Is there anything more exciting than the sudden, overwhelming glow that shines when you find a promising new romance? Shared laughter, common interests and thrilling romantic tension are enough to drive any singleton mad with longing.
But a relationship’s gotta start somewhere, right? You know you need to protect yourself. But wondering how to take a relationship slow is the last thing on your mind when your heart and body are crying out for more.
What does it mean to take things slow?
What does it mean to take a relationship slow? Does it mean waiting to become intimate? Avoiding committing to an exclusive relationship? Keeping your relationship separate from the rest of your life, including friends and family?
It turns out that the answer is yes—and no, because there aren’t hard-and-fast rules. How you proceed depends on the expectations you and your new partner define together, and your sense of self-worth.
Nevertheless, several dating experts recommended holding off on physical intimacy until there is a “meaningful” commitment, but a relationship is more than just sex.
Mutual emotional needs, how you communicate and the time commitment each of you make are a few things to consider. However, don’t let a fling—no matter how exciting—deflect you from long-term goals.
“Got a major opportunity or job that you’re considering turning down because of a love interest? My advice is to not let new love influence your long-term goals unless there is clear and serious action from that partner to indicate they’ll be around for the long haul,” said Bree Jenkins, a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist based in Los Angeles.
“You may not regret turning down a job in another city for a marriage and family, but you may regret it if your boyfriend breaks up with you,” Jenkins said.
How to take things slow
You might be tempted to evaluate the pros and cons of taking a relationship slow when you’re in the heat of the moment and the pool looks refreshing. But most experts recommended easing into a new relationship’s waters versus diving in head-first.
But let’s face it—that’s easier said than done.
“In the excitement of a new relationship, there’s a tendency to rush into things. Slowing it down is a good idea because it gives you a chance to develop what I call a relationship infrastructure,” said Tina B. Tessina, PhD, psychotherapist and author of “Dr. Romance’s Guide to Finding Love Today.”
Put your needs first
As your relationship progresses, you’ll adapt your thoughts and behaviors to consider your partner’s needs, but you don’t need to do that—yet.
“First and foremost, you must value yourself. If you do not value yourself, you will not set the boundaries necessary to take the relationship at the pace you want,” said licensed counselor and life coach Kathryn Ely of Empower Counseling and Coaching.
Play relationship tennis
If you or your partner spends more time communicating, making accommodations or otherwise doing all the heavy lifting, that’s a big red flag.
“Make sure your interactions are balanced,” said Tessina. “Make one phone call, text or gesture, then wait for your partner to respond or initiate a move. This balances the energy and investment between you and ensures one of you is not doing all the work. It will also slow your interaction down and you can see whether your partner is as invested as you are.”
Keep dating other people
It can’t hurt to keep your options open—for now—if only to reassure internal fears about the value of your new partner.
“Don’t stop dating other people,” said dating and relationship expert Johann Davis of Beyond Ages. “A big temptation that we have when we meet someone we really like is to focus all of our dating energy on them. In reality, when we do this, we put a lot of pressure on ourselves and our partners [to make] the relationship work.”
Mind your milestones
Unless you want everyone you know to follow along with the ups and downs of your new love, keep things quiet for the time being.
“There are a few clear milestones in every relationship that are clear markers of progression,” Davis said. “If you really want to take things slow, avoiding all of this outside pressure by waiting to meet friends, and especially family, is a great idea.”
How to slow down a relationship that’s moving too fast
When a thrilling rush turns into a wild ride, it may be time to slow things down.
“In my experience as a psychologist, I’ve seen numerous couples who have run into conflict due to their relationship progressing faster than one or both of them wanted,” said licensed psychologist Laura Louis of Atlanta Couple Therapy.
In other words, it’s okay and natural to want to slow things down. And one of the best ways to do that is to keep activities and others you love close to you.
“Try to find a balance between your relationship and other aspects of your life,” Louis said. “That way you won’t become too focused on what your partner is doing when you aren’t together.”
Sometimes you have to pump the brakes
How you behave in a relationship depends on the one you already have with yourself. Not only can slowing an important relationship down give it time to breathe, you’ll also give yourself a chance to think about your expectations, what you want and what you can offer a partner. That helps improve self-worth.
“I have a client who did not value herself at all, so she was always doing what she could to convince others to want her. This means she never took things slowly. She was not thinking about what she valued or what she wanted,” said Ely.
After therapy and self reflection, Ely’s client can now put her values at the forefront of her desires and expectations.
“Because she keeps her values in front of mind, she is able to set boundaries that teach others what she wants and how she expects to be treated,” Ely said. “She has completely shifted her life and her relationships in her favor.”