Carolyn Hax is away. The following first appeared on Oct. 17 and Sept. 29, 2004, respectively.
Dear Carolyn: People have often shrugged me off with, "Oh, that's just because you like to be in control," and I'm starting to wonder if they're correct. Any suggestions for identifying/solving my possible control issues?
— Mission Control
Mission Control: If you think someone else might be right, congratulations! You’re cured.
Kidding, but only a little. The need to control is really just a failure to trust. You have to drive because so-and-so will be reckless; you have to keep your mate in sight or else s/he’ll cheat; you have to do everything yourself because underlings won’t be as competent . . . stop me when this sounds familiar.
A failure to trust, meanwhile, is really just a triumph of fear. Fear of crashing, heartbreak and failure in the examples I just gave, but it’s all one biggie — fear of the unknown. Specifically, that you won’t be able to handle any outcome that deviates from the one you’ve envisioned.
Which means the person you don’t trust is yourself. Right?
That’s hard to admit, but also, I think, the hardest part of the process. From here, there’s no universal solution, but asking why you’re so scared is a start, or — the true measure of strength — just slowly releasing your grip on getting the exact outcome you want.
Hey, Carolyn: After several dates without a good-night kiss, I simply had to ask what was going on. She tells me she doesn't "want to be in a serious relationship right now" but would like "to keep hanging out and getting to know each other."
Am I a total goob taking this at face value? Am I completely misguided in thinking that "hanging out" on a regular basis sounds a lot like the early stages of most serious relationships?
I seem to recall "not wanting to be in a relationship right now" often means "not wanting to be in a relationship with you . . . ever," and in that case she wants me to be her talking puppy, which is not cool. (Okay, a talking puppy would be cool, but you get me).
I'll admit, I think she's a fantastic person, but is there any reason to keep banging my head against this metaphorical brick wall? Should I be a supergoob and ask for semantic clarification on this "right now" business?
— New York
New York: You like her? Then take her at face value and keep hanging out — no expectations. Either your next call gets screened, or you get strung along till one of you gets sick of that, or you become good friends or you fall for each other. Sometimes, making a conscious choice to be gooby is the gutsiest, least-total-goobest call you can make.