How to enjoy myself with someone new?
July 24, 2019 7:18 AM   Subscribe

I've been seeing someone who I like a lot. We have good chemistry and can talk for hours. But I'm also worried -- how much can I trust him? How do I know he's not a player or a liar? He likes to tease -- is that a red flag? Please help me get out of my own head.

We met at a bar a little over two weeks ago, and hit it off right away. We went on a date the following Friday, then another this past Friday, then he came to my place on Sunday and stayed over, then he cooked me a huge and delicious feast last night (Tuesday), brought it over to my place, and then stayed over again. Whenever we're apart, we've been texting like maniacs, talking on the phone, and everything feels so natural and fun.

But then last night, I suddenly got wrapped around my own axle. The trigger was that we wound up talking too much about our romantic histories. He didn't say anything more "worrying" than I did, but the conversation got into my head anyway, and now I'm so afraid he's a liar and a player and that I'm being a fool. Now I'm suddenly paranoid and seeing potential issues everywhere -- like for instance, I haven't been to his house or met his friends/family yet, and while on the one hand, I'm like, "it's been two weeks since I first laid eyes on this man!" on the other hand I'm like, "so I have no way of corroborating what he's told me."

How do I talk to him about how uncomfortable talking (having talked) about past romantic experiences makes me feel? How do I talk to him about any of this? How do I get out of my head so that I can see things clearly? How do I chill the hell out?

(I'm 33F, have been single for about a year. Have been in serious relationships, but never married or engaged. He's mid-30s, single after a broken engagement that I believe happened around six months ago).
posted by rue72 to Human Relations (16 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
So there are a few issues here. First, in general, how do you know you can trust him? That takes time and attention. I don’t think there are any shortcuts to that. There’s also a difference between trust along the lines of, “Do I want to trust this person with my heart?” and “Is this man a fraud?” You’ve raised both. I mean, I just don’t think it’s weird that you haven’t met his family in the first two weeks of dating. As for his house: does he have housemates? Wanting to introduce you to family so soon, unless it happened in a very casual way, would be a bit concerning to me. But, what kind of trust are you talking about?

It sounds like you weren’t having these kinds of anxieties before. Did he share specific information that concerns you? Has he dated more than you?
posted by bluedaisy at 7:29 AM on July 24, 2019

You can't know a person is any one thing until you know. My therapist got me out of some bad habits like assuming everything is going to be terrible by asking me to also picture what will happen if everything goes right. YMMV.

For the first time, I spoke plainly about my feelings to the last person I dated (things did not work out but it had nothing to do with this). I asked the exact question I wanted to ask, and said the exact thing I wanted to say, and he responded like a human being, as in he replied with his thoughts or feelings on whatever it was. This is how it's supposed to go, as I understand it.

Can you see yourself saying, "Talking about past romantic experiences makes me uncomfortable. Can we leave that until we know each other better?"

How he responds may help you, one way or another.
posted by wellred at 7:29 AM on July 24, 2019 [5 favorites]

It's been two weeks. Remind yourself that this romantic energy is a good thing, and it includes anxiety. You're feeling an attractive pull, and you've got defense mechanisms that want you to stay cautious. That's a good thing, but (as you've said) it can be too much. I think a simple therapist-like reminder would be that simply being aware of this is a good first step to staying cautious without getting wrapped around your own axle. Well, without getting too wrapped. Your feelings are your feelings and you go with what you feel.

What's holding you back from simply saying some of what you've written here? "Talking about past romantic experiences makes me uncomfortable. I'm glad we're hitting it off, and I want to be chill, but I don;t know how to talk to you about this stuff without feeling weird."
posted by late afternoon dreaming hotel at 7:30 AM on July 24, 2019 [1 favorite]

I think part of your brain is trying to protect you from being hurt; depending on your romantic history, possibly from being hurt again in a similar way. The verb "to trigger" is primarily used a joke in today's society, but in all honesty, it sounds like talking about your romantic histories "triggered" you -- got you into a space where you were remembering past traumas.

To me, if I were in your situation, I think I would treat that voice as a separate part of me. I would acknowledge it but take decision-making authority away from it. Voice: "He's going to hurt me! He's lying and he's a player!" You: "Listen, I understand why you feel that way. But there's really no material to support that yet. I'm aware of that possibility, but this could be something really special and I'm going to give him a chance." Voice: "But--" You: "Listen, I've heard you out, but you need to go away for a little bit."

If you try to completely quash the voice, that gives it strength. It's like when you decide you'll never eat chocolate again, all of a sudden, there's nothing you want more than a bar of chocolate.

If you talk to him -- and it may be early (it depends), I would say something like, "Listen, I've had a few guys who weren't as great as you in my past. I hope you'll bear with me if I come across a little cautious every once in a while. Sometimes it's hard to let the shields down." Or something like that -- I don't really like what I just wrote because it comes across as apologetic, which you have no need to be. But ... basically just explaining how you may come across cautious due to your past, until you get more and more comfortable with him, so that he doesn't read it as distancing or disinterest.

Anyway, my two cents, for what it's worth. Hope it helps.
posted by WCityMike at 7:32 AM on July 24, 2019 [11 favorites]

Ask to visit his place. As far as his friends and family, anyone might reasonably hold back on making those introductions after two weeks. But if you can't see his place, that is a potential problem. Maybe it's just a mess or something, but you don't know.

I wouldn't say "I feel uncomfortable" right now. What can he say to that that would make you feel better? Yes, hearing about people's exes and how they treated them can give you pause; that could easily be you one day. But also you may just be having that "wait a minute" feeling that happens a lot after an initial giddy feeling of infatuation. Pay attention to what he says but you don't need to address it at the moment.
posted by BibiRose at 7:38 AM on July 24, 2019 [2 favorites]

I probably wouldn't try to have a conversation where the framing is "it made me uncomfortable to hear about your past romantic experiences" because it doesn't really lead to a clear desired outcome. How can he respond? It would be weird for him to apologize, right? We all have baggage, never ask questions about a romantic interest's past if you don't really want to hear the answers. It sounds like it's been a very intense two weeks! I think this is a great time to confide in him that you're really thrilled to have met him and the fact that everything is so perfect makes you feel a little anxious. That's something you can have a constructive conversation about.
posted by cakelite at 7:45 AM on July 24, 2019 [3 favorites]

If you are prone to limerence it makes sense that discussing past relationships would create some feelings of anxiety but I think your mind would find a way to be anxious regardless at this point, that's part and parcel of "new relationship energy", "limerance", whatever you want to call it.

If past relationship experiences come up again I would just tell him that you don't want to go there right now, you want to enjoy your time together (and maybe redirect to asking about his friends and family), I wouldn't make a big deal about the conversation that already happened.

I think it's normal to meet friends after a few weeks but too early for family, and some guys don't have tons of friends or a busy social life but are solid people, if he's talking about his friends and hobbies all the time but not making ways to integrate you after a couple more weeks of good dates and interest I would bring it up but it seems too early imo. Mid-thirties means a lot of friends have jobs and partners and pets and babies so it might be harder to find casual ways to get together and again I think that's once you're closer to a strong commitment. Think about reversing it, would it be a big weird to bring him to a friend's place for a hangout at this point? Likely right? I would wait a bit longer or let it progress naturally to where you're both sharing stories of your friends so they have something to go on if a meeting happens, you've only seen this guy a few times in person from the sound of it. Think about how many hours you've actually spent with this person to reign in this sense that it's moving too slow.

There have been good threads in the past about how to keep busy during this phase of dating where you're a bit obsessed with the new person, lots of good advice in those. I get anxious in early dating and you have to just ride it out because either way time will reveal whether someone is committed and a good person or whether someone is not really interested and trying to solve the problem of the anxiety by not giving the other person space or pushing commitment will backfire and it doesn't give YOU the chance to let the intimacy and trust needed for a good relationship to build naturally.
posted by lafemma at 7:48 AM on July 24, 2019 [9 favorites]

It is not necessary to address every uncomfortable feeling in every dating situation. Feel free to ignore what happened and then take it slowly with the new person because only experience will demonstrate if the person is trustworthy. Keep reminding yourself that it is only been two weeks or three weeks or four weeks and if you keep enjoying the persons company, keep seeing him.

Also, take breaks. Pace yourself. It is easier to get hurt when people throw themselves deeply and immediately into a new romance. Don’t bring up old relationships again anytime soon. If he does, interrupt him quickly and say you prefer to wait a few months before you talk more about that. Good luck!
posted by Bella Donna at 7:53 AM on July 24, 2019 [3 favorites]

It has only been two weeks, so while it’s normal not to have met his friends or family yet, it’s also a good idea not to trust him completely yet. Right now you’re still in the “risk” phase where he could turn out to be anyone, because you barely know him. I wouldn’t raise or discuss this with him yet.

He's mid-30s, single after a broken engagement that I believe happened around six months ago.

This is what would be causing me some stress and worry. Six months after a broken engagement is pretty soon.
posted by sallybrown at 8:02 AM on July 24, 2019 [7 favorites]

How to enjoy myself with someone new?

You go slow. It sounds like all this relationship history and such is too much right now, so say —probably as much to yourself as them — "We need to go slow.”
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 8:04 AM on July 24, 2019 [1 favorite]

In my experience, him being slow to introduce you to his friends and family is a sign that he's true, and responsible, not a liar or fraud. His behavior sounds like he's protecting himself just in case you are a flake, which is a good signal that he is an intentional person, and has put thought into how he interacts with you.
posted by FirstMateKate at 8:37 AM on July 24, 2019 [1 favorite]

If the subject of past relationships comes up again, calmly say that you’d like to talk about something else. The conversation you already had about it is over need to revisit it, unless he somehow can’t understand why you don’t want to talk about it again.

It’s not strange that you haven’t met any of his friends yet. In your shoes, I’d ask to see his place... he’s stayed at yours, so it’s very reasonable that you want to see his. If he says it’s a mess, suggest that now would be a good time to tidy it up. If he refuses or evades, that might be a red flag.

You didn’t say much about the teasing. If he teases by saying negative things and you don’t like that, you can say, “I know you meant it as a joke but that sounded harsh to me.” He may defend himself and if he doesn’t acknowledge your feelings, say it again in different words. Maybe, “humorous digs hurt my feelings. Would you be willing to keep the teasing on a more positive note?”

It’s not necessarily a red flag when someone does or says a thing you’re not comfortable wit. But it’s definitely a huge red flag if you tell them how you feel and they brush it off or otherwise show lack of respect for your feelings and wishes. Don’t think that in order to seem reasonable early on, you need to keep things to yourself . Speak up and give him a chance to show you that he cares.
posted by wryly at 10:03 AM on July 24, 2019

Six months after a broken engagement is pretty soon.

Not always and not in all cases. I don't think the original poster needs extra things to worry about. But, since this issue was raised, and since you all spoke about your romantic history: how does he talk about people he's dated in the past? If he seems to have a lot of anger or negative unresolved emotions that are clear even in a casual discussion of that relationship, that's a concern. Similarly (and some folks would disagree), if they are best friends and in constant communication, that can also be a concern because they might still be emotionally entangled.

But if he speaks of it factually, maybe with some acknowledgement of emotion like sadness but not necessarily expressing that emotion while sharing the story -- that seems healthy and okay to me.

It's not up to us to decide if someone else has moved on. Be aware, but I don't think this necessarily means you need to be nervous.
posted by bluedaisy at 10:24 AM on July 24, 2019 [1 favorite]

Something to think about is that after a broken engagement, this guy may have lost a good chunk of his social circle if he shared a lot of friends with his ex. Someone who doesn't have that robust of a social life probably isn't going to introduce to friends anytime soon because they may not have the type of friendships where introducing a new partner is an easy thing to do. You may find that to be problematic, or maybe you don't, but it's something to consider if you really need social proof to feel okay with a new partner.
posted by blerghamot at 12:08 PM on July 24, 2019

So going too fast strikes me as mostly a boundaries question. We'll get to that, but it goes along with the teasing which is "Whatever boundary YOU set is valid." If you don't like being teased, that's fine once you communicate it. If you don't like a specific topic of teasing, communicate it and call him out if he violates it. My girlfriend has had some spicy takes on music (my not having heard a newly popular song comes to mind), and it hurt my feelings the way she said it because there were reasons I hadn't had the energy to be engaged in pop culture for the past month or two and I felt like I was being judged "lesser". We talked it over and the problem has been solved. Similarly, I can certainly tease (or self deprecate) but we built trust slowly to where no joking negative comment from either of us would be seen as anything but love at this point. And actual criticism is constructive and concise and clearly that not framed as "teasing".

So to summarize, if you don't like being teased and you tell him that but he KEEPS teasing you, that's a major red flag. If every now and then you point it out and he accepts his mistake and is genuinely regretful, I would chalk that up to being human. I certainly can think or act without always being aware of what effect my actions will have, we all can, but each mistake is an opportunity to learn and improve.

About going too fast time. Hm, I guess I'll tell a story. But the real danger is you can't know if this is 1.) innocent limerence and you really met a person who you're in tune with OR 2.) a serial all-in/all-out person who lacks both boundaries and the appropriate toolbox to build and maintain a relationship. Fast-tracking intimacy is not in and of itself bad, but the sort of person who does it consistently will not be a net benefit to you when 3 weeks later they're gone.

I met my girlfriend in a very strange circumstance. I got (basically) dumped on a Wednesday in February from a short relationship, my dad died Thursday then the following Wednesday I was briefly back in town and just wanted desperately to have a fun pleasant conversation with someone who didn't know my dad had died. I didn't want to call up and hash out whether or not I'd been dumped. That's how I met my girlfriend.

I didn't really lean on her overly much, certainly not between our dates, and I think at one point she asked why because we were so obviously smitten. I told her I had a good support system and it wouldn't be fair to her or really appropriate to make her my pseudo-therapist. I wanted to date her and work on my issues in therapy/with friends/on my own. Not that I was keeping anything from her. I very much wanted to dump it all out endlessly on her because I was quickly falling for her, but I've learned that going too fast usually doesn't lead to the outcome I want. The reason is because they don't know OUR TRIGGERS, and we don't know theirs. We all have them. I guess my response really stuck with her, and I'm pretty sure that's the moment she decided she loved me.

Then five weeks after my dad died, my cat died very traumatically in the exact same act of god way. This broke me. At this point, my regular support system was helping but I also felt the trust and appropriateness of her helping me. My point is that when people short-circuit the trust building part and jump right into the heavy stuff, they don't actually have a good sense of how to protect themselves and the other person. We all do this from time to time but there are people who do it ALL THE TIME and my key takeaway has always been that they don't know how to respect boundaries. Relationships and egos are fragile things. They need to be treated with respect and kindness.

You can tell how they are if you set up a reasonable boundary and they work around it or push back. "Please don't tease me like that, I don't like it." should be met with a solemn understanding because they LIKE YOU AFTER ALL not a "Haha, you can't take a joke? Seriously?" People tell you who they are when they respond to your communicated needs (and in how they communicate their own).
posted by OnTheLastCastle at 12:53 PM on July 24, 2019 [11 favorites]

Do you ordinarily sleep with guys so early on? I'm wondering if your brain could indirectly be telling you that you rushed it (for your purposes).
posted by praemunire at 4:58 PM on July 24, 2019 [1 favorite]

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