Do you know when most people raise the issue of what is this / where are we going / what are we? On the third date. The third. So, assuming three dates of about 4-5 hours, maybe a half day, that is less than 24 hours after people have met for the first time.
When it comes to dating, too many of us (and I very much include myself here) are in a rush to know and to get a handle on what “this” is. I think there are many reasons for this. Partly it’s down to social norms around monogamy and the escalation of one date to another and a steady increase in the amount of time spent together. Partly it’s due to the stigma and challenges of being solo or actively dating in our romance and couple (and even triad) obsessed society. It can also often be down to the fact that when we DO meet someone with who we “click” we often want to feel reassured that they feel that way too, that there is reciprocity with the feels that are going on. There is a tendency towards the scarcity mindset, which all too many of us are indoctrinated with by our social and cultural environments, a mindset that tells us to “bag” the individual(s) before someone else does.
I understand all of this and have felt, and still do feel many of these feels, much of the time while dating. I also know that rushing to define things can be at best unhelpful and, worst, deadly.
It’s a sad truth that most intimate partner violence takes place within couples or partners who have met and got together very quickly, usually within weeks or less than six months the relationship has escalated to cohabiting and maybe more. A heady, once in a lifetime connection can, all too often, be a signal of an old, toxic pattern repeating itself.
This might seem extreme but I think it’s worth highlighting the real harm that can come from taking things too quickly. If a first or a second date involves being alone with another in their home or a private place and given that you can’t truly know someone after mere hours together, then you are taking a risk. You do not know someone if you have met them once or twice. You just don’t. Not that people are not capable of behaving badly years into a relationship but slowing down can resolve many of these scary, damaging and dangerous issues by ensuring that you know more about the person before being alone and intimate with them.
The harm caused by rushing is not just about physical danger. The more time we take to get to know someone, the slower we take things, the more space we have to really check in with ourselves and our bodies about how this person makes us feel and the (true) nature of the connections. Are they your new cinema or gig buddy? Are they the perfect person to go hiking with? Or out clubbing or to the rope studio with? Are they looking like a cohabiting partner or a close, but still casual, once a week or month dinner and great sex person? Who knows, but you will have a better chance of letting the relationship find its natural level if you just let it flow for a while.
What does taking time look like? Well, for me, I might have a lunch or coffee / one drink date when I first meet someone (perhaps having exchanged numbers on a dating or chat site or after having met at a social event) and then I might arrange to meet them two weeks later for a longer or similar amount of time. I might do this three or four times over a few months as I get to know them. I tend to keep texting to a minimum. I also state this explicitly, and maybe just share the odd bit of news and say hi once a week or so. Whatever feels right. I might also escalate it sooner if I know I am away or busy soon but, again, I am more likely to flag up future commitments and assume they will be cool, and, if not, then fine 🙂
Why, then, is this often very difficult to do? For me, it’s because uncertainty and doubt can feel very uncomfortable. Sitting with not knowing is hard. I feel that and I am sure you can too. We are creatures that like certainty and so it’s challenging to be in the midst of doubt, especially when we are also feeling excited and would love to know what might happen next. But, I do believe that there are magical things on the other side of a slower approach to dating.
Time allows you to think about, and communicate, the values that are important to you as well as allowing you to get to know the real person without them feeling like they have to fit into a certain set of check boxes. Time allows you to figure out what you want and need and to build trust, rapport and to see what the person is truly about beyond those early conversations.
Getting to know someone that you might want to share part, or even most, of your time with SHOULD take some time. A slower pace allows space and time for reflection as well as fun and connection. A slower pace also allows the energy to build organically and can help us to see how that all really feels rather than getting caught up with something that is more internal drama and excitement than genuine connection. Not that those experiences can’t be awesome, it’s just that speed can all too often lead to carelessness and what conscious dating is about is about being more aware, more respectful, more kind and, above all, more honest and authentic.
A slower pace allows you to be more fully you and them to be more fully themselves. It allows a connection to find its natural flow and form.
I am learning all of these things very gradually, and with the inevitable stumble-trip, after a lifetime of rushing from first to second to third date and hurrying things along so as to avoid the uncertainty. I fully believe that dating more consciously, that following a slower pace can transform your life for the better. What do you think?
This is part of a series of writing on conscious dating. Read about new relationship energy here, read about the myth of the three date rule here and read about freeing ourselves from expectations here.