After seven years single (give or take six months here and two months there), I’ve realized how much I’ve underestimated the concept of pacing. A major factor in compatibility is how quickly (or slowly) two people want their relationship to move, and whether or not that speed matches. In my experience, if both people are too slow, the connection fades away. If both are too fast, you’ve got a supernova situation. If one person is slow and the other fast, it creates a tortoise and hare “you don’t like me as much as I like you” or “we don’t want the same thing right now” discord. Just right, and you’re introducing him to your parents.
I don’t remember the last time the pace felt just right to me, which would explain why I haven’t introduced anyone to my parents in nearly a decade.
In the past, when I started dating a guy, I would hang back and suss out his pace. Then I would match his speed. If he sent rapid fire texts, I would return them like torpedoes. If he was into phone calls, I would answer … even though I pretty much hate talking on the phone. If he wanted to go on a date every Saturday night, I would try to carve out time for dinner. Maybe I would even pick the restaurant.
Speaking of Saturday night dinner, I had a six-month relationship with a guy I saw only on Saturdays. For the first three months, I accepted this for what it was. I’m not sure if I can say it felt right, but at least it felt like something that I could deal with. After three months passed, I wanted to see him more. He didn’t feel the same way. But I kept on keeping on until I told him I was falling in love with him, and as I suspected, he was miles behind me.
Another guy I dated for a couple of months was a text-a-holic. The texting was fast and furious. It was fun, but it started to exhaust me. I didn’t care that he was eating lasagna for dinner unless I was eating it with him. The texts started to annoy me, without enough face time to support them. But I continued to return texts until we both realized that our real relationship paled in comparison to our textlationship.
My last boyfriend, a man of the ADD variety, couldn’t keep a schedule to save his life. No surprise that I, a woman who plans each day with the precision of a drill sergeant, ended up running around like a headless chicken to try to see him in his free pockets of mismanaged time. Obviously, I couldn’t keep that up for more than a few months.
Fast forward to now. This weekend, I texted a guy I’ve gone out with a couple of times just to say hi. He texted back: “Can we talk? I hate texting.”
This struck me. Why hadn’t I ever said anything like that to a guy? Wait, I’m exaggerating, I have said lots of stuff like that before. But I should have said stuff like that more often. And sooner. After two dates, not 10. I think I held back in the past because I was hyper-aware of matching pace. The better question: Why have I let other people set my romantic pace? No wonder I usually end up feeling like, in some way, dating is a disruption to my life. Because my relationships are not unfolding at a pace that’s comfortable for me, or amenable to my schedule. Amenable to both of our schedules, I should say. And if accommodating both of our lives and finding a comfortable rhythm together is a problem … well, the outlook not so good for our future.
I decided to pick up the phone and call this guy, per his request.
“So, I’m not a big phone person,” I informed him, “But I wanted to see if you’re free on Tuesday.”
Why did I do this? Because I felt like seeing him again and Tuesday was the night I had free. And because I am setting my own pace now. I was hoping he was available to join me.