One of the most common phrases people say when in the early stage of a relationship they hope will last is, “I don’t want to mess this up.” They want to do everything in their power to let the honeymoon stage of a budding relationship continue. By trying to cover all the bases, ensuring things continue in a smooth fashion, some mistakes can be made that will jeopardize the relationship you are trying to cultivate. While reading several magazine articles, including one that appeared in Psychology Today, that discussed this topic, I thought of putting together a list of a few things that both men and women can do to ensure that they aren’t sabotaging their relationships and dooming them to fail because people tend to make the same mistakes in the early stages of a relationship without even realizing it.
People don’t want to be vulnerable, or expose their feelings to another, only to get hurt in the end, so they may “play it cool.” This is a defense mechanism so they can protect themselves, but by playing the cool card or seeming aloof or indifferent they may give the impression that they aren’t interested in the person or in the relationship. There must be a balance between playing it cool and seeming uninterested. You can’t enter into a relationship if your guard is constantly up. You need to let down your defenses, even a little, in order to let someone else in and to begin building a real relationship. Yes, it is a scary thing to do; as I said, no one wants to get hurt, but it’s a chance you need to take. So stop playing games with the other person. Let him in a little. If you give something of yourself, the other person will probably give a little of himself as well, and then things can take off from there (hopefully).
I overanalyze everything! I try to strategize before a meeting at work, and I did the same when I was dating. I would think of different scenarios that could pop up and how I would react and what I would say. I also played “Monday morning quarterback” a lot. I’m sure we are all guilty of this to some degree. We rethink a situation over and over and think of a cleverer comeback we could have said or how we could have reacted better to what was done. Stop it. You can’t sweat the small stuff on a date. Don’t think of a date as a war room meeting and that you need to strategize to figure out how to win the battle. Just let things flow naturally. Show the person the real you. Have genuine reactions and say whatever comes to mind, even if it may be embarrassing. Let the person get to know the real you. I remember saying something so embarrassing on a date that I couldn’t look the fellow in the eye. I then said the first thing that came to mind: “My foot is a size seven and a half but that’s not so big that I can’t stick it in my mouth at times and say dumb things.” True story! I remember where I was and with whom I was when I said it. The fellow laughed at that and said, “Good comeback.” I had said a pretty embarrassing thing, but I owned it. I commented on how I put my foot in mouth and realized what I said. My date ended up laughing about it and I didn’t replay the moment over and over again. Try not to be so cautious but always put your best foot forward. Who knows where it may lead. Besides, if you end up marrying the person, do you want to be anxious about everything you do or say because you want to keep up the image that you were trying to portray? Your spouse would never get to know the real you and you’d be a basket case! You can’t control every situation (too many variables are in play). Just relax and let the chips fall where they may.
Nothing is wrong with fantasizing about what could be;
just keep your thoughts to yourself in the early stages
of the relationship because it may scare the other person away
I know I was guilty about fantasizing about the progression of a relationship or two, and I know that I’m not the only one guilty of doing this. I remember thinking what type of life I would have if I married a particular fellow with whom I had been on two dates. The dates were going well. And of course I thought I was the one in control of everything, so why wouldn’t we be getting married and living a fabulous life somewhere? I even remember thinking that I didn’t like the fellow’s last name, but I would have to make it work if we were going to live our fabulous life with our fabulous children. I was even thinking of hyphenating my last name, just to make it sound better (Yes, I know, I had a momentary lapse of reality). Nothing is wrong with fantasizing about what could be; just keep your thoughts to yourself in the early stages of the relationship because it may scare the other person away. People have a euphoric, giddy feeling in the beginning of a relationship, so it’s not uncommon to think about the future; but wait a while until you share your thoughts on what type of flowers you want at the wedding or where you would like to send your future fabulous children to school when they get older. I remember dating a fellow who said, “When we go to my grandmother for Shavuos…” I don’t really remember what came next because my mind froze. I had been out with this fellow all of two times. I was still trying to figure out if I was able to stay interested in the conversations we were having, and all of a sudden he jumps to spending Shavuos with his grandmother. It wasn’t even Chanukah yet! I joked that he shouldn’t put the cart before the horse and we were just getting to know each other. His response? “C’mon. When you know it, you know it. I know it.” Seriously, dude? He was already planning our life. I’m not going to lie, that freaked me out a little bit. He then sprinkled comments like that throughout our next few dates. I had to tell him repeatedly to slow down. But he wouldn’t. I guess he knew or felt something I didn’t, but I soon ended the relationship (for a number of reasons, but his verbal fantasies didn’t help).
There are a few more tips that I want to include, but if I do that now, this article will end up being four pages long! I’ll continue with the last few tips next week. But remember: Just use your seichel and you can avoid making these common mistakes. These tips aren’t anything that can’t be thought of if you just stop for a moment and think with your head instead of the butterflies in your stomach.
Hatzlachah to you all.
Goldy Krantz is an LMSW and a lifelong Queens resident, guest lecturer, and author of the shidduch dating book, The Best of My Worst and children’s book Where Has Zaidy Gone? She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.