I haven’t always been a fan of slow relationships – the joys of falling deeply in lust with people upon meeting them have not entirely escaped me. I love the tummy churning excitement of first dates, the ‘did she like me too’ questions and even the other person’s intrusion into my thoughts on a more frequent basis than would be convenient. Nevertheless, slowing things down has helped me in building relationships with more shared values and deeper emotional connections. It has led to easier ways of managing conflict and less drama caused by mismatched expectations, understandings and values. I think whether or not you want to take a slow approach depends very much on what you are looking for in your next partner. If you’re looking for chemistry, intensity and all consuming lust that burns like a white hot flame, then slow is not likely to be what you’re into. However, if you’re looking for a slower burning ember that often creates a deeper emotional connection, then a slow start might be more up your street. There is certainly a time and a place for each of these, but for today I’m just going to extol the joys of the slow start.
1) Reflection time is a great thing
Slow means making sure that you have time between dates to really check in with your body about how you are relating to the other person. It’s means having the time to think about whether you have similar relationship values about the really simple things – courtesy, emotional openness, bodily autonomy, consent etc. It lets you think about whether you have compatible needs and desires in terms of your connection with each other. You can also recognise whether this relationship is falling into patterns that were similar to problematic ones that you have been in previously. Perhaps you were always the one trying to plan dates, and that is still the case. Maybe you choose partners that always want to decide where you go and what you do. We all have patterns that we are likely to fall into, and it can really help to troubleshoot these early, before they become ingrained patterns.
2) It gives you time to notice red flags
In the midst of really intense new relationship energy, it can be impossibly hard to recognise red flags. It is nevertheless important. Taking things slowly at the start of a relationship and making sure that you have time between dates to talk to your friends, take advice, think about that nagging thought at the back of your mind that is trying very hard not to get lost in all the excitement. Pausing long enough to let your body tell you how it is feeling – especially if you’re a person that isn’t always great at noticing warning signals, is a gift to yourself.
3) It helps you to ensure that your new relationship isn’t taking over your whole life
It means allowing the object of your affection to be a part of your life, but not being consumed by them or your new relationship. It means not neglecting other connections (whether romantic, sexual or platonic) or neglecting other things that are important to you in order to focus on this new relationship. This might mean that the energy between you feels a little bit less intense and less all encompassing, but it is also likely to lead to a less volatile relationship. Lots of people argue that you shouldn’t make big decisions when you’re experiencing NRE (new relationship energy), but many (if not most) people massively adjust the amount of time they spend in contact with the other person – which means less time for other things. This can mean neglecting your job, your friends, your health, your other partners, your projects, and passions. If that isn’t a big decision then I don’t know what is. What you do demonstrates your values and commitments – and dropping everything else in your life for a new sweetie demonstrates your priorities.
4) It gives you time to practice being authentically yourself
It is far too easy to get so caught up in someone new that you lose sight of who you are. Lots of people like to put forward their ‘best selves’ or the parts of themselves that they think the other person would like the most. It is much harder to share your less shiny bits. Taking things slowly gives you more time to let the other person see all of you, and for you to see all of them. Letting someone see your shiny and not so shiny bits is about letting yourself be vulnerable with them and it is likely to create a deeper emotional connection. It is also likely to help you to work out whether you just have hot chemistry or whether you’re also compatible with each other.
5) The giddy feelings can be prolonged
While you might not get the intense rush of overwhelming new relationship energy in quite the same way when you are taking things slowly, it is likely to last much longer. It is like the difference between arriving in a bedroom and instantly taking everything off, and performing a very slow strip tease. One gets you naked and in bed fastest, but the other builds anticipation and lust. This doesn’t work for everyone, but it certainly does for some people.
In general, I am a fan of slow relationship starts. I find that they help me with self-consent, and being clear with the other person about what it is that they want and need. I’m able to be more myself, and I have more time to listen to my body and really be sure that I like who I am being within the relationship and how I am being treated by the other person. Of course, I also love the heady rush of intense connection, but I can get that in other ways in my relationships. Trying to slow things down in the face of hormones that sometimes make me want to be in constant contact can be a challenge, so I’ve written a few tips on how to slow things down.