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Handling red Flags in Dating
Two weeks ago I met a man named "David" at a bar. We have only gone on one date, and it was great. Since then, we have talked on the phone every other day and everything seemed to be clicking between us until an awkward conversation we had three nights ago.
Occasionally, he uses certain words that I find to be derogatory or offensive, although they are commonly used in our peer group, including by some of my closest friends. I wanted to let him know that I find these words inappropriate and why--however, I crossed the line and ended up lecturing him instead. After I finished, he decided to call it a night and stated that, "We should meet again soon, maybe Thursday." He then added, "Oh wait, you have a meeting in the morning, so some other time then."
The next day I was feeling guilty and wanted to text message him and apologize for coming off as self-righteous when my intent was to just let him know some of my feelings and beliefs. After a friend suggested I only send a casual greeting, I did. It has been two days now and I haven't heard anything from him. Prior to this, he has usually answered me on the same day.
Should I call him and apologize or perhaps leave an apology on his voice mail, giving him the option to respond if he wants to? Or is it too late to attempt an apology? He seemed very into me, but I wonder if his feelings towards me have changed. --Ms. Uptight
Dating is a time for getting to know one another and deciding how compatible we are. During this process certain behaviors can be red flags that we need to take note of as we continue to become better acquainted. Because this is a process, it should not be rushed and this appears to be what happened with you. You only had one date, enjoyed it very much and had a number of subsequent conversations that led you to feel a certain comfort level. However, the relationship was too new for confrontation as there was no real intimacy yet--and without a stronger foundation under you, it was just too soon. His reaction was predictable and handling it differently could have led to a better outcome, even if the end result was to end the relationship.
When red flags come up we need to examine them, weigh their overall importance to us and look at them in relation to the positive attributes that we see. It could very well be that his use of inappropriate language is a deal-breaker for you. If so, there are better ways to approach the issue. One is to honestly tell him that this is a concern for you. When doing this, it is important to use "I" statements such as, "I am uncomfortable when you use that word." For when you speak from the I perspective, it is about you and how you feel. The way you approached it was to lecture him, essentially criticizing him and putting him on the defensive. This led him to shut down and cut off all communication with you. Had you used the example I've offered here, it would have given him the opportunity to respond directly to your concerns and would have given you a taste of his ability and willingness to discuss something of greater significance than how his day went or what his week-end plans are, etc.
If your raising the issue had led to some discussion, you may have decided jointly to end things or to give it more time. It is possible he would have acknowledged your discomfort and apologized to you. Whatever the outcome, you would have been left with some closure instead of feeling badly about what you said and wondering if/when you would hear from him again.
(from March 2006)
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Toni Coleman, LCSW
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