How to Slow Down a Relationship without Breaking Up

The head rush that you get at the beginning of a new romance can be addictive. You have this amazing chemistry, all the appropriate bells and whistles are going off, and you find yourself wanting to spend all of your free time with together. But then, something happens. Maybe the initial fireworks have worn off enough to make you want to take a step back. Or maybe she’s starting to get more serious than you intended. You want to slow down a relationship, but you don’t want to lose her. So what do you do?

Think It Over

First, you have to be honest with yourself. If your interest in her has waned but you’re still hanging in there, ask yourself why. Is it to spare her feelings? Is it because she’s a great girl, even though something doesn’t feel quite right? Or is it because you enjoy your physical chemistry, even if you aren’t quite clicking emotionally or intellectually? If the answer to any of these questions is yes, you have to man up and do the right thing. Have an honest conversation with her about how you feel, and end things if you need to. As much as you may want to hang in there and see where things go, it’s unfair to ask her to waste her time in a relationship when you already suspect it will lead to a dead end.

However, if your interest in her hasn’t waned, but you want to take a breather, get on more solid ground, or avoid ruining a great relationship by moving too fast, kudos. You’re taking a mature approach that is more likely to save your relationship than end it. Far too many promising relationships end because the parties involved got too emotionally or physically involved too quickly, and the passion burns out before they have a chance to build something solid and sustainable.

Talk It Out

Be clear so that there are no misunderstandings. Assure her you that you really like her, you value the relationship, and you don’t want to see other people. You’re just uncomfortable with the current pace of the relationship, and you’d like to take things more slowly. If she understands and agrees, great. If not, you may have to decide whether you can meet somewhere in the middle of what both of you want, or whether you’re both on different pages altogether. Be prepared for some hurt feelings or even tears. Many less mature guys than you have started breakups with similar reassurances. So be sure you reaffirm again and again the things you like about her and your intentions to stay together. “I just want to make sure we’re moving forward TOGETHER,” is a good phrase to keep in mind.

Set New Boundaries

Instead of spending every waking moment together, set up regular date nights. This will make your time together more special, and give you a chance to plan cool things to do. Spend your other nights hanging out with the guys or doing a hobby you like. This will give you some space, some “you” time and some balance. Carve out phone time with her into your schedule, rather than bending your plans and blowing off other things to talk to her. Limit your text messages to a few a day, and make them special. If you feel like you’re getting too physical too fast (and yes, contrary to unfair stereotypes, there are many, many men who are not urgently trying to get physical with everyone they date), meet at public places where you won’t be alone together. Take separate cars, and don’t invite her in at the end of a date thinking you can “handle it.”

Be Clear and Consistent

Stick to the new boundaries. Sending mixed messages—like telling her you want to spend less time on the phone and then calling her five minutes after she leaves–is confusing and unfair. Eventually, when you do feel like you’re ready to step up the relationship, you can have another conversation about how to proceed.

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