The beginning of any new relationship can fill us with (almost) too many questions. Luckily, there is just one answer (& usually, it’s the truth).
Yes! Text them: Had a great time and enjoyed the laughs. Thanks for a great night.
I have a wedding coming up. How soon is too soon to ask him/her to come?
There’s no way to know until you ask: Hey, I don’t want to freak you or anything but I’ve been having a really good time with you. I’ve got this wedding coming up and I was wondering if you might want to go. I realize in some circles this is code for “Marry me tomorrow” and that’s not what I’m saying. I just think you’d be a great date for this thing and was hoping you might want to come.
We hooked up on the first date but I was really into him/her. Now what?
Say so! I’m really into this, and into you. I got carried away with the spontaneity last night but I hope you haven’t written me off as some casual fling. I’d really like to see you again.
My ex and I still talk. Will this ruin what I am starting with someone new?
Only one way to find out! I hope this doesn’t send you running in the opposite direction but I think it’s important for you to know that my ex and I still talk. S/he and I shared a dog when we lived together and I don’t get to see it very often anymore but it was an amicable enough split that I can still see the dog from time to time. The relationship is over, though, and you don’t have to worry that I am looking back. I like what’s right in front of me.
Everyone is looking for the answer—something definitive to ease the butterflies that come with starting something new.
You want to know the rules.
You want to be clear on what you should or shouldn’t be doing.
You don’t want to be misunderstood or misperceived so you’re looking for the thing that will guarantee a positive outcome in your favor.
The answer: Tell him or her what you want them to think. That’s it.
Questions are the things we hide behind to manage our vulnerability. Rejection sucks so we do everything possible to avoid it, even if that means getting tangled up in a web of complicated assumptions. You’ll make yourself crazy trying to guess what the other person is thinking—there’s no way you can know until you ask and the only person you really should be asking is the person you’re dating or hoping to date.
If you’re into someone, say so. If you like where it’s going but don’t want to rush things by moving too fast, speak up. If you’re worried about how you might be perceived, clarify—tell the other person what you want them to know.
When someone does something, says something, doesn’t do, or doesn’t say something, we create stories about it; those stories become our assumptions and we run with them as truth until otherwise corrected.
If we’re worried about being rejected, we usually make up negative stories about it: “He thinks I’m awful. I can’t believe I had nothing to say.” We run the risk of having those negative stories influence what we say or do next if we don’t take the time to say what’s on our minds: “I’m sorry I didn’t talk much tonight. It wasn’t you. My boss just went at me right before I was heading out to meet you and I got distracted.”
The only way to insure that you’re not misunderstood is to speak up.
It can be nerve-wracking to worry and wonder if you’re incompatible. Most people avoid speaking up in an effort to avoid the realization that they’re incompatible with this person they like so much—they don’t want to bump into a conflict or a deal breaker so they stay silent.
If you’re worried about how you’re being interpreted, say so. “I know I was radio silent today and didn’t respond to your messages. I just really need to focus when I am at work so I try to keep personal email and conversation to a minimum.”
The cold, hard truth is that there is no way to guarantee that you’ll be believed. He/she may still doubt your interest and think “work” is code for “not that into them”—there’s nothing you can do to prevent that.
When you speak your truth and follow through with actions consistent with that truth, you build trust. If you’re speaking up and not feeling believed, then the person you’re talking to might have some trust issues that should be addressed. If you’re going to take the time to say what you mean and mean what you say, you should be believed.
If you’re not, that’s not about you—it’s about them and where they are at and you can’t own it, even if you’re tempted to in order to keep a good thing going.
Accept that you have needs and stop trying to hide them.
There’s a big difference between having needs and being needy.
Needs in relationships, even in early dating connections that are too new to be called “relationships”, are our boundaries. They represent what we will and will not tolerate from someone else. They also define what we need to feel safe with another person.
Because our needs represent our vulnerabilities, we’re tempted to keep quiet about them when we’re dating out of fear of what the other person will think.
The misguided belief is that you don’t start talking about needs until you’re talking about a commitment of some kind. That’s so backwards! How are you supposed to know if you want to move from dating into a relationship before you know if the person is capable of and willing to meet your needs? No one wants to hear that we expect too much.
However, our needs are non-negotiable—if they were up for debate, we’d call them wants.
There’s no point in convincing yourself to not need something from someone.
All you can do is ask and yes, the person may say no and be unwilling to meet that need. It won’t mean that you’re unreasonable…just that you’re not with the right person: “Hey, I hope you have a great time this weekend with your family. I’m not such a fan of the whole “out of sight, out of mind thing” that can happen when you start dating. I don’t want to detract from your fun but I hope you’ll keep in touch at some point over the weekend.”
Or, “Hey, listen. I’m heading out of town for a big family thing this weekend. It’s going to be a large gathering and my siblings and cousins and I are all going to be hanging out. I am not going to have my phone on very much. I don’t see them very often and I just need to get away. I probably won’t be in touch but I’m looking forward to catching up when I get back.”
In order to find the right person, you have to rule out the wrong ones.
It’ll suck if you put yourself out there like that only to be shot down. If the phone doesn’t ring again, you’re going to be disappointed.
However, the only way you know if you’re in something real, in something with potential, is to just put it out there and see what happens next.
About the Author
As a therapist, Heather Gray guides people from ambivalence toward change so they can be actively and effectively engaged in their own lives. When men are looking for mental health support, they often find advice and articles geared toward women. Heather, Lead Editor for The Good Men Project, fills the gap with her straightforward approach. Join her in changing the conversation on Twitter. Gray is available for individual and couples counseling in Wakefield, Mass.
This article was originally published with the Good Men Project; republished with the kindest permission.
[image: via shutterstock]