Questioning A New Relationship

Katie Young
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Wednesday - August 16, 2006

New relationships are the best, aren’t they? Or the worst ... if you’re the type of person who can obsess over the meaning of every little detail.

There are a lot of little details to obsess over in the beginning: Did he call or didn’t he? Why did he call at 8 p.m. instead of 11 p.m.? Or worse, he calls only at 2 a.m. He spends a lot of time with his guy friends or he has too many girlfriends. He makes plans with you in the far future - like saying he wants to take you on a trip to Mexico next year - but does-n’t always make the effort to keep plans on a daily basis with you. Oh, and let’s not forget how he calls you every night to talk ... but then when you’re with him and his phone rings, he looks at it, but doesn’t pick up.

You don’t want to ask, “Who was that?” because it’s too soon, you think. You don’t want to seem psycho right off the bat, even though your mind is churning with a million different scenarios: Maybe he’s talking to a bunch of girls just like he talks to you, maybe it’s his ex calling, maybe it was just his friends calling to see if he wanted to go out and he doesn’t want to seem rude by answering the phone in front of you, right?

This is where, for women, many times, your girlfriends come in. They act as sounding boards for your maniacal fixations so you don’t scare off the new guy too fast.

“Talk me down,” my friend Shirley says. (Shirley means that emotionally she’s up on a ledge and needs to be snapped out of her neurotic brain games by someone who is not irrationally emotional like her.)

“OK,” I say. “I’m ready.”

“So, Dave called yesterday and said very nonchalantly that maybe we would meet up today to ‘hang out.‘What does that mean, anyway, ‘hang out’? Isn’t that a date? I mean, we’ve ‘hung out’ at least four times, always at night and he’s really cuddly when we’re together ...” Shirley drifts off for a moment, silently reminiscing about cuddly Dave, before she continues. “So anyway, it’s now 7 o’clock and he still hasn’t called to confirm. Am I supposed to wait around for him to call or what? I mean, he’s so great when we’re together. He said he wants to take a trip to Europe next year. That’s planning ahead, right? The future? It doesn’t make sense.”

Basically, Shirley just needs a sounding board, and venting to me about her frustrations saves her from imploding on Dave the moment he does bother to call her to make plans.

I have to say that on more than one occasion I’ve wanted to keep it simple and tell my gal pal to go read that book, He’s Just Not That Into You. Though the phrase might encompass the reality of a relationship, most women I know aren’t able to process things that easily.

We want to analyze and dissect first. There’s nothing wrong with that if you’ve got good girlfriends to listen and “talk you down.” But here’s where it can become a problem: Your gal pals can’t tell you what your new man is thinking. They can only guess and commiserate with your emotional upheaval.

“Women and men, in general, have very different views of the world and very different communication styles as well,” says Mary Horn, Psy.D., a clinical psychologist and member of the Hawaii Psychological Association. “Women tend to be more elaborate and verbal. What a lot of people do is read things someone else does based on what it would mean to them.”

Horn says women tend to go to their friends and they pine over it - talk about it ad nauseum - to process it. Men don’t do that; instead, they actually try to get their mind off of it.

“In a new relationship, you want to be able to ask the question, ‘Just out of curiosity ...‘and not ‘OK, I’ve been pining away about this all night.‘You have to be able to ask a question nonchalantly while still asking the question you need answered.”

Actions still speak louder than words - it may turn out to be as simple as “he’s just not that into you,” or it could be you are reading him all wrong. Be aware and don’t make excuses for the inexcusable.

Communication is the key, says Horn, because no situation is absolute.

“In general, if it’s something that is disrupting the relationship or not allowing it to take its natural course, that would be an indication that there might be a problem,” she says. “It’s normal to have doubts in a new relationship, but we shouldn’t make assumptions about where somebody else is coming from.”

A lot of women I know, once they vent about it to their friends, are able to let go of those obsessive thoughts. But if it’s something that you’ve thought about over and over again and can’t get past - then you need to ask.

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