A week into dating Nate*, I sat at brunch with a friend and told her, “It’s been about a week, but I’m literally in love with him.” She laughed and ordered another mimosa.
The next day, I was texting with another friend, and when she asked if I was dating, I responded, “Kind of! I met someone who feels different and special…but it’s been like 10 days so I’m trying not to get ahead of myself with it.” Her reply? “LMAO! I love it. It doesn’t take long to know something feels different.”
I told another friend about Nate, too, listing off his many incredible attributes. “Marry him!” she said. My response: “I know, I want to!”
Was I nuts? It sure felt like it. As a result, I fell down a rabbit hole of Google searches: relationship too fast; how to tell if a relationship is moving too fast; red flags your relationship is moving too fast; am I moving too fast in my relationship?
It’s no surprise that I found thousands of results for my queries, especially in the wake of Ariana Grande’s and Pete Davidson’s very public broken engagement. Even I saw the writing on the wall for that one; they moved so fast and so publicly that it felt like a breakup was inevitable. And that’s what I was afraid of. Nonetheless, I couldn’t shake how I felt about Nate — like something really, truly was different and special. I’m 30 years old and have been dating in New York City for about eight years. Never had anything felt this real, comfortable, and easy. Within three weeks, we were exclusive. Within five, we were talking about meeting each other’s families and maybe even being plus ones to friends’ international weddings. I was terrified. But I liked it. And I liked him. A lot.
“The brain is built to fall in love rapidly,” said Helen Fisher, Ph.D., senior research fellow at the Kinsey Institute and author of “Anatomy of Love.” “The brain system for romantic love is like that for fear, anger, and surprise — it can be triggered instantly.”
When I spoke with Fisher over the phone, I told her all about my relationship with Nate, my dating history, and what I wanted out of a relationship. She calmed my fears.
“If anything, you’re overthinking this,” she said. “[Your generation is still] defining relationships, and you’re becoming hyper-aware of the trajectories and the patterns. As you grow up, you evolve your love map of what you’re looking for. And this guy seems to fit your love map. The body is ready, and the brain is jumping right in.”
While I felt scared and questioned the level of my passion for Nate, I did feel encouraged by the fact that we were talking openly about our relationship and how we felt. We knew things were moving quickly but we were okay with it, because the bottom line was that we liked each other a lot and wanted to see where this could go. On our third date, I left my phone on the table while I went to the bathroom, only to come back to it lighting up with notifications from dating apps. We talked candidly about the fact that we were still scheduling dates with other people — but only because we felt the need to protect ourselves from the possibility that things wouldn’t work out between us. Over breakfast the next morning, he told me he was going to cancel his dates for that week. And on our fourth date, he told me he just wanted me to know that I was the only one in the picture. I told him he was the only one in the picture for me, too. We each deleted our apps, confessing that we felt anxious about how fast things were going, but that, at the same time, it just felt right.
“I haven’t felt like this in a long time,” he told me. “But I am just going to lean into the feels.”
Marni Feuerman, LCSW, LMFT, a psychotherapist in Boca Raton, Florida, gave me some warning signs to look out for as I continued to overanalyze things. Both she and Fisher suggested that obsession or idealization can be a huge sign things are proceeding above the speed limit.
“If you can’t see a single [flaw] and you’re stepping on the gas, you need to slow down,” she said.
I could list out Nate’s flaws, and I liked him anyway, which made me feel more comfortable with things. And I continued to talk to him about everything — that I wanted to wait a little while before he met family, and that I still needed my alone time and independence.
“Don’t assume anything, and if you can’t talk about [something important], then you definitely aren’t ready for it,” Feuerman said. “As long as both people want the same thing at the same time and are clear about it in their communication about it, then things can definitely go right. You must take the risk of sharing your inner feelings and know there is always a chance the other person may not agree or respond in the way you hope.”
So far, Nate and I have continued to talk about our feelings, and while things are going fast — it’s been almost three months now — they’re also going smoothly. We’re not moving in together, getting engaged, or lending each other large amounts of money (all red flags, according to the experts), but we are having fun, teasing each other, and talking candidly about short-term future plans like weekend trips away and potential family introductions.
Of course, no one knows how things will play out. Nate and I could be the next Pete and Ariana (without the hit single for closure). But for now, I’m happy with the speed we’re going. Like my friend said, it doesn’t take long to know when something feels different.
*Names have been changed to protect innocent daters.