How to let a romantic relationship grow without urgency
January 29, 2020 10:53 PM   Subscribe

I have no frame of reference for slow and steady dating or even the gentle development of love and intimacy. My parents met, went on a few dates, decided they were soul mates (they are), and that was that. Will you tell me about you and your partner's courtship, and how you let your love grow in healthy, happy ways?
posted by Kitchen Witch to Human Relations (8 answers total) 15 users marked this as a favorite
Response by poster: Forgot to add: I do not want children, so no biological clock is ticking.
posted by Kitchen Witch at 10:56 PM on January 29, 2020 [1 favorite]

My wife and I met at a bar on a Tuesday night. Totally random occurrence. We went on five dates, and I think I won her over by leaving my phone at home so I could be more open to the situation. I moved to a nearby but also far away city and she said she thought it was over. I invited her to come visit any time she wanted. I met her kids. I spent Christmas with them. I made the decision that it could be possible we could be in love and I could be a positive role model to her kids. It took almost four years for her to accept my proposal to marry from when I asked her. The thing I learned the most is that patience requires focused, active listening and learning to only ask questions I don't know the answer to and to always give advice in the form of a choice someone else will make or not make. I can choose to not have my cake or not eat it without offending her or me feeling guilty. That has allowed us to slow time and not feel rushed to indulge in mindless or pointless activities that are just for show. When we do these things, we have really thought about the impact it will have on us, but we don't act timidly and can celebrate it even when it's over.
posted by parmanparman at 2:40 AM on January 30, 2020 [11 favorites]

I tend to also move fairly quickly in relationships, and my parents have the same story as yours. But I've also been in a couple of relationships that started as friendships. Even if you're dating from the start, I think friendship is a good thing to think about- how do your relationships with your friends grow without urgency? If you're familiar with attachment theory, do you consider yourself securely attached (and are you dating securely attached people)?
posted by pinochiette at 6:54 AM on January 30, 2020

For me, the important part is to distinguish between someone who is genuinely excited to be with me (which is natural when the connection forms!) and the very dangerous person who has no boundaries/will push your boundaries as a test to see how susceptible you are.

I know I was over the moon about my girlfriend, and she was about me, but I made sure that I wasn't using her beyond her limits/the limits of our early relationship. (It was quite a bad time for me.) There's a reason that intense, whirlwind flings often flame out and it's NOT because it went so quickly inherently... it's that the type of person who consistently does that is often manipulative OR can't form good boundaries.

But sometimes two people do meet and it's sparks. Then fire! Anyway, if you want to know how to let it build without urgency, find other things to do with your time besides obsesses about them.
1. Set times when you'll contact them (don't play games like "I'll wait 3 days to text back")
2. Set clear plans on the next time you'll meet
3. Gauge their interest relative to your own to protect yourself (if I'm busy but into someone, I would say "Hey, I can't Tuesday, how about Thursday?" not "Uh, I can't Tuesday." and offer no followup)

To be very specific, I met my girlfriend right after my dad died. I couldn't use her as emotional support a ton because I barely knew her! I wanted to sometimes! She knew what was going on, but our dates were generally a time when I didn't have to meditate on my own grief. I think it confused her that I wasn't just automatically dumping every thought I had on her about it and I said at one point, "I have my own support system. I appreciate you so much, but I don't want our relationship to be about what I'm going through right now." And then something also really bad happened and I did lean on her once we were about 5 weeks in.

So to let a relationship develop, here are my quick tips:
1. Have an outside support system. This person is new in your life, they're exciting, but they're both a black box still and also not to be used like a stress ball.
2. Set up clear dates, have things to look forward to, gauge THEIR interest so you don't get jerked around.
2a) Be clear on YOUR interest. Mark Manson's FUCK YES rule applies both ways.
3. Every now and then throw my rules out the window and have fun.
posted by OnTheLastCastle at 7:36 AM on January 30, 2020 [12 favorites]

From my experience:
1. Be honest about how much time you need (to decide if you want to date this person seriously or not, to get to milestones like sleeping together, moving in together, marriage, etc.). And be honest about how you can deal with the other person's timeline; how patient you want to be (how much you think it's possible you could care about them, I guess?).
2. Do things together that aren't straight-up romance (museums, concerts, sports, hikes, board games, whatever you both like), meaning you have a chance to get to know who the other person is and how the two of you fit together, without immediate DO WE KISS NOW OR WHAT feelings and worries.
3. Bear in mind that as a rule, the more you care about someone, the more physically attractive you find them.
4. Get in a nice rhythm of texting each other (or preferred communication method); that could be several times a day or once a week or whatever depending on what works for you, but it's nice to have this connection and experience each other that way too, a few lines at a time. (My husband and I now have a habit of trading photos when we think of it--cats and flowers and trains and silly stuff like that, which is another way to know each other.)
5. Be together sometimes without interacting--have a study date or a work date or so on, just sharing the same space each doing your own thing restfully.
And so on...
posted by huimangm at 8:39 AM on January 30, 2020 [2 favorites]

I'm a "sleep with whoever you want on whichever date you want" kind of person, but my partner and I had known each other for about a year when we went on our first date so I had a sense of who they were as a person. It wasn't a particularly good time in my life, and I was fairly armoured against real vulnerability, and so for a while we were just hanging out (a phrase that I hate now, and hope that my poor kid never encounters in her relationships later in life, it's the worst way to say you're not being serious or careful with people.) I realized it was something more when someone in my family died (a few months into our dating) and I realized that I could talk to them about it, and be sad, and it would be okay. None of the people I had been seeing around that time were safe that way, and suddenly I realized I did want to be with someone with whom I could share the bummer stuff of life as well as the fun shit.

We didn't live together for another 5 or 6 years, but in that time they had a major medical event and I went away for grad school and hurricane Katrina happened (evacucation!) So we went through some life shit together before it was a good idea to move in. Then we moved away from New Orleans together, and that was about when we decided we were pretty solid. A few years later they proposed and we got married, a few years after that we had a kid. It's been a process, and we have not done things in any predetermined order or on any kind of schedule.

At every turn, they have shown themselves to be trustworthy, present, and kind. I have tried to live up to that example - and it's not like I've never met anyone with those qualities, but I have wanted to meet them there. I think it's partly about my own ability to grow up and get out of my own way, they have always been better at that stuff than I (for example they have never spoken badly of an ex that I've heard, and are on friendly terms with most of them, whereas I hope I never have to see most of my exes again and look back on my early 20s with a kind of amazed horror at the depths of my dirtbag self.)
posted by Lawn Beaver at 9:59 AM on January 30, 2020 [3 favorites]

Nthing that the best way to have a slow and steady romantic relationship develop is to start with a non-romantic friendship, which then becomes romantic once you know each other pretty well.
posted by dotparker at 11:48 AM on January 30, 2020

I'd like to say how timely this post is. I don't have a great track record for patience in relationships. Things usually seem to spark and burn brightly and everything is a blur of emotions and actions. Heck, I once married a man with whom i had slept with on the first date! Sadly, I have been married twice, and neither marriage reached ten years.

But now....I have begun dating someone who started off as a friend (we went to high school together but didn't know each other then). We became friends at get togethers our mutual friends had; we've run into each other at events we both enjoy. We had our first "actual" date in September, and didn't actually even kiss until recently. I've never taken things so slow, and I am really enjoying this growing relationship. We've gone to museums (much as huimangm suggested!), gone on nature walks, visited NYC. It's been such a sweet transition to closeness, with no pressure, just enjoyment as we learn more about each other. A plus is that we are both in our 50s and have our own homes and kids already, and we have the time and wisdom to just be.

I will admit that I get all giddy and start thinking ahead in my mind, but I'm talking myself down from that ledge, so I can enjoy watching where this all unfolds. It may be hard, but if you can manage it, it's very rewarding to just go slow.
posted by annieb at 4:00 PM on January 30, 2020

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