Rather than little pink hearts, there are usually questions marks floating about when two people are getting to know each other. Here’s how to deal with the uncertainties you are likely to encounter.
Maria (36) feels like a teenager or the star of an old-fashioned romantic comedy ... “I’ve spent hours today just looking at the phone and waiting for it to ring.” She’s waiting for a call from Richard (40), a man she met online, and she can’t think of anything else. “I keep wondering why he hasn’t called. Did I say something wrong last time me spoke? Has he found someone he likes better?” Parship psychologist Nicole Schiller reassures her that “a certain amount of uncertainty is completely normal when two people are getting to know each other.” In fact, falling in love is fraught with uncertainty, at least in the early stages, where you’re not sure if your feelings are reciprocated. Just keep that it in mind, especially if you have a tendency to think too much about things. Maria took that on board: she went to the cinema with a girlfriend and had a good evening. When she got home there was a message from Richard on the answering machine. Now he’s waiting for her to call back.
Give yourself a break
Why do so many of us find it hard to keep a cool head and to let things happen in their own time? “For the people involved, there is always something at stake,” says Nicole Schiller. “When you’re emotionally involved you expose something of yourself, and everyone wants to protect themselves from pain or disappointment.” It’s not a good idea to brood on things. “Have faith in yourself,” recommends Schiller. “That can be easier said than done, but you’ll feel better about things if you give yourself a break.” It will also make you less dependent on the other person’s actions. Instead of wracking your brains about the things that the other person might not like about you, you can turn things round: “What do I think about him/her?” From the very start you must try to keep realistic about the situation. As yet, you hardly know each other and you shouldn’t start building things up in your mind.
Make it easy on yourself
Getting to know each other online is different from other contexts, as Alan (46) discovered when, after exchanging a few emails with Laura (44) he became convinced that she was the woman for him. “I really thought we were soulmates, and when I saw her photo, I was sure she was the one,” he recounts. “Before we met for the first time I was in quite a state. I didn’t know if she was feeling the same.” As it turned out, he needn’t have been so worried, because when they met, neither of them sensed any chemistry. As Nicole Schiller explains: “Your imagination can run free on the Internet and you can start pinning too many hopes on the other person.” There’s also a thrill in the thought of where things could hopefully lead … “Could this be the one?” There is also the concern whether the other person might have someone else on the go. Again, don’t work yourself up about this: if you and another person really hit it off, their other contacts will soon be off their radar.
Uncertainty can become a problem when it persists. “If you sense that the other person doesn’t know where he or she stands, try to put things right for him or her,” advises Nicole Schiller. “If you’re not interested, then you should say so. And if you’ve got doubts about something, then you should express them. If the other person is giving positive signals, but you’re still worried, it probably has more to do with you than with him or her. “Try to find out what the cause is,” says Schiller. “Often it’s a symptom of something else that’s bothering you.” Maybe you are feeling needy as the result of a painful split. Normally, early doubts and fears disappear once you know the other person better and you know your feelings are reciprocated. You’ll gradually acquire a sense of security, which is the best foundation for a successful and happy relationship.