Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Are You Missing a Fundamental Building Block?

Dr. Jenn,

I had a couple of really nice dates with Terry.

He was so excited to see me that he accidentally wore two different shoes!! We laughed and laughed about that. It was good to see he could go with the flow with such things.

After the dates though, I got to thinking about what he said about his house being a total mess.
I must admit that this morning I am quite scared about how bad it might be. He says he bought a new vacuum because he couldn't find the old vacuum in the mess of his house. This was 18 months ago and it has not yet been taken out of the box it came in! He laughs about it, but it scares me.

Also, it seems that even though he says he wants to be healthy, he still eats at McDonalds often, and other fast food places, and this bothers me too. And now I know he is on high blood pressure meds, AND he is quite overweight.

It makes me want to back off from my emotional connection with him until I know more.

He says he wants to be healthier, and he wants to clean up his messy house, but he doesn't appear to be doing either. I know I could influence him, but I have a hard enough time keeping my SELF on a good diet and keeping the clutter out of MY life, so, even though we laugh a lot when together, I find I am emotionally backing off.

Today I re-opened my MATCH profile which had been hidden for the last month or so. I feel I need to remain open to options right now, especially because of these two big yellow flags with Terry.

My original list of WANTS in a man include someone who is reasonably neat and clean, AND someone who takes pretty good care of his body and of his health. Does the laughter that we share overpower these two WANTS? I don't know.

Is it my responsibility to take on these issues and help him with them? No, but I sure can see that by falling for him, and trying to make it work with him, that I WOULD also be taking on these extra burdens in my life, OR I would be deciding to live with him just as he is, a person who struggles to make changes, or really doesn't care to and is perhaps quite happy with things, even though he says he wants to change.

I don't know if he is wanting to make those changes in order to be with me or if he wants to make them for himself. And wanting to make changes and actually MAKING them, can be miles apart. So, as I mentioned before, I feel myself backing away from him emotionally, and keeping myself open to more "juggling".



Hi Lisa,

I am glad to hear that you are keeping your eyes on the red flags and not ignoring them!

It would be easy to temporarily sweep things like “messy house,” “poor diet,” and “overweight” into the corner and pretend that they are not there.

But you are being super smart in recognizing the very essence of the issue: That yes, you would be taking him on EXACTLY as he is.

A budding relationship needs to be built, above all, on acceptance of WHO the other person IS.

That is one of the most fundamental relationship building blocks of all.

If he hasn’t changed on his own, it isn’t likely he’ll change for you, or anyone else. Because like you say, it’s hard enough to change for yourself! Clearly that motivation has to come from within, and up till now it’s been missing.

You don't want to be "that woman" who mistakenly thinks she'll "change her man."
Or that he will "love me enough to change."

Cozy sentiments, but not exactly based in reality, eh?!

So, it’s savvy to realize that you aren’t going to change this man. And smart to know yourself well enough to pause and say, “I’m not sure I CAN accept those things. I’m not sure that I WANT to accept those things.”

Just blindly going along and falling more in love with him would most definitely bring you to a much more complicated choice point in the future- when higher emotional attachments means bigger broken hearts. So slowing down the emotional intensity is a spot on move.

It's almost always better to walk away early after you've acknowledged some issues- rather than to stay and wait it out.

Once you become more deeply emotionally invested, it becomes harder and harder to walk away- even when you know you should. This is how relationships that should have lasted 6 weeks, last 2 years!

It seems to me that this is a case where you can “collect more data” and see how it goes, and keep tuning into your gut along the way. Maybe see his house first hand to get a clearer sense of what the situation is- after all couples do have to live together! And people’s idea of “a mess” can be very different.

But in the end, are the tradeoffs worth it? Only you can know.

But at this early stage of dating, there is no reason to “settle” if several major things just don’t match up. It’s always good to listen to your gut, heart, AND head!

Dr. Jenn

ps- By the way, being able to laugh about something as "embarrassing" as mis-matched shoes is a good personality trait to notice in a potential partner. If you can laugh when others get mad or sad- life together is so much easier!

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