I am a master of dating too quickly. My last ex and I became exclusive on our second date. Come to think of it, I did the same thing with the boyfriend before that. Were those happy, healthy relationships? Nope. Am I still with them? What do you think? It's hard to know how to take things slow in a relationship.
Boundaries are hard to implement without seeming disinterested or taking a step back. Asking for your time and independence when you start dating someone can sometimes be intimidating, and occasionally, it might make your partner feel unwanted or unappreciated — but only if you do it the wrong way.
However, a healthy relationship involves two fully developed, secure people who aren't in a rush to get anywhere, because no one's looking to run off with someone else anytime soon. Your partner isn't satiating some deep hole inside of you that is desperate to be filled. They are an enjoyable addition to your life — one that doesn't need to be developed at the speed of light in order to be maintained.
So take a breath, because I asked Susan Winter, New York City relationship expert, how to take it slow in a relationship so that it develops healthfully — you know, the right way.
1. Be honest.
As with all things in life, honesty is the best policy — even if it's really scary. It will feel like a huge weight off your shoulders, especially when it comes to how to take things slow in a relationship.
"If you're the kind of person who's comfortable speaking your mind, you may want to tell your partner that your reason for slowing the pace is due to the fact that you like them," Winter says. "Because you have positive feelings about 'who they are' at this point in knowing them, you want to ensure that your relationship has the greatest likelihood of moving forward in a healthy manner."
Since all of my relationships in the past have been riddled with co-dependence, I now make an effort to move cautiously and deliberately in my dating life — and I make that clear from the very beginning. That way, my partners don't take it personally when I actually want to get to know them instead of rushing into a relationship haphazardly. And to be honest, everyone responds well to someone who has boundaries and knows what is right for them.
"Who is going to contest the fact that you like them? As long as you're willing to continue to honestly share your emotions and the relationship is progressing forward, you should have no problem slowing down your mate," Winter continues. Once you find someone who respects the fact that you have self-respect, you have found someone worth moving forward with.
2. Make justified excuses.
I, for one, have trouble being emotionally vulnerable with partners (it's a skill I am still trying to learn), so using external circumstances as justification to slow down a relationship that is burning too quickly sounds like a great tactic. Instead of seeming disinterested, you appear to have a full and active life instead.
"External roadblocks are reasonable excuses for not being able to see each other as much as you'd like on a weekly basis. This could include going out of town for a meeting, going home to see your family, or finishing up a big project at work," says Winter. "The key to doing this diplomatically is to remember the golden rule: Whenever you take something away, you need to replace it with something else."
If you cancel plans without a follow-up, your partner might think you are potentially trying to ghost them instead of slow down the relationship because you actually see a future. Winter offers suggestions for slowing things down by saying things like, "I can't see you this weekend. I'm going to family event. How are you set for the following weekend?" or, "Tuesday night's not good for me. I'll be out of town for a client meeting. Could we touch base when I come back and have a better idea of my schedule?"
This way, your relationship will have more appropriate pacing instead of falling into the dangerous "I like you, let's hang out with each other every day" zone, which is something I am definitely guilty of falling into. Secret: Those relationships tend not to last.
3. Have some self-discipline.
"If you can master your mind, you can master your emotions. You can also master your actions," says Winter. "Whenever you feel the relationship getting 'too hot too soon,' slow your own pace of engagement."
When it comes to a healthy relationship, remember, slow and steady wins the race. "This could mean [you] say no to a date one night, but accept one two days later," she continues. "It could mean holding off on sex for a while until you have a better idea of who your partner is and what they really want. It could also mean 'thinking through' the end result of any action you take (drunk dialing or late-night booty calls)."
A man (who has been very uncommunicative since our first date) just came back to the city after going out of town for a few weeks and asked me to go out again. I haven't responded yet, because I am taking the time to really think it through. Sometimes, it's important to take a step back and consider what is actually right for you.
"At the end of the day, it's all about you. You're the one who sets the pace. You're the one who does the filtering in choosing the appropriate partner for your end goals. And you're the one who has command of yourself, your actions, and your emotions," Winter concludes. "Don't be afraid to use all the skills you have to work for your romantic advantage."
It's empowering to remember that the ball is in your court, and you have all the power in the relationship to make any of the choices you want. If you need to slow your relationship down, slow it down. The right person will be happy to get to know you at any pace you need.
This post was originally published on Aug. 24, 2017. It was updated on Sept. 3, 2019 by Elite Daily Staff.