There is no shortage of relationship advice out there. Most of it is bad, some of it is good. One friend who knew me particularly well gave me the best relationship advice I’ve ever received.
What did my friend tell me? Not to take my relationships so seriously. To take a step back every now and again to enjoy the relationship instead of always thinking about the next step was wise counsel.
My friend gave me that advice to slow down while I was in a bad relationship. I didn’t take it. It wasn’t until after the fact that I realized how foolish I had been in ignoring it.
My issue in almost all my relationships has been that I was overly eager to make my girlfriend a big part of my life before I even knew her very well. I always wanted things to go faster and get more serious than was appropriate at the time. My attitude was that I wanted to get married yesterday.
As I’ve written previously, I had a constantly frustrating relationship in college with a girl who was clearly uncomfortable with the speed I was taking things. My efforts to get closer to her only ended up pushing her away, and I ended up feeling more alone than I would have if I had been single. Because I made her such a huge part of my life, I unintentionally pushed out most of my other friends.
I learned that, my rush for commitment stemmed from a crippling fear of being alone. And forcing a relationship along as a solution to my fear of loneliness backfired big time.
Things were different in my next relationship. With my wife Jenn, I made a conscious effort to slow things down and let the relationship blossom naturally. The key to this strategy? We developed a friendship first. It was obvious that there were romantic undercurrents to the friendship, but we waited until we were sure about each other before we started dating.
This strategy of patience and waiting was hard, but it worked out well. Even playing things cautiously, the relationship moved quickly enough. We ended up dating for just over a year before we got engaged. And our engagement was only nine months. That’s not too long to wait at all. The cliche “when you know, you know” was true for me, but it also needed a crucial addition: When you know, you know, but let the relationship grow in its own time.
There are a lot of people who are either gung ho to get married as soon as possible, or if not that, then they are gung ho about moving in together after being together only a short time.
With a task as important as picking your life’s companion, it’s extremely important to take the time to really get to know each other. Trying to force it forward is really a disservice to both of you. Take my friend’s advice: Slow down, enjoy the relationship for what it is. Everything else will follow.