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Dating Advice #13 - Too Close Too Fast?

May 8, 2009 | by Rosie Einhorn, L.C.S.W. and Sherry Zimmerman, J.D., M.Sc.

He wants to make her the focus of his every waking moment. She wants to let things develop over time. Which is the right way?

Dear Rosie & Sherry,

I met a woman on the Internet and we built a friendship over two years. I made her the focus of my life and we spend almost every weekend together. I had trouble with the fact that I always felt she placed too much emphasis on her relationship with her single girlfriends. I was jealous and let her know, and I was rude to two of them.

She stopped dating me after one of the incidents and I have been in therapy to get rid of some of the pent-up anger that caused my flare-ups. My problem is that we still see each other, perhaps twice a month, and when we're together it's like old times. I just can't figure out what is going on. How can I move this forward again?

Alex in Tennessee

Dear Alex,

Before we talk about the present, you need to be able to see the mistake you made in the past. By your own admission, you made her the "focus" of your life, but it upset you to see that she had another social circle outside of your own. The question is how to strike a balance between friendships and dating.

From your brief description, it seems that this woman knew how to separate her friendships from dating. It was you who had the difficulty and expected her to be completely fulfilled by your time together.

It's healthy for daters to have their own outside friends. This is true even if their courtship has been a long one. It is both unrealistic and unreasonable to expect a partner to fulfill every need of the other person. Casual and close friendships between same-gender friends fulfill certain needs that even a spouse cannot always meet. Among other things, women treasure the "girl talk" and confidences they share with their female friends, and men enjoy camaraderie with “the guys." These friendships don't generally interfere with a courtship if the man and woman are emotionally available to each other and spend a reasonable amount of time together.

You should be aware of these facts as you try to resurrect your courtship. Can you accept that the woman you date, and may marry, will share part of her life with people other than you? You may want to work on this with a therapist. In addition, when you have clarified your own expectations, you will be in a much better position to speak to her about your thoughts about your future together.

Rosie & Sherry

Dear Rosie & Sherry:

I am recently divorced. My husband left me for another woman. Have I healed from it? I doubt it. Right now, I am too busy surviving and keeping my children on track to even want to date. I assume I will want to do so at some point. The trouble is that life just rushes you along whether you like it or not.

One thing upsets me. One man told me that men see a divorced woman as being vulnerable; this put up my defenses and ended the friendship he was trying to develop. A number of other men have expressed an interest in dating me simply because I am divorced. This made me upset and only enhanced my distrust of men in general. I don't think this is a healthy way for me to feel. I find my reactions are similar to the feelings I had when I was a shy teenager and had little to do with boys. Now, although I am an outgoing person, I am puzzled about how I should handle dating.

There is a man I am curious about. He, too, is divorced, and he has a grown son who is a credit to his father. We are in the same field and I see this man as a kind and benevolent person. He seems interested in me, and I don't know if I should pursue a date, or wait to give myself more time to heal. How can I respond to his attention?

V.L. in NYC

Dear V.L.,

When you're coming down from a difficult breakup of any type, you need to give yourself time to grieve and heal before you start to date again. It seems that your divorce is still fresh, and your emotions are still raw. Many women in this situation can't help but feel insecure about themselves and distrusting of men. Your husband's leaving you for someone else (plus the other man's comment that men want to exploit the vulnerabilities of divorced women) reinforce these feelings. You're in a difficult position, and you're not in any shape to begin a new courtship.

Now is the time to concentrate on getting your life and your children's lives on track, and take the time to adequately grieve your loss. When you reach the stage of accepting your situation, you can work on re-gaining your self-esteem and healing the hurt and betrayal you feel. Don't hesitate to use the services of a therapist or other third party to help you through this difficult stage in your life.

While you are healing, make some time to pursue an interest that's just for you. A little time spent on self-fulfillment will do wonders for your self-esteem.

Even though a kind-hearted person has displayed some interest in you, don't use him to help you complete the grieving process. You need to grieve on your own. You should begin dating only after you have made peace with your divorce and feel more positively about yourself.

Rosie & Sherry

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