Go Slow Baby: How soon should dating become a relationship?
In dating and relationships we talk about timing a lot. Timing of meeting someone, and whether the connection you forge can develop into more. Timing around becoming intimate, or sexual and the timing that we take to officiate a relationship. My crystal ball skills do not extend to knowing why any given individual moves through the initial stages of dating at the speed they do.
When I asked others about their perception of time in moving from the dating stage into a relationship there were lots of immeasurable responses based on feelings (expected), not dissimilar to asking about timing around sex. I was pleasantly surprised that a high percentage of responses indicated basing the decision on communication, feelings, compatibility, balance and understanding. (Yes, yes, yes I’m so proud!)
What I will say, irrevocably, is that dating is it’s own thing. It’s the period of courtship that occurs between meeting someone new and working out if you want to be in a relationship with them. If we’re looking at things chronologically dating precedes relationship. Obviously you “go on dates” still within a relationship but that’s another species of a similar beast. As an aside, it’s important to remember that dating exists as a prequel to a potential relationship but it doesn’t always result in a relationship. That’s okay, and it is certainly not a failure. That’s exactly why dating exists. It’s for this fundamental reason that my own perspective of dating and timing, for once, are clear, concise and limited to three words: Go Slow Baby.
I never shy away at the opportunity to go deep though do I? Here goes:
Dating allows for curiosity
Dating is a crucial stage of any relationship in which you get to know another human. You cannot know someone in 2 weeks. In fact, many relationships don’t hit their stride til a year in. We all masquerade for people that we want to impress (which is a big part of dating) but it’s not until dropping the facade that we’re given true insight into someone’s personality. In two weeks of starring in your own holiday fling, COVID bubble or rom com you don’t have enough of an opportunity to be exposed to someone’s true character. You won’t see them move through adversity, deal with pain, sickness, stress and you won’t truly witness how they behave with others. This is not to say that you need to be cynical of what a new lover might be hiding, you just need to stay curious enough to want to know what they are really like once the mask is off.
Logic vs. Emotion
Unfortunately I need to bring the L word into this, and that L word is Logic. Dating is high emotion, particularly when your feelings curl inwards and you realise you actually kind of like someone. Doing things based on emotion alone is fucking wild. It’s fun and exciting and blissful, but it doesn’t always lead to the right outcome when faced with the boredom of reality. When we rush into relationships we lead with emotion only. As a classic romantic who would live in the bubble of an afternoon picnic date if it was possible, let me tell you how much it pains me to write this. It is hard, but logic needs to be given a seat at the table in dating. When we move through the initial “getting to know you” stages (too) quickly we limit the amount of time that we allow logic to be considered. After the dust (read: lust filled strawberry flavoured haze) settles and you grant logic it's place setting, there’s a strong chance that you’ll be greeted by it secretly kicking you under the table to bring attention to the fact that the emotional powderpuff unicorn left in charge let someone new move in. Those kicks in the shin are logic's way of drawing attention to the fact that you don’t actually like the way your new boo leaves the heater on, showers 4 times a day, watched reality tv and change outfits 8 times before they leave the house. That’s lust team, watch it.
Romantic uncertainty is a positive
The dating phase naturally induces a unique type of anxiety which comes from romantic uncertainty. When we don’t know what to expect next, how our new lover will act, react or the trajectory of the romance it’s normal to feel anxious. Regardless of how much that initial nervousness rattles us (or not) the result of removing it is soothing, yet oddly confusing. As soon as you remove ambiguity by replacing it with security you automatically begin to tip the scales from unfamiliar, exciting and new into assured, familiar and slightly beige.
Security smothers eroticism
With the relationship label solidly applied the likes of commitment, security and fidelity shimmy on through. This is part of a much larger fountain of Esther Perel shaped knowledge but simplistically speaking, security unwittingly smothers eroticism, desire and chemistry. Why does this matter and can we just get back to touching each other inappropriately in public? In short: Yes, but if you’ve met someone new and are taking the time to get to know them, regardless of how much you might know intrinsically that you’re right for each other, enjoying the experience and naturally building trust will never hinder you. In fact it is just as important (if not more) than the actual labelling part. Don’t sacrifice chemistry for security. Especially if you really like the person and believe you might actually end up with them, like ya know, forever.
Subvert the Red Flaggage
One of my favourite responses criticised numerical values as a measure of taking next steps but strong reiterated that dating should be fun; about getting to know someone, enjoying sex, exploring their behaviours and values and just having a good time. Controversially the same response indicated that if we subvert the common negativity around wanting to keep things casual why can we not ask if wanting to officiate things too quickly isn’t a red flag instead?
I have no stats to support this claim but I do bear witness to a lot of questions around the matter of chemistry. Like I said above, chemistry is largely cultivated by the uncertainty surrounding any new lover and their intentions. Once you’re locked into a relationship your anxiety is minimised because the partnership label gives you reassurance. You can take the mask off and stop trying to impress, you’ve successfully achieved the thing. With the label comes commitment, security and fidelity. With all of those things you’re unwittingly smothering eroticism, desire and, chemistry. So, if you meet someone new and you’re taking the time to get to know them and you really like them, enjoying the experience and naturally building trust is it truly necessary to rush into the labelling part? Do everything and anything you can to keep the chemistry alive whilst it’s rolling around in its most pure form.