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The Jell-O Dating Rule

The Jell-O Dating Rule

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The phone rang.

Meg looked at the caller-ID display, and felt herself tighten.

It was Danny.

Usually, when Danny called, she jumped for the phone. But this time, she found herself on edge. "I'm being ridiculous," she told herself. "Danny's so wonderful. Pick up the phone, Meg. You'll see, you'll feel differently after you speak to him."

But she was even more edgy after she hung up the phone. Danny had called to tell her that he bought front-section tickets to tomorrow's New York Philharmonic concert. She knew very well that he'd gone to the expense because she loved classical music.

"He's so good, so considerate," Meg thought. "What's my problem?"

Meg decided to call Laurie. Laurie was one of her best friends who'd been happily married for six years. At the time, Meg had thought that her friend was crazy for getting married so young. Now, she wasn't sure who the crazy one was anymore.

"Please be home, Laurie," Meg begged silently.

Laurie picked up on the fourth ring.

"Hello?"

"Oh, Laurie, I'm so glad you're home," Meg rushed.

"I'm flattered. Is everything OK?"

Meg was too busy crying to answer.

"Meg, what happened? Did you have a fight with Danny?"

"No, no. Danny's wonderful, like always," Meg sobbed.

"Meg, please calm down and tell me what happened."

Meg inhaled deeply.

"That's better. Now, what's going on?"

"Honestly, I don't know. That's why I called. You know, Danny and I got along really well from the beginning. Things just seemed to flow between us. We love spending time together, and we're getting very serious about each other. I would count the minutes between every date and phone call."

"Has something changed?"

"Well, I can't point to anything. But now, when I go out with him, I feel anxious. When he calls, I get edgy. And I feel so guilty. He's such a great guy. You know, he bought us front section seats to the Philharmonic tomorrow night. But instead of jumping for joy, I'm wishing that I get the flu. Why am I being so disgusting?"

Laurie thought for a moment. "First of all, you're not being disgusting. Second of all, can I ask you something?"

"Sure."

"At the beginning, how often did you and Danny go out?"

"Once, maybe twice a week."

"And now?"

"Three, four, sometimes five times a week."

"There's your answer, Meg. That's your problem. You're seeing each other too often."

"Huh?"

"Meg, have you ever made Jell-O?"

"Laurie, I think taking care of your kids has fried your brain. I'm talking to you about my love life and you ask about Jell-O?"

"My brain is fine, thank you, and yes, I'm asking you about Jell-O. Have you ever made it?"

"Of course."

"How?"

Meg began to lose her patience. "What do you mean, how? I mixed the water with the powder, put in a mold and stuck it in the fridge."

"Did you ever try to eat the Jell-O before letting it jell in the fridge?"

"Yuck."

"Meg, it's the same thing with relationships. I call it the ‘Jell-O timing rule.' When you're really building a relationship, you need downtime. You need to give yourselves time to let the relationship jell. When you see each other four or five times a week, you're not giving yourself enough time, and that's why you're getting anxious and edgy before dates and phone calls."

Meg thought for a moment. "Laurie, that makes no sense. Danny and I aren't seeing each other for kicks. We're going out seriously because we're thinking about marriage. As far as I know, married couples are together all the time. Isn't frequent dating the best way to test our marital compatibility?"

"Meg, even married couples don't spend every waking moment together. We have jobs, errands and all kinds of things that take up our days. Besides which, by the time you're married for a while, you feel comfortable with each other. You're secure in each other's love and you don't have to sort out your emotions all the time, or spend energy thinking, he is for me, she's not for me. Serious dating, however, is a very emotionally intense period."

"You can say that again," Meg muttered. "I feel like my heart is inside a washing machine with a never-ending cycle."

"Exactly. And that's why you need the downtime. You and Danny should cut down your dates to about twice a week, and use the phone or e-mail to communicate on the other days. But both of you need time to integrate your lives with your relationship. You're finishing your degree, he's working, you both have bills to pay and deadlines to meet and laundry to do. You need to give yourselves time to jell."

Meg was silent.

"Meg, are you there? Did I insult you or something?"

Meg laughed. "No. I was just thinking that I feel like I just lost fifty pounds. Laurie, you're unbelievable! I feel so much better now. But," Meg's voice clouded over again, "how am I going to tell Danny about this? I don't want him to think that I'm cooling off on the relationship."

"There are enough loving ways to say things, Meg. After the concert tomorrow night, go for a walk or a drive and be open with him. He might even surprise you by saying that he feels the same way, but was afraid of hurting you."

"Laurie, I can't thank you enough."

"Don't thank me. Just don't forget to invite me to your wedding!"

"Laurie!!"

"Good luck, Meg."

A week later, Laurie's doorbell rang. She opened the door to find a delivery man holding a large cake plate with a beautiful Jell-O mold on top. She signed on the line and then took the plate into the kitchen. As her children wowed over the Jell-O, she read the accompanying note:

Dear Laurie,

All's well that ends well

When you let things jell.

Love,

Danny and Meg







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