Saturday, November 26, 2011

Don't Doom A Potential Relationship Unnecessarily

In the discussion that followed yesterday's post, Goldie asked the following questions:

how does it work after several dates if you believe in "not broadcasting your uncertainty"? What do you do to prevent it from looking to the other side as "everything was well, then out of the blue he says there's never been any connection"?

These are not easy questions to answer, but I'm all for asking difficult questions, so thank you for that.

Here are a few thoughts. I think we are always broadcasting to some degree - much of it being non-verbal in nature.

One of the reasons I'm often writing about developing your attention skills on this blog is precisely to pick up more of that non-verbal stuff. Because odds are, if you see more of what the other person is actually doing in your presence, then the less likely someone's decision to end the relationship will appear out of the blue. Still, you can miss it. I have in the past. Others have missed my checking out and backing away as well. There's always a chance you'll be totally stunned by someone you're dating one day.

As far as the not broadcasting I spoke about in the last post, it's more about speaking in a manner that crystallizes a situation.

Maybe I'm feeling unclear about what's happening. I like the person I'm with well enough, but am not sure if we are good relationship material. And so, my body language is erratic. Sometimes, I'm open, leaning in, making direct eye contact, touching her arms perhaps. Other times, I have my arms folded, am leaning back, avoiding eye contact, etc. It might also be the case that I'm not as enthusiastic as I might be during conversations or activities, that there's enough holding back that someone who is paying attention might notice it and wonder.

The thing is, some of this kind of behavior can be chalked up to not knowing each other. And if you have any natural shyness or introversion, some of it might just be how you normally operate when any relationship, romantic or otherwise, is new.

We tend to underestimate the power that labels can have upon us. Once you place a definitive label on whatever is happening, it can be difficult to change it. In other words, if I say "I don't feel an emotional connection with you" today, even if something happens to change that feeling tomorrow or a month from now, the other person will probably remember what I said today - and have a hard time fully letting it go.

It's kind of like when people get a diagnosis from a doctor. Even if the doctor comes back later and says they made a mistake, the original diagnosis is often difficult to let go of. The body starts to heal, but the mind might still be worrying about the possibility that illness X could be present long afterwards. Which makes it more difficult to heal and become healthy again.

So, I guess I'm trying to advocate for less rushing to make definite statements that doom a relationship. And to figure out ways to be more comfortable with uncertainty.

But Goldie's questions point to the other side of the coin - which is figuring out ways to maintain honesty with each other. Which is important to me as well.

If the person you are dating asks you what you think about things, one way to deal with uncertainty is to say something like "I'm not sure what's happening between us yet, but I want to spend more time with you." Some people might be ok with this kind of thing, while others might take it as a weak form of rejection.

Another way could be to say you don't want to rush into labeling what's happening. The tricky part with something like this is that it runs dangerous close to the kind of talk players and non-committers use to keep people around.

Overall, I think that any communication expressing uncertainty in the early stages of dating someone should be peppered with some comments about the person's positive traits. You might say "I don't know what's happening yet, but I really like that you are smart and kind, and want to spend more time with you."

Those are my thoughts today. What are yours?

*Image - Michelangelo's "Last Judgment"

*Update. I am now on Twitter. If you want to follow me, click the Twitter follow link on the sidebar.


  1. Interesting read.

    Recently been on the receiving end of "we are not relationship material". Have to say it took me by surprise but from reading this article makes me realise who I was being.

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