I’ve been dating someone for about three months. On our latest date, I felt disconnected and withdrawn from her on the date. In general, we have a decent connection, but today was different. The date wasn’t amazing, but it also wasn’t terrible. Still, I’m afraid of continuing because I’m starting to feel distance between us. I'm now starting to doubt the future of this relationship and question whether we are compatible.
There are two key points that lead me to this conclusion:
We have different backgrounds. I feel like we can't connect on an emotional level because we hang out in different crowds. How important is it that we have a similar circle of friends?
I don't feel like there is depth to our relationship. We go out, have a nice time, talk on the phone, send texts, etc. We haven't had an intentional discussion about our long-term goals, what we need vs. want in a spouse, what our strengths and weaknesses are, or our hopes and dreams for the future.
I asked her if she would be open to the next date being a schmooze date instead of an activity date. She agreed to that. I’m all set to have a mindful discussion. Any pointers on how to have this discussion from a place of curiosity and interest instead of fear and judgment?
Mr. Doubtful It Will Work
A client of mine once told me a joke: Sincerity is everything. If you can fake that, you've got it made!
But seriously, the best way to approach your upcoming conversation would be to come from a place of sincerity instead of a place of fear. You mentioned several key points that I want to address.
1. Disconnection and distance. Couples are expected to have times of connection and time of disconnection. You mentioned that you generally feel like you have a decent connection, but recently you experienced a feeling of distance. You should expect some ebb and flow to happen in all relationships. If this was your only concern, I would tell you to dismiss it at this point and encourage you to continue dating. As long as you’re connected more often than not, I don’t see this as a serious problem. As a guideline, I like to see couples connected around 80% of the time and allow for healthy space 20% of the time.
2. Fear of continuing. Fear of continuing in a relationship because of the uncertainty of the future is very common. Some singles will end things after just one or two dates for this reason. I’m glad you allowed yourself to develop the relationship further and see what there truly is between you two. While fear is a normal, healthy response, it is also one which we should combat with time. Only time will reveal what is truly there in a relationship. Perhaps your fears are founded, and it’s time to end the relationship. Or perhaps in time you will see that the distance between you two is normal and a healthy way of maintaining your relationship. Take note of how often you’re feeling connected and how often you’re feeling disconnected. In particular, try to note if anything happened to create those feelings. The more information you have about your relationship, the more fairly and honestly you can evaluate whether to continue or break up.
3. Different backgrounds. Great question! Not everyone gets to marry the girl next door. Not everyone wants to! In general, I believe that it makes a relationship easier if you have more things in common. Having different backgrounds or friends can sometimes work. On a practical level, are there any couples you could envision the two of you spending time with and both enjoying? Making friends with another couple is often nearly as challenging as finding your soul mate. What I hear you asking, though, is a deeper question. I hear you asking whether your choice in friends indicates value differences rather than preferences. You may be onto something.
Take a look at what she values in her friends. Why does she choose those friends? Then ask yourself why you choose your friends. Some people choose friends to relax and hang out with. Some prefer people with whom they can connect on a deeper level. Others choose friends by sense of humor and hobbies. On your next date, try to identify a few key values related to how she chooses friends, and share with her how and why you choose the friends you do. I think you’ll find it more helpful to see if your values match up than if your specific circles of friends do.
4. Sharing hopes and dreams. This is an interesting topic. While these things do matter, your dreams and goals are not reality; they are simply thoughts. Keep in mind that while you want to align yourself with someone who will be right for your future, it’s also important to align yourself with someone who is right for you now. A good way to elicit what you want to know about someone is to first provide that information to them. Lead the way by telling her something about your hopes and dreams for the future, and then ask her how she sees things. Be careful not to share only the things that you think you feel the same way about. It’s fine to have a different vision or goal for the future. The more honest, open, vulnerable and real you are with your date, the more you two can evaluate whether or not this is a good match.
I believe you are asking sincere questions; the answers will require you to spend more time in your current relationship in order to come to an authentic conclusion. I’d much rather you date a little longer to figure it all out than cut things off too soon out of fear. Don’t be afraid that you are leading someone on when you aren’t 100% into them. Date with intention and sincerity and you won’t be leading anyone on. Be curious about your future together and ask more questions to discover your true level of interest.
When you bring the relationship to a deeper level you will be able to evaluate your real concerns and then either move things forward or end the relationship--without ever having to look back in doubt.