What’s his inclination to work things out?

Bemoaning to a psychologist friend the tale of a recent particularly jarring breakup, he said, “You need to ask better questions early on.” He was right. I thought I was reasonably good about asking important questions, but I hadn’t asked the one he suggested.

I painfully learned that my beau of many months had no interest in working out anything that wasn’t exactly what one of us wanted. He barely tolerated my bringing up any of my unmet needs and finding a mutually agreeable solution. However, in this breakup I learned that if something wasn’t as he wanted it, he just called it quits. No attempt to discuss it or explore a solution. I couldn’t imagine how anyone would expect a relationship to be perfect without any modifications, but that apparently was his perspective.

My psychologist friend suggested asking within the first few dates, “What do you tend to do if something in the relationship isn’t working for you?” This would tell me if the guy had any interest in bringing it up and discussing it, rather than just calling it quits or going poof.

I don’t know how my now ex-beau would have answered if I’d asked the question, as I felt sometimes he said what he thought I wanted to hear. So conceivably he could have said, “We’d discuss it.” But since he was a master sweet talker, I can also imagine him saying, “We are a perfect match, so I don’t see anything that wouldn’t work for me.” He was very good at evasiveness, even when I pressed him.

I can understand not wanting to approach working it out if someone is abusive or emotionally unstable. I have had two beaus who I learned were so defensive that I couldn’t bring up issues without them flying off the handle. But I made sure I let them know we wouldn’t be continuing, even if I didn’t say, “…because you are wacko.” That would not have been good. So I just said that I was clear we weren’t a fit, that I enjoyed the good times we shared, and I wished them the very best. So in these cases, I, like my recent beau, was not willing to work it out. But that was only after some tumultuous attempts that showed me it was an uphill battle.

What have you learned are good questions to ask early in dating someone that shed some light on his philosophy about working out any kinks in a generally good relationship?

Got a topic on dating after 40 you want Dating Goddess to address? Send your issue to Goddess@DatingGoddess.com.


7 responses to “What’s his inclination to work things out?”

  1. Loving Annie Avatar

    Very true.
    You’ve got to ask questions, lots of them, and early on is definitely best…

    ‘how he works out kinks in a generally good relationship ‘ first infers that he is good relationship material…

    I can’t assume that in the beginning.
    First I want to know if he has a history of being the one to end the relationship,
    how soon he gets over someone and is ready to move on,
    whether infidelity or lying is ever okay in his book,
    whether he badmouths all of his ex’es which will show me that he doesn’t take responsibility for his part of the relationship,
    if he thinks breaking up via phone message, text, e-mail or dead silence is acceptable and why,
    If he thinks all women are sluts or gold-diggers or just out to trap a man., etc.
    How often he wants or needs his ‘space’
    What his definition of clingy is…
    What would his ex say nehind his back about why they broke up ?

    If he is evasive in answering any of those it is a red flag.

    His answers will be extremely important in showing me who he is/how he behaves and thinks, and what he is likely to do with me.

    Those will tell me a lot about if he’s even worth going out with before we get to the his ability to work out the kinks in a relationship.

  2. Deanna Avatar

    Although I think in theory it is a great idea to ask questions (and those were all great questions), I’m not sure how well it will work in reality because a) they lie, b) they tell you what you want to hear and c) they are always on their best behavior early on in a relationship. Some men, of course, will tell the truth, but there is no way to know what type of man he is so early in a relationship.

    (quick example… the last guy I dated was *wonderful* at talking things out and seeming like he really cared about my needs. I was just amazed at how willing he was to talk things out in an adult way and answer my questions. But it was all talk. The actions didn’t back it up, and in the end, I finally realized he one of the most immature men I’d ever dated.)

    Actions do speak louder than words. Their actions in the beginning will probably be the best they are going to get. After a few months, you can start to really take a look at their actions, responses and the way they handle things to get a better idea of who they really are.

    And the hardest part…. don’t make excuses for them or let things that are truly unacceptable “slide,” because they have other good qualities, or because you have a strong physical attraction. Almost everybody has *some* sort of good quality, but that most likely will not be enough if they also have fatal flaws.

    Sometimes there are blatant signs in the beginning, but more likely, it will just take time to see the “real” guy. You just have to be willing to have your eyes open when he does show his real self. Most women want the man back that they first met (the caring, attentive one), and it’s very hard to deal with when you realize that man is gone. Even harder to realize he never really existed in the first place. He was just a guy saying and doing what you wanted to hear until he finally decided to move on. But you still have to go through the grieving process after it’s over, just the same. But you are really grieving over the death of the fantasy of the way things used to be.

  3. Carmen Vj Avatar

    Communication is the ultimate when it comes to relationships. You both have to be on the same page at all times. And you must talk out all issues. The reason why many relationships do not work is because the communication is not there. Great communication in a relationship offers a stable relationship. Just as long you both love being around each other. Even at all times. And don’t go to bed mad. Make sure you make up or resolve the issue before you both lay down. There is hope.

  4. PreviouslyQueenofE Avatar

    DG, I am so sorry to hear that this one didn’t work out either, and went poof on you like the others. You already know all this stuff, it’s just much harder to put into practice. All the interview-type questions in the world can’t prevent a loving heart from acting on its feelings! Hugs and thanks for sharing your experiences – you’re an amazing woman!

  5. Jack Avatar

    A man who is willing to talk on a more than a superficial level will also most likely be willing to talk about problems and how to resolve them. The question then is finding out if a man is more than just superficial. A few tests: insists on always going to an action film (fine sometimes) but winces at going to a well reviewed film at the art house, includes friends too often on dates (it happened to me with a woman so not gender specific), changes the subject if you begin to venture into personal talk (okay early on but should quickly diminish). Read actions and you’ll have your answer and yes I realize that that makes men as mysterious (or more mysterious even) then men are always claiming women are (please excuse the syntactical contortions in that sentence).

  6. Brenda Avatar

    When I needed “space” recently, and told the man I was dating for 6 weeks that I did, because of finalizing my divorce and custody issues (pending for a very long time, almost one year), he reacted poorly. He said I needed to “consult” with him beforehand, that we needed to meet in person to do so (over the telephone did not count), so on and so forth. He insisted we meet that evening to “talk” even though I had my children that night. Of course, I did not, but in the course of all of this, what reared its ugly head was his huge self-centeredness, that was only slightly visible during that sic weeks. He gave all the “right” answers to questions but when I needed his understanding, all I received was his diatribe. I agree with Jack wholeheartedly……….have now moved on to a much better man………..

  7. Sarah Avatar

    I am in a WEIRD situation. My bf and I broke up in Feb, then 4 days later, he came back. I was scared but thrilled to be honest, I had invested a LOT of myself in this relationship and truly loved him and did want to be with him. Anyway, so we got back together, and he was SOOO DOWN…I asked him what was wrong and he said he was concerned that I would be unhappy because his parents would not treat me well (reason we broke up is that his parents did not support and in our culture, parents’ support is almost required). I said, as long as he treated me well, I would be fine. ANYWAY, he said he would propose two weeks later (HE said, not I). Day he was supposed to, his disappears. Get a text mssg saying he had a fight with his mom and will talk to me later. Anyway, day later, get an email that he realizes that there were things he needs to sort out with his family before he can continue this and that we will talk next WHEN we get married. Anyway, I asked him for clarity on that and asked him ARE YOU SURE, he replied saying yes and it WILL happen not a question of IF, but more WHEN. I am like okkk…anyway, more than a week has passed by I have sent him a thousand (ok less) emails, we are long distance so I cannot even see him, and no reply, other than a ‘will talk to you in a couple of days’. I emailed him simply asking how he was doing, no reply. He will nto come online, will not answer the phone, has totally blacked me out. Mind you, we did not have any problems prior to this. We were really happy, he was the one talking about the future, how I am THE girl for him, etc etc. So now, I have NO IDEA what to make of the situation, bit in a limbo. My parents are FURIOUS at him because he promised THEM he would take care of me (my parents were amazingly supportive). Thing is, by his own admission, I am the one person who reads him like a book (and I do). But this silence is maddening. I don’t know what to make of it and have cried and cried. I mean, I don’t even know where he stands. He is the type of person who does tend to want to do things on his own and I suspect a part of him thinks he is insulating me. When I asked him why we should not communicate anymore, he said it was because hte same thing would happen again and again and he needed to figure out things in his household. So, at this point, I do not even know if he is coming back to me. NEVER did I imagine would he do this. Even during our worst fights, he always came back. I am so angry at him, and I am trying to move on, but I hate the fact that a part of me is hopeful again. I told him, listen, if you just dupe me again, it’s gonna kill me, he said no that will NOT happen. And I think he believed his own words and I believed him. Even until the day before he disappeared, he was telling me how much he loved me, how amazing I am, etc etc. I just don’t know. Is this how guys solve problems?? Do they need their space??