Christine and Steve (not their real names) have been dating for about a month. They have both had painful, emotionally-abusive relationships in the past. Trust doesn’t come easily to them. Christine wants this new relationship to work but she’s scared that her heart will get broken again, that she’ll be abandoned, that Steve won’t support her emotionally. She came to me for coaching to make sure she doesn’t screw up this relationship. “When do you have the relationship talk?” she asked. Following are the big issues that Christine wants to discuss with Steve.
When and How to Have the Relationship Talk?
Christine: We’ve already slept together, and monogamy is paramount to me. There is no room to deviate from that standard. How do I ask him to be exclusive?
Sandy: You’ve escalated this relationship very quickly and slept together after only a few dates. In the future, a good time to bring up monogamy and exclusivity is before you sleep with a man. You might say, “I am really attracted to you, and I wanted to let you know that I only sleep with men when I’m in an exclusive relationship. If and when the day comes, you’ll be in for the night of your life!”
Since you’ve already slept with Steve, you can talk about monogamy, but it won’t be as easy after you’ve had sex. Your heart is already invested in the relationship, which makes you a little more vulnerable. Talk to him. Tell him how you feel about exclusivity. If you’re both on the same page, great! If you’re not, now is the time to walk away. Tell him how much you care for him, but you need to move on and find someone who does want a serious relationship.
Christine: How do I ask him to give me enough quality time to satisfy MY needs?
Sandy: Define quality time. Everyone needs a different amount of time together in relationships. Perhaps if you felt secure about how Steve felt about you, you would not put a number on the hours of time he needed to spend with you. I suggest you fill your own needs and spend time with good friends, doing things you love outside of the relationship. If he’s spending very little time with you and it’s not working for you, tell him how happy it would make you to spend more time with him. If he’s truly avoiding you and avoiding intimacy, it’s time to leave and find someone who’s ready for an intimate relationship. But be careful to assess how much of this you’re carrying from your relationship history. If you are feeling needy, it’s a good idea to heal yourself instead of asking him to fill your void.
Christine: How can I ask him to be there for me emotionally on a consistent basis?
Sandy: Again, you need to look at your own emotional wellbeing and decide how much of this feeling is coming from your past and an emptiness inside, and how much is about him not being there for you. If he is truly not there for you emotionally, it is probably because he can’t be. If you believe that to be true and you stay with him, then you are sabotaging yourself. You can tell him that you would like more emotional support, and be specific about what that means to you. If he can’t provide you with what you request, you can decide to stop dating him. It’s important for YOU to decide what works for you. You have power over your decisions.
Christine: When is a good time to have the relationship talk?
Sandy: You jumped into this relationship. Now that you’re both here, your insecurities are sending you into a tailspin. Telling a guy, “We need to talk” is a surefire way to have him bolt. Here’s a better way to discuss the relationship.
The relationship talk
What do you want? Spend some time planning what you want to say and how you’d like this conversation to play out. If he says that he doesn’t want a relationship with you, you need to figure out your plan of action. Come from a place of strength, knowing that you are a woman of value.
Make sure it’s a good time to talk. Tell him, “I’d like to talk with you about something important. Is this a good time for you?” When you have his buy-in, he will be more attentive. If it’s not a good time, ask him when he can talk. (Don’t leave it open-ended).
Bookend the conversation with appreciation. Men want to be appreciated. Start and end the conversation with appreciation. “Steve, I really appreciate that you’re open to talking with me. That means so much to me.” Tell him how you feel about him and why you want to be in an exclusive relationship. Then ask him how he sees this relationship. What does he want in the long run? Do not pressure him in any way. When he’s done talking, tell him how you feel. And then end with appreciation.
Have an exit plan. If he doesn’t want a serious monogamous relationship right now, be ready to walk away with your dignity intact. He is just a placeholder for the right guy to show up. If you don’t let go of the ‘detours’, you won’t be able to find your true match.
Have you ever had the relationship talk? If so, what did you say, and how did it go?
This article was originally published on LasFirstDate.com and is republished here with permission.
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