I was raised in the South with the kind of upbringing that stressed courtesy and over-politeness. Girls weren’t really encouraged to be too assertive and though I tried, I was often chastised for being too forward and bold in conversation.
As an adult I’ve learned the fine art of when to talk and when to keep quiet–most of the time. I have a healthy respect for personal space and personal comfort. Yet, when this man, we’ll call him Patrick, grabbed my hand within minutes of meeting me for the first time I was at a momentary loss. I did pull it away and explain that I wasn’t comfortable holding hands with a man I had just met. We were in a public place and it didn’t feel right. He was a little surprised but we continued on. At dinner he reached over and gently brushed back a lock of hair that had fallen in my face. Again, discomfort on my part.
What do you say in a situation like that? I could have put on my ‘motherly’ voice and said, “I’m sorry, touching isn’t allowed at this point in the game”. Absurd sounding, right? Overall the date went well and I probably did let him hold my hand as we strolled down the street after dinner. I don’t remember and I can’t recall the kiss. I think it was reasonably appropriate.
In my earlier dating life I had this bad habit of letting men take control of the situation. And, in my desire or desperation to find a suitable man who cared about me, I was willing to deal with a minor bit of discomfort.
So, there are two issues that I want to address here. One is how we set boundaries on first dates and the other is about a woman’s tendency to over-romanticize events. I’m not sure if we can combine the two… we’ll see.
In my earlier dating days I wanted to be needy (Ha! Slip of the tongue/fingers. I wanted to be needed). I wanted to find a man. That often turned out to be me settling for any man, rather than the right man. Patrick is a fine example of that. I got all soft and gushy at the tender gesture of hand to face. That little move was probably straight from his Seduction repertoire. There I was thinking I’d found this delightfully romantic, tender man who would sweep me off my feet and spend the rest of his life with me. He was probably thinking he’d get laid soon and maybe even find the perfect housewife (though I would have to work) to cook for him and provide that sense of completeness his life lacked!
He touched too fast. It was, in my mind, inappropriate to expect to hold hands with a complete stranger. I handled it fairly well. It did not send him running and we dated for about 18 months. We were heading for Happily Ever After until I broke my foot and he suddenly turned into not all that charming or helpful. But that’s a different story.
What does it mean when a guy pushed too fast on the first date? It could be a number of things.
- He’s horny. It’s been a while since he dated, or he’s newly divorced or separated and like a kid in a toy shop. Here’s a great example of this type.
- He has control issues. This type likes to be in charge and will want to have things his way. This might be more common among older men than younger guys.
- He’s simply an affectionate, touchy-feeling guy. Touch is just how he displays his enthusiasm.
- Or he can be terribly needy. No boundaries and all about satisfying his own agenda.
Your challenge is to deal with the issue of the moment. Sometimes you’ll get a feel immediately for whether your date has an issue or is just hot for you. Don’t get all gushy and romantic about it. Be practical, use your gut instincts and enjoy the date. You can and should ask him to stop if it feels uncomfortable. His reaction will be a good test of what kind of person he is. A respectful person who is interested in your feelings will respect your honesty and back away.
As for Patrick? If I had known how needy he was would I have walked away after the first date? Hard to say–you can’t really look back and make that kind of judgment. We had a nice ‘run’ so to speak and I have some pleasant memories and I learned a little about my tendencies to gloss over issues. I also gained some insight into the kind of man who wasn’t going to be a good match for me.
Have you had experiences with men or women who moved too fast? How do you handle them?