Here’s a wonderful piece of relationship advice from guest blogger, Jim Delpino, a very wise clinician and Love Mentor. This article is reprinted by kind permission from Icon Magazine.
It seems like everybody, no matter what they may say to the contrary, is looking to have love in their lives. A loving relationship is seen by most people in our culture to be deep, fulfilling and committed. Every year the average age that people marry is going up. That suggests that there are many other relationships that did not turn out to be the loving relationship that was sought. In addition, the average length of marriage in America today is 6.5 years. So even after a later first time marrying age and the opportunity to have relationships of some depth before marriage it is still hard to get it right and make the love and fulfillment last very long. There is much speculation about why this is so, and there are probably plenty of reasons to account for all the failed attempts at a loving relationship. Research has shown that the approach and methods people use in courtship and dating can make all the difference in the world for reaching success in the area of having a loving relationship.
Stories of bad dates and relationships gone sour are so common that many people expect to and get the short end of the stick when it comes to love. Perhaps the selection process itself-aka courtship and dating- could be improved. There are several key errors that even the smartest, deepest and genuinely good people make. One of these errors is rushing the process. The urge to merge and bond with another person is hardwired into us as a species. When attraction happens many of us rush in and disregard many of the deeper qualities that help to fall and staying in love. Falling in love is the easy part. Perhaps that’s why it is referred to as ‘falling’. With our hearts bursting with joy and our brains awash in a chemical oxytocin and dopamine soup of bonding, objectivity and plain old good sense often go out the window.
Many of the outward traits that draw and attract people to each other have very little to do with what it takes to form a deep, fulfilling and committed relationship between two human beings. Rushing this process is the most likely way to have a flawed experience with love. Actually, too much intimacy too quickly usually fragments a budding relationship. We all know stories about people who fall fast and hard for each other and then face some vague and inexplicable distancing. Equally common are tales of the nicest person turning out to be bitter and angry. Rushing puts the emphasis on personality and chemicals. The goal then becomes chasing some initial high that is never to be regained. These tales of longing, unrequited love and unfulfilled experiences are the stuff from which so many powerful and moving long songs spring forth. As with these songs so goes it in life. There are many more songs written about the pain of love than the joy of love.
Slowing down the pace of a developing relationship allows for a deep and more accurate look into the heart, mind and soul of the other person. These inner qualities are the stuff that deep and lasting love comes from. While we are all inherently valuable and equal, we are not all equally developed. If there is a math question it is better to go to a mathematician than someone who flunked math. The mathematician isn’t a better person, however he or she is clearly a better or more developed mathematician. In searching for love, it is central and key to find someone who is developed in the areas of empathy, communication and giving and receiving love. These traits have to be experienced, measured and evaluated over time to make sure they are real and true aspects of the other. Remember, practically anyone can look good on a first date or two. Plenty of people are able to keep their ‘best foot forward’ for a month or two. It is time and observation that bear out who the other person really is- or isn’t.
Feelings aren’t and never were rational or logical. They aren’t supposed to be rational because they are feelings and that is the beauty and curse of feelings. If a person isn’t developed enough for a deep relationship, no amount of time or effort will change that. Only that person’s willingness to ripen and grow, albeit for the cause of love, can make that transformational change happen. Slowing down the pace helps to reveal flaws, issues, fears and deficits. These are four of the areas that kill even what begins as great love. They are the same four things that, with hard work can be resolved and improved in most of us.
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Another common area of flawed dating and relationship patterns is to sexualize a relationship too soon. This position does not come from a moral or judgmental base. The wisdom of waiting for sec is also not prurient principle of attraction. Too much sex too soon tends to interfere with development of intimacy. People become more concerned about what sexual experiences they are going to have as opposed to bonding at a much deeper level. Sexual intimacy is just one small subset of real intimacy. Any two people can engage in sex, but not every two people are capable of achieving emotional intimacy. People who have deep love and lust for each other report having much better sex lives than those who do not. The difference is night and day. It is the difference between fast food and gourmet dining. The best sex comes from deep and fulfilling love being expressed sexually. No amount of variations or partners can reach the heights that lust coming from love can.
Dr. Diana Kirschner, in her dating advice book, Love in 90 Days, warns that there is a greater danger for women having sex too soon than for men. She cites a lot of research showing that at the cultural and biological levels women bond more easily and deeply than men once they have sex. This means a woman may find herself infatuated with someone who is not good for her because she bonded too soon (remember oxytocin?). Sleeping with someone changes everything. Expectations go up. Vulnerability increases. Feelings deepen. Thoughts focused on the other person increase. Every text or phone call is loaded with more meaning. In other words, things can become distorted. Know who the person is before you sleep with him or her. If someone can’t wait, pass on the opportunity to go further with him or her. Impulsivity doesn’t show love; it shows a person who is rushing the pace. In the end, when it comes to love and sex it is better to do it right than too quickly.
I hope you take Jim’s wisdom to heart.
Wishing you love,
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