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Need Love Advice? Dr. Hughes Answers Your Questions!

by Maryann Pisano on January 29, 2014


The information presented in this website and the comments from Dr. Hughes are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease or psychological disorder. The information presented is not a substitute for medical, psychological or psychiatric treatment. You are advised to seek professional medical and psychological help as necessary.

Q:  If you like a guy, and you can’t tell if he likes you or not, what do you do?

A:  First of all, do not be discouraged!  In my experience, most guys do not readily pick up on subtle flirtations and communications of interest from the opposite sex.  So any reaction, or lack of reaction, may be because the guy has no clue that you are interested.

So my first bit of advice is to be more direct; not vulgar or slutty, but direct.  Be sure to speak directly to him and make eye contact.  Listen closely when he speaks and use your face to show that you are a rapt audience.  After some conversation, do not hesitate to offer up a date.  Even a casual “I just dusted off my box set of Star Trek DVDs and remembered that you like sci-fi.  Want to come by sometime and watch The Trouble with Tribbles?”  Once you get to this point, you will be able to better assess the situation.  If he quickly makes a plan with you:  great.  If he asks if he can bring his girlfriend:  not great.  If he obviously makes up something to avoid you (“Ummm yeah pretty sure I have to re-hem my pants that night”) then again:  not great.


Q:  Is it proper etiquette these days for a woman to propose to a man?  How do you prepare for rejection?

A:  Etiquette is such a funny thing.  It was designed for efficiency and to have an established set of expectations to influence behaviors.  Etiquette bends readily, however, in the face of practicality.  If you’re starving and all your salad forks are dirty, can you eat your salad with a shrimp fork?  A regular fork?  Must you go hungry?  Of course, you do the best you can with what is available.  Same goes for proposals.  Depending upon the relationship, it may feel very natural for the woman to propose or, my personal favorite, for the couple to make a decision to get married—no “proposal” necessary.  After all, proposals are typically used when shopping around.  Need a kitchen remodel?  Get proposals, pick the best one.  For a marriage, I like to see the arrangement as more than choosing among suitors.  If a woman does propose to a man and he rejects her, well, far better to get this information now rather than later.  I would think that a “proposal”, from either sex, wouldn’t be out of left field.  Couples should talk about what marriage means to them, whether or not they ever would like to be married, and if that’s a path they believe their relationship is on.  That way, there are no surprises when it comes time to propose.


Q:  Currently I’m unemployed, which can be hard when it comes to dating.  How do I handle the “what do you do” question?

A:  Your best bet here is to be honest.  Being clever by saying, “Actually I’m between jobs” doesn’t fool anyone.  You can deflect the question by saying something like, “I got my bachelor’s degree in history in May 2012 and right now I’m pursuing jobs as a high school history teacher”.  That has the benefit of being honest without being apologetic as well as giving additional, positive information about who you are.  The biggest trick here is to speak with confidence and not embarrassment.  You need to be ok with your employment status and the people around you will be, too.


Q:  I’m in my 20’s and I’m still a virgin.  I’m not overly religious or prude, I just haven’t met anyone in my life I wanted to do it with.  I feel like if I’ve waited this long I should wait for the right person, but I’m really embarrassed about it.  Will my future relationships be effected by this?

A:  I’m concerned that you indicate that you are embarrassed about your life choices.  Why is that?  There are many, many ways of going through life and for you, this happens to be part of your reality.  If you are involved with a person and you are becoming close and considering intimacy, a discussion about previous sexual contact is recommended.  Of course, in real life, this doesn’t always happen.  For you, let’s assume it does happen.  The inevitable questions of “how many partners” and “have you ever had any STDs”.    If you are truly considering intimacy with someone, I hope you feel close to them and willing to share your history.   Just be upfront about it.  Let them know you haven’t been sexually active and that this will be a new experience for you.  Also, there are myriad ways of being sexual without actually having sexual intercourse.  Your history may be more extensive than you think if you look at sex as many behaviors, not just intercourse.  My advice to you is to truly reflect on your experiences, what you have learned from them and how it has affected who you are now, be comfortable with those facts, and not worry about sharing those facts with someone who has the right to know.  Their reaction is theirs and your comfort with your past will encourage their comfort in your past as well.


Q:  I like this guy who has a girlfriend.  At times he can be flirty/ “texty” with me.  Does he really like me or is he just trying to be nice?  Should I pursue this further?

A:  Texts are very difficult to decipher.  A cute heart emoticon may mean “happy” to one person and “passionate love” to another.  I’d be very cautious about interpreting text messages.  In addition, people are often impulsive when texting.  They respond quickly and often give messages in writing that they would normally never say out loud.  The real issue is that he is texting you at all, regardless of content.  A guy who texts a girl who is not his girlfriend is getting something out of the exchange.  It may be just chatty contact or it may be little flirty things…but it is definitely something.  If you are on a group text with his girlfriend as well, that’s a different story.  But private back and forth texting that is not known by his girlfriend, is a breach of their personal boundaries.  I would not pursue this further.  If he wants to have a real relationship with you, he’ll figure out how to. If he just wants the serotonin jolt of a secret dalliance, you should not cooperate in that.  If you cannot bring yourself to ignore his texts altogether, do the next best thing:  respond with “k” and that’s all.  No smiley faces, no exclamation points, no acronyms, no pictures, nothing else.  You’ll see quickly if he really wants a relationship or just flirty texting!

Dr. Carsi Hughes received her Ph.D. in clinical psychology from Northwestern University Medical School. She is a licensed clinical psychologist who specializes in adult psychopathology, clinical neuropsychology, and psychoanalytic psychotherapy. Academic appointments include Associate Clinical Professor of Psychology and Post Baccalaureate Pre-Medical Studies at Dominican University.

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