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3 min

I like him but he can be ‘precious’

Am I being prissy or seeing a pattern that smacks of selfishness?

I could really use your perspective here. I don’t know if I’m stressing about what is no more than a difference in personality traits, or if I’m seeing a potentially serious problem between me and my lover.

Dan and I met about eight months ago through a mutual friend. There was an instant attraction and a hot sexual connection. Dan’s a bit more emotionally committed, but it’s manageable and our open relationship keeps our expectations reasonable. We’re good together, and I’d like to see us continue.

There’s this one thing…

Dan has a whole lot of things he’s rather “precious” about. He requires certain restaurants because he gets indigestion from cheese and garlic (but can scarf down pizza just fine), he has to have the most comfortable seat in any room because his hip aches (yet he plays hockey), and he can’t do dishes because the hot water irritates his cuticles (but he pops into my hot tub without incident). The list goes on.

I’m near 50. I know how hard it is to find a quality relationship, and this could be one of them. Dan is kind, funny, smart, sexy, warm and into me. I really like him.

Am I being prissy, a princess myself who’s picking at really small things? Or am I seeing a pattern that smacks of selfishness and insistence on Dan’s part that could lead to resentment and withholding from me? In other words, am I being…

Small or Smart

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Small or Smart,

You are certainly smart to be paying attention to this pattern of behaviour and taking it seriously. So many in the heat and excitement of a relationship’s first year may notice disturbing events but choose to ignore or rationalize them. It can be hard to see clearly with stars in our eyes.

Might this be a pattern that signals trouble? I should think so. If Dan’s “special qualities” give him the power to make decisions that affect not only his life but yours too, then you need to be very sure that you are willing to accept and embrace a special-needs partner. He wields great power with this specialness, which can be benign or not. You would be wise to assess carefully his motives and agenda regarding this trait.

But let’s look at it from another perspective.

Maybe Dan’s fussiness is actually just his way of expressing his opinion in the face of someone (that’d be you) who seems a bit distant and overbearing to him. Maybe it’s difficult for him to tell you that he doesn’t want highly spiced food because you override his vote, so he plays the “But I can’t” card. Maybe he’d like more consideration than you give.

What strikes me is that it seems you two have not discussed this important feature of your interaction. Are you afraid to confront Dan when he orders pizza, cheese allergy and all? How does he react? How do you two resolve contentious issues? Have you had your first fight yet?

It could be that you need simply to use the same intervention often employed in early prostate trouble: watchful waiting. Maybe you and Dan need more time interacting together to learn how to do it “right,” whatever that means to the two of you.

You may find that your individual peculiarities drive each other nuts, or it may be that they offer you opportunities for honest communication and intimacy that you’ve not yet risked.

In eight months we are generally still on our best behaviour, still trying to make a good impression and dazzled by projection and hopefulness. This limerent stage is delightful, and without its heat, we wouldn’t have the necessary flood of bonding chemicals to form the lasting connection that love brings with it later, when we actually have time to gather real information about one another and how we interact.

It is, however, a period of tricks and misperceptions. We can easily overinflate or underestimate the reality of situations because our emotional vision is skewed. This limerent period is not a good time to buy property together, move across the country, or do anything rash, really. It is, though, a perfect time to luxuriate in the richness of discovery, emotional opportunity and sexual abandon.

I don’t know if Dan’s peculiarities are a red flag or an adorable foible. I do know you two will benefit from talking about it. Dan likely has an item or two on his “silent” list. Be brave. Talk with each other. There’s no downside to this approach.

If you are seriously considering Dan as a life partner, you owe it to both of you to address this issue squarely and honestly, maybe with the help of a sensitive and seasoned therapist.

This may be Dan’s problem, or yours, or a combination. It is not by accident that the two of you found each other. If your bond is strong enough to work through this issue, you’ll both surely benefit and come out the other end far closer to each other and better men individually.