“Next time, I’ll take things slow.” How many times have you said that after a relationship where you moved too fast? You can see so clearly now – looking back – that moving slowly would have prevented a lot of heartache. But instead, you rushed, like perhaps you always do. So by the time the dealbreakers and red flags popped up, you were already attached. You’d gotten used to the idea of spending your life with someone, before even really knowing that person. You dove into some codependent behaviors, without exactly knowing whom you were depending on. When you move fast, you make what could be easy uncouplings very difficult on yourself. When you do things slowly, in a healthy manner, then learning a dealbreaker at, say, month three should not rock your world. You should be able to easily say, “This isn’t for me.” But those who move fast have already signed a lease and bought a ring at that point, so it is much harder to walk away for them.
Couples who often rush things might be interested to know that studies have found waiting at least three years before getting married decreases the risk of divorce by 50 percent. While this news might be upsetting to those who hope to put a ring on it by the end of year one of a relationship, it’s valuable data that shouldn’t be ignored. It’s much better to prolong nuptials for a couple of years than to rush and spend longer than you need to with the wrong person. If you are ready to change your ways, here are tips for taking things slow for those who are new to it.
Start with weekly interactions
If this rule feels difficult to follow, that should be an eye-opening realization. Spending a full week away from someone you just met should not be difficult. You have friends, family, a career, and hobbies to spend your time on. A brand-spanking-new love interest should not take up more of your time than friends and family. The time with him should be proportionate to the place he holds in your life, which should be quite small after just a couple of dates. Make a rule that says, even if you meet someone you really like, you will limit interactions to once a week for the first month. Give yourself the time and space to really evaluate the person. It’s hard to do that if you immediately hang out every day.
This is not about shaming or being prude. It’s not about any judgment. If you’re not looking for a relationship and you want to have some casual sex, go for it. But if you’re looking for a relationship, consider postponing sex for at least a month — maybe longer. When you have sex, your body releases hormones that make you feel bonded to someone. So your body’s chemistry can quickly fog your mind’s clarity. Give your brain some time to make the calls here before getting your body involved. Your body is, unfortunately, not very selective. You’d probably be surprised to find how many people you decide not to date for long when you temporarily take sex out of the equation.
No back-to-back sleepovers
If and when things do become physical, you can still have rules in place surrounding frequency of interactions. Just because you’ve slept together doesn’t mean you need to start literally staying together more nights a week than you spend apart. In fact, consider balancing things so that you still spend more nights apart every week than you do together. It’s common to take things from zero to 100 after sleeping together and feeling that being physically intimate gives you the green light to spend nearly every night together. That, however, can make things feel really serious, really fast.
Meeting friends is for later
You might think that bringing someone you’re on a third date with to meet your best friends at a bar up the street is no big deal. Maybe it isn’t, but it’s not nothing. It’s certainly not a form of taking things slowly, so if that’s your aim, hold off on introducing new potential mates to friends and family for at least several months. There can be value in making that a special event, rather than something you just do with any guy you’ve hung out with more than twice. Once your friends meet someone, they might like that person, and their opinions could influence yours. You need time and space to form your own opinion without feeling pressured because your friends loved the guy.
Keep conversation lightish for now
If you pride yourself on being an open book, and you did a lot of personal work to become comfortable with your past, you may want to shout the details of your life from a rooftop — or at least share them over a first date meal. Perhaps your dad had an affair on your mom, or your parents had substance abuse issues, or you grew up with some other heavy experience. Hey, everybody has their stuff. But when you share that stuff with someone, you instantly feel a bit closer to them, and it’s good to pace out what you share with a new date. You can get to know someone, and let them get to know you, without sharing your traumas right away. And if you don’t know how to do that, that’s very much worth exploring.
No all-day texting
If your trick for side-stepping the rules surrounding only hanging out once a week is just texting all day, every day, cut that out. That is also a form of moving too quickly. When you text with someone brand new throughout the day, every day, you do become attached to that person. You become accustomed to communication with this individual. This person, instead of, say, your best friend or your sibling, becomes the person you share every detail of your day with. Once you’re in that zone, you’re attached. So easy on the all-day texting. Maybe you can exchange a few intentional texts a day for the first couple of weeks of dating.
Wait a while to travel
Some people say that you really get to know someone when you travel together. That is partially true, but what you don’t get to know is how you two really function in real life. It’s fairly easy to get along and feel connected when you are on vacation spending all day, every day together, with no obligations beyond sunbathing and drinking pina coladas. That interaction can give you a false sense of compatibility, as many people will get along in that setting. It’s important to first see how you do in the real world, with real schedules and responsibilities. So postpone traveling for at least several months.
Find people who are okay with this
One of the biggest favors you can do for yourself if you’re trying to take things slower in your relationships is to find someone who is trying to do the same thing. If you date someone who is constantly pushing back on this plan, it will be very hard for you to stick to your rules. You can’t be the only one putting the brakes on. If you think about it, you’re trying to overcome an addiction of sorts – an addiction to moving too fast in dating. And like any sort of addict, you should probably stay away from those who are not trying to encourage you to stay on the path. You should stay away from enablers.
Spend real time alone
One of the best ways to take things slowly in your dating life is to cease dating entirely for at least several months. Perhaps you can even try a full year if you’ve been a serial monogamist for many, many years. Don’t just spend enough time alone to get over the heartache of the last thing and then, bam, date someone new. Get over your heartache and then be alone in that place — in that happy place. Show yourself you can be perfectly happy alone so then you don’t choose mates from the desperate place of wanting some company.
Wait at least a year to move in
If all is going well, wait at least a year to move in together. Ideally, you’ll wait a couple of years to make that leap. But if your trend is to move in with someone just a few months into dating, waiting even a year will show you a lot. In most cases, you will likely learn something about a person in a first year of dating that shows you that you don’t want to live together. It’s much better to figure that out before actually living together, than once you already do. Breakups are hard when you’d have to break a lease and find a new place to live.