The Praise Sandwich and how to deal with Octopus Man

Hi Dr. A:

I had a second date with a guy on Sunday that I think I could possibly like–I certainly admire his work and his work ethic. BUT on our second date, we had a make out session but then suddenly he turned into octopus man and actually found out what color bra I was wearing!  I wasn’t prepared for that and now am feeling slightly resentful and guilty and angry and wondering what I did. Yes, I kissed him passionately for minutes at a time. Was that it? Now that it’s done–I won’t see him for a couple of weeks (he’s away working.) That doesn’t bother me (yet.) My question is: How can I tell him I’d like to take things more slowly. I don’t want to cut him lose but he’s moving a little fast.

What’s the nicest, most encouraging thing I can say to him to get my message across without hurting his feelings or chasing him away–which I don’t want to do. I suppose just being honest about my feelings (in a nice way at the right time) would probably be the way to handle this. Just wondering what you think?

Thanks from a big fan, Jessica

Good question, Jess!  Your inuition is correct: tell him that you’d like to take things more slowly — y’know, as opposed to just thinking about telling him.  Communicate!

For difficult conversations, I like to use the Praise Sandwich: start with praise; say what’s on your mind (usually less pleasant than praise); end with praise.  People tend to remember the first and last items in a list best (primacy and recency are the technical terms), so he’ll leave feeling good about the whole thing.  In the meantime, you deliver your message successfully.

Also, in the letter it sounds like you’re blaming yourself for his ‘octopus’ behavior.  From here, it sounds like he did it, and it’s probably because he thinks you’re hot, which is a good thing.  Some day you’ll be 90yrs old and wrinkly and wish guys would make passes at you.  Resentment, guilt and anger would be inappropriate responses to what seems like normal human behavior on both sides.  Is there a way to make this fun, maybe to take all this more lightheartedly?  Maybe just slap him on the handsy hand and tell him ‘bad boy — not yet!’ (‘Not yet’ stops him while simultaneously leaving the door open for future shenanigans, so it doesn’t feel like rejection).

Seriousness is the disease – it limits choice and is no fun.  Lightheartedness and humor are the cure.

And for when he returns, I’d like to give you the male perspective.  On the one hand, it’s our job to initiate things.  We approach you, charm you with our wit, ask for your number, call to make the date, initiate the makeout session, and move the physical intimacy forward. And at every step, we risk rejection, which scientists now know registers in the same part of the brain as a poke in the eye.  Ouch.

On the other hand, it’s also our job to be gentlemen.  We have your safety and comfort foremost in our mind.  Please notice that this can be at loggerheads with the part about taking initiative.  This makes boys very confused these days.  Should I be the rogue or the gentleman?  Or a little bit of both?  If so, how much of each — 3.5 cups of one and 8 level spoonfuls of the other?  Christ.

So if at any point you indicate reluctance to continue the physical interaction or stop giving go-ahead signals, the whole process stops (’cause presumably you’re not going to be the one to rip my shirt off). So it’s important to be very clear with what you want.  You want to have fun, too, albeit on a slightly different timetable than his.  This way you maintain your integrity without losing out on any of the fun.

Be the light, yo

Dr Ali