Does “taking it slow” actually make your relationship more likely to last?

Meeting someone new that you genuinely like and who likes you is such a rare thing, it’s almost impossible not to get all giddy when it happens. You know exactly how it goes: You’ve stayed up until 5am drinking prosecco in bed and making each other come multiple times. You’ve both cried while talking about how much you love your dads. You’ve compared birth charts and know each other’s moon signs. And then all of a sudden, you realize you want to be around this person all the damn time. Maybe you’re even being a bit shit at replying to your friends’ WhatsApps. You’re probably planning your entire weekends around seeing/shagging your new partner. No shade – we’ve all been there.

Instinctively, you know this is probably a silly idea. You’ve heard that rushing into things in the early days can fuck everything up. But at the same time, you’ve got *feelings* and don’t want the fun to end. Should you cool it down a little and try and take things slow? Will doing that give your blossoming relationship a higher chance of survival? Or is this just a stupid thing we say to each other, with little thought of whether it’s actually useful advice? I spoke to a relationships counsellor to find out whether taking things slow is actually a good idea.

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“It’s common to rush into relationships,” Relate’s Simone Bose, explains. “In today’s age people get hurt quite quickly because there’s always another option around the corner. People have these experiences [on dating apps] where they get excited and passionate, and then other person moves on quite quickly within a month or two.”

So, if you want to try and avoid that happening, taking it slow may be the answer Simone says. “If it’s important to you to meet somebody with who there could be a potential long-term relationship, I think it can be quite good not to throw all your emotions in all at once – even though it can be quite exciting at the start.”

And, she says it’s sensible to keep your independence because “every time you have a relationship and you throw all of yourself into it, you may lose a little bit of yourself. That’s not necessarily a good thing. If it ends three months down the line, you’re going to be more hurt [than if you’d taken it slow]. As a general rule, if you have a pattern of really throwing yourself into a relationship, maybe think about it take it a little bit slower.”

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Benefits of taking it slow

You keep your life and your space

“It’s really important to keep your life,” Simone says. “It’s natural to want to spend every second with that person, but just for yourself and self-care, you should give yourself that space.”

It’ll help you get to know the person

You may feel like seeing them all the time will help you get to know them better, but this isn’t the case. “If you want to get to know that person and understand who they are a little bit more, it’s best to talk more and talk slower.”

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Whether you have sex with someone right away is totally up to you, and what works in your partnership may be totally different to someone else’s. But, Simone admits sex can complicate things a little bit sometimes. “Sex can sometimes muddy the waters. It can make you not judge the person completely correctly.” If the sex is amazing, you might not be able to look at your partner as a whole person and think, “Is this the right person for me?” And then you could move in with them and only then realize their beliefs and values are really different to yours. “You might realize that because you were so emotionally involved and excited, you forgot about your values and what is important to you in a relationship,” she says.

How to slow it down

First of all, be clear with your partner to avoid upsetting them or making them feel you’re not into it. “Remember, you’re not saying don’t enjoy your relationship,” Simone explains. “Just that you want to slow it down in a way that’s comfortable for you, so that you can keep your judgement, friends, and the balance in your life.”

But how much hanging out is too much at the beginning? “I think you can see each other two or three times a week,” Simone says. “If you really like somebody you’ve got to invest time into them, but it really does depend on the person. Some people are quite detached and very busy with their work, so they need a partner who doesn’t want to see them too much. Dating a person who is similar in that way helps, [because neither] want someone to be too needy, or enmeshed with them – and that works.”

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But don’t go too slow

As Simone says, taking it slow can be beneficial. But you need to be careful not to go too slow and avoid “distancing yourself so much that you’re not even really in the relationship, bonding, or getting to learn about the other person on a deeper level.” Basically, ensure you’re not giving and getting the bare minimum.

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“[If you are doing that] ask yourself where’s that coming from,” Simone says. “Is it because you’re scared? Is it because you’ve been through a break up before and been hurt? If that’s the case, be clear with the other person. Say, ‘Look, I’d prefer we only saw each other once a week to start with because I went through this before, and it’s not that I don’t like you I just need to go slower for myself. It’s not that I don’t want to see you.’ Tell them a little bit about why that’s happening and what you’re feeling.”

You also need to remember that although it can be scary, you have to allow yourself to be a little bit vulnerable. “If you’re not, you can never benefit from the relationship – showing vulnerability is the only way to really bond with, and know, somebody.”

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Sometimes though, people may use wanting to take it slow as an excuse to drag out having to make a commitment of any kind. “People get quite scared of relationships when they’re not sure, and they don’t want to get hurt and don’t want to enmesh themselves with somebody too quickly. It could be that they’re keeping their options open for other people as well. And that is the way that things are at the moment – it’s tricky.”

Whether taking it slow in a new relationship actually makes it more likely you’ll last as a couple, Simone is unsure – everyone is different, after all. “I’ve met people who fell in love quite quickly and they are still together 30 years later,” she adds. “I don’t think it’s necessarily the truth [that taking it slow means you’ll stay together]. [With couples like this it worked out] because they were the right fit, and their personalities work. But I do think there are some people who need to take it slower – ultimately, it’s different for every single relationship.”

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