A friend call me the other day. She was struggling to figure out what was going on with her relationship of a month. He’d do sweet things, like post photos of the two of them on Facebook. Then he’d write curt responses to her e-mails. Normally, she’s extremely self-confident, self-assured, and successful in life. It was disheartening to see her brought down by the unknown of it all.
There’s something strange about dating — especially in new relationships — that brings out the middle school insecurity in all of us. In theory, we shouldn’t change ourselves for someone else. If we’re feeling needy, we should tell them so and why. Ideally, doing so will prompt a change in behavior on the other person’s part. But I argued with my friend that so early on in their relationship, it would be a mistake to get all needy and insecure on him. If she wanted to talk to me for hours about how unstable she felt by her romantic situation, that was fine. But the fact was that she really liked him, and she wanted it to work out with him. The relationship was still in awesome mode.
In the first few months of dating someone — and I’m talking about the kind of relationship where you’ve just met and go out maybe once a week, not the kind where you move in together after the first date — you have to be awesome. All the time. It’s not about being fake. It’s about showing the person all the good aspects of your personality, and not the ones that aren’t so desirable — your tendency to whine when you don’t get your way, the fact that you need reassurance that they’re not going to cheat on you. The harsh realities can come out after you’ve hooked him good. This happens on both sides. Really, you’re in a stage where you’re trying to sell yourself as someone who this person is going to want to hang around with for an extended period of time.
Before I started dating my guy, I had no idea whether or not he liked me. I couldn’t get a read on him, so I’d call our mutual friend Mike on a daily basis, asking him if he thought Andy liked me. He put me off, pretending he was trying to suss out the situation. Instead, he let the whole thing unfold naturally. When I told Andy about this later, he told me, “I never would have started dating you if I realized how crazy you actually are.” So, does that make me crazy, or crazy like a fox?
I hate it when relationships turn into games, but if you want to keep dating someone, it’s not a good idea to call him up after your third date and ask him where he thinks your relationship is going. That’s a conversation for the third month. By then, you can assess if you want to keep it going, and if you decide you’re not into it, you can still have a fairly clean break, without having gotten too invested. After that, you can show him the crazy. Until then, you need to be your awesome, fabulous, wonderful, non-whiny, non-needy self. And you can save the insecurity for your friends, who know what a catch you really are.