking it further, whatever the orientations, then yes...if it is outside a pastoral relationship, find out what his interests are and see what happens!

    Posted by JJ March 26, 09 01:51 PM
  1. I've been the "counsellor" for many crushes over the years and thought how great it was that we're connecting, creating emotional intimacy, etc. and wondering when it would develop naturally into a relationship. Guess what, NEVER!!! I sat back and watched these crushes depend on me emotionally with many phone calls, much laughter and "friendship" until I watched them have with other people what I desired with them. By the way when someone you hardly know calls you "baby" run like the wind. It's not a sign of affection and in fact could indicate he's a misogynist.

    Posted by Anonymous March 26, 09 01:59 PM
  1. I just want to know if the letter writer is a HE or a SHE

    Posted by vixy March 26, 09 02:43 PM
  1. Jesus H. Meredith!!!! I sent you a much better question weeks ago. Dig deeper in your pile. This one sounds totally fictitious to me. What chaplain would tolerate being called "baby" and talk to someone on the phone for 5 hrs hoping the outcome was lust.

    Posted by SoxSupporter March 26, 09 02:53 PM
  1. I agree with blueberry pancakes, we need questions with a lot more angst and soul searching required prior to responding. There must be someone out there who has a humongous problem that we can poke a stick at and ruminate on. We're ready for a BIG one.

    Posted by exvermonter March 26, 09 02:54 PM
  1. I'm assuming that the chaplain is female. Because I'm really not sure if one man would walk up to another having just met them and start calling them baby. Like most of the poster have said, if you are counseling this man there is no way you should try to get involved with him. He's talking about all his problems with you because that is what you are there for to help with his problems. If you need romance in your life please don't start with the people you counsel. It just opens you up to being accused of taking advantage of the per son when they were in a vulnerable state.

    Posted by What !!!!!!!!! March 26, 09 03:05 PM
  1. could have done without this "love letter". And I thought reading 'Running with Scissors was Strange'. There's gotta be something better than this.

    Posted by rock March 26, 09 03:17 PM
  1. If you really are interested in him, tell him that you cannot continue your counselor's role with him. Then find out if there is something to it. The idea that you cannot develop a relationship with someone in your group if you're the counselor is absurd. You have to end the counselor role before you move to another role. That's all. The rest is simply political correctness gone mad.

    Posted by hawthorne March 26, 09 05:41 PM
  1. Disgusting.....Try and answer some letter from people in America, who cares about a canadian chaplain and his sexual desires.

    Posted by An American March 26, 09 09:45 PM
  1. exvermonter,

    Counseling is part of being a clergy person.

    Posted by reindeergirl March 26, 09 09:57 PM
  1. Is the letter writer a woman or a gay man? I'll admit the 'chaplain' title makes me think the latter, but who knows? Not sure why it should matter, but I feel like it does, insofar as thinking about this situation. Seems like a key detail and I'm surprised it wasn't made clear.

    Posted by Slash March 27, 09 12:32 AM
  1. This is simple -

    You are a chaplain. This man confided in you. You cannot have a romantic relationship with him without violating the most fundamental ethical principles of your position.

    You must put an end to any behavior that hints of flirtation - from him or from you. Do it nicely, but do it.

    Posted by Nancy G March 29, 09 07:44 PM
  1. Wow--a couple of real sexists here who assume that the chaplain is male?! As a chaplain at a large hospital in Chicago, I can tell you that there are probably as many women (if not more) than men in the ministry.

    And I don't think the letter is fake. Hello, anybody home? The chaplain is as human as anyone else. It's what she/he DOES with the situation that will count.

    Posted by SusieQ March 29, 09 11:41 PM
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Meredith Goldstein is a Boston Globe columnist who follows relationship trends and entertainment. She offers daily advice on Love Letters — and welcomes your comments. Meredith is also the author of "The Singles," a novel about complicated relationships. Follow Meredith at www.meredithgoldstein.netand on Twitter. Love Letters can be found in the print edition of The Boston Globe every Saturday in the G section.

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