After all the bad first dates, awkward hookups, and rude AF ghostings, you finally met someone with relationship potential. The only problem? You don’t want to move too fast (been there, done that), and you don’t want to get bored taking it slow.
But—stay with me here—those aren’t your only options. You can take it slow and keep things interesting. “Taking it slow gives you a chance to get to know one another and see if you have similar interests and enjoy spending time together,” says Elisa Gizzo, an associate marriage and family therapist at Andrea Cornell Marriage and Family Therapy in New York City. “Having fun is key.”
But before you can get to the fun stuff, you should know exactly what “taking it slow” means to the person you’re dating. While it might seem obvious, different people have different definitions, explains Terri Orbuch, Ph.D., professor at Oakland University in Michigan, and author of Finding Love Again: 6 Simple Steps to a New and Happy Relationship.
For some, she says, taking it slow could mean waiting to become a couple, while other people might think of it as waiting to have sex. And for others, Orbuch says “taking it slow” might mean waiting to become committed or emotionally vulnerable.
Clearly, this can get confusing. So before doing anything (at any speed), make sure you and your date are on the same page. While it can feel a little intimidating to be that direct with someone you just started dating, “it doesn’t hurt to be honest about what you’re looking for,” says Gizzo. “Often times, if two people are in two different life phases and ready for different levels of commitment, it’s better to know before growing close to one another.”
Think of it as a mini-version of “the talk,” and—fingers crossed— it goes well. (But even if it doesn’t, at least you found out sooner rather than later.) Once you’re both ready to take it slow, here’s how to keep things interesting:
1. Try new things together.
When you’re taking it slow, you have all the time in the world to actually—get this—enjoy dating. That’s because you’re probably going on more legit dates with your person, so you have more opportunities to make them fun and exciting (read: not dinner and a movie). “It’s fun to explore new things,” says Gizzo. “And trying something new together can place you both in a position where you’re newbies to the activity, and you can bond over how ‘out of place’ or natural the new activity feels.”
Not to mention that, according to Gizzo, doing a new activity hits “the novelty-seeking reward systems of the brain,” which creates a sense of excitement and joy—ya know, how dating should be.
2. Share something you love with your new partner.
Figuring out compatibility is pretty damn important, so Gizzo suggests sharing your interests—whether it’s rock climbing, comedy, trying new foods—with the person you’re dating to help you decide if it’s a match. This will help you feel more comfortable on a date, while helping your partner get to know you and your world. Win-win.
3. Ask these questions.
Let’s be real, starting every convo with “how was your day?” can only get you so far in a relationship. To really figure out if you and this person have long-term potential, Orbuch recommends asking questions that will tell you something significant about the other person’s opinions and values.
She suggests asking questions such as: “If you won the lottery, where would you travel to and why?” “What are you most proud of?” and “What’s your definition of success?” This will help you establish emotional intimacy.
4. Find creative ways to stay connected.
Even when you’re purposely putting extra time and energy into dating someone, you’re still going to be busy with work, friends, family–the list goes on. To keep things interesting in between meet-ups, use technology to your advantage. Orbuch recommends sending each other “fun, romantic texts during the day” and “cartoons or jokes” that you can laugh about the next time you’re together. Memes make the heart grow fonder, right?
5. Don’t use texting as a crutch.
Sure, texting is super convenient, but it’s not the best form of communication when you’re just getting to know someone. “Keep texting to a minimum and focus more on setting dates to spend quality time together,” says Gizzo.
Both Gizzo and Orbuch encourage daters to talk on the phone and video chat to deepen your connection. Plus, you get to spend more time actually enjoying the other person’s company, rather than over-analyzing the meaning of their last text.
However you decide to keep things interesting while taking it slow, your main priority should be having a good time—whatever that means to you. “Approach dating with an open mind and with the intent of having fun,” says Gizzo.
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