Dear Rosie & Sherry,
I broke up with someone that I thought I would end up marrying, and after a while I started dating another guy that I really like. I feel emotionally pulled to keep pushing this new relationship along, even though we are only in the beginning stages. I guess I long to be back in that loving, caring place, like I had been in my previous relationship.
How do I properly gauge the pace of this relationship? When is it too fast for our own good?
Also I’ve noticed that while we share common values, we don't seem to share so many common interests and topics of conversation. Is this a problem in the long run?
Rosie and Sherry's Answer:
It's great to feel cared for and to care for another person, to have someone to rely upon and turn to, and whom you can be there for as well. In fact, isn't that what most daters hope to find? We think it's a good sign when someone, who has been through a disappointing or painful break-up, reaches the point of desiring another emotionally close relationship. It means that she's healed enough to be optimistic about the future and is able to move on.
Your letter pinpoints some of the challenges of returning to the dating scene. It's typical to compare the nascent dating connection with one dating partner, to the more intense feelings you had for an ex. You may wonder if something's missing or that things aren’t developing the way they should.
Since each relationship is unique, it's a mistake to make that comparison. You may have built an easy emotional connection, while that process may be more gradual with someone else. The time frame isn't important – what matters is that you come to care for each other and develop an emotional bond.
Another problem with making comparisons is that even if you connect early on, a new relationship can never have the depth of a former one. It took months, perhaps years for you and your ex to reach a level of trust, friendship, and caring. Give yourself time to get used to this new man and to the way you interact with each other, to share experiences and jokes, and to develop a sense of mutual history.
Over-estimating the Potential
Sometimes, in an eagerness to be in a relationship again, one might face a different challenge –ascribing more potential to a courtship than there really is. This can happen when you're on the rebound from a break-up. You may feel compelled to fill the void, and to prove to yourself that you can have a loving connection with someone else. Or you may be trying to show your ex that you can do even better with someone new. That can make you ignore or minimize issues that you should look into further, or try to convince yourself that the relationship is better than it really is.
There are a few strategies you can use to avoid these pitfalls. The first is to look into yourself and be aware of your feelings. It's normal to still think about your ex and your relationship with him, even when you feel you've healed enough to move on. Don't berate yourself when you do; instead, acknowledge how these thoughts are making you feel. If you can say, "I feel lonely/ I feel I have to prove that I can be loved/ I feel wary of trusting again," you can examine how those feelings affect your view of the new relationship. This awareness may help you to stop engaging in some of the non-beneficial behavior we've described.
The next strategy is to try to view the new relationship as a separate entity, not compared to anything else. Take things one date at a time, and give yourselves a chance to see if you can develop a connection. Don't try to bring up deeply personal items early on – give yourselves time to build a history together and a level of trust. Don't try to go out several times a week in order to get to a deeper point in your relationship faster. Both of you need time to "process" your feelings and experiences, on conscious and sub-conscious levels. Going out more than twice weekly – instead of speeding things up – often slows things down by making one of both of you feel overwhelmed.
Use your dates as a time to learn more about each other and become more comfortable together. One way to do this is to give each date a purpose in the form of some area of information you'd like to learn about each other. Focus part of your discussion on that topic.
It's also important to mix the serious aspect of your conversation with a fun, enjoyable activity. Discover an ambiance that appeals to your senses of sight and hearing, and light conversation about things that happened during the past few days. When you're out together, try to experience the moment – the conversation, atmosphere, activity. Resist any inclination you may have to analyze your feelings and to look into the nuances of every word or action.
Push to Continue
Which leads to our next suggestion – understanding there is a time to push yourself (as opposed to pushing the relationship) forward and a time to stop pushing. In the early stages of a courtship, a good strategy is to ask yourself, "Is there any reason not to go out again?" If a date is neutral or better, the other person seems pleasant enough, and you seem to have compatible values and expectations, then push yourself to go out again.
Some people have to keep asking themselves this question, until they either say, "This is starting to come together and I want to continue," or "I've found a reason to stop going out." Fortunately, you've already started to connect to this man and look forward to seeing how things progress. The kind of pushing you may need to do now involves being patient and allowing the relationship to take its course.
If you are able to form a deep connection, you’ll discover that it’s based primarily on your personalities and the way you interact with each other, the experiences you share, and the goals and values you have in common. While similar interests may make it easier to connect in the early stages of dating, they won’t be the foundation of the emotional bond you may develop.
Even though it is too early for you to know how things will turn out, we'd like to make another suggestion that might lessen the pressure your feel to move forward quickly into a loving and caring relationship. Think of this current courtship as a gift. You have positive feelings toward this man, you feel good when you dress nicely to meet him, and you enjoy spending time together. Only time will tell if he is the right man for you, but at the very least this is a pleasant interlude that can help restore your confidence that you can be in a healthy relationship, with a good person whom you value and who values you.
We wish you success in navigating the dating maze,
Rosie & Sherry