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Dating Dilemmas: Do's and Don't's

When starting a new relationship it makes sense we would want to put our best face forward. Women may choose to withhold or avoid sharing their feelings for fear of losing the relationship, particularly in the formative stages. While we do not need to externally process every thought or feeling we might have with the guy we are dating, there is a problem when withholding might lead to painting a dishonest and incongruent picture of self or the relationship. If we fear losing the relationship, and we are not being our self – who is really in the relationship?

Often times we resist confrontation because we see it as a negative and we want to avoid conflict, especially in a new relationship. Reframe the situation as sharing your feelings with him (vs. confronting him on something he did wrong). This gives him the opportunity to move closer to you versus putting him on the defensive. It is also positive to focus and reinforce the behavior you do like (i.e. his calling).

When something is bothering you, do your self a favor and don’t deny or dismiss it. If you do tell him things are fine – figure out how to be fine with it (i.e. process it on your own); if you find yourself ruminating on it, don’t delay communicating with him as that delay could breed resentment or withdraw (neither of which create a fertile ground for a developing relationship).

Here are some tips when approaching difficult issues in a new relationship:

Don’t sweat the small stuff. Do keep perspective. If you like someone, but you don’t like a particular behavior and/ or you were hurt by a specific situation, ask yourself, “Is this is a situational problem or a relationship problem?” If it is situational, deal with the situation and don’t put the relationship on the chopping block. If it relational, decide if it is a “deal breaker” or not.

Don’t belabor the point. Do be open and upfront. In other words, be assertive. For instance, if you were disappointed he did not call when he said he would, tell him that, “I was disappointed when you did not call” – and then move on, let him know you were happy when he did call. It is not uncommon to be repetitive and get stuck in angry and hurt feelings. However, this does not serve you and it does not allow for him to move closer to you. He cannot change these past actions and you get to decide if you are willing to give him the space to make different choices in the future. And if he chooses not to, consider if this is someone with whom you want to continue a relationship. And remember, people often react not to what is said, but how something is said (i.e. are you being critical).

Don’t initiate the conversation with “we need to talk.” Do make sure he is available to listen and then share your feelings. When we do the former, it tends to create anticipation (anxiety) and expectation of outcome (defensiveness). Instead, just focus on how you are feeling, what you are reacting to (I feel ______________ when you ____________ ), and do so without expectation of how he should be feeling, acting or thinking. Be sure to let him know what you want from him, for instance, I just want you to listen or let him know if there is something for him to “fix” (a behavior change request).

Don’t make assumptions. Do ask about his thoughts and feelings. Invite him to share his perspective/ reaction. This reinforces open communication and willingness to hear/consider both “sides”, that there is balance in the relationship.

There are a lot of unknowns when beginning any new relationship and that can contribute to anxiety. Often, in order to minimize that anxiety, we might try to give ourselves a ‘reason’ the other person did or did not do something. For example, “He did not call because he really doesn’t like me.” Rather than think negative thoughts, acknowledge the anxiety and try not to get stuck on the negative attribution. Soothe yourself. Acknowledge your hurt feelings or anxiety about him (not) calling. Understand you feel disappointment because you are excited and that could lead to being in a vulnerable state. Work towards assigning neutral meaning to his behavior (since you do not know the root of his behavior until you discuss it). When you can soothe yourself you are less likely to hold the expectation for him to be “responsible” for soothing you.

Always remember - Love, honor and respect yourself first. If (subconsciously) you do not think you are worthy of having a healthy relationship or sharing hurt feelings, then what kind of man do you have the potential of attracting…?

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