Get Your Dating Styles In Sync

He’s a homebody; she’d rather hit the town. She wants to get together all the time; he’s fine with just a few days a week... read on for solutions to these and other common relationship problems.

By Caitlin Ascolese

Dating-style difference #1:
“I like hanging out in groups; she prefers one-on-one”

What’s Shigeru Odani’s idea of a great night out? Hitting the town with his girlfriend, Jenn Wilkenson, and his posse of pals. “I have really close friends and it’s important to me that she bonds with them,” says Shigeru. Jenn, however, is tired of these group dates. “She’s definitely getting sick of being around for all of our stupid inside jokes,” says Shigeru. “She would much rather hang out one-on-one. She says it’s more intimate. But I think groups are more fun.”

How to see eye-to-eye:
Couples in this situation often end up at odds because they misinterpret each others’ motives,
“She would much rather hang out one-on-one. But I think groups are more fun.”
says Tina B. Tessina, Ph.D., psychotherapist and author of How To Be A Couple And Still Be Free. Jenn may view Shigeru’s group outings as an effort to avoid intimacy; he may see her desire for alone-time as isolating and controlling. They both might be more willing to compromise — by, say, alternating between group dates and one-on-one engagements — if they explained to each other how their distinct dating styles are meant to enhance their relationship. For example, Shigeru could say, “I think that hanging out with my friends strengthens our bond because you get a sense of my life as a whole,” or Jenn could say, “I love seeing you alone because you open up more about things you wouldn’t in front of your friends, and I see a whole new side to you.” Highlighting the positive aspects of your dating style will help your partner enjoy it more—and be up for your plans more often.

Dating-style difference #2:
“She plans dates way in advance, I prefer playing it by ear”

When it comes to dating, Alex Riccobono thrives on spontaneity, and prefers making plans on the fly to see his girlfriend Jen Vakiener. But Jen, who juggles school with a full-time job, likes to schedule dates weeks ahead of time, which can feel rigid and unromantic to Alex. “I know planning ahead is a good, mature way to date and suits Jen’s schedule,” he says. “But we shouldn’t go that way all the time. Where’s the fun in that?”

How to see eye-to-eye:
Both free-spirit Alex and planner Jen have valid points: Of course you have to arrange for dates ahead of time (especially if your schedule’s packed), but a little impulsivity can keep a relationship exciting. Luckily, there is a way they can both get what they want. What they need to do is pick some basic guidelines to appease the planner — “We’ll hang out this Saturday afternoon" for example — then the free spirit has free rein on how to fill that time together. “If each of you uses your strong points, you can have the best of both worlds," says Tessina. “The methodical one can say ‘We’re having dinner on this night,’ while the spontaneous one can be in charge of dinner once the night actually rolls around, whether it’s picking a restaurant at the last minute or inventing a new dish in the kitchen.”

Dating-style difference #3:
“I like romantic settings; he’d rather keep it casual”

Andrea Werner and Ethan Campbell are crazy about each other—but not each other’s ideas of a great date. “I love to be wined and dined; I want a guy to take me to fancy restaurants and parties,” admits Andrea. Meanwhile, Ethan thinks these glamorous venues are stuffy—and would rather hang out with his girl in a more low-key setting. “He’d rather have burgers at the local diner or chill at an outdoor concert,” says Andrea. “But to me, that’s so not romantic.”

How to see eye-to-eye:
From the outside, Andrea and Ethan’s argument might seem to be about where
“When you have fun together, your relationship strengthens no matter what.”
they spend their time, but — say the experts — what’s really bothering Andrea is how they spend it, points out Ellen Sue Stern, author of He Just Doesn’t Get It: Simple Solutions To The Most Common Relationship Problems. In short, Andrea’s probably worried that Ethan’s casual activities make it easy for Ethan to take her for granted and see her as a buddy rather than a girlfriend. But Ethan can easily prove otherwise merely by sweetening up the simple stuff: Holding hands and nuzzling at a motocross rally or lighting candles over a takeout meal at home will make Andrea feel totally swooned over, without forcing Evan to dress in a suit and tie and act like Don Juan.

Dating-style difference #4:
“She wants to see me every day, I’m fine with a few times a week”

While Jordan Burchette loves spending time with his girlfriend, Kelly, eventually he reaches a point where he needs time to himself to recharge—a fact that baffles and upsets Kelly, who feels she could spend every waking (and sleeping) hour with him. “I would prefer a one day on, one day off arrangement,” he says. “She would prefer to hang out more, and I find myself feeling guilty during those times when I don’t want to see her.”

How to see eye-to-eye:
Kelly (and lots of other people) believe soul mates should want to be together 24/7—but it’s a prospect that others like Jordan can find way too overwhelming. What he needs to make clear to Kelly is that his desire for time apart is not a reflection of how he feels about her, says Stern. Jordan should avoid cliches like “I need some space” (which might convince Kelly he’s phasing out of the relationship) and try a more genuine approach like, “I would love to spend the entire weekend with you, but I need time to myself to take care of other parts of my life that need tending to. How about we meet up Saturday for dinner and we make sure we have a good-night phone call on Sunday?” Or the couple could try a “down-time date” where they’re together but doing their own things — she’s reading; he’s surfing eBay for old records, for example — so that Kelly can get some together-time without making Jordan feel like he has to be “on" and entertain her.

Dating-style difference #5:
“I’m a homebody; she prefers hitting the town”

When David Garfield asks his girlfriend Lisa Bennet out on a date, “out” isn’t exactly what he has in mind. More often than not, he suggests making it a Blockbuster night... while Lisa wants to head to a wine bar, bowling alley, or anywhere that’ll cure her cabin fever. “I work so many hours that I’m never home, so honestly, for me, staying in and watching a movie or TV or just cooking together is far more romantic and fun for me than going out,” explains David. “But it disappoints Lisa because I think she takes it as a sign that I don’t want to be seen in public with her or don’t think she’s worth taking on a date, when of course nothing could be further from the truth.”

How to see eye-to-eye:
Homebodies like David can give Lisa the outdoor adventures she’s craving—all it takes is finding a venue where he can still feel at home but give Lisa a little more stimulation, whether that’s a local pub that’s mere blocks from his pad or a nearby coffee shop. Visiting regularly will help David kick back and feel at home, while Lisa can people-watch, socialize and get a fresh perspective. “As long as couples can both enjoy a shared experience, it doesn’t really matter if they’re doing it for two different reasons—say, he’s in a cafe reading a book while she listens to a poetry reading,” says Stern. “When you have fun together, your relationship strengthens no matter what.”

Caitlin Ascolese is a freelance writer living in New York City.
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