Communication Advice for a New Relationship

Waiting for a Lover

Let this reader's question to our Ask the Dating Coach offer up some new relationship advice for women everywhere.

New Relationship Advice for Women

Reader Question

Hey Lori, so this whole asking someone I don't know a question that is bothering me is weird, but here goes . . .I met a great guy online. I mean, it's not the first time I've tried online dating, but it is the first time it's been this successful. Anthony is amazing, he sees me for who I am and that is something new. I'm 29, he's 33 and we've both had our share of life experiences. Our chemistry is great, and well, things are going good. We've talked online for hours, emailed a zillion times a day and met twice.

The problem or issue is the holidays. It's a new relationship, just about a month. He has a 13 year old son and family in town for the holidays. I don't expect to be together all the time. But I've had a friend gently mention we're having a "holiday time-out." What is that? We haven't exchanged a word, written or verbal, in almost four days. Can people really do that? We have plans for New Years Eve. I'm supposed to celebrate it with his family at his house, meeting his kid and mother for the first time.

My question is, even though I am totally wigged out by this time-out thing, is it valid? I know he's really busy right now with his son and family so should I just calm down and wait it out? There are no signs of things ending, but then again there are no signs at all. HELP!!!! Oh yeah, this is my first relationship in about 8 years. I spent my 20's figuring out my career, getting established and learning who I wanted to be as an adult. This is all new to me and I'm freaking out a bit.

~~Chenon

Expert Reply

By the time you read this response New Years Eve will be past, and you would have either been with your guy celebrating as was planned, or not. Either way, I thought your question brought up a couple of issues that apply to everyone, so your question was still worth a response.

The term 'holiday timeout' refers to what happens when two people who are just starting to date around the holidays or around Valentines Day. The pressure of gifts and romance can lead people in a new relationship to avoid each other. This is more common with couples where one person is emotionally immature or when one or both people are poor communicators. To me, 'holiday timeout' behavior is a red flag that the person you're interested in may not have the skills needed to develop an emotional connection. By bring up the subject of dating during the holidays or Valentine's Day ahead of time, you are opening the door to address this awkward time of year.

Since you have not been in a relationship for the last eight years, perhaps your dating skills are a little rusty. Although you and the guy you are dating did not talk about how the holidays would be handled, you're left wondering what's going on. The fact that he has ignored your communication attempts is not OK behavior and makes me wonder how reliable he is. Being physically together and staying in contact is not the same thing. It is a reasonable expectation that two people who have chemistry and have communicated as often as you say the two of you have will continue talking during the holidays.

Since this was not the case in your situation, one consideration is the amount of online communication the two of you have been doing. When using online dating sites it's important to take your time and exchange emails before meeting. This gives you a way to screen a guy at a slower pace and decide if it's worth meeting him. Notice things like grammar; does he misspell too many words or write incomplete sentences? If this is the case, maybe he is from a foreign country, a con man or uneducated. Does he only respond to emails at a certain time of day or is he online only at certain times? If this were the case, maybe he is married or living with someone and has to wait until his significant other is not around before he is available.

Agree to meet someone prior to having lengthy and in-depth conversations via the phone or online. The reason this is so important is that the phone and Internet create a false sense of security. Because you're not seeing the other person's face to see his expression, the feedback loop is distorted. When you're talking to a person face to face, you see their reaction to what you say. This non-verbal feedback helps to regulate how much information you share as well as when to share it. Without that feedback loop, you may feel more confident and connected to this online person and as a result share too much personal information too soon. This false sense of trust and security sometimes leads people to share confidential information or sexually flirt. In rare cases people will misrepresent themselves, leading them to make plans and promises they have no intention of following through on.

Consider your online dating experience as an opportunity to polish your skills and learn from your mistakes. Here's wishing you many happy and wonderful dating experiences in 2008!!

~~Lori

Communication Advice for a New Relationship