Stop squashing romance! Eight steps to slow down and build a real connection.

Stop squashing romance Eight steps to slow down and build a real connection

Doo you get attached to people too soon? Has your heart been broken repeatedly because you're in a 'relationship' --- or even in love --- while your date is still deciding whether to see you again? Expectations can destroy a potential romance before it has a chance. Fortunately, you can learn to allow relationships to unfold naturally.

Most humans (especially women) are wired for connection. We want to think of any new romantic interest as potentially 'The One.' We get weary of being alone, tired of dating. We are in a hurry to find The Oneand settle down.

It's very easy to turn the person in front of us into The One. We minimize and overlook their flaws, exaggerate their good qualities, and see what we want to see. Note that this effect can be magnified a thousandfold if the relationship isn't happening face-to-face. Typed messages in a chatroom, e-mail or Instant Messenger window easily distort to meet our hopes. If the other person says something that seems outrageous, we read it as a joke. In fact, we read everything the other person says in our own voice, as we would have said it, which makes us feel a natural affinity with the other person that we may not feel if we could hear their words in their own tone.

How can you avoid this attachment in the early stages of a relationship?

1) Meet the other person quickly.

If you are meeting potential dates online, it's very important to get off the keyboard and into the real world quickly. How quickly? Once you've read their profile and exchanged a few e-mails... it's time. (Though some people like to talk on the phone at least once before meeting in person.) Set up a very low-key meeting, a 'pre-date interview.' Meeting in public for a quick cup of coffee is best, that way everyone feels safe and no one has invested a lot of time or money in the meeting. You may feel awkward the first time, but if you focus on easing your date's nerves at this meeting, it will take your mind off your own jitters --- with the added bonus that you will come across as a much warmer person than if you had been self-absorbed.

2) Remember that you're just sitting down to talk with a person.

Avoid treating the first meeting as if you're interviewing a potential spouse. You're only assessing whether there is enough chemistry to warrant a real date. Even if you are certain within the first five minutes that there is no chemistry, you can still enjoy chatting with this person. Just be sure to let him/her know as soon as possible that, while you enjoyed chatting, you're not feeling the 'love connection.' Don't let the other party spend time building false hope.

3) Treat your dates like...dates.

Dating is supposed to be fun. Let go, for now, of the notion of finding The One. Focus on enjoying the moment instead. Enjoy the food, the conversation. There should be only two questions in your mind: "Am I having fun?"and "Do I want to have another date with this person?"If you're focused on having fun and enjoying the moment rather than evaluating, you will put your date at ease and you will both have a much better time. Your dates will adore you for giving them the gift of your relaxed attention.

4) Be wary of inventing a future.

Lisa (not her real name) hadn't been on a date for years when an acquaintance, Bill, asked her out to lunch. At lunch, Lisa learned that Bill had been separated from his wife for two years, but hadn't finalized the divorce yet. Lisa didn't have a religious or ethical objection to Bill's separation, but she still decided not to see him again. Why? Because, she says, "What if he's still in love with her? What if we get a year into a relationship and he leaves me to go back to her? And I've invested my heart and my time and my energy in this relationship?" Bill and Lisa have spent a total of an hour together and she's upset about his betrayal and her investment in the relationship --- do you see the problem here? Instead of thinking about whether lunch was fun and whether she might enjoy seeing Bill again this weekend, Lisa put the brakes on a real-life potential romance because of her imagined story. Sound ridiculous? Perhaps, but people do this all the time. Sadly, Lisa will probably never invent a story with a happy ending for herself, so all her relationships are doomed before they begin.

5) Date the old-fashioned way.

Once upon a time, it was common to have multiple dates before settling down to 'go steady' with one special beau. That behavior became passé when premarital sex became common --- no one wants to think that their Saturday night date was getting physical with someone else on Friday! Since the sexual revolution in the late 60s and early 70s, it's been common for college and high school kids to go directly into a 'relationship' after just one date. Today's adults grew up with this dating behavior and consider it the norm. But we're no longer usually going on dates with people we've known for months or years, like we did in high school. Thanks to the internet, speed dating, and other new methods of meeting people, we might be on our third date with a person and still have only spent a couple of hours with them. Think about that... is three hours together enough to know if this person is The One?Don't get pushed into a commitment --- or let someone else push you --- after only a few hours together. Think this through while your head is unmuddled by infatuation. Would you want to know someone for a month before settling in? Three months? Spend a minimum of ten hours together? Fifty? Decide up front what your personal guidelines are. Insist on keeping your options open and continuing to meet other people. You'll be much less likely to gloss over Ethan's flaws at dinner when you're looking forward to meeting Dave for coffee on Saturday.

6) Don't rush into being sexual.

Since this dating model means everyone is seeing multiple people for the first couple of weeks/months, these dates are obviously ending with a hug or kiss at the front door. It's helpful to have open conversations about this. Make sure, when the time comes (not the first meeting!) that your date knows you won't be getting physical with them until you're certain, and reassure them that you're not sexually active with anyone else either. If you don't intend to be physical in a relationship until marriage, you should discuss that, too, when the time is right. It's always good to be very clear and upfront with your dates.

7) Take one step at a time.

At the predate interview, don't let yourself think beyond the first date. "Would I enjoy going to dinner or a movie with this person?"It's a simple yes/no question and doesn't require that you know their life history or how many children they plan to have someday. On subsequent dates, limit your thinking to "Would I like to see this person again?"Eventually the question becomes "Am I ready to commit to just this one person?"When you reach that point, you will discover that the question has a whole new heady quality --- especially if you've been dating for several months and that kiss at the front door has been getting more passionate with each date! Entering into an adult relationship, after fully getting to know the other person and after exploring your options fully, is a deliciously satisfying step.

8) Even 'going steady' is just 'going steady.'

Engagement and/or marriage could be months or years away! Enjoy each step as you go. When you find yourself looking ahead, bring yourself back to thoughts of the present.

Life is made up of nothing but moments. Don't run from one moment to the next, always looking ahead. Savor every experience as it unfolds!

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