Taking a relationship to the next level after the initial six-month honeymoon phase can cause ripples in what your guy felt was a warm and tranquil sea.
The sex is still hot, you’re both using the word love, and your emotional engine is straining to shift into a higher gear. You’re feeling the trust building, and he seems comfortable continuing a monogamous relationship.
You haven’t noticed any red flags, and you’re beginning to consider the possibility of a future with him. Your mutual interests match well, you like each other’s friends, and spending time together is mostly fun.
You’re ready for a deeper commitment, but you know that this involves having The Talk.
He’s cool with the status quo, and if left alone, would likely be satisfied with it for a while. He doesn’t appear inclined to talk about the future, but he doesn’t seem unwilling either. But relationships reach different levels, and each offers an opportunity to deepen intimacy.
Recognizing those opportunities, and knowing how to exploit them together, is the basis for The Talk. It’s rarely a simple or easy process, and it's not a journey a woman can navigate solo.
The merging of male and female behavioral styles requires an exchange that is calm, vulnerable and honest. Difficult? Sure, but not impossible.
Men and women process their feelings in different ways. I’m no expert on the feminine process, but I’ve been working with my own and with other men’s for twenty years.
The more a man feels pushed into an arena in which he’s unskilled, the more he resists. Having the talk may seem like it should be a no-brainer for men, but it’s not.
Men have some fear around sharing their feelings, often because of a previous, painful experience. Lots of men have jumped into the emotional honesty pool and found the water extremely turbulent.
What I frequently hear from men is the horror stories that were their failed experiences. I always caution women to recognize and appreciate a man who is willing to make this leap of faith, and that if they don’t treat both he and what he shares respectfully, their first emotionally honest talk will be their last.
Is this fair to women who may not feel similarly impaired? It’s not about fair. It’s about what works, so keeping score is counterproductive.
There’s a reason why so many relationships only last six months, and it’s this move to the next level that’s at the root of many abandoned relationships. So what can a woman do to ensure her guy won’t bolt, and more importantly, will feel a significant part of the process? It’s fairly simple.
First, reassure him that no matter what he expresses regarding how he’s feeling about you and your relationship, that you won’t judge him, express opinions, or criticize, and that you’ll keep your comments to how you’re feeling, and not what you’re thinking.
A guy, who says he’s just not ready to commit to the next level because he’s feeling unsure in his heart, should be respected for expressing his feelings, because he’s sharing his absolute truth.
If what he shares with you isn’t what you’d hoped to hear, then it’s okay to tell him you’re feeling sad, or any other feeling that ‘s in your heart. But don’t challenge his feelings, because that discounts him completely, and no one can judge another person’s feelings.
I guaranty that the first time a man finds the courage to talk with a woman on an emotional level and he’s made to feel sorry he did, will be the last time. But if he feels he’s been heard and appreciated, the next time will be a little easier and he will be more willing to continue engaging in this dialogue.
I don’t mean to make this sound like a game — because it isn’t — but rather that men come at their emotional honesty from a different direction.
In my work, I encourage men to have the talk and become comfortable with emotional sharing, because I know with absolute certainty that no long-term, successful relationship can exist without it.
I urge women to listen to men who are willing to engage in emotional honesty, with open hearts, and an appreciation for the leap of faith that this is for many men.
If your relationship has legs, it will survive it and move up the ladder until it hits the next rung and the next talk. This is how intimacy is created and deepened. As Billy Crystal says, “It’s a process.”