New relationship
November 28, 2008 4:39 PM   Subscribe

New relationship filter - ex-semi-drama queen here, how do i keep this going, slow and steady and not rush in?

I've known this guy for about 5 years. Realized I may have feelings for him about 1.5 years ago. Never said anything to him because we were developing a good friendship and did not want to screw anything up.

Some specifics: he's had one night stands, but never a real relationship. admits to not being very emotional, is a pretty stoic individual. our friendship was very healthy, talk on the phone once/week, hang out 1-2 times a month. both have our own sets of friends and lives going on.

me: i think he is extremely attractive and so smart. i have had 2 semi-relationships in the past (last one being 2 years ago) that were both filled with rushing in too fast, high drama, the works. a lot of it was my fault -- i was a late bloomer and didn't have any relationships till my 20s and when i was semi-in-one, i thought that the high hi's (crazy butterflies, infatuation) and the low low's (dramatic heartbreak) = passion = romance - tru luv.

i have grown up a lot since then, become less insecure and more confident, developed a life of my own, and now know that the drama queen crap is not attractive and serves a relationship no purpose. (like, for instance, if i asked my guy if he found so-and-so attractive and he did, i would sulk and be jealous-- clearly this was entirely dumb of me b/c he's just being truthful and i was totally being insecure, but at the time i would just be hurt and offended)

So, presently: i really dig this guy a lot. how do i not mess this up? esp. since he's never been in a relationship, but has indicated to me that he wants to be in one with me..... sometimes he won't be as emotional as i want him to be in his words, but i have kept my mouth shut, b/c i know it is hard for him and i know he is showing me his feelings through his actions (i.e. he so wouldn't be hanging with me right now if he wasn't in to me -- he's the kinda guy that just likes hanging out with the guys).

Tips for keeping a relationship simple? what i like about him is he is really about no drama, and will run the other way if i break out my old habits. i just feel so warm and comfortable around him. i just feel like there is potential for me to get frustrated since he may not know how to "act" in a relationship (although, not that my actions in the past were necessarily oscar-worthy)... and if i do get frustrated, how do i deal without being dramatic and high strung again--even though i may or am hurt?

sorry for the rambling.
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (9 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
Always be direct, honest, and rational. You can't go wrong.
posted by mpls2 at 4:52 PM on November 28, 2008 [1 favorite]

If he does something you find strange, tell him so; but not in a "bitchy" way. Say: "You know, it's a little bit awkward that you immediately put your arm around me at the movies before I even got my drink put down. I appreciate the attention, but wait until a more opportune moment!" or whatever. Straightforward. No games-playing.
posted by sonic meat machine at 4:57 PM on November 28, 2008 [1 favorite]

Tips for keeping a relationship simple?

Know thyself.

What gets us in trouble? Its the things unrelated to the relationship which cause us anxiety and pain. We create drama with the people we care about because we don't want to deal with the unrelated things. The only way not to think and deal with those unrelated things is to create drama in our relationship large enough to take our minds off of the unrelated things.

You'll know something like this has happened because you will look back and say "why did I do that?"

The solution is to be as aware as you can of all of the issues you have, not just those in the relationship. When something comes up in one of those, keep your eyes out for a tendency to create waves in other areas of your life to avoid the issue that's bugging you. Learn to manage the emotions that go along with those issues. Remember that just because you are feeling an emotion about something does not make it true.
posted by Ironmouth at 4:58 PM on November 28, 2008 [2 favorites]

I'm sure you'll get a lot of advice here, but just in case you want more than AskMe provides, here's a short list of books that often get mentioned --
How To Be An Adult In Relationships by David Richo
The Five Love Languages by Gary Chapman
Getting the Love You Want by Harville Hendrix
The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work by John Gottman & Nan Silver
Why Marriages Succeed or Fail by John Gottman
Conscious Loving by Gay & Kathlyn Hendricks
Dance of Intimacy by Harriet Lerner
posted by salvia at 5:08 PM on November 28, 2008 [26 favorites]

Ask him. In a totally calm moment, mention to him that you're not entirely sure how to best bring up a problem, should one come up, and ask him what approach he thinks would be most likely to lead to a solution rather than to drama. He knows himself best, so he can tell you if he has trouble with criticism and needs sugarcoating or if he prefers blunt directness, etc. Then, apply his advice. Now you're both invested in the strategy, and if it doesn't work, it's not that you're a drama queen, it that the two of you, together, came up with a sub-optimal plan, and now you're both going to rethink how to handle similar issues in the future.

This is your relationship together. Solving problems together is part of that. Get out of your head and work with your guy to navigate your concerns. If you're silent about them, they become your secret, and grow out of proportion to their real significance.
posted by prefpara at 5:13 PM on November 28, 2008 [3 favorites]

Oh, and I'd also suggest nipping what seems to me to be a potential problem in the bud by saying something like this: honey, I know you're more about actions than words, and I really appreciate your actions and demonstrations of care for me, but I seem to be wired to need some verbal reassurance as well. I need you to know that there will probably be times when I ask you for some out-loud reminders of how you feel about me, not because anything is wrong, but just because I need that kind of thing from time to time, and I hope you can accommodate me.
posted by prefpara at 5:25 PM on November 28, 2008 [1 favorite]

I sense a lot of anxiety in your approach to the relationship, so much so that you're really trying hard to change your behavior to make the relationship work. How much change is the other partner making? Is he just floating by passively while you're eagerly watching his moves and reactions to gauge the relationship status at every turn? Are you too much more into him than he is into you?

A good relationship shouldn't require you to change yourself too much in order to make it work. Some change and tolerance is essential, but if it crosses a certain level, then you'll feel like a servant, constantly bending yourself for the success of the relationship.

I'm not saying that that is precisely what's going on, but it's something to keep in the back of your mind.
posted by philosophistry at 5:44 PM on November 28, 2008 [1 favorite]

i just feel like there is potential for me to get frustrated since he may not know how to "act" in a relationship

In a good relationship, neither of you will need to "act in a relationship". In a good relationship, each of you will accept the other for who they are, and let them be that, and love them without trying to alter or fix them, and spend the time you have together getting more and more willing to let your partner see who you really are when the drama's over and the actors have gone home.

Good relationships, in my opinion, are fundamentally opposed to drama, because drama is about acting out or acting up to gain attention; in a good relationship, attention is something that's given rather than something that's sought, and in a really good relationship, roughly equal amounts of attention are given in both directions.

if i do get frustrated, how do i deal without being dramatic and high strung again--even though i may or am hurt?

First thing - emotional first aid - is go for a good hard walk, to burn off all the stress chemicals. Pay attention to minimizing the drama of your exit from the building. Slamming the door on the way out is such a cliché, darling.

I cannot emphasize enough how important the good hard walk is. I know of no faster way to take your stress level back to baseline than walking it off.

Next thing (and you can do some of this while on your good hard walk) is to think through the issue, and find out whether what you're expecting of your partner is anything that you reasonably could expect on the basis of what you know about how that person functions.

Next thing is to remind yourself about the good things that your partner brings to the relationship, and remind yourself that people are a package deal. People are banquets, not a la carte menu meals. You don't get to pick and choose which bits of themselves you'd prefer they did or didn't have - all they are is what you get. Equally, all you are is what they get.

Next thing is to remind yourself that what you feel is what you feel, and that it's your perfect right to feel what you feel, but if you'd rather feel something different, then you have the power to influence that by changing something you believe.

Next thing is to find out whether you're feeling frustrated mainly because of something your partner did or failed to do, or mainly because you are maintaining unrealistic expectations about what your partner ought to have done or not done. If you're in a good relationship then most of the time it will be the latter, which is good because it lets you sort the issue out completely internally by adjusting your expectations.

Next thing is to remind yourself that no matter how close the two of you are, you cannot read each other's minds (those couples who appear to be able to do this trick are actually just the ones who are best at talking straight with each other while nobody else is looking). So if your expectations, on reflection, are reasonable, then you need to talk them over with your partner as soon as you're both in a suitable frame of mind to have that talk and not before.

There's a standard formula for working these things out, and it goes "I need to work out $issue with you. When you do $action in $circumstance, I feel $feeling because I expected $expectation. I'd prefer if you did $alternative instead". Take that as the starting point in a negotiation rather than any kind of ultimatum, and see where the discussion goes.

Last, but not least, learn to laugh at the drama. If you can laugh at yourself and your partner with genuine empathy and genuine amusement, as opposed to malicious mockery, then you will find that you can happily bung on a bit of drama when it's called for without spending your whole life sucked into one.

All this gets easier as you age, by the way. Youth is fun, but I wouldn't want to spend my whole life there.
posted by flabdablet at 5:01 AM on November 29, 2008 [10 favorites]

flabdablet speaks the truth.

Oh, and good work on your post. It takes a lot in putting that down in writing. You've already come a long way!
posted by Mephisto at 6:32 AM on November 29, 2008

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