Vail Relationships column: How does a man connect with a woman?
Editor’s note: Neil Rosenthal is on vacation. This is from “The Best of Neil Rosenthal.”
Dear Neil: Since my divorce, I have been trying to connect and form a relationship with a new woman. I’ve been out on a fair number of first dates but very few second dates, and these encounters never get very deep or intimate. Things have changed since my college years. How does a guy connect with a woman these days?
Alone in London, Ontario
Dear Alone: Connecting with a new person and beginning a romantic relationship is harder than it seems. A fair number of people — male and female — have a classic failure of nerve. And many people are standoffish and guarded in the endeavor, wanting to protect themselves from being disappointed or from getting hurt.
So how do you do it? The first and most important principle in connecting has to do with getting personal. If you discuss the things people commonly talk about — news, weather, sports, jobs or politics — very few women will feel a personal connection with you. To establish a personal connection, you must ask the woman about herself and take an interest in her — her life experiences, what she does for fun, what she values, what she hopes for, her fears and her goals. Do this gradually, not all at once, so she doesn’t feel she’s under the microscope.
And you must talk about yourself — your experiences, successes, failures, goals and dreams. Tell her about your life and the lessons you’ve learned, the challenges you’ve faced, the obstacles you’ve had to overcome or painful experiences you’ve had to endure. Error on the side of asking a bit more about her than telling her about you, so she doesn’t get the feeling that you’re being self-centered or that you just like to talk about yourself.
Affectionate touch helps to draw people together. However, a woman must feel safe in your presence, so be careful not to get overly touchy-feely too quickly. Also, make eye contact, because it is harder to connect if you’re not looking at her. But keep your focus on her face, rather than letting your eyes wander to her body, and don’t make sexual references. Most women will be turned off if you play that card too soon. And make sure you are looking your best each and every time you meet with someone.
Finally, don’t try to impress her with tales of how heroic you’ve been, how sterling your resume has become, how important you are or that you’re very smart. A little of that is OK but not a lot — modesty will be more effective than bragging. And don’t spend a lot of time talking about how your ex hurt or mistreated you. A woman wants you to be emotionally available right now.
Neil Rosenthal is a licensed marriage and family therapist in Westminster and Boulder. He is the author of the bestselling book “Love, Sex and Staying Warm: Creating a Vital Relationship.” Contact him at 303-758-8777 or visit neilrosenthal.com.