People can fall in love for different reasons, at different times in their lives, and with different intentions. And they can also fall in love on different timelines, too. For some, falling in love feels like an instant spark, while for others, it’s a slow burn that intensifies over time. If you’re in the latter category, you might feel the need to share that tendency with your SO. But how are you supposed to explain to someone that you take a while to fall in love?
First off, let’s get one thing straight — it’s more than OK if you take a long time to fall for someone, and there are many legit reasons why this may be the case. For example, if you had your heart broken in the recent past, it’s understandable that you might be a tad more careful or apprehensive when it comes to love. Or, if you don’t trust easily, you may be a bit more guarded until you’re partner has proven to you that you can depend on them. The point is, there’s nothing wrong with taking it slow. In fact, for some couples, that slow burn proves to be far more elating and rewarding — not to mention less risky — than jumping headfirst into love right off the bat.
"There really is no average time it takes to know that you’re in love," Dr. Gary Brown, a prominent couple’s therapist in Los Angeles, previously told Elite Daily. "Some people fall in love on the first date. Some have been friends for months or years, and then one or both realize that they have developed much deeper feelings for each other."
If you know this about yourself, though, there are several reasons why you may want to be transparent with your partner — especially if their feelings are on the fast track. For one, if they’ve already expressed that they love you and you don’t feel ready to reciprocate the sentiment, it’s worth helping them to understand why. And even if they haven’t said those three little words yet, but you suspect based on their behavior that their feelings are growing at a faster rate than yours, then you still may want to be upfront with them about where you stand. That way, your boo is less likely to take it personally if it takes you a little longer to fall.
This is especially crucial in today’s world, where falling hard and fast is often glorified (see: The Bachelor and every rom-com ever that reinforces the notion of love at first sight).
“There’s so much pressure these days to quickly get involved that many people feel apologetic if they aren’t on the fast track to emotional or sexual involvement,” says Dr. Susan Edelman, a board-certified psychiatrist. “That’s unfortunate because it takes a while to get to know someone. Whether you have trust issues, bad past experiences, or simply want to protect your heart, taking things slowly makes a lot of sense.”
The good news is, there is a way to make sure bae understands where you’re coming from without making things awkward, according to Dr. Edelman. She suggests saying something simple and straightforward along the lines of, “It takes me a while to feel close to someone,” or “I’m attracted to you, but I want to take things slow.” Be sure to pepper in something positive to reassure your boo, like, “I’m really into you,” or, “I feel really excited about where this is going.” That will soften the blow a bit, and remind them that just because it may take you a little longer to fall doesn’t mean you’re not super invested in this budding relationship.
You should also be prepared for the possibility that your partner may have questions. If you inform them that it takes a while for you to fall in love, there’s a chance they might ask you why. It’s totally up to you whether you share any trust issues or negative past experiences, and you should only reveal what you feel comfortable with. But keep in mind that the more information you offer, the better they’ll be able to understand where you’re coming from.
Ultimately, there is no right or wrong way to tell your SO that you tend to take things slow on the emotional front — just as there is no right or wrong time frame in which to fall in love. No matter how you choose to express this to your partner, know that being upfront with them is one of the best gifts you can give to both of you. Not only will it give you peace of mind to be honest with bae, but it will also give them peace of mind that your pace is nothing to be concerned about. The best part? Both of you can rest assured that when you do fall, you won’t have to question whether it’s infatuation or true love — because you’ve taken all the time you needed to get there.