One of my life projects is learning how to date slowly. I talk about it in therapy. I talk about it with friends. I talk about it with family. I talk about it with people I’m romantically interested in. I read about it. I reflect. I practice. I meet people. We date. It’s not exactly slow, but it’s half a pace slower than the time before. I make more mistakes. I have fun. I suffer. I review lessons learned, brush off my shoulders, lick my wounds and begin again.
An excellent book on how to do this, practically, is “How to Avoid Falling in Love with a Jerk” by John Van Epp. I confess that I did not buy this book in order to learn how to date slowly. I bought this book in order to learn how to avoid falling in love with jerks. And, whadya know, it so happens that these two themes are inextricably intertwined.
Van Epp’s book is not really about categorizing whole swaths of humanity as “Jerks” so much as it is about learning how to develop the skill of building intimacy over time. For me, what I really began to grasp is that I was being a jerk to myself by not taking the time to really establish that the person I felt so deeply drawn to was, in fact, a good, safe and solid match for me.
One of my biggest breakthroughs in this department has been learning that taking it slow doesn’t just apply to sexual intimacy — it applies to all other kinds of intimacy as well. It has to do with learning how to establish boundaries at the onset of a relationship and progressively allowing a person to enter into the inner sanctum of your heart as you move from strangers to trusted friends and lovers over time. Most fundamentally, it’s about learning to appreciate and respect time. Like, really getting, in a visceral, vivid way, that time is, y’know, a thing .
For all of the new-agey “time is an illusion” stuff that you might hear me spout sometimes, the nondual truth is that time both does and does not exist. Really engaging with the linear progression of time has been especially difficult for me, as I tend to believe in magical processes and am deeply attracted to the idea of things just “working out”. (By the way, this is very typical of my numerology life path number. One of the central challenges for people with my profile is that we have a hard time understanding the concept of a “step by step” process. And because of this, learning to cultivate a developmental understanding to the way life unfolds in something I’ve had to consciously implement in different areas of my life).
Anywho, here are a few hard-won lessons I’ve learned – from life experience, years of study and tales of woe traded between friends – about how to date slowwwwwwwly. Note that this is not a list of rigid “rules” or a road map appropriate for everyone’s romantic lifestyle. It’s just a set of guidelines (with tongue firmly set in cheek) for people, like me, who want to experiment with learning how to walk in love, rather than rush, awkwardly tumble, and fall ignominiously.
How to Date Slowly — In 50 Easy Steps!
Step 1. Do not sleep together on the first date.
Step 2. Do not sleep together on the second date.
Step 3. Do not sleep together on the third date.
Step 4. Do not sleep together on the fourth date.
Step 5. Do not sleep together on the fifth date.
Step 6. Do not sleep together on the sixth date.
Step 7. Do not sleep together on the seventh date.
Step 8. Do not sleep together on the eighth date.
Step 9. Do not sleep together on the ninth date.
Step 10. Do not sleep together on the tenth date.
Step 11. Do not sleep together on dates 11-20.
Step 12. Do not count different meals within the same day as separate dates in order to sleep together more quickly.
Step 13. Do not squeeze 20 dates into a few weeks’ time in order to sleep together more quickly.
Step 14. If you fail to wait 20 dates before sleeping together, pop your collar and forgive yourself for being incredibly attractive and irresistible.
Step 15. Do not allow dates 0-5 to have anything to do with your living room sofa or bedroom.
Step 16. Do not speak for hours at a time before the first date.
Step 17. Do not allow your first date to last 10 hours.
Step 18. Do not allow your second date to last a week.
Step 19. Do not tell the entirety of Your Life Story over appetizers.
Step 20. Do not think your chemistry means you are meant to be together “forever and ever”.
Step 21. Do not believe that you’ve “fallen in love” with someone you’ve never met.
Step 22. Do not believe that you’ve “fallen in love” after 5 minutes of conversation.
Step 23. Do not believe that you’ve “fallen in love” after 5 hours of conversation.
Step 24. Do not allow yourself to believe that you “know” someone you’ve just met because you engage in mutually pleasurable inter-subjective communication.
Step 25. Do not write/send romantic poetry or love letters in the first few weeks of dating.
Step 26. Do not sext before you’re in a committed relationship.
Step 27. Do not agree to/ask for a committed relationship before 90 days.
Step 28. Do not move in together (or spend every night together) within the first few months of dating.
Step 29. Do not share every thought or emotion you have as soon as it arises.
Step 30. Do not confuse budding intimacy with real intimacy.
Step 31. DO establish boundaries at the onset of relationship.
Step 32. DO allow for trust and intimacy to build over time.
Step 33. DO know that real, enduring love develops from getting to know someone.
Step 34. DO remind yourself that no matter how close you feel, your beautiful new friend is a stranger.
Step 35. DO recall that friendship grows from spending time together.
Step 36. DO understand that YOU are worth taking time to ensure that the person you’re involved with is a good match.
Step 37. DO understand that if you are a good match, the two of you will have plenty of time for sex in the future.
Step 38. DO have the courage to allow yourself to become comfortable with the following feelings: anticipation, uncertainty, sexual tension, nervousness.
Step 39. DO allow yourself to consciously experience romantic desires, wishes, hopes and dreams – but do not confuse your projections with the person you are getting to know.
Step 40. DO allow yourself to progressively engage in emotional vulnerability with your new friend as you establish, over TIME, that it is safe to share your heart with this person.
Step 41. DO allow your physical affection and intimacy to incrementally develop as trust and emotional intimacy grow.
Step 42. DO engage in a lot of different activities together.
Step 43. DO have an active friendship circle/social life outside of dating.
Step 44. DO have hobbies and passions that you nurture regularly.
Step 45. DO reflect on the mistakes you’ve made in the past by rushing into romance.
Step 46. DO have fun and go with the flow, while knowing that you cannot control the outcome of this relationship.
Step 47. DO remember to constantly nourish your self love and self care.
Step 48. DO maintain a playful, curious, compassionate approach to dating.
Step 49. DO throw out this list in favor of your intuition.
Step 50. DO know that you are fucking awesome, no matter what.
[update: It is possible that I broke some
nearly all of these rules upon falling in love with this one shortly after writing this post ..]