As a human species, I really do believe we are evolving. The most prominent evidence I see is all the relationship advice on social media. I really could have used the coaches and therapists explaining things like attachment styles, love languages and trauma bonding when I was a young woman! It wonderful that as a culture we are starting to question the traditional ways of starting and being in relationship.
One big change I'm seeing is that people are questioning whether it's healthy to jump into commitments, and people are wanting to prioritize other parts of life alongside their primary romantic relationships. Many dating experts share the advice to "go slow" in order to help with this but what exactly does that mean? I think of it as nurturing the relationship in a way that allows for a foundational bond to be built. Putting yourselves in many different situations in order to get to know different aspects of each other. Here are some suggestions:
Wait to be sexual- I hesitate to include this because I don't want this suggestion to be interpreted as a moral point. I see absolutely nothing wrong with prioritizing pleasure and sharing sexuality. I do, however, think, if you are looking for a long term relationship, delaying sex could give an opportunity to see what other bonds are present Not to mention the delay can increase longing and make a fun tension. I often tell clients that a couple can never go back to the time before they have sex so enjoy the anticipation! It leaves a lot of room to talk about what sex means to each person. It leaves a lot of room to bond intellectually and emotionally. How long to wait is variable and personal.
Plan dates and activities with each other's friends- Including each other's friends in the early stages of relationship is a wonderful way to get to know each other. Generally, single people's friendships are a high priority in their lives and friend groups represent the values and support of the person you are dating. It's tempting to want to savor being alone in the early days of getting to know each other because it feels sparkly and magical, but including others can release the intensity valve by broadening your focus. Including friends can help you be more yourself because the friends know you and provide safety, Plus, your friends are an accurate measurement of how the person you're dating is affecting you. Instead of asking your friends, "what do you think of this person I'm dating?" Try asking, "How do I seem with this person?" Taking the time to reflect with your friends can slow things down a bit.
Commit in stages- Many people go from a first date to a committed couple without even discussing what the commitment means. I blame our culture of codependency. I remember in my 20s, moving in with someone after only hanging out a few times. Rushing through getting to know each other is building the relationship on a shaky foundation that is likely to crumble when it has the onus of bearing the heavy weight of inevitable arguments and life challenges that a couple must endure. Another reason people rush is that they are not two fully self supporting (emotionally, socially, financially, psychologically) individuals when they meet and they use each other to be more whole. For example, moving in together to save money. If this is the case it is good to be aware of the fact that the motivation for commitment may not be ideal, and own that. Ideally, we can commit to each new stage as the one we are in feels more solid. Perhaps first it's committing to monogamy (or whatever sexual commitments you agree on) If that is going well, you can commit to moving towards a future together- downsizing, taking care of impediments to moving in together, talking about the various lifestyle changes that will take place when you live together, discussing your values around home and money, discussing how the move will affect others in your lives, like children and parents. Then, the intention of life long commitment- marriage (or another ritual to signify the intention), the possibility of children, and how to keep a flame of love alive when you are busy with the demands of life.
Continue to do the things you love to do- I see it over and over again, and I've done it myself. We start to fall in love and we stop doing the things we love. The feeling of falling in love is the ultimate intoxicant! There is research that shows that the brain chemistry of falling in love is similar to some mental illnesses like OCD. Love, Actually: The science behind lust, attraction, and companionship - Science in the News (harvard.edu) It's vitally important to continue to take care of yourself as an individual as you bond with a new partner. Otherwise, the tendency is an addiction to the good feeling chemicals at the expense of everything else in life., So, be sure to keep in touch with friends and families, continue your self care rituals, and keep up with your hobbies. The person who is in love with you fell for you because of all these things that have shaped you. It's important to include them in your relationship going forward.
Spend some time alone- I know, it seems counterintuitive... you were likely tired of being alone, which is why you started dating in the first place, so why on earth would you want to go back to spending time alone? Well, it is my belief that being alone for short periods of time keeps you in touch with your core values and longings. We can easily be influenced by the perspectives of the people we date and than can, in turn, cause us to question our own beliefs and perspectives. This is a healthy process called learning. The challenge is to integrate different perspectives and see where they make sense in your life. Short periods alone can allow you this time to integrate.