“How do I not screw up a new relationship?”

Over the past several months, I’ve gotten to know and started falling for this chick. At first, I thought she was a little weird (and she is)…but she grew on me in a major way. Unbeknownst to me, (although I occasionally suspected) she was on a roughly parallel journey. Last Saturday night she came over, plopped down on my sofa and just spilled the beans that she’s really into me and we went from there.

Now I’m all screwed up. I’m actually a little scared. I’m usually a pretty cool, calm, and collected dude but suddenly I keep thinking, “Damn, this could be something real neat! I don’t want to screw this up!” even though I know that’s probably the fastest way to screw things up. One part of me says, “just keep doing what attracted her in the first place.” but at the same time, I don’t know that that’s appropriate now that she’s come out to me. After all, a lot of what I was doing before was hiding (revealing?) my feelings for her in a childhood playground, hair-pulling/name-calling sort of way and I really don’t think that’s a good way to build a relationship, even though it’s worked so far. So do you have any advice for how I can stay chill, relaxed, and manly (and not come off like a needy freak who’s desperate for a relationship) but at the same time show enough interest and “sensitivity” to keep things moving forward? Thanks in advance.

I delayed responding to this because I wanted to give it sufficient time and thought and give a great answer, so I procrastinated. Finally, tonight, I decided to just do it. Kind of like your friend.

There’s a special type of sensitivity and kindness perfectly exemplified here. We don’t want to get hurt and we don’t want to hurt anyone.

Well, you have made yourselves mutually vulnerable. That is inherently scary. Meaningful moments are scary by definition, because they matter. The other side of the coin is that they are so memorable, for the same reason. Try to enjoy it more than you fear the negative consequence.

You are right to scale back the name-calling/hair-pulling. Your ladyfriend is much more susceptible to hurt feelings from the exact same joshing you both enjoyed a short while ago. That said, you can’t turn into a nambypamby marshmallow. You are right to think what and how you were is what drew her to you. So kid around, but make sure your kidding is done with a broad smile and whenever possible, followed by a hug or eye contact that demonstrates you are playing. Add in sincere compliments to balance it out. She is beautiful and smart and funny and often well-dressed, RIGHT? 🙂 Tell her.

You stay chill and relaxed by being chill and relaxed. She met you halfway, so don’t freak out and worry it will all end any moment. It might. It might not. Such is life. You could also get hit by a bus, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t cross the street.

Don’t be desperate for a relationship, just relate: Enjoy your time with her and try to make it easy for her to enjoy her time with you. Don’t look for ulterior motives or issue tests or look for the negative, lest she start doing the same in defense.

Be available for mutual activities, but be sure to keep your independent life active… no one wants a leech or bore.

You show interest by paying attention to her and stay sensitive by asking questions when you don’t know something. Don’t assume her feelings or opinions. Ask her.

You stay “manly” by expressing your own feelings and opinions so she can continue to get to know you. Don’t apologize for your preferences, but make it clear you want to compromise where you can and accommodate her. Don’t roll over and play dead NOR draw strong lines and create power struggles. Cry when you feel very sad, but rarely, and never to manipulate her.

Some old-fashioned “manly” things are still homeruns — little civilities, such as: open the door for a lady, offer to carry her bag and help her with her coat. Don’t insist on such chivalry to the point of being ridiculous… I’ve had men practically race me to the car so they can get there first and have that door ready. Silly. But offering is always nice.

Bonus points: Find out her favorite flower is and buy some occasionally. If she hates flowers, buy her favorite chocolate. Etc. The point is, do things purely for her pleasure, not yours. Though you will reap the benefits, especially since she will likely be inspired to do the same for you.

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About amywinns

Semi-snarky, semi-sincere, occasionally ranting, always paying attention. Feminist who can work a skirt and crack a joke. Grammar nerd who is also fun at parties. Mid-career writer/editor with 15 years’ experience in newspapers & magazines who now helps developers at a major media corporation communicate with the suits who write the checks. Pro-women, pro-family, pro-choice, pro-workingclass, pro-entrepreneur, pro-farmer. Like every other bourgeois Brooklynite, I choose local/organic/raw food — mostly vegetables — whenever possible/reasonable/affordable but I’m not a smug asshole about it. Hometown: Atlanta. Weird hobby: lindy hop. No pets, no kids, no thanks.
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