May 3rd, 2011 by Nina Atwood
Hello Ms. Atwood: I have recently started reading your book Temptations of the Single Girl. Everything rings so true! I have been able to find healing and closure knowing the mistakes I have made and how to correct them. Two months ago I was dumped by a man that promised to marry me and love me forever. He was one of those emotionally unavailable guys who was insecure. I digress. Recently, I started dating. I was hesitant, but thought what the hell! He is polite, thoughtful, intelligent, punctual…but, we have been on three dates now to eat and/or drink (he always wants to grab a bite and a drink). I let him know, nicely, that I was really over just eating with him. It’s hard to assess his character if it’s always in one setting, right? The dates have been infrequent which I know is good but they have been just to eat. Until today, he has only texted me, I hear from him every couple of days with a hello or how are you, and he takes forever to answer me back unless we are going to meet that day. We had lunch today, and were supposed to meet this evening to do something. He had no plans, he asked me to find something I would like to do (“whatever your heart desires”), and, when I suggested the movie, he asked if we were going to be able to do dinner and drinks later. He seems to always want to meet to eat and drink! I am confused with how to read him. This is all new to me because I usually dive right in. I am annoyed with the whole situation, but I am unsure if it is just because I am not ready to date or I’m annoyed because things are progressing rather slowly. There’s pacing; then, there is stalling. I find I enjoy just staying at home and watching movies or reading by myself. I am worried I am hiding, and I don’t want to become a recluse. What do you think? – Chantal
Dear Chantal: You’re right – there is a difference between “pacing” – which I highly recommend – and “stalling.” Stalling usually shows up as a reluctance to maintain contact or to move a relationship forward to the next step. Three dates is not much, if you are pacing. If you are the dive-in-at-breakneck-speed type, three dates can seem like an eternity.
I’m wondering what it is about dinner and a drink that annoys you. Is it that he isn’t sweeping you off your feet at this point? Is it that the converstations over dinner are boring?
One of the goals of the first couple of months of dating is to get to know people, without sex. Why? Because once you sleep with someone, the choosing is over for you and the chasing is over for him. You’re in it all the way, and the opportunity to find out about character and emotional availability is past. Keeping sex out of the picture for a number of weeks (preferrably months) enables you to really check out your compatibility. Having dinner and a drink means you are face to face and have the opportunity to ask questions of one another, to open up and self-disclose. That is a real opportunity for you both and I would suggest you treat it that way.
The other issue is who leads and who follows. In the early stages of a relationship, it works better if the guy leads. Why? Because that allows you to see the level of his intention and attention. If his lead is uncertain, inconsistent, or lacking in energy, that tells you the relationship will be the same. So let him lead, even if that means “dinner and a drink” for a while. If you find over time that he isn’t an interesting person to you, move on. But give it a few more dates.
While on the date, be sure and use that time to ask good questions. The very best one for fostering self-disclosure and revealing character is “How long since your last relationship, and how did it end?” Make sure your conversations move quickly past the “news, weather, and sports” talk that keeps everyone emotionally safe. It’s better to rock the boat a bit, take some risks. Intimacy is the goal – “into me see,” not sex, at this stage.
This guy sounds grounded and stable, and you may not be used to that. Boredom may be your enemy as you move forward and establish healthier dating patterns. Practice having dates that don’t blow your socks off, and use them to be intensely curious about other people. It’s okay to date someone for a while and end up liking him but not falling in love. This may not be the perfect guy for you, but while you are dating him, let this be “school” for you on how to date without all the intensity that you probably had – and got burned by – in the past.