First, there is the possibility that the flirtation is all there is. Some people seek out its titillating sense of possibility and adventure. Some people simply enjoy playing the game. Some like the power to manipulate the flirtation signals, to entice and reject without being “caught” themselves. Some people deny the flirtation — “I was just being friendly.”
Second, the prospect of relationship can be felt to be problematic. The attraction, which was initially enjoyable, can be seen to be moving toward a “dangerous” involvement, and this can trigger avoidance or control strategies. The “danger” is most often fantasy- based, deriving from past relationship experiences.
And then there is the arrival of conscious thought: Is there room in my life for a new relationship? How does this fit into the larger picture? Am I ready? Is the other person ready? Is there a current commitment or a continuing complication with a previous relationship? Is the other person “a player” or wounded or scared?
Thinking arrives on the scene much later and is generally colored by developing feelings and fantasies. To actually evaluate what is happening, thinking has to step outside the fantasy, putting its “magic” and emerging feelings on hold.
A Relationship-Fantasy Develops
A new relationship starts off as mostly fantasy, untried by experience. Two people intertwine fantasies about which they are only partially aware. “If I can be her hero, maybe she will be my lady.” “He is so understanding and sensitive that maybe I will be cared for and appreciated.” “She is so sexy and energetic — maybe I could be the man I always wanted to be — cool, confident.”
Hopes and dreams take the lead. “Maybe this relationship will be different.” “Maybe it will meet my needs, will light up my life with love and excitement, and be the basis for a future of togetherness.”
And then deep desires, from all levels of the psyche going way back into childhood, begin to gather around this new possibility of fulfillment. Typically, an underlying “script” is activated which is based on our family experience. This “drama” could be called, “What went wrong in my family, and how can I attempt to make it right?” More than replaying the old family script, in new relationships we attempt to “remedy” the wrong. Was mother unappreciated? Then, I will insist on being appreciated. Was father depressed? Then I will remedy the depression in my partner. Did some “other woman” appeal to my father? Then I will try to be like her. The possibilities are endless.