NYC Psychotherapist Blog

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Sunday, February 16, 2014

Dating: Is It Time to Have "The Talk"?

During recent years, dating has become a lot more complicated than it used to be.  From my perspective, as psychotherapist, people seemed a lot more open to being emotionally vulnerable in the past when they were dating as compared to how self protective many people are now (see my article:  Dating vs Being in a Relationship: Take Time to Get to Know Each Other).

Dating:  Is It Time to Have "The Talk"

To be sure, there have always been people who have been too afraid to allow themselves to be open and vulnerable to communicating their feelings in a dating relationship.

But it seems this is even more the case now, especially since people are relying on more indirect means of meeting each other, like dating websites and social media, and in the current environment, this makes it harder for people to be direct about their feelings or to say whether they want to continue to date or if they want a more committed relationship.

Stages of Dating
Another phenomenon that I've noticed is that many people are unaware that there are certain stages of dating or they just don't know how to date.

When I refer to "stages of dating," I'm not referring to specific, concrete stages.  I'm referring to the progression that might start with the first date and go on to the first kiss and might move onto a sexual encounter.

I realize that many people bypass these stages and refuse to even call what they're doing "dating."  They might see themselves as just "hooking up" or "hanging out."  Of course, this can lead to even more confusion because there's no process involved.

But, assuming that you're dating someone and you both agree that this is what you're doing, there are choice points along the way.

So, for instance, if you decide to go out on the first date, depending upon your experience during that date, you might decide that you don't want to continue to see this person or vice versa. Hopefully, this is handled with tact and compassion.

But if you continue to see each other, at some point during the first several months, it's a good idea to check in with the other person about how he or she feels.

What Is "The Talk"?
"The talk" is the conversation that you and the person you're dating have to reveal, openly and honestly, how you feel about each other.  Among other things, you talk about whether the two of you want to be exclusive with each other or whether you want to continue dating other people.

Why Is It Necessary to Have "The Talk"?
Lots of people who are dating try to avoid having "the talk" for as long as possible.  Others make their feelings known early on.

There can be many misunderstandings between people who are dating.  One person might think they're dating each other exclusively while the other person might still be "playing the field."

Dating:  Why Is It Necessary to Have "The Talk"?

When this mismatch comes to light, it can be emotionally painful, especially for the person who was under the assumption that they were exclusive.

To avoid these types of misunderstandings and also avoid trying to "read between the lines," it's better to have an open and honest conversation about how each one of you feels about the other and what each of you wants.

Why Is It So Hard to Have "The Talk"
Nowadays, many people fear having the dreaded "talk" with the person they're dating because they're afraid of looking foolish, needy, and being embarrassed.

If they're interested in having an exclusive relationship, they fear putting their feelings on the line because the other person might not want this.

For other people, who want the freedom to see other people, they fear hurting the person they're dating because s/he might not feel the same way.

So, many people feel they're stuck in an emotional quandary about how to even approach "the talk."

Generally speaking, women often fear that the man they're dating will see them as "clingy" and men fear that women will feel they're begin "pushy" and, sometimes, vice versa.

When to Have "The Talk"
There are no hard and fast rules about when to communicate your feelings to the person that you're dating.

If several months have gone by, and you're really not sure where things stand between you, it's probably a good idea to broach the topic with the person you're dating.

Dating:  When to Have "The Talk"

Although you might fear looking foolish if you want more from this person than he or she might want from you, isn't it better to know rather to wonder or, worse still, to assume that you know when you really don't?

Who Should Initiate the Conversation?
Once again, there are no rules about who should bring up the topic.

Generally speaking, among heterosexual couples, women tend to be the ones to raise this topic because, typically, they're more comfortable talking about relationships.

This certainly doesn't mean that heterosexual men don't initiate conversations about where things stand in a dating relationship.  It's just that, often, they're not as comfortable doing it.

So, if there are no rules about this in heterosexual relationships, there certainly are no rules in gay relationships.

Often, when one or both people feel that they're unsure about where things are heading, the discomfort and lack of certainty is often more uncomfortable than the vulnerability involved with having "the talk."

This probably isn't the best way to approach "the talk,"but often this is the way it goes.

I'll continue this topic in future articles.

About Me
I am a licensed NYC psychotherapist, hypnotherapist, EMDR and Somatic Experiencing therapist who works with individual adults and couples.

To find out more about me, visit my website:  Josephine Ferraro, LCSW - NYC Psychotherapist

To set up a consultation, call me at (917) 742-2624 during business hours or email me.