Carolyn Hax is on vacation. The following are excerpts from summer 2004 live discussions on www.washingtonpost.com.
I began dating a man who, within a matter of two months, professed his love, told me he knew how'd he propose, etc. There were times when I felt things were proceeding too quickly but didn't say we should slow things down because I was afraid he'd take it as rejection.
Well, last week he told me that he's not ready for a relationship, that he wants to just "date" me, and maybe "date" other women as well. I never put pressure on him to be in a relationship and simply allowed things to go as he seemed to want them to go. Now I'm left feeling hurt, betrayed and not so sure I want to date him at all. Where did I go wrong?
-- San Francisco
You went wrong the moment you tuned out your skepticism because you were afraid of the way he'd react.
Why did you respect his feelings more than you did your own doubts? Other people's feelings matter, of course, but that means only that you're obliged to keep them in mind, not treat them as marching orders.
Whether your skepticism was founded or not, you had a reason (or reasons) to be skeptical. You owed it to yourself to pay attention to what your instincts were telling you, and then to act accordingly. You thought things were moving too quickly. Did that mean you didn't feel as strongly for him as he did for you, or you didn't believe he knew you well enough yet to like you as much as he professed, or what? And once you had an answer there, then you owed it to yourself and the guy to deal with that answer. To speak up, to slow things down, whatever. And if he took that as a rejection, then so be it -- he wasn't ready for honesty. And so he wasn't for you.
BTW, the arc of his affections is classic for someone in a big hurry to have a relationship. Instant strong feelings usually mean a person's after something else, and you're only the vehicle. Use this as permission not to take the rejection personally.
Having just ended a relationship that sounds very similar in its "arc" of affections and trying very hard not to take the rejection personally -- nor feel embarrassed for having poor judgment -- I'm interested in what those other things are that you say people expressing instant strong emotions are "after."
-- Re: San Francisco
Security, affirmation, some media-borne image of a happy couple, sex -- lots of things. But they're all in the same general family, since it's really about going through the motions of intimacy without the actual intimacy. The real thing is one-of-a-kind, and it has nothing to do with roses and candlelight dinners. Not that there's anything wrong with either of those.
Don't beat yourself up. It's hard to resist being lavished with attention that seems sincere. We all fall for it at some point.
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