How to Respond in the Different Stages of Love

by Janet Ong Zimmerman on 09/27/2016

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Many women who feel like they’re putting in a lot of effort into their love life and not getting the love they desire are at the crossroads of exhaustion and uncertainty – exhausted at the thought of continuing to put in more effort and feeling uncertain about how to proceed.

Putting in a lot of effort shows up as pursuing, initiating, trying to control things, over-thinking things, needing certain outcomes – basically, anything that keeps you from ease and clarity.

If you relate to what I’ve just shared, one big shift to make that will bring more ease and clarity into your love life is to respond.  Here’s what you can start doing depending on your relationship stage.


When dating, let him initiate dates, make plans, and communicate with you in between the times you see each other.  Then respond positively (unless what he suggests is immoral or unethical).  High-quality men value what they work for and if you’re the one who tends to arrange dates and call and text him, you’re teaching him that he can have you without having to put forth much effort.  When he’s not having to put in much effort because you’re doing the work, you don’t really know if he is into you or going along with your plans to pass time until someone else comes along.

Let things develop naturally by taking the time to get to know each other.  Don’t share too much, too soon about yourself because it can seem like you’re too eager, and trying too hard to sell him on why you’re a good catch.  Let him get to know the real you.  Learn about each other’s values, interests, life goals, families, etc.  If love is mean to be, it will happen in the right time with less effort and more ease.  Taking the time to learn about each other also means holding off on having sex too soon.

In Between Dating and a Relationship

In this stage, you’ve been seeing each other consistently and aren’t exclusive yet.  By now, your positive responses have inspired him to initiate.  While things are progressing well, there may be moments of inconsistency.  Perhaps he was initiating and making plans.  And now he’s being inconsistent.  For instance, let’s say he still calls and makes plans, yet ends up canceling them.

He’s going through something that he may or may not be consciously aware of.  Now is not the time to shift into initiating mode because that will put pressure on a potentially tenuous situation and can be the reason for him to rationalize his behaviors.   So, what should you do?

This may seem counter-intuitive, but the best thing you can do is to be with what is, give him space, and live your life.  For a man, it’s in the space where he’ll miss you if he’s meant to.  If that’s the case, when he reaches out, keep things light and positive.

If, after a few times, the inconsistency starts to become a pattern, then you can respond with something like, “I have such a wonderful time with you and have realized how much I’ve missed seeing you…”  That plants the seed and opens the space for him to make plans with you.

If he doesn’t make plans to see you or cancels again, then it’s up to you to determine if you want to continue dealing with that pattern.  If not, express your thoughts and feelings about the inconsistently while standing in your power.  This means not blaming or pointing fingers at him.

You can say something like, “I’ve realized that dependability is something I value, and for me that means spending consistent time with the man I care about.  My sense is we’re not in the same place about this, and I’m wondering what you think about what I’ve shared?”  When asking him, you’ll want to be in a space where you’re not attached to a specific outcome.  Then based on his response, you’ll have more clarity on what you should do.

In a Relationship

In a relationship, you’re experiencing more of your true selves – the good, the not so good, and the quirks.  The not so good and quirks can cause issues like miscommunication and misunderstanding.  Miscommunication and misunderstanding tends to come from not knowing how to express your true thoughts and feelings, fear of hurting someone else’s feelings, fear of being vulnerable, or not wanting to be judged.

In those situations, we tend to listen to defend and react to protect ourselves.  But the emotions and energy underneath what’s being said are just as important as the words.  Be present so you can listen openly to understand the meaning behind his words.  Then respond respectfully, with grace.

I remember a time when my husband was bothered by a work situation and kept talking about it repeatedly.  After the fourth time, my tolerance level went down and I started feeling irritated.  It would have been easy for me to react with frustration and say something like, “Why don’t you change the way you’re looking at it instead of going on and on about it?”  That’s what my old self wanted to say.

Then I stopped myself and asked, “How can I create the space for him to express himself while not letting it negatively affect me?”  I responded by holding the space for him to say how bothered he was for the fifth time, and as a result, the negative energy within him dissipated.

If the energy hadn’t dissipated and he continued to bring it up, I would have said something like, “Hon, I get how much this situation bothers you.  I care about you and it’s hard for me to hear the frustration that continues to be there.  I’m wondering if there’s a way to resolve or let go of [said situation]?  What if we come up with a solution so it doesn’t continue to bother you…?”

When holding the space for your man to express himself, you experience how transformative it is to listen without judgment – it creates a safe place for your partner, lets him feel heard and respected, and results in a deeper connection.  That’s the power of responding.

Has this post changed the way you look at responding?  If so, let me know in the comments below.

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