With dating and technology more interwoven than ever before, it has never been easier to meet and get to know somebody new with very little commitment. Thanks to the constant connection that instant dating apps and social media afford, it’s more common for a relationship to happen at warp speed—but when that doesn’t happen, it’s not unusual to wonder how slow is too slow in a relationship.
Keep in mind that what feels slow for you may be normal for others. But if you want to know if your relationship is too slow, clinical psychologists and dating experts offered some signs to watch out for.
How slow is too slow in a relationship?
Most people understand the risks of moving too quickly, but moving too slow in a relationship can be just as detrimental.
“In my years of being a dating and relationship expert, I have been asked these questions a lot, ‘are we taking it too slow?’ and ‘how slow is too slow?,'” explained dating expert Sonya Schwartz. “But there are no definite answers to these questions because the speed of a relationship depends from couple to couple.”
With that in mind, there are some signs to watch out for that likely bode poorly for any relationship.
You don’t communicate or meet often
According to Schwartz, when your partner doesn’t initiate conversations or plans, this could mean they’re not as interested in you as you are in them. This could be because the relationship isn’t moving fast enough for them, or because their interest is waning in general.
Your partner doesn’t open up or share much
Your partner not opening up or sharing much to you could mean that your partner isn’t completely comfortable with you. Increasing feelings of comfort and closeness are an important part of advancing the relationship, but that likely won’t happen if you remain stuck in the early stages.
Your partner doesn’t ask for your advice
It could be a sign that your partner doesn’t completely trust you when they depend on their family or friends instead of on you. It’s one thing to not do so in the first weeks of dating, but in a healthy, long-term relationship your partner should be one of your closer confidants.
You don’t know your partner well
When your relationship is moving at a good pace, you continually learn more about your partner. So, not knowing your partner well could be a sign that your relationship is moving too slow. It’s nearly impossible to move things along comfortably without the closeness and trust that comes with knowing someone well.
There is no progress in intimacy
Seeing no visible progress in this area is definitely a sign your relationship is moving too slow. Unless your religion or culture has strictly honored courtship norms, it’s typical for relationships to progress in intimacy—from light touching to kissing and beyond. If you’re three months in and your once-weekly dinner date still ends with a peck on the cheek, the lack of progress should be evident.
You don’t have a clear relationship definition
It is a red flag if even after some time, you still don’t have a clear definition or clear understanding of your relationship. In a healthy relationship, it’s not unusual to start discussing labels after a couple of months, or even weeks in some cases. After a month or two of exclusivity, these conversations should at least be on your radars.
Discussions related to eventually moving in together are completely off the table
According to clinical psychologist Carla Marie Manly, if one or both partners avoid talking about what the future might look like in terms of creating a home together, that’s a sure sign something is amiss. Even if one person doesn’t feel quite ready for this type of move, being able to talk about such issues is still very important.
One person often feels off-balance, confused or rejected
Ideally, a relationship moves at a pace that feels great to both partners. And, according to Manly, when it does not, it’s important for both partners to be able to talk about these issues openly and honestly in order to avoid confusion and hurt feelings. Any outright refusal to discuss these feelings is a red flag.
Avoidance of key phrases, such as ‘I love you’ or ‘you are my significant other’
Label issues aside, it’s important to have a vocabulary that lets both partners (and the outside world) know the nature and depth of the relationship. Not doing so amounts to an attempt to hide the relationship, which may mean the other person isn’t as invested in it.
One or both partners don’t want to talk about basic future plans
Talking about the future doesn’t just mean moving in together—doing things together like going on vacations and attending weddings should happen organically. Relationships tend to evolve as a result of spending time together doing a variety of activities that let partners explore each other in different situations. An unwillingness to take steps to broaden the relationship—in what is often referred to as “experiential intimacy”—can be a sign of a lack of investment in the relationship.
You haven’t met each other’s inner circle of friends
Meeting a person’s friends is often one of the first steps that partners take when deepening a relationship. This step creates a sense of vulnerability as it can be one important test of the new partner’s “level of acceptability.” For many people, it’s important that their partner meshes well with their friend group. Not bothering to explore that could mean the relationship isn’t that important to them.
There’s a lack of investment in sharing goals and dreams
Showing true interest in another person’s dreams and goals is an important element in deepening a relationship. If partners are not interested in knowing more about each other’s hopes and dreams, that’s a sign the relationship is lagging. While these things can be deeply personal, that’s the kind of information people tend to share with each other when they want to grow closer.
Little commitments seem like huge accomplishments
When small commitments feel like giant commitments, that’s a sign something is awry in the depth of the relationship. When one or both partners are not truly invested in the long-term viability of a relationship, small advancements tend to feel hard-won. It shouldn’t be difficult to pin down a genuinely invested partner for a dinner date, for example.
How to fix a slow moving relationship
Manly suggests taking time to reflect on exactly what’s bothering you about your slow moving relationship. Do you feel like it could never go anywhere, or are there specific habits you’ve noticed that the two of you could work on?
“First, journal about the direction you’d like to see the relationship,” Manly said. “Outline a few specific actions your partner could take to help you feel and notice progress (e.g., meeting the parents, getting a pet together, etc.).”
From there, talk to your partner about both issues—the direction you’d like to see the relationship go and the specific actions your partner could take to make you feel loved and important.
In an ideal situation, seeing the issues on paper should make them obvious to a genuinely invested (albeit oblivious) partner—and acting to correct them shouldn’t be difficult or controversial. But if doing so doesn’t move the needle, you may have to make some tough decisions.
How to move on from a relationship moving too slow
If your partner does not respond well to an honest conversation (or conversations) about the relationship, it can be time to let go and move forward. Of course, the difficulty in this situation is the hope that it will get better, but if your partner has no interest in going any further, it’s probably best to think about what’s right for you.
“When you think that you cannot fix the relationship anymore, then it is time to start moving on,” explained Schwartz. “After spending a lot of time trying to fix the relationship, start focusing on yourself. Do things for yourself like reuniting with friends or trying new hobbies.”
“If a partner is not willing to talk about the direction of the relationship and then take actions that will make you feel safe and loved, it’s time to ask yourself why you would even want to stay with that person,” added Manly.
As with most things in life, honesty is the best policy. Explain in no uncertain terms that while you appreciate the time you spent together and admire them, you’re looking for a relationship that will last and grow well into the future.
According to Manly, a meeting of the minds is the most important thing in many aspects of relationships—especially as the bones of the relationship are formed.
If one person is deeply in love and wants a committed relationship while the other is fairly indifferent and willing to wait several months (or years) to “see how things work out,” it’s likely that things will always move far too slowly for the person who is deeply in love. While that’s totally fine, recognizing how slow is too slow for your particular emotional needs is the first step in mapping out the future of your relationship.