Most of us applaud couples of any age or in any season of life who endeavor to go slowly in their relationships, because we understand that this commitment is both admirable and respectful. As my husband and I mentor 20-somethings on a weekly basis, we find ourselves constantly telling couples: “When you think you are going slow, go slower!”
But there is something in all of us that wants to go a little faster than we should. When the speed limit is 70, we want to push the limit. Holding steady at 74 isn’t really speeding, right? The same thing can happen in a dating relationship. If we aren’t intentional about maintaining a safe pace, then by default we will speed.
It is wise for dating couples to take it slowly for several reasons. First, it gives each person in the relationship room to breathe and to enjoy dating without the pressure of getting too serious too quickly. It also protects the heart as individuals gauge whether they are good for each other. And it safeguards couples from pushing physical boundaries they may regret later.
I love what the New International Reader’s Version says in Song of Solomon 2:7: “Women of Jerusalem, make me a promise. Let the antelopes and the does serve as witnesses. Don’t stir up love. Don’t wake it up until it’s ready.” Although most singles desire for love to be awakened, based on this verse we shouldn’t awaken love (or rush through dating relationships) because there is such a thing as “being ready.” In other words, there’s a “right time” for love.
So, if we agree that there is a right (and a wrong) time to awaken love and that taking it slowly is a good thing, then what in the world does that look like?
I propose that going slowly involves more than a simple application of physical and emotional boundaries to a dating relationship. Successfully going slowly can only happen when it is done as a joint effort — when both parties’ end goal is to honor God and each other.
A few more thoughts on what going slowly might look like:
Both parties submit to God
Everything else in a healthy relationship builds on this truth because taking it slowly happens only when both parties are more interested in pleasing God than attracting each other. God is the one who should set the pace for dating relationships. Therefore, going slowly happens when both parties actively pursue the will of God and intentionally follow His leading.
Two secure individuals look for companionship
Couples often end up going too fast in their relationship because of personal insecurities. These insecurities can cause couples to rush through the stages of dating just to get to a place where they feel loved and needed. However, when secure individuals date, they are looking for companionship — not completion. When two individuals are confident in who they are in Christ, they are able to enjoy a slower pace in their relationship because they have put their trust and found their security in Christ alone.
Both people choose wisdom over emotion
Feelings can make people do crazy things. Instead of letting their emotions and desires drive impulsive decisions, couples who go slowly are able to pause and ask their hearts, “What is wise?” in each situation. Couples who exercise self-control and do what is wise are able to go slower and often have healthier relationships.
A couple maintains an awareness of priorities
Couples who go slowly have an awareness of the important priorities in their life; they are not blinded by their love interest. Family, friends, church, work and hobbies all have important roles in life. Healthy couples continue to invest in their relationships with friends and family members and don’t let their love interest dominate their social calendar. Couples who take it slowly have social lives outside of their dating relationship and are able to stick to their previous social commitments even when their significant other’s schedule all of a sudden frees up.
A man and a woman consider their timeline
Sure you want to be married, but realistically what is your timeline? Do other things need to happen before you can even consider marriage? Things like graduating from college, getting a job, paying off some debt, being independent from Mom and Dad, or experiencing more personal growth? Your personal timeline should help determine your relational pace.
Naturally, your pace in the first months of dating should be much slower than your pace during engagement. So, if you know that marriage realistically cannot happen for another three years, then the pace of your relationship should match your timeline. Too many couples speed through the first couple months of dating, and then have to slow their pace for the remaining years of dating — and this is rarely enjoyable.
Both parties initiate mature communication
Couples who go slowly are good at having mature, honest conversations about expectations and desires in their dating relationship. Couples often go too fast because they avoid the all too important DTR (defining the relationship) conversations. DTRs are very important pace-setting conversations that help to guard hearts and keep a couple on the same page.
On the flip side, some couples share way too much way too early in the relationship. There are certain things that should not be shared early in relationships, and couples who go slowly tend to use wisdom when sharing deep issues of the heart or vulnerable personal history. Dating relationships can get too complex too early when these matters are shared.
Two healthy individuals articulate clear expectations and boundaries
Mature communication should naturally flow into conversations about expectations and boundaries. DTR conversations are successful when the “So, now what?” question is answered thoroughly. It would be good to have specific expectations and boundaries that are agreed upon. Some sample questions could be:
- How many one-on-one dates should we have each week/month?
- How much should we talk/text on the phone each day/week?
- How far is too far for us to go physically?
- What settings and situations should we avoid to help resist temptation?
A dating couple takes into consideration the perspective of people they respect
People who love you want what is best for you, and they often see things that you might be blind to in a dating relationship. When godly people you respect offer perspective on your dating relationship, it is wise to heed their advice and adjust your pace accordingly. Foolish couples ignore the counsel of others. Couples who go slowly will seek godly counsel as they navigate the pace of their dating relationship.
At the core, going slowly is an issue of the heart, and it has to involve two people who are humbly following God’s direction for their life, fully submitted to His plan and timeline.
So, if you are looking for simple advice on how to take it slowly, I would recommend that you go slower than you think you should. There really is no reason to rush through a dating relationship. Proverbs 19:2 (ESV) clearly states, “Desire without knowledge is not good, and whoever makes haste with his feet misses his way.” A multitude of mistakes are made when we act with haste in dating relationships, but the wise tread slowly.
If you are in a dating relationship and want to honor God with the pace of your relationship, continue to live in submission to Him as you trust Him to lead and guide your steps.
Copyright Erica Giesow 2015. All rights reserved.