We’ve all heard the phrase before, if not in person that definitely in movies or from our friends’ dating stories: “I want to take things slow.” But when the person you’re beginning to date says this to you, what exactly should you do?
There are a lot of possible reasons a person could have this desire to “take things slow” in a dating relationship. Many of those possible reasons can stem from past pain, mistakes, or even abusive situations. So if you’re hoping for a successful relationship with the person wanting to take things slow, it’s definitely a good idea to take their request seriously.
Unfortunately, though, the phrase doesn’t always give a concrete idea of just what you’re to do to make the other person comfortable and happy as the two of you move forward. But there are a few things you definitely should avoid and should do, if the person you’re dating wants to take things slow.
1. Try to check your early long-term hopes
Sometimes when we meet a person, we can tell instantly that they’re a great fit for us, and we’re eager to jump to the conclusion that they’re “the one.” But when this person you’re excited about wants to take things slow, it’s important to not let your emotions skip ahead too quickly.
Especially in Catholic dating, it can be easy to start envisioning the person we’re excited about as our spouse. We might start to imagine our wedding, our future happy marriage, or even our kids. There can be so much emphasis in Catholic circles on the beauty of the married vocation that we can start to jump the gun in imagining ourselves already there with the person we’re excited about dating.
It can be natural to feel this way in the early excitement of a new relationship. But it’s pretty much the opposite of “taking things slow” in the emotional realm. If the person you’re so excited about dating wants to take things slow, do your best to check and temper these hopes for the future.
When you notice yourself thinking about marrying this person, try to dismiss the thoughts. If dismissing these hopeful thoughts of the future proves to be pretty difficult, try taking the matter to prayer. Ask God to help you slow down emotionally for the sake of the person you’re dating. Confide in him why you do feel this way.
You can also consider confiding in a sensible friend who can help talk you down to more practicality.
2. Remember that you’re still dating
A Reddit user asked a question on the Catholic Dating section of Reddit about this specific phrase of “taking things slow” in dating. He was curious if he should take the phrase to mean he should look at the relationship in more of a friend sense than a romantic one initially. This is perhaps the opposite mistake of too much emotional hope for the future in a situation like this, going to the other extreme and treating the relationship as something platonic.
If the person who wants to take things slow does in fact agree that what the two of you are doing is going on dates, then there’s no reason to act completely like mere friends. While it’s true that taking things slow can definitely include limiting physical affection initially, that doesn’t mean you should treat the person like you would a friend of the same gender or like a sibling.
Try to take cues from the other person on just how much physical affection they are comfortable with. Holding hands and light kissing are definitely not out of the question as you continue to go on more dates. Just don’t expect the person who wants to take it slow to be comfortable with making out or unchaste premarital intimacy.
Continue to do what dating people do: spend intentional time together getting to know one another. Don’t act like your time together is a casual hang out, but continue to do things that are at least a bit oriented toward romance.
3. When in doubt, ask
Perhaps the real source of uncertainty and confusion that comes with this idea of taking things slow in dating is the fact that the phrase itself is vague. If you find yourself at all unsure of how to proceed slowly in a dating relationship with someone, ask them for their thoughts on what this should look like.
It’s possible that they’ll give you an answer very different from what you were expecting. Or they might give you an answer that is what you were expecting; but after discussing the matter with them, the doubt and uncertainty you felt about it can disappear.
It might feel uncomfortable to ask the person you’re dating precisely what they mean by taking things slow, but rest assured that’s it’s not a dumb question. Having a discussion together about how you would both like things to proceed can actually be just the thing to help build a foundation of open communication.
Whether the two of you end up finding lifelong happiness together in marriage or end up only dating for a short time, practicing open communication can help you both to grow as a couple and personally.