Being on the same page is cool. But if you take the temperature of any budding romance, “cool” is likely the last way you’d describe it. More accurate descriptions would be: scorching, frigid, warm, chilly, burning, or totally temperamental. However, that doesn’t necessarily mean you have to write each other out of the story. Cassie and Colton from “The Bachelor” are a great example. She initially told him, “I just don’t know if I can get there with you,” but this was an obstacle they eventually overcame.
That early relationship discrepancy is incredibly common. Though the rest of us might not have a Neil Lane diamond and the weight of a TV show on our shoulders, plenty of us have encountered scenarios where we want to be with someone but aren’t perfectly in sync with that person about it.
Taylor, 31, from Vermont, wonders if things are moving too fast with someone she is seeing. “I can’t help but feel like he is too into it,” she says. “We’ve only gone out on a handful of dates, and he’s already calling me his girlfriend and inviting me to weddings that are months away,” she says. “Should I be worried that he’s rushing into this? Is this pace a red flag?”
According to Nicole Richardson, LMFT, this situation may have less to do with the guy Taylor is considering and more to do with Taylor herself. “There are an infinite number of reasons a person may not yet be ready for a relationship and often they have little to nothing to do with the people they are dating,” Richardson says. “We have all experienced a time when we met a really cool, smart, attractive person but just didn’t have the bandwidth to really focus on them.”
AKA, it’s important to do a self-scan before pointing your finger at the other person. Sometimes at the beginning of a relationship we’re simply not coming to the table with the same cards. While the person Taylor is dating might be ready to jump into a new relationship, Taylor might need a bit more time, and the only way to determine whether or not they can be compatible is with a conversation. “There’s no way around it. If the pace isn’t even, you have to talk about slowing things down,” Richardson says.
According to psychotherapist Andrea Reynolds, LCMHC, LADC, the way this conversation goes is likely to determine how and if the relationship progresses. “The person who is not as sure would ideally be honest and communicate openly about their reluctance to dive into the relationship. Then, they can let their date decide if they’re willing to be patient and give their prospective partner time to decide how they want to go forward,” she explains. Reynolds also says that while both parties should focus on the present and getting to know each other, it is important to be clear about what you’re looking for. If you have the same end goal in mind, it might be OK to be on different pages in the beginning.
In essence, Reyonds and Richardson both believe that there’s never a reason to rush into a relationship, and if your date isn’t willing to slow things down to make you comfortable, your chance of success is much smaller. So pull a Cassie; tell your partner that you like where it’s going, but you’re just not there yet. If this person can make a Colton-esque adjustment, you might be able to make things work.
Lilly, 26, who lives in New York, finds herself on the other side of this situation. “I’ve been seeing someone for almost four months, and I’ve been ready to make it official for a long time already,” she says. “I can’t tell if this is the kind of thing where I need to be patient or move on.”
According to Richardson, though the instinct might be to put a little bit of pressure on the other person, “the person who is ready for more needs to take the other person at their word and not try to convince or change their mind. They may or may not come around, but it is not your job to convince them.” This begs the question, what’s the difference between being patient and wasting your time? To avoid putting her eggs in the wrong basket, how long is too long for Lilly to go on without a label?
According to Reynolds, it’s not so clear cut. It all depends on the individual. Then it’s up to the other person to decide whether or not they want to wait for their prospective partner to feel ready to take the next step. That said, Reynolds also says it’s important to listen to your instincts. If your gut is telling you that your feelings are not congruent, you should honor that.
All too often we over-analyze behaviors, spending hours talking to our friends about what they think this text message meant and what this body language might translate to when, in reality, that’s not the best use of time. Instead of theorizing about your relationship in your group text, have a (potentially awkward) conversation with the person you’re dating and be clear about what you want and need. Just make sure that you’re able to go into that discussion with the capacity for patience, empathy, and respect. According to the experts, many couples start off on different pages. The key to a successful relationship is not holding the same pace, it’s ensuring that you want the same thing and helping each other get there.