How even does one "take it slow" in a relationship? Teach me!
February 4, 2014 11:34 AM   Subscribe

I broke off a long-term relationship recently, and I want that to not screw it up with a new guy I'm super excited about!

About a month ago, I ended my most serious relationship yet (~2 years, were living together) for a number of DTMFA-ish reasons. Over the past few months I had also developed strong feelings for my friend, A (which was another wakeup call re: my heart not being in it with my ex anymore). A was into me as well, but cut off contact for a while so as not to interfere with my relationship.

When I ended the relationship my predominant feeling was relief -- I relate a lot to this person. Afterwards, I spent about a week on self-rejuvenation, doing yoga and watching movies, reconnecting with friends, thanking those who had helped me through the breakup decision. Then I asked to A to hang out again, who gladly agreed. We've since spent the past couple of weekends together, hanging out with other friends, going out to bars/clubs, having awesome sex, great conversations, etc., and it's all amazing, yay!!! Great chemistry/attraction, and I can feel a good bond forming.

BUT, I'm really fresh post-breakup, and I want to make sure I'm pursuing this new thing in a healthy way, because I care a lot about this guy and think we have really good potential. I *feel* fine, and think I did most of the emotional processing before the end of the relationship anyway, but I still want to be careful here (and A has expressed the same thing).

So in theory I'd like to "take it slow", both because of the recent breakup, and also because why not, since we have literally ALL THE TIME IN THE WORLD… but how do I do that, practically speaking? What does "taking it slow" even mean? The only concrete things I have thought of are limiting # of weeknight sleepovers, and not rushing into saying "I love you", but otherwise I have no idea! We haven't talked much about exclusivity but have each at various times made it known to the other that we aren't interested in anyone else right now. I'm generally someone who goes from zero to "LET'S HANG OUT ALL THE TIME EVERY DAY" pretty quickly, so this is sort of a foreign concept to me. We are mid-twenties if that's relevant to your advice.
posted by internet of pillows to Human Relations (12 answers total) 16 users marked this as a favorite
Taking it slow means maintaining your independent life and very much not hitting "LET'S HANG OUT ALL THE TIME EVERY DAY" in the first six months or whatever. In the age of technology it also means not texting or IMing constantly. Or even regularly.
posted by DarlingBri at 11:41 AM on February 4, 2014 [10 favorites]

Ooooh!!! Yeah I know this.

hanging out everyday is fine, enjoy the love vibes!!

Taking it slow is not putting more on the relationship than you would reasonably expect given that you're seeing each other for oh two weekends now. So he's not meeting the family, he's not your emergency contact, he's not on your beneficiary on your 401k....

Don't plan around him.... this is not the time for life plans. Continue on your original life plan pre-him.

If you're super upset about something... you can lean on him a little but not tons.

Your deep dark secrets... you can tell him later...

Exclusivity talk after 1 month is totally normal.

Introducing to friends/family... depends on cultural, some after 1 month, some after 3-4 some after 6.....

Check in consistently about how you TRULY FEEL. Yeah the love hormones are juicing things up, but how much do you really know this person? How many situations have you seen him in? Have you seen him mad? Extremely happy? Have you said "no" to him in a total 100% disagreement? How much can you lean on him? How honest can you really be?

That's what taking it slow is... you look at the facts of where things actually are, given that this is a more or less Brand New Person in your life. If you started a new job and got along well with a coworker, this is about as well as you know this person.
posted by St. Peepsburg at 11:42 AM on February 4, 2014 [11 favorites]

What does "taking it slow" even mean? The only concrete things I have thought of are limiting # of weeknight sleepovers

I guess for me, if I were 'taking it slow' with someone, there wouldn't be any sleepovers until I decided it wasn't slow any more. You're already there, so I guess it just means continuing to prioritize your own activities, not moving in together any time soon, taking a lot of time off from one another so you don't just lose yourself in another relationship before understanding why you got so deeply into that last one, etc.

If you don't want to do that, I guess I wonder why you feel a need to "take it slow." What are you protecting yourself from, exactly? Can you articulate what you would worry about happening if you didn't try to put the brakes on this relationship to slow things down?
posted by Miko at 11:47 AM on February 4, 2014 [2 favorites]

I agree with above- taking it slow means not making big commitments until you have really gotten to know the person, and not spending too too much time with them and texting all the time is about the only way I can see that happening for a jump right in kind of girl. I'm the same, my way of taking things slow is to not date at all for 6 months post break up- and i really work on myself, get gorgeous, party a bit and see my friends, travel and focus on work...then I jump right in to something new when I'm ready. I think the point is learning something from your last relationship after reflecting on it for a while without sex distraction... So that you are better able to make changes you need to make to find yourself attracting the type if guy you want.
posted by misspony at 11:51 AM on February 4, 2014 [2 favorites]

I think one of the things to consider is that when you end a relationship you've got habits and a space in your life for another person. You just need to be careful that you're not simply slotting someone new into a role you built for the previous person. So I think things like taking time away from dating are partially about clearing the emotional slate, but also about breaking those habits and relearning how to live on your own so that a new relationship can grow into its own unique thing.
posted by you're a kitty! at 12:02 PM on February 4, 2014 [14 favorites]

This is similar to how I've seen a lot of serial monogamists pursue relationships. And, if it's not creating problems for you, go ahead with it. It sounds like there has been nothing slow about this new relationship so far and artificially imposing slow-down rules at this point isn't a magical recipe for the relationship going forward in an ideal and problem-free manner.

I think it would be a better use of your time to become quite aware of how the limerence you're feeling changes your perceptions and be very honest with yourself about how much you're projecting any fantasies onto the new fellow. That, plus being proactive about communication is a better plan for success than just doing a calendar slow-down of something that has already gotten started.
posted by quince at 12:18 PM on February 4, 2014 [7 favorites]

Re-establish who you are as an individual before you find yourself doing nothing but couple things with the new person.

And honestly, if you're not still dating (which is how you become aware of people you might be interested in), then you are de facto exclusive and that puts pressure on things.

But if you sincerely want to be with this guy and he wants to be with you back, then be with him. Find stuff out together. It'll be fun. If it doesn't work out, it doesn't work out. With or without him, you have the same amount of time. Might as well figure it out sooner than later.
posted by inturnaround at 12:26 PM on February 4, 2014 [1 favorite]

"Not rush into saying I love you" - maybe, not rushing the actual falling in love. The words don't matter, really, it's the feeling.

So, ways I have slowed down my "love feelings" for my boyfriend, because I also didn't/don't want to rush it:

- Not making plans around him, both big (where should I move, what career opportunities should I take) and small (planning my weekend)
- Seeing him only twice a week
- Maintaining and prioritizing my other friendships
- Picking up a new hobby at the same time that we started dating so that I had something else that was also new and exciting to occupy my brain with
- No sleepovers
- Check in with myself to see how I'm actually feeling about myself and the relationship from time to time
- Saying "no" to him when I don't feel like doing something he wants to do, just because it would be an excuse to see him/talk to him
- I don't contact him unless he contacts me first
- Gently remind myself to stop thinking about him when I catch myself daydreaming in the middle of work or whatever

I do these things not because I am trying to get him interested in me (a lot of this stuff is similar to "The Rules" from what I understand of "The Rules") but because I am trying to gauge whether or not I'm actually interested in him, and I cannot do that if I am spending all of my time talking to him, emailing him, texting him, seeing him, thinking about him... there's no time for ME in there, and no time for evaluation.

I am a serial monogamist and like to jump in fast generally but after jumping in fast the last time led me straight to three years of abuse, I know that I have to go a LOT slower now, even though my natural instinct is to GOGOGO and to doodle my first name and his last name surrounded by hearts and all that. It's just not wise for me, and I know it, so I have learned to curb my behavior a bit in order to protect myself.
posted by sockermom at 12:45 PM on February 4, 2014 [26 favorites]

Pay attention to any little doubts that come to mind. I mean you should notice them -- not necessarily take them as signs of bad things to come. So often when people eventually break up, they look back and say, "well, he was like this early on but I ignored it/explained it away."

Speak up frankly if he does something that you don't like, or fails to do things you've told him you prefer. In the early stages, you might want to" be reasonable and not overreact," which can lead to keeping your wishes to yourself, or swallowing your disappointment when your requests aren't heeded.

Work on making as few assumptions as you can -- neither of you can read minds.

And I strongly agree that the two of you should stay separate in many ways. Advocate for yourself, don't be afraid to disagree, see your other friends, follow your own interests, and definitely don't spend all your time together.
posted by wryly at 12:45 PM on February 4, 2014 [6 favorites]

I think taking it slow necessarily means making sure you're able to leave the shit from your former relationship IN your former relationship and not carry it forward. If your ex pushed a certain button, make sure you don't react the same way to it with the new guy. Make sure you have no baggage.

Trouble with a rebound relationship is that it's hard to see the forest baggage for the trees stars in your eyes, as it were.
posted by mudpuppie at 4:05 PM on February 4, 2014 [1 favorite]

It matters a great deal how long you two have been friends, and how well you know each other from that friendship. If he's been an aquaintance that's one thing, right? Then all this advice is solid standard gold bars.

If he's been your bestie forevs, then the foundation that 'taking it slow' is meant to create is largely already in place.
posted by The Noble Goofy Elk at 7:09 PM on February 4, 2014 [1 favorite]

Take it slow means spend more time being you and less time being a romantic partner. It means your life, your me myself and I, is your priority and what you spend most - not merely 51-percent, of your time on.

You might be different. The people in my life who have been serial monogamous-ers were either users who always wanted a gf or bf in their back pocket (doesn't sound like you!) or people who needed to do a lot of work on defining their romantic needs.

A week is not enough time to recharge, btw. That really jumped out at me as unrealistic. If you think this romance is good and it's working, backfoff and let it grow slowly as a free-range, organic thing.
posted by Lesser Shrew at 6:44 AM on February 5, 2014 [2 favorites]

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