If you’re anything like me, the first flush of new connection with someone is so exciting that you want to dive right in. Having said that, if you read the last article, you’ll know that I prefer to take things slowly. As a result, in some new relationships I’ve needed to find ways to slow things down a little and curb my occasional enthusiasm for contact ALL THE TIME. For me, the balance between slowing things down and continuing to connect in ways that feel meaningful is crucial. I want to nurture new connections and find ways of intentionally connecting, but I also want to ensure that other important people and areas of my life aren’t neglected. So, here are my top 5 tips for slowing things down:
There are a couple of kinds of plans that you can make – plans for your own time, and plans that involve other people. What I’m really talking about here is planning how you want to allocate time in your life. When you are diving into something new, it can be a useful exercise to think about how you want to be spending your time and in what proportion. Time for work, play, solitude, rest, connection, exercise, and whatever else is important in your life. Taking the space to fully consider the time you devote to your priorities is a useful tool in intentionally creating the life you want. When you’re in the middle of NRE, it can help you to align how you’re spending your time with your values rather than allowing yourself to simply get swept along. It will allow you to notice when you’re spending more or less time doing the things that are important, and I find that it helps me to check in with myself regularly about how I want to be spending my time.
2) Negotiate when contact with your new person works for you
There are lots of styles of communication around and lots of diversity when it comes to what people want from contact in new relationships. Some people prefer very occasional messages, perhaps once a fortnight. Others feel sad if they aren’t in touch every day. Talking about the means and meaning of communication is very important to establishing something that works in your relationship. If you both agree that weekly to fortnightly communication works best for you, great! That probably means that you are taking things slowly, no advice for you in this area! If you agree on daily communication, then you need to work out how to fit that into your life in a way that isn’t going to become overwhelming. There will inevitably be times in the day that are key for you. Whether that is because you work best at that time, it’s normally your 121 time with someone else, or you like to meditate then doesn’t really matter. What matters is making sure that you continue to get that time. Tell your person when it is, and manage your availability to them during that time. One of my people doesn’t like contact before 9am because they work best early in the morning. Another prefers visits after 3pm because they are done for the day at that point. Sharing timing that works for you is a great starting point for building intentional communication in a relationship at a pace that works for everyone involved.
3) Negotiating how to communicate
The method of communication is also important. Some types lend themselves to instant responses – you can easily get caught up in a conversation for several hours on chat. Email gives you a chance to put some thought into your response, and that can slow you down. Working out what methods of communication work best for you and when is a good idea, because it will allow you to really think about how to fit the new connection into your life in a way that is sustainable. You can consider whether you have time for several hours on chat or skype, or whether you’d prefer email exchanges. Thinking about what each of these means for the speed of response and the intensity of communication should figure into your decision making, but so should how meaningful you find that method of communication and whether it fulfils some need that you have. If you feel like your relationship is speeding along and taking up more and more time, consider reverting to slower forms of communication with more built in delays.
4) Get technology to help you
When I started one of my current relationships, I was just dying to respond straight away to every email I got. I realised that this was eating into time with other partners, and it was distracting me from work. I decided that even if I wanted to reply straight away, sending the message could wait. Of course, I was anxious about forgetting to send it at a later point. So I added the boomerang addon to my email account, and set the reply time for the following day. Slowing down the communication this way meant limiting myself to one email a day, then every other day, then less frequently. It helped a lot. Similarly, if you prefer instant messaging like google chat, you can pause notifications during the hours that you want to work. I’ve also found filtering messages straight into a folder is helpful – it means I only check on those messages when I have time to respond.
5) Work out what increases intimacy and intensity for you
Reid Mahalko (in conversation with Tina Horn in her wonderful podcast ‘Why are people into that!?!”) argues that if you don’t want to get too emotionally invested in someone, don’t spend the night. I kind of agree, spending the night often increases intimacy and the intensity of a relationship. But it isn’t the only thing. Everyone is different, and what intensifies attachment varies between people. Whether it is sharing music, holding hands, introducing your friends (or pet or kids), certain kinds of sex or kink, learning what it is for you means you can make choices about when it happens. If you want to slow down a relationship, delaying doing the things that ratchet up the intensity for you is a helpful way of doing that.
If you’d like to talk to me about slowing down – or indeed speeding up – your relationship starts, you can send me an email to Sophia.firstname.lastname@example.org, or call or text me on (+44) (0)788 4431459.