How Do I Deepen a Beginning Relationship?

Dear Neil:  I recently met a man through a popular on-line dating service, and we’ve had three dates in the past month.  I really like the man I’ve met, but I’m having trouble reading the signs.  I’m open to sharing personal details about myself in order to connect with someone and become close. But he doesn’t seem to be very open about himself, and he seems more comfortable keeping the conversation casual and impersonal.  When I’ve tried to initiate a more intimate conversation, he has become very quiet and doesn’t really respond.  I keep feeling that he isn’t that interested in me, and twice I’ve decided to just let it go, but then he contacts me again and lightly indicates some interest.   Is it just too soon to be thinking about getting to know each other better?

Unsure in North Carolina

Dear Unsure:  The man you’re describing may not desire an in-depth relationship with you.  He may indeed prefer a more superficial relationship that doesn’t ask a lot of either of you.  Then again, he may not know how to connect in a deeper more personal way, and he may not know what to say when you share more personally with him.

In either case, it’s not too soon to explore how to know each other better.  So next time you get together, structure some time to talk personally, and ask him questions about himself, his life, his experiences and his history.   How many times has he loved?  What happened in those relationships?  How happy is he with his job/career?  What are his career goals?  What does he like doing in his spare time?  How does he feel about his childhood?  What are his current relationships like with his parents and siblings?   Does  he have children?  Want children?  How would he describe his political beliefs?  What is he wanting from a relationship?  What interests him about you?  Is he currently dating or involved with someone else romantically?  What issues or problems have caused him the greatest trouble in his previous intimate relationships?

You get the idea.  For the time being, ask him more about himself and talk less about yourself, since he is not engaging with you when you reveal details about yourself.  If he is responsive to you asking about him, then you could ask:  “What would you like to know about me?”   Or you could confront the issue more directly:  “When I share details of my life, you become quiet and non-responsive.  It makes me feel you’re not interested in me.  What are you feeling and thinking when I tell you things about me?”

If he is reluctant to talk to you about himself, skirts your questions or gets very uncomfortable or defensive with these questions, he probably doesn’t want to be known—and he’s therefore a poor long-range prospect with which to develop a deeper intimate relationship.

Dear Neil:  I moved out of our house with my husband after a major fight.  I did not feel safe, and he asked me to move out.  He has three children from a previous relationship that we have every other week—and for that week I have to be the Mom, caretaker, worker, lover and everything else.  But I get yelled at if I try to make rules for the kids because they are not mine.  If I miss a school function or can’t pick up the kids from school, he says I am the worst person in the world.  At this point I am really lost and just want to let go.

Unappreciated in Colorado

Dear Unappreciated:  You are very disempowered in this relationship, and you don’t feel valued or appreciated.  What would you like different?  What would have to happen for you to move back in?  Ask yourself those questions in depth, and then tell your husband what your answers are.  A good marriage counselor may be of great assistance to you.

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