We all want love and connection — it’s natural that often when we think we might have found it, we want to dive right in. Sometimes, though, that impulse can get us into trouble; we wind up jumping in headfirst to the deep parts of a relationship without even checking the water temperature first. We all know — or have been — that friend who tells us they’ve met the love of their life every few months, or hands over keys to their apartment to their new date after two weeks. Why do we do this, and is it really such a problem? Here’s what I have to say about people who move too fast in relationships.
Why is “moving too fast” a problem?
Although there’s no one correct timeline for romance or dating, and different things work for everyone, I do feel comfortable saying there’s such a thing as moving “too fast.”
The early days of dating, and the milestones that are unique to them, are crucial. They’re a time to feel out compatibility, whether you want the same type of lifestyle and whether there are any major turnoffs that weren’t immediately obvious; they’re also a time to slowly build emotional intimacy by building trust and letting the other person get to know the real, “messy” you bit by bit. The work that you do in the first few months of a relationship is the necessary underlying infrastructure of your whole relationship, even if it lasts for the rest of your life.
Rushing through these steps because you want to get to the part you’re most excited about — commitment, security, exclusivity, domesticity, whatever it is — may feel good in the short term, but it’s denying yourself the real long-term joy of relationships: authentic, earned connection built over time, not just propped up by the chemical rush of new relationship energy. No matter how hard we try, it’s impossible to really get to know someone in only a few weeks or months; we’re still interacting with our idealized version of them (and both of you are on your best behavior). The longer we’re with them, the more we’ll realize that’s not quite who they really are; not because they were being deceptive but because we’ve started to take them off a pedestal and are engaging with their real, complex, messy, authentic self.
If we build our whole relationship and give the keys to our whole life to the early, idealized version of our date, we’ll be dismayed to find ourselves waking up next to someone else in a few months — in a best-case scenario. In the worst-case scenario, you may find some major red flags you ignored or missed completely.
Moving too fast emotionally
Many of us fantasize about the feeling of “love at first sight” — we see someone across the room, or have a single conversation with them, and know instantly they’re The One. This is fine to fantasize about, and some people do feel they’ve experienced it.
But if feeling like this — or trying to — is a normal pattern for you in dating and relationships, it’s likely that you’re moving too fast emotionally: rushing headlong into the euphoric feelings of intense affection and “new relationship energy” while someone is still a stranger, and you haven’t even confirmed whether they’re compatible with you.
Moving too fast interpersonally
We have a shared cultural image of a teen couple in the backseat of a car on a dark lane — she’s pushing her date away, saying “You’re moving too fast.” When we jump the gun on our interactions with the people we’re dating — taking big steps too early, treating them very familiarly when we’re still new to each other, asking for or offering major commitments — it tends to have the opposite effect than what we’re hoping for, which is to become closer.
There’s a saying on the internet — it makes sense to treat someone you’ve just started dating like a stranger, and for them to treat you like one too, because you still are. Intense expressions of affection very early on, even if they’re sincere, can have the impact of lovebombing: it makes your connection less authentic, not more.
Moving too fast logistically
The “right” time for anything in a relationship is subjective, and also changes frequently — for instance, in Regency-era England it would have been “too soon” for a couple that was dating to be alone in the same room without a chaperone if they weren’t married, and obviously that’s no longer the case.
Increasingly, big partnership commitments like moving in together or getting married may be happening on a shorter timeline, in part because of economic pressure; for many people, the prospect of splitting rent or getting access to health insurance isn’t something they can afford to pass up. But in an ideal world where sharing your life with someone happens on the timeline set only by the two of you, big commitments and ways that you’ve decided to become interdependent are something that happens after a long time, and with a lot of consideration.
So what’s not moving too fast?
Here’s a way to gauge the rough overall timeline of your relationship with someone, and what a sustainable, healthy pace might look like.
You feel attraction and excitement after meeting this person, maybe on a first date or hanging out a couple of times — you may get butterflies when they text, or tell your friends about them excitedly. It’s possible you imagine a far-off future with them, what they’d be like as a spouse or partner, just to see if they feel compatible in your gut — but you don’t take these fantasies seriously, or feel emotionally invested in them. You stay in touch, but probably don’t talk every day; you’re still learning basic info about each other, like family members, jobs, hobbies, etc. It’s entirely possible you have other dates lined up with other people as well, and plan to keep them.
You’ve been seeing this person for a little while now, and feeling initial excitement now feels like a full-fledged crush. You’re excited about new milestones like sleeping over or showing them your favorite movie. You feel cautiously hopeful about where things might go, and are wondering if it could be a serious or long-term relationship — but you don’t assume it will be, and if things didn’t work out that way, you wouldn’t be crushed. You’re a little anxious or excited about whether they like you as much as you like them, but it isn’t excruciating.
You may be making plans for the near future — a concert next month, or vague plans to go to the beach in the summer — but aren’t planning far out or talking about a shared life. You probably see each other once or twice a week, and may or may not sleep over, but don’t see each other every day, spend days on end at each others’ places or keep your own stuff there. You may have met one or two of each others’ friends, but not each other’s families or kids if you’re a parent.
You may very well still be seeing other people; it’s also possible you’re starting to talk about being exclusive or having some kind of “what are we” conversation. You don’t say I love you, and probably don’t use titles like boyfriend or girlfriend, or pet names like “honey” or “babe.” You’re getting to know each other better, with issues like past relationships, struggles at work, or major family issues, but aren’t each other’s main support systems; if a crisis comes up, you would tell them about it, but they wouldn’t be the first person you’d call.
You’re interested in building something with them, but also still on the lookout for red flags or dealbreakers; if this person starts treating you poorly, their behavior changes, or you realize they’re not compatible with you, you know you’d break up with them; it would feel bad and you’d be sad, but only for a little while.
At this point, it’s normal to be considering yourselves in the early stages of a serious relationship; you likely consider yourselves partners/boyfriend/girlfriend, and you may even have said I love you. It’s possible you’ve introduced this person to family and your friends; they may be your standing date for your friends’ game nights or dinner parties.
You likely spend a lot of time around each other’s places, maybe sleeping over a few nights a week or spending whole weekends over there; you may have some of your own things in their shower or bedroom. Your emotional intimacy might be getting significant; it’s possible they are your first call if you need emotional support or a ride to urgent care. It would be too soon to move in, but it’s possible you’ve given them an extra key to your place. You may be planning for the farther future — your sibling’s wedding next year, or going to their family Christmas.
It’s likely you’re thinking seriously about whether this person is “the one,” or someone you want to be with in the long long term — but you aren’t making explicit commitments to that end yet, like proposing or mentally planning a wedding. You may still be on the lookout for potential dealbreakers; you’re starting to test out being more domestic and emotionally intimate, and if anything is revealed in that process that you don’t like, you’d break up, and it would feel hard to do.