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Dating and communication problems

If you two are out to dinner on Saturday, just about the last thing he wants to do is hear you harp on and on about your coworker's testy e-mail--from Thursday.

I might be missing out on love, but I’m never short of intrigue, and right now intrigue seems more fun. In fact, I can’t remember the last night out with my single friends where we all stayed until the end, or where we weren’t joined by a special guest at some point.

Some of this intrigue even becomes actual, real-life, human interaction and perhaps… But mostly I’ve found myself in a perpetual state of limbo – stuck somewhere between first encounter, a hook-up and a full-blown relationship. Twitter, Facebook and Google have turned the dating world upside-down, changing how we meet people, what we know about them before we do – and introducing a new layer of ambiguity into single life that generations before us never had to contend with. ‘Drinks with the girls.’ ‘Want to meet us at my local? I schlepped all the way across the city – only to spend the next three hours with Paul and about six of his friends. And it isn’t simply a case of women being on the receiving end of the latest incarnation of male dating fecklessness. But in the world of endless options, where nothing seems permanent, and you never have to interact with anyone face to face if you don’t want to, me actually picking up the phone, telling someone how I feel about them, or even asking them out for dinner seems like too big a risk.

What’s important is that you resolve conflicts in a healthy way.

Texting and emailing are convenient, but using them to avoid confrontation can lead to communication problems within a relationship.

I am not in a relationship – or in what someone 20 years older than me would consider a relationship – yet rarely am I definitively single. Our vocabulary is straining as much as we are to encompass the world of modern dating. Recently The New York Times questioned whether traditional courtship was over, and whether ‘hanging out’ had replaced ‘dating’. Last Friday night I met four girlfriends for drinks after work. We’d met at a mutual friend’s party around Christmas, and had seen each other a couple of times since with friends. We follow the new rules as assiduously as they do, are just as uneasy about being pinned down, just as likely to be the texter as the textee. Why make a phone-call or suggest a date when you can send a non-committal text that merely dangles the possibility of meeting?

All week we’d been texting, messaging and emailing. If, like me, you’re a ‘millennial’ (born between 19) you will have never known adulthood – or adult relationships – without a mobile phone. Instead of dating (an American term anyway) we might be ‘seeing someone’, ‘having a thing’, ‘hooking up’. ) let the rest of the world into our online world with gay abandon: you’d like to see 50 pictures of me on a bikini on the beach? If they’re keen, you’ll see each other; if not, they’ll plead prior plans. But at least one of you can end up feeling confused.

WHAT HE SAYS: "I didn't tell you about the layoffs?

"WHAT YOU HEAR: "My job's in jeopardy and I didn't even bother to tell you."WHAT HE MEANS: "I didn't want to worry you." Don't take his "forgetting" to fill you in on his job situation too personally.

Guys, on the other hand, have much more of a flight instinct when it comes to confrontation--especially if he doesn't fully understand why you're so upset. Yeah."WHAT YOU HEAR: "I couldn't be less interested in what you're saying."WHAT HE MEANS: "I want to hear your story, but it's been 10 minutes and still no punch line." Men don't process information in the lengthy, big-picture way that women do (fact: Women use three times more words a day than men), so telling him a story in the drawn-out way you would to one of your girlfriends isn't going to work.

WHAT HE SAYS: "If you feel undervalued, ask for a raise."WHAT YOU HEAR: "Ugh, your problems are so simple--just fix it."WHAT HE MEANS: "Work's bothering you? " The truth is, men tend to see themselves as problem solvers in romantic relationships, and so what comes across as condescending can actually be your guy's way of trying to help. In short, cut to the chase and you'll get more of a reaction.

Yet even without an official ‘boyfriend’ there are normally several text conversations with potential beaus buzzing away on my phone.