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Perhaps one of the most overlooked ideas in the dating world is the concept of pacing. Pacing is all about moving at a similar speed to a new romantic acquaintance, not rushing too far ahead of them or lagging behind.
Think of two people dancing the tango. In order to make it work each dance partner needs to step in time with the other – step forward too much and you might dance your partner out of the room (and not in a graceful way). Take no steps forward at all and there is no dance.
It’s important to pace a potential partner because moving too fast or slow can spoil the enchanted tension of attraction, like a fruit bitten into before it is ripe or once it has begun to rot.
Proposing to move in together or talking about kids after just a couple weeks of whirlwind romance might reflect the intensity of feelings in the room but is also likely to scare off a new flame. Many people will be confronted by this kind of conversation too soon into a relationship – and for good reason. This is mainly because there hasn’t been enough time to truly get to know one another, and people will often freak out when they think the person they’re seeing is moving too fast.
On the other hand, when you are months into a new fling but unwilling to consider your playmate’s attempts at making it official, you might be moving too slow. Pacing is all about reading where your potential partner is at, how fast they are wanting to take things, and synchronising your pace – even if you want to rush in. This means regularly stopping to take stock of any feedback. Most of all it is about reciprocity.
In today’s age of dating apps and hook-up culture, pacing or matching a potential partner is often about making sure we don’t move faster than what is safe and appropriate.
The thing is, often when we start to like someone, it’s too early to know who this person really is and whether or not they are worth committing to – particularly if we are looking for a serious relationship.
The dance of love is a delicate thing; if we can’t keep in time we will tangle and fall. But match our partner at every step and it becomes a magical dance filled with romance and meaning. In order to master the art of dating, pacing is key.
This is not about playing games, it’s about protecting ourselves from unnecessary heartache.
Truthfully, the most treacherous time in a relationship is the initial stages of dating where there isn’t much of a buffer to cushion our mistakes. Without having developed a history together, challenging moments and seemingly insignificant triggers can often send a new flame running.
Often when we see a few qualities we like in a person; we can be quick to jump to conclusions. ‘OMG, he likes the same music as me – we must be soul mates!’
Unfortunately, the more we decide we like this person, the more we tend to invest. And the more we invest, the less we are willing to fully acknowledge warning signs that might pop up along the road to relationship. Moreover, when we over-invest, things often become unbalanced very quickly.
Diving in too deep too fast tends to put a new partner on a pedestal which can feel uncomfortable for the person we are dating. And while we might think we are helping the bond grow, we are not actually doing ourselves, or them, any favours. This kind of behaviour can quickly have us slipping into the territory of unrequited love.
One of the most common statements I hear from both men and women is that their date went from ‘zero to one hundred’ way too fast. ‘He seemed like a great guy, but then he got all needy, wanting to see me all the time and it just turned me off him.’ I hear stories like this all the time from both sexes and often the person they were dating sounded like a good option until he or she jumped the gun, and fell heart over head in love.
This rushing into romance is the antitheses of pacing. It is often founded on the projections we cast on the people in our lives, rather than based in reality.
I’ve been there too. When sparks fly, the mind can get excited and often look for ways to lock things down. This is when people go crazy in the name of love. Our minds crave certainty and ‘sure things’ – tempting us to live in an imaginary future with our potential lover despite the logic that tells us to keep it cool. Keeping an eye on the feedback and reciprocity of a connection is how we avoid prematurely fizzling out, and other problems.
Once again, an important part of dating is the evaluation process. It’s a good idea to keep an eye on how you and your potential new partner pace each other as the flame develops to make sure that it doesn’t get smothered or burn out of control.
Keeping the spark alive is much like starting a fire. When building a fire we need to start with a flame, small twigs and leaves as well as oxygen to allow things to breathe. As the flame grows we can then start to add bigger sticks to the fire – gradually building it up until it can eventually sustain a log. But if you put a log on the fire too soon, it can smother the flames and the spark will quickly die out.
Exactly the same is true of pacing; it means building a relationship piece by piece. If you’ve ever wondered why a new flame fizzled out too soon, while it could have just been a mismatch, another possibility was the connection you were building was not paced.
In dating, each stick we add to the metaphorical fire is a step forward, a symbol of our energy and investment. And with each step forward we should be looking for feedback. Is this person meeting me on the same level? Are they investing as much as I am?
These are just a few things to consider in the initial dating phases. And if you find that you’re investing more, perhaps it is time to pull back and see what happens. Do they make more effort or just let the connection die?
Noticing how a potential partner responds to us can also give us valuable insight into compatibility. After all, the other person’s actions and non-verbal cues provide us with feedback about where they are at and how much they are willing to invest in a connection at this point in time.
Our book ‘How to make the Biggest Decision of your Life’ is out now!
In this book my psychiatrist father and I provide thought, insight and guidance around what to consider when choosing a life partner.
Although the processes behind love, attraction and partner selection are complex, there are several key insights that can be understood and applied to making this big decision. In this book we give people the tools to co-create healthier relationships and avoid divorce.
Navigating the dating scene can feel overwhelming, for both men and women alike. In my years working as a dating coach for men I’ve helped them to dive into their love psyche and understand the subconscious patterns holding them back from connecting. While my experience working as relationship coach for women has allowed me to intimately understand the wide variety of archetypes that play-out for women across their relationships.
If you’re ready to take the next step, enquire with me today.
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Co-author of 'How to Make the Biggest Decision of Your Life' and online dating, attraction & relationship coach committed to helping you attract a healthy, sustainable and passionate relationship.