You met someone online three months ago, and you invited him to dinner for the first time at your place. You cooked and cleaned, and spent a small fortune on oysters, Camembert and red wine.
After he arrived, you led him into your living room for drinks and appetizers. The conversation was flirtatious, and you almost lost track of time: “Uh oh, I have to finish last steps for dinner or we won’t be eating till midnight.” Hoping for an offer of, “Let me help you”, he replied “I’ll watch the game in the meantime.”
You retreated to the kitchen, and worked feverishly. Finally, you announced, “Dinner is served”. The wine and conversation sparkled. Three hours later you pushed your chair back to clear the table. He yawned, “All this food made me sleepy” and closed his eyes.
An hour later, you kissed him good-bye. Objectively, the night was a success (great conversation, food, and intimacy) but you felt a bit used (he didn’t even arrive with a bottle of wine, and let you do all the work).
Well, if this had been me, I would have called my sister. “Why do princes have to turn into frogs?” I’d sob.
Toronto relationship therapist Susan Valentine suggests a more rational approach.
Don’t fear the worst. “We are wired to have a negativity bias,” Valentine explains. “We sometimes extrapolate to extremes, assuming a general character flaw even if the behaviour only happened in one situation. We may conclude, “If he doesn’t help with the dishes now, I’ll probably be the one who does all the caregiving if we ever have kids. Proceed with caution when it comes to thinking the worst and making grand assumptions.”
Explore what happened. Valentine continues, “It is fair to let him know that you were disappointed, and explore what happened. Perhaps he is not lazy, but had reasons such as not wanting to invade your boundaries in your home. Or perhaps he had parents who always pushed him out of the kitchen and were critical of his help. Or, maybe he assumed that you would ask for help, if you wanted it. There could be many reasons other than the worst case.”
Have a conversation. Valentine concludes, “Having a conversation gives you a chance to see how he responds to your disappointment. Obviously if he gets defensive or says something like, “The kitchen is a woman’s place”, then there could be a clash in values that doesn’t bode well for the relationship. But if he is eager to repair the situation, that’s a good sign.”
It is a downer when something happens that makes us question the entire relationship. Don’t throw in the towel. Instead, take a deep breath, remain optimistic, and view it as an opportunity to get to know your romantic interest even better.