The Sense of 'Romantic Time'

Guys and girls have a different sense of 'romantic time'. This can inadvertently cause hurt and confusion. What can you do about it?

Time and relativity

I have it on good authority (Albert Einstein) that time is relative. He was talking about how time was relative to space, but when it comes to the relativity of time and feelings I think a few people might have beaten him to the punch. We're all familiar with how time can seem to fly - or to crawl. We say 'time flies when you're having fun', but the opposite applies too. There is an important lesson here when it comes to matters of romance.

The situation I want to focus on here is dating, and the time that elapses between contact between the guy and the girl. In the genre of 'dating advice' you might have come across the idea that guys and girls can have different ideas about how soon a guy should contact a girl after a date. This is a classic example of the relativity of what I'm calling the sense of 'romantic time'.

What is 'romantic time'?

Picture this scenario. A guy asks a girl out on a date. It goes well enough, he takes her home, and they go their separate ways. What happens next? Many a guy will wake up the next day and simply start going about his normal routine, thinking about his usual preoccupations and planning his activities over the next week or two. He goes out with his friends, goes to work or study, does 'guy stuff'.

His thinking about romantic things will occupy some time-slots during the week, and the keener he is on the girl the more often this will be. It might not be till the next weekend that he thinks, 'You know, I quite enjoyed going out with Tiffany, maybe I'll give her a call and see what she's up to.'

In the meantime what has she been doing? Typically a girl will think more continuously about a romantic encounter during the time following it. She might also talk it over with a girlfriend. A guy might never think to mention it to another guy, and doesn't think about it continuously so much as periodically.

A slow-motion camera

Because of this, 'romantic time' passes more quickly for a guy, while a girl feels like the time is dragging, wondering when he is going to call her. She might go through several major ups and downs in feeling within a few days, by which time she might be getting mighty peeved that he hasn't been back in touch. She's on her 100th time thinking about it and he's only on his third or fourth.

You could picture it something like this:

Girl: romance stuff | romance stuff | romance stuff | romance stuff | romance stuff | romance stuff | .....

Guy: guy stuff | guy stuff | guy stuff | romance stuff | guy stuff | guy stuff | romance stuff | guy stuff | .....

Consequently, they have two quite different senses of when would be a suitable time to be in touch again. Girls sometimes interpret a guy's lack of contact as insensitivity, and think he's being a jerk. So the next time he sees or calls her he gets the cold shoulder and can't work out what happened. She has been living through a long, long period of waiting, waiting, waiting, while he has just had time to think it over once or twice and think he might make his next move.

So she has been watching the scene unfold on a picture taken with a slow-motion camera, which has a high number of frames per second, while he feels his is from an ordinary camera that's just rolling along in real time. So a couple of weeks go by and he suddenly thinks, "Whoa, that's been a while. I must give Tiffany a call. Any day now she might start to wonder what's happened to me."

Awareness, or decision?

What I have just described is a guy whose awareness is ticking along by longer increments, and this won't always be the case. If a guy is highly interested in a girl, even in a state of some trepidation, agonising over his next step, he might in fact be thinking about her quite a lot, even just as much as she is. But he still might have this more stretched out sense of time compared to a girl. Why is this?

In such a case the increments in the elapse of time are not of awareness but of decision. That is, as a man he feels the responsibility of having to make a decision. Is he going to ask her out again? Is he going to say, "I had a nice time but I think we should just be friends"? Are his feelings even steering him in the right direction?

So even deciding whether to call again is fraught with significance, and it takes time to process his feelings. He may very well feel under pressure, and so he feels the need to stretch the time out. He might feel that a lot hinges on what he does next and he doesn't want to muck it up. For him calling her is not just a simple 'hello' but a pivotal moment in a drama in which he has to make the next move. So his next contact won't be until he's made his next decision.

It might look something like this:

Girl: waiting | waiting | waiting | waiting | waiting | waiting | .....

Guy: I need more time | I need more time | I need more time | I need more time | decision | .....

So in this case women's sense of romantic time goes by increments of contact while men's goes by increments of performance. For women contact is the currency of relationship, while for men it is performance. Women are looking for a higher rate of contact, while men are looking for a higher rate of successful performance. In the present case the performance is the next 'mission objective', the next 'initiation of contact', and success will be acting in a way that aligns with his real feelings. He wants to get the next increment of action right.

This is the kind of thing that happens when guys don't have any clear idea of the things discussed in this article. The more genuine a guy is the more he probably agonises over trying to do the right thing, and so delays too long. By aiming too high, by seeing it in terms of 'all or nothing' you get bogged down in feelings that are disproportionate to the occasion. Lighten up, and think it through. Then act.

An action plan

So, guys, what should you do? Accept that girls have a different sense of romantic time, even if you don't really understand why. Make a decision to give her a call. As a rule of thumb two or three days after the date is reasonable. It would be best to decide this before the date, and at the end, ask her "Would it be OK if I called you on Tuesday?" This gives an opening for her to decline and say she'd rather just be friends. But if she is OK with it, it gives you a clear plan of action. It also takes her feelings into account, not leaving her hanging, and showing that you are capable of giving an appropriate kind of leadership in the relationship. Of course you absolutely must do what you said you would. If you don't follow through, you'll give her some fairly damning evidence on what kind of man you are.

Usually you won't have any timely resolution of your feelings in the big picture sense, so you need to approach the next contact as simply that. It doesn't have to be a major turning point in the possible relationship. It is OK if it is just another small increment in a process of discovery. In practical terms, simply give her a call and say you appreciated the time you spent together on the date. Say that you would like an opportunity to get to know her a bit better, and ask if she would be willing to go on another date. You don't have to put everything on hold until you are absolutely certain of your own feelings. Now that you know what they are, put her feelings first, and learn to live with some ambivalence in your own.

Keep this basic lesson in mind during whatever the relationship turns out to be. Remind yourself of this different sense of time. Recognise that for a girl contact can be just something simple - it doesn't have to be momentous. She's not thinking of it in terms of achievement. This will usually mean contacting her more often than you would spontaneously think to do.

A rule of thumb about contact: less epic, more frequent.