Dating a Wounded Person

 By Nina Atwood

Ben asks: I’m entering into a new relationship/friendship with a woman who’s been hurt in the past, and I haven’t been in a meaningful relationship in a long time. We are starting out as friends - if everything continues to develop, how long should I wait to see if this has what it takes to go to the next level. Mind you she wants to take it sloww!

Dear Ben,

Deciding when to take a relationship to the next level has little to do with the calendar. First let’s tackle the notion of “starting out as friends.” Does that mean you’re dating but not having sex? Or does it mean one of you isn’t interested in dating at all? If it’s the former, that sounds wise. Sex before commitment and love is one of the surest ways to mess up what could be a wonderful relationship.

If it’s the latter, you have a bigger issue. Sometimes the wounded person is looking for someone to make her feel better about herself. You ask her out, you tell her she’s beautiful, you show her attention, and voila! You have fixed a lot of her hurt from the past. It’s not a good deal for you, though, unless you can remain detached from the outcome, realizing that you may be Mr. Right Now instead of Mr. Right.

The real question is if she’s recovered enough from whatever happened in her past to be ready for a full-blown relationship now, one that can move in the direction of commitment. Your best bet is to communicate openly, let her know that your interest in her is more than friendship, and ask if she’s interested in exploring that possibility with you. Tell her: “Yes, we’ll move slowly, but it’s important to me to make sure that we’re on the same page about what we’re moving toward.” Bottom line: moving to the next level should be a mutual decision as a result of the discovery over time of mutual values, compability, and open, loving hearts.

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