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One month in, hanging out OK

Fri., Jan. 16, 2009

Dear Carolyn: I’m in a relationship phase that always makes me feel nuts. It’s the space between “being together” and not. One aspect is that the fling started more on the physical end than the “Wow, you have really good morals and we like the same Chinese restaurant” approach. The similar interests, humor and understanding our compatibility came second.

It’s been about a month and it’s understood that we’re exclusive, but I don’t know how to take those steps to feeling secure in what we have without leaving tampons and a toothbrush over there to nudge us in the direction I want to go. He’s generally not much of a question-asker about my life and history, and so our emotional intimacy is less than what I want, mostly because my last relationship ended horribly and I’m hesitant to really share myself until I know I’m in something for real.

Not to pigeonhole men, but I think, as a guy, he’s pretty content with hanging out, sleeping together, eating out, playing guitar and having fun without worrying whether I’m his “girlfriend.” Yet here I am, over-analyzing, feeling a little nuts, but not wanting to show that, lest he run for the hills. Help me out here. – Feeling Nuts

I see your stereotype, and raise you a generalization, a cliche and then a rhetorical question: Your “guy” way of doing things gets a bad rap. What, exactly, is wrong with having fun without worrying whether you’re his girlfriend?

If your concern is the emotional security of the “title,” and its underlying confirmation of shared, transparent intentions toward each other, then that’s certainly valid. However, you’ve been together all of a month. Neither of you has grounds to see this relationship as anything more than pleasant with some possibility of possibilities.

Which brings us back to the attitude you ascribe to him: What better way to celebrate something pleasant than to enjoy it and see where it goes? It’s not easy – especially not for the recently burned. It’s also not without risk.

The risk alone doesn’t make it a bad idea, though. It’s not facing the risk, or thinking you can avoid it by not mentioning your last relationship, or waiting for the other person to say just the right words that you believe will protect you from it – that’s where good hanging out goes bad.

That’s because all of these grant him responsibility for deciding where this relationship goes. You have as much say as he does, so do your half of the job. Decide what pace feels right for the one-month mark, and adjust accordingly. Either make peace with hanging out, or start asking him things you’d like to know, or ask yourself what you need and why.

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