Dear Rosie & Sherry,
I've been dating a great guy for three months, and things are really going well. We see each other at least once a week (It's been hard to see each other more often because we both work and are finishing our master's degrees) and speak on the phone two or three times a week. We have been developing a wonderful relationship and are really optimistic about it.
The thing is that at this point Marty is more serious about this relationship than I am. Last night, on our date, he basically professed his love to me and said that I'm the girl of his dreams. He also spoke about a guidebook to marriage and asked if I'd like to read it with him. I’m not ready for this!
I know I should simply tell Marty that while I see this going in a positive direction, I need more time to get there myself. But because we talk on the phone more often than we see each other in person, I usually find myself at a loss. I don't feel comfortable telling him this over the phone, or having other serious conversations with him on the phone, because there is so much room for misunderstandings to occur.
Meanwhile, he has no idea that I need him to slow down. How do you suggest that I communicate this?
We're glad you wrote to us, because every few weeks we receive a call or letter describing a situation similar to yours – a couple is dating, things are going well, and the budding relationship seems to have a lot of promise. One of the daters – usually the man – makes it clear that he's pretty certain this is "It," that's he's found "The One." But the woman isn't yet at that point.
Considering the fact that each of us is unique, it makes sense that two people who are dating would develop feelings for each other and a sense of "rightness" about their relationship according to different timetables. But even though our brain tells us one thing, the emotions we feel can sometimes override our common sense. That's what can happen when a man comes to the realization that the woman he's been seeing is right for him. He usually wants things to move forward toward marriage as quickly as possible, and he assumes that the object of his affection feels exactly the same way at the same point in time. He may not be able to conceive of her processing their dating experience differently, and that while she's likely to reach the same conclusion as he has, she'll do so at a different pace.
Women can have different reactions to this situation. Some become anxious, worrying that there's something wrong with them (or the relationship) because the man is more "into" the courtship than they are. If the man starts to push toward marriage before she’s ready (asking you to read a book about marriage is considered pushing!), the woman can feel very uncomfortable. She may express feelings of guilt, erroneously believing that she is supposed to feel the same things at the same time. Even when reassured that what she’s experiencing is normal, some women wonder, "Well, what if I never feel the same way as him?" Our reply is that this may turn out to be the case, but this is the very reason people date in the first place – to see if they can develop a relationship that leads to marriage.
The key here is for you to express your sentiments in a way that this man continues to feel good about your relationship, but is able to be patient and let it develop along its natural course.
We suggest that you tell Marty something like this:
"I enjoy our time together and I think we are building a great relationship. Things are going very well, and I'm optimistic about the direction in which our dating is going. It seems to me that you've gotten to the point that you feel we're right for each other. I'm glad you feel this way, but I need a little more time to get to that point myself. Men and women are different about this.
"I'd like us to keep dating and enjoying our time together. While we're doing that, I don't want to read books about marriage or analyze what's happening to us. I think these things will just make me anxious. I hope you can be patient with me and be able to let our dating take its course."
Most men respond positively to this type of request. However, if Marty has any concerns, you can encourage him to speak to a dating mentor, who'll be able to help him understand how this is normal, and that the best thing he can do for the health of the relationship is to honor your request.
Surely the way he responds to your needs will tell you something about the kind of husband you can expect him to be!
Finally, your instinct to wait until you and Marty are together to talk to him about this is right on the mark. You see each other often enough to save a serious discussion for the time you're together.
Rosie & Sherry
Hi Rosie & Sherry,
I just saw my letter on Aish.com. It looks great! Thank you so much for the great advice, it worked perfectly! Marty totally understood and agreed to slow down.
And... you will be pleased to know, that Marty and I just got engaged! In part thanks to you! :)
May you continue to keep giving the awesome advice!