So now you’ve met a new guy who you really like and you both are eager to begin exploring the potential that exists in your new dating relationship. This is commonly called “the honeymoon phase” of a relationship and is definitely an exciting and invigorating time. It’s a time of aliveness where the attraction you have for your new boyfriend prospect bubbles over, causing you to think about him and wanting to be with him every waking second. The separation pangs when you are apart nag at you and distract you from your daily tasks. You ache to be with him and find yourself preoccupied with thoughts and fantasies of what “could be” that fuel your desire even further.
It’s A Chemical Reaction!
There’s actually a clinical term used to describe this phenomenon that exists at the beginning of every romantic relationship. Coined by psychologist Dorothy Tennov, limerence is an involuntary state of intense desire and attachment toward another person whom you become attracted. You begin to idealize him and magnify all his good qualities. It’s intrusive and provokes feelings of deep longing and passion to be with that person and these feelings can be blindingly strong. In fact, our bodies naturally produce an abundance of chemicals and amphetamines during the romantic love stage, including dopamine and the “love drug” phenylethylamine (PEA), that account for this state of euphoria and ultimate bliss.
The point of all of this is that when you first meet someone whom you share a strong attraction with, there’s a lot of powerful currents going on that could cause you to get swept away in the tidal wave of emotion and lead you to make impulsive and reckless decisions that could sabotage a potentially good thing you and your new dating partner could have if you’re not careful. Many gay men make the mistake of rushing things along too quickly because it feels good, like having sex too soon or moving in together prematurely.
Whoa, Down Boy!
You want to ensure that you get your budding relationship off on the right path toward success! Enjoy this wonderful feeling that you’re having and bask in the glow of it; this is truly one of the greatest joys of life! And while you’re savoring it all, it’s also important at the same time that you balance and regulate these feelings so they don’t impair your judgment and cause you to act in ways that might disrupt healthy relationship development. The key to accomplishing this is through pacing.
Pacing refers to taking things slow and letting the relationship evolve and mature naturally. While there certainly are those relationships that prosper when the couple had sex on the first date, for example, having sex too early or rushing the relationship too quickly tends to be defeating because a foundation of trust and intimacy has not yet been set to withstand any eventual conflicts or strain that are a part of growing as a couple.
So how do you control yourself when you want nothing to do but to rip the clothes off of your new guy even though you know it’s best to wait? How do you handle these powerful feelings of attachment without losing your sense of self and without becoming too intertwined?
Here are some action challenges to help keep you on the right track toward promoting a healthy relationship progression with your new dating prospect:
- Be proactive, not reactive
This means to avoid acting on every impulse you have when it comes to your dating partner. Do you really need to call him for the fifth time today? Is it wise to send him one email after the other on the same day? Do you have to see him every day this week? By thinking about the consequences of your actions, you’ll be in a better position to guide the relationship along. If you need to, snap yourself with a rubber band to break out of an “impulse trance” to avoid making impulsive moves.
2. Balance togetherness with separateness
Beware of spending every waking hour with each other. You need breathing room and you don’t want the relationship to become suffocated by becoming too enmeshed. By having your own independent life separate from the relationship, you’ll be bringing fresh air into it that will help vitalize it and keep it exciting. Don’t forget you have other roles, responsibilities, and relationships that deserve and need your attention as well!
3. Find outlets for your impulses
Stave off those self-sabotaging urges by finding productive outlets for those impulses to “rush things along.” Such things as exercise, masturbation, fantasy, or writing can be helpful pursuits to channel your thoughts and feelings toward when all you want to do is direct your energies at your love interest. They can be constructive distractions and physical releases for “emergency relief.”
4. Stay anchored in the here-and-now
New lovers often times in their exuberance talk about what their futures will be like together and this definitely accelerates the pacing of the relationship. Instead, be fully present in every moment you share together and enjoy each opportunity together as a gift in “the now.” To help stay on an appropriate timeline for yourself, you can create a personal scrapbook of the memories and experiences you’ve shared with this special guy as a time-table and way to stay centered on going slow and relishing in getting to know each other.
5. Communication starts from “Day One”
Talk to each other about the thoughts and feelings that you’re having. This shared dialogue will help cement the bond between you even more and communication is one of the avenues toward building trust, respect, and intimacy. By keeping the feelings and temptations vocalized, they can be dealt with more directly. Unspoken, suppressed desires have a way of erupting spontaneously and you’re more at risk for acting-out by keeping everything hidden. Obviously you’re not going to want to share everything you’re fantasizing about with your dating partner (there do need to be some boundaries!), but keeping the dialogue open and honest can help pace the momentum.
6. Always stay in touch with your personal requirements
Being mindful of the qualities and characteristics of your ideal partner and relationship can be an excellent barometer to gauge the pacing of your relationship. With every experience and contact you have with your new dating partner, you’re learning more and more about whether this is truly a goodness-of-fit. Does he share similar values? Does he stimulate me intellectually? Is he trustworthy and loyal? Can I be vulnerable with him and share my feelings? Do we have physical chemistry and sexual compatibility? These are all things that are learned in the process of your dating journey with this particular man. Stay true to your personal requirements and non-negotiable needs for a partner and relationship, and you can’t go wrong!
The beginning of a new dating relationship is often times characterized by an abundance of feel-good feelings that can be mind-boggling and overwhelming. Enjoy the thrill of what is happening to you and at the same time make sure that you stay in control of these feelings as opposed to the other way around. Perhaps one of the most important questions you can ask yourself to ensure your relationship is pacing at a rate you are comfortable with before allowing yourself to be vulnerable and consider commitment would be:
Has my dating partner consistently demonstrated through his words and actions that he is safe to let into my life and share my heart?
The answer to that question can only be answered through the passage of time and shared experiences. So slow down, think, and enjoy the ride!