How to Pace a Relationship for the Long Haul
Take your time
When beginning a new relationship, it is important to take your time. Initially, if you are very attracted to each other and seem to get along well, you may want to see each other multiple times per week. This fast track method could lead you to problems and moving your relationship along too quickly. When this happens a false sense of intimacy develops, and boundaries are blurred. A healthy amount of time to see each other in the initial stages of a relationship is once per week. Once the relationship progresses by getting to know each other slowly, you may add time naturally. Get to know your partner, this can only happen with time and getting to see how one another acts in different circumstances and experiences.
Give the relationship your attention but make time for your own life. Be sure to maintain your own sense of self including the elements of your own life that you love. Take time for your friends and family. The relationship should not become all encompassing, even at later stages including marriage.
Maintain open communication
As the relationship develops into a serious committed relationship, be sure to have meetings to discuss how the relationship is going. Honesty and candid talk is best.
Keep it interesting
As the relationship blossoms and matures, be sure to continue your date nights. Try new experiences and activities together. Plan day trips and vacations to keep it interesting. Discuss new topics of interest.
Listen to what is important to your partner even if you don’t find it interesting. Remember when you first met that you found even the most mundane interesting!
Learn each other’s love language
There is a wonderful book by Gary Chapman called The Five Love Languages. It is an excellent resource to keep your relationship moving in a positive direction for the long haul. Dr. Chapman states that we all feel loved different ways. If your partner is showing you love in a way that doesn’t match your love language, you may feel unloved and therefore your “love tank” will be empty. You will have a primary love language, perhaps a secondary and may have some elements of all of them, however they will not be as strong.
The five love languages are: Gifts, acts of service, words of affirmation, quality time and physical touch.
Gifts- you like to receive gifts and feel loved when you do.
Acts of service- You feel loved and appreciated when your partner does something for you. For example, getting the car serviced, fixing things around the house, running an errand.
Words of affirmation- You feel loved and appreciated when you are complimented and told that you are loved and appreciated.
Quality time- It is important for you to spend quality time with your partner and you feel fulfilled and loved when you do.
Physical touch- Hand holding, kissing, caressing and sex are in this category. You feel loved when you have physical touch.
The following is an example of a typical pitfall when unaware of love languages
Jack worked a lot of overtime at his job for six months prior to Christmas. Sally missed him terribly and began to feel distant from Jack. When Christmas day came, Jack presented Sally with a brand-new car with a big red bow for a gift. Sally was furious as she could care less about the car or gifts for that matter. All she wanted was to spend quality time with the man she loved. It is apparent from this example that Sally’s primary love language is quality time, while Jack’s may well be gifts.
As you can see, it is valuable to determine your partner’s love language and for them to do the same. It is appropriate to do this even at the beginning of a committed relationship, however the knowledge of the love languages will also help a couple that has been together for many years.
One way to determine someone’s love language is to notice what they do for you. Usually, we will express love and appreciation the way we want to be shown love and appreciation, however we might be missing our partner’s love language entirely.
Lisa Angelini, MAPC, LPC, ACHT