Join me for a this series on my blog entitled “Dear Date…”
where I share my insights and anecdotes into the exciting and often frustrating world of dating. 

Say it, Don’t just Type it!

In any relationship, communication is key.

And by key, I mean pretty much the most essential and important skill both parties can arm themselves with on that battlefield Pat Benatar called Love.

This weapon skill, communication, can either be honed, sharp, strategic and well-used or it can also be poor, weak, misguided and just plain invisible.

Often we enter into a relationship with our communication skills somewhere in the middle of that spectrum.

When I first began officially dating (meaning, when I stuck my neck out and tried the weird phenomenon of internet dating and finally met up with someone from one of the many ‘match-up’ sites out there) I was a very, very poor communicator.

I hated confrontation, good or bad…I loathed it!

If there was anything I could do to get out of confronting someone or something, I would do it; run, avoid, ignore, gloss over…anything.

Yes, I had learned that avoiding or running away from confrontation most often made the situation worse, or at the very least made the outcome so much more uncomfortable and painful once I was finally forced to face that confrontation.

Yet I was still a Padawan learner in the scope of knowing how to deal with talking about tough or touchy subjects with anyone. (Yes, I’m a Nerd Girl and like Star Wars – padawan reference.)

So, settle in and get comfy for…Dear Date Story Hour!

Let’s speed ahead to the interesting parts……
I began to try out internet dating, check.
I received a message from a seemingly decent, Christian guy who lived nearby, check.
We exchanged messages, then e-mails, all pleasant, learning about each other, check.
So far, everything was within the comfortable parameters of my novice means of communicating, nothing face-to-face, all via the wonderful arms-length vehicle called the Internet, check.

The emails were long, interesting, full of great conversation and information.
Everything boded well for who this man would be in person.
However, I know that “in person” and “in email” are two very different worlds of communicating and he had yet to prove that he would be as nice, kind, chatty and mature as his emails suggested. (I, too, hoped to honestly convey my “in-person” self to him.)

After a week of messages, we arranged to meet.
I was nervous, to say the least, but excited.

We met and points for him, he hadn’t fibbed on his profile or posted photos from high school years. He was who I expected.

We walked and chatted, and chatted and talked, and walked and suddenly the sun went down and three, yes THREE, hours had passed.

Skip ahead a week.

We emailed a bit more, both really enjoyed meeting and talking.
Things were going well.

He called me and we talked on the phone a few times.
He was eager to meet my friends.
We met for a movie with some friends. It went well.
He was pleasant, and my friends gave me the thumbs up so far.

Yet a tiny little nagging slightly-red-coloured flag began to stick out from behind the niceness that was him…in the few times we met in person, he had yet to even shake my hand. There was no hug, no arm touch, no nothing. It didn’t worry me, just made me think…huh, I know I’m not a very touchy-feely person, but only because I’ve never really had much experience to feel comfortable doing it. I’m huggy with my family and friends, but I’m waiting for *him* to initiate anything because I’m new to all this dating-relationshippy stuff.

With my itsy-bitsy-toothpick-sized red flag waving, I received a few more emails from the guy, all nice, all pleasant and each one sounding a little more affectionate than the last, when I realized, in person, he was not at all affectionate.

Red Flag grew in size just a little.

At this point here’s what I knew – I was having fun getting to know this guy. We’d met in person three times and talked on the phone quite a bit. Yet, it had only been 2 weeks since we first began ‘communicating’ and there seemed to be a bit of a disconnect from how he wrote in his emails to how he spoke (or didn’t speak) to me in person.

Then, without warning, without any vocal preamble in person the last time we got together, I received this email:

Subject: Howdy
Hi Cutie,
Are you feeling better from your cold?
I had a busy day at work. I was there to 6pm so I could meet the deadline.
What are your thought on hugging, holding hands, cuddling, and kissing in a relationship?
What indications do you give if you are comfortable with the above?
I was thinking today that you enjoy roller coasters and rides that one Monday this summer go over to Playland for the day or when the PNE is on to take in all the exciting rides there.
Do you know what your schedule is this week and when we might be able to do something fun?
Talk to you soon

BAH!
Red Flag was now bed-sheet-sized and waving madly in my face.

Yes, it was nice. Yes, it was thoughtful of him to ask these questions. Yes, it felt good to be called something like “Cutie”.

However, at no time in person had I even heard him even call me by my own name let alone some sugary nickname!

And oh my goodness! Asking me such important questions via email and sandwiched oh-so-cozily between casual work talk and planning some future outing???

Luckily I have four tremendous close girls I lean on in times like this.
I quickly fired off some private emails to my trusted advisers to ask how in the world I should answer him.
Should I reciprocate and answer likewise with an email? Or should I demand to speak in person? Or do I ignore this slightly inappropriate form of communicating such important subject matter and hope he brings it up in person? Or ignore the email questions and bring it up in person myself?

I received excellent advice, encouragement and care from my dear friends.
Here are a few tidbits of what they told me:

  • Breathe!
  • He obviously thinks you’re swell.
  • He sounds nervous. If you are too, that’s just fine.
  • But if you want to leap, leap!
  • Be casual. 
  • Answer him but bring it up next time in person.
  • Awkward is ok!
  • Be honest.
  • It takes time to get to the affection stage in a relationship.

I love my friends! They calmed me down and I was able to do my best at confronting this weird situation head on.

I felt like we had JUST met and I was barely into the “liking” stage with this new guy and not quite into discussing, let alone planning, a future make-out session! (haha, yes, I know he didn’t mean exactly that!)

I emailed him back, exchanging pleasantries about my day, my cold, my job etc then addressed the sticky bit in the middle.

Here’s what I said:

As for my thoughts on the physical side of a relationship….like I said earlier, I am new at all this, but I’m not opposed to any of it. 🙂
I think all those things are a great and fun part of getting closer.
Yet, I think that for me, I would like to take things slowly. I feel like we are still getting to know one another and our friendship needs some time to grow first.
It’s quite weird to think that only 2 & 1/2 weeks ago we didn’t even know one another!
Buuuut maybe hugs would be okay for now. It may not seem like it, but I still am nervous about all this, so you feel free to initiate. 🙂

In hindsight, what I *should* have mentioned was, “I totally want to chat about this. Let’s talk about this next time we get together.”
Why?
Because he never mentioned it again and never once tried to hug me/shake my hand/nothing, nadda…it was like I was some rescue from a leper colony!

The finale in this month+ of non-verbal-drama was another iffy email that came just a few days before I was scheduled to go on a 2 week long vacation with my family.

Hi Kirsten
I hope you had a good time with your friend tonight.
I have been thinking and praying about us. I would like to do this in person and before you leave but I am nervous and shy with things like this in a relationship.
We are probably already doing this but I want to ask and make it known. Do you want to date exclusively?
My intention is to hide my profile on [that dating website] in the next couple days.
If you want me to keep my profile up so you are able to show people my picture when you are away I can until you get back.
I don’t want to pressure you but this feels right.
God Bless

Oh dear.
He needed a good boost of self-confidence or a mail-order bride! I really, really wished he had the…um…courage to talk to me about these things in person.

He really was a nice guy and I have no wish to sit around and criticize every word someone says to me, but this kind of communication really worked against him and his appeal to a gal like me. I know I didn’t help by always replying to his email with my own emails, but I was already not great at communicating and the LAST thing I needed was a man who is worse at it!!!

Side Note:
This all reminds me of a scene from an awesome but short-lived TV show called “Dead Like Me” (look it up, it’s a bit crass at times but amazing!) where the main character works at a temp agency. She ends up getting annoyed by her always-happy boss and applies for a better paying office job that comes through the temp office. The result – perhaps more money but she was stuck in a tiny room with a co-worker who would not talk in person but preferred to use the computer instant messenger method instead. Not cool.

“So this is my new experience. I can’t help thinking there is a quality of life issue here. 

Maybe even an absence of life issue.” ~ Millie

*Sigh*

I finally let him know right back via email that we should talk about these types of things in person, even if it was awkward, we would manage. After responding I went on my family vacation with a slightly soured version of our whole ‘relationship’ in my mind.

Did I even like him enough to keep going? If he was physically affectionate would that make me like him more? If he was better at communicating in person, face-to-face, would I like him more?

I didn’t know.

I humorously tried to picture a future wedding day with him standing next to me in front of a minister who asks if I would take him to be my husband. At that moment, after so many failed attempts at trying to have a real-life relationship my answer would probably be, “Eh. Sure, why not,” with the finishing touch of a shrugged shoulder and eye roll.

Needless to say, I gave him a bit more of a chance once I got back from holidays. We went out again, he asked me to dinner, but he didn’t pay or even offer (more on that in a future blog), AND he didn’t bring up ANY of these serious topics…which he seemed eager to discuss, but I guess not in person.

*Double Sigh*

The Epilogue to this story:
I ended it. Nicely, calmly, and pleasantly…via email. (snap!)
Yes, maybe I did chicken-out and not do it in person, but he never acted on or talked about anything serious in person either, so I felt a little bit justified.

The Flash Forward to Present Day Moment:
I found/cyber-stalked the same guy two years later on facebook and he is now married to a gal he met online right around the time I ended things, and they now have a baby on the way. He must have got something right the next time, or else she’s a mute and can only communicate via email, too!!

I’ve learned a lot from every relationship I’ve been through, either short or well, most have been on the shorter side so far. But even long friendships helped me learn about the importance of good, strong communication. And I sincerely hope my communication skills are in better shape now then they were for that eye-opening experience.

Communication is truly key to any relationship and my weak, stunted skills are slowly being tapered and sharpened with each experience I go through, good or bad.

Soon I hope to become a Communication Warrior, decked out in heart-guarding armor and affectionate weaponry, held at the ready. Arrows of serious conversation and a broad sword of witty repartee eager to strike! (Again, yes, I know, I’m a totally Nerd Girl!)

(* Images courtesy of one of my favourite websites: www.explodingdog.com.)

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