How to Handle Imbalance in a New Relationship
We’re all familiar with ghosting.
I strongly dislike having it done to me. I prefer a simple text communicating something polite but clear.
I will acknowledge, however, that while ghosting is often rude and frequently infuriating, the one benefit is that the “relationship” is over.
It might take a few days or weeks, but eventually it’s very obvious what is going on…
You are never going to hear from or see that person again.
But how should you handle something more ambiguous?
Coincidentally, another friend (I’ll call him “Martin”) asked me essentially the same question this week, too.
Clearly this issue needs to be explored!
Billy and Martin are in a similar situation. They both enjoyed awesome first dates with their respective dates, “Liz” and “Abby.”
Liz and Abby gave Billy and Martin positive feedback and indicated they were interested in spending more time together.
When Billy or Martin texted these women, the women responded enthusiastically.
Billy sent flowers to Liz the next day.
Martin went out of his way to accommodate Abby’s busy life and traveled to meet her since she lives about an hour away.
My point: both guys went out of their way for Liz and Abby, especially during and after the first date.
Billy shared that he didn’t mind putting in the effort for this budding relationship. But he admitted that he was ALWAYS initiating. Liz seemed to enjoy the attention, but it wasn’t sitting well with Billy that he was the initiator every time.
Meanwhile, Martin updated me that after his awesome first date and some promising texts, Abby was becoming increasingly flaky.
Abby would wait days to respond to Martin’s texts. She had long-winded excuses or failed to acknowledge the delay in her response at all.
In my mind Martin’s situation is less murky than Billy’s.
My take on Martin’s situation: clearly Abby is busy. Whether she would be that unavailable for anyone or just him is unclear. But this is a pattern of behavior toward him and I would not expect any more from her.
Some guys might be fine with keeping it super casual with Abby. Others might be annoyed by how flighty and disinterested she seems.
I added something along the lines of: “If the situation were reversed, I admit that I would be bothered by this kind of treatment and would pull the plug entirely.”
Martin concurred. I don’t think he plans to see Abby again.
Billy’s situation is more open-ended. He was supposed to see Liz again yesterday, so I’m super curious to see how date #2 went.
This is my take on Liz based on the limited set of facts.
She might be playing it a bit cool because:
(1) she’s shy, (2) she’s introverted, (3) she’s traditional and believes the guy should initiate in the beginning, (4) she’s dated a lot and doesn’t want to invest a lot of herself till she knows that Billy’s interest is sincere, (5) she’s not that into Billy — he can put in the effort while she has no plans to reciprocate, (6) she’s just stepping into dating after a bad break-up, (7) she’s emotionally unavailable, or (8) she’s confused and doesn’t know what she’s supposed to do in today’s dating world.
I mean all of that! ANY of those reasons are possibilities!
Heck, she could have some family or job-related drama going on behind the scenes. Or a medical ailment. Or something I have failed to even consider.
The potential reasons for Liz’s never initiating contact are numerous.
Where does that leave Billy?
In a tough spot.
My advice for Billy (or any of you in a similar situation) is to be patient.
Additionally, I would give Liz a little space to see if she reaches out more often.
I will share that for me, if a guy pulls back within the first few dates, I’m assuming he is not interested. I’m even more likely to pull back myself. It would not lead me to reach out more often. But other women might react differently, so it might be a worthwhile approach.
Billy could gently talk to her about how often he’d like to hear from her and how much communication he prefers.
But this early in the relationship, I would tread carefully.
It’s easy to make the other person feel attacked and I know Billy doesn’t want to do that to Liz.
If Liz continues to fail to initiate and it’s important to Billy that he not always be the one initiating, I would recommend having a conversation.
At that point if Liz doesn’t want to or is unable to compromise on the matter, then I would recommend ending the relationship.
~Balance is key.
Wanting someone to initiate, to put in effort, to be proactive…I would want those things, too.
And I think it’s perfectly reasonable to expect those things, regardless of gender!
~Everyone is different.
It’s impossible to guess how much interaction, communication, and effort Liz feels comfortable with.
Some people like lots of contact and texting. Others prefer breathing room.
Still others like space in the beginning as they get to know someone and then increase contact once the relationship takes hold.
Then there are people who are the opposite: they like a lot of contact at first, but then settle into the relationship and need less.
Some women love gifts and extra attention. It makes them feel special and taken care of. These women are genuine in their interest in a potential relationship.
But there are definitely women who are users. Be mindful of how much you give and spend on a new relationship.
And keep in mind that some women prefer things to be low key, to ease into a relationship. Big gestures, over-the-top dates, and lots of contact feel overwhelming and can be a turn-off.
Yet another reason why dating and relationships are so tricky to navigate!
~If you are confused at the beginning of a relationship, feel free to have a conversation.
Be as gentle as possible, though, since you don’t know each other well. Stay open-minded and really listen to the other person.
Sometimes a situation is so imbalanced from the get-go (like Martin and Abby) that it’s best to cut your losses.
Other times I’d advise giving the relationship a bit of time to develop. If you are genuinely interested in someone (like Billy appears to be in Liz), I would get to know the other person better first to see if she/he warms up a bit.
Some people take longer to open up. Don’t discount those people entirely if a connection seems to be there.
On the other hand, don’t continue to make excuses for the other person after a few dates.
If you still have the “nagging” feeling that Billy mentioned, then it’s okay to end things. You deserve to be happy!
~Action trumps words.
If you share your concerns and needs honestly, then you deserve more than appeasement.
Look for behavior that reinforces promises. If the behavior isn’t changing, all the words in the world make no difference.
If it’s THIS MUCH WORK at the beginning, it’s only going to get harder.
And it’s probably time to part ways (particularly with someone you have only spent a little time with or gone out on a handful of dates with).
Bonnie was off the dating market from 1998 (when she met her now ex-husband) till early 2014. She has been online dating on-and-off for almost 5 years. She has gone out on at least 100 first dates, interacted with over 1000 guys, and reviewed at least 10000 profiles. If there was a Masters in Online Dating, Bonnie’s earned it. This means: (1) That Bonnie is a failure at dating AND (2) She’s accumulated a lot of experiences and knowledge about the dating landscape for middle-aged chicks in Austin.
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