It is no secret that the best first date I ever went on was exciting – homemade dinner at midnight, accompanied by a great bottle of wine, kitchen singing, and a personal drum lesson. That “relationship” was full of passion- it was thrilling, fun, lively. I felt so happy! Even now, when I speak of this first date, my face lights up. Unfortunately, it also ended as quickly as it started – despite the amazing chemistry, after a few months, we realized we were on different pages. We don’t talk now.
The best “relationship” I had started slower. We were both hesitant about each other. He asked tough questions, and we spent time doing things we both loved to do – hiking, paddleboarding, exploring small towns, and talking about our passion projects and side hustles. It felt like the more we got to know each other, the more chemistry there was. I knew this person could easily fit into my life. Despite not working out, we are still friends to this day.
This has me thinking – when it comes to relationships and finding love, do we want a fast, passionate beginning, or are we better off channelling our inner Kacey Musgraves who is “alright with a slow burn”?
First of all, I think everyone can agree that what we want is chemistry. We want that person that we just “click” with, to be our partner in crime but also in life; we want someone to laugh with, feel safe with, and explore with. We want someone who “gets” us.
I think people often mistake chemistry and attraction for compatibility. Usually, the person we feel fireworks for has an outgoing personality by nature. We credit that person for bringing out sides of us that we didn’t even know existed. We feel alive. We feel happy.
But just like fireworks, rapid-fire relationships are short-lived. Once the explosions and the shiny lights fade, we are left with smoke and a feeling of ok, now what? An Elite Daily article goes on to say that over time “…all the ugly loose ends we overlooked (values, lifestyles, addictions) will start to unravel before our pretty little eyes. Each time we see each other, we will like each other a little bit less. Before long, we realize we are two strangers with nothing in common, entangled in a relationship.” In other words, Kacey Musgraves singing “you give me butterflies” isn’t necessarily a good thing.
A friend of mine recently started dating a guy who she had worked with for almost a year prior to even realizing she was interested in him. He was new, and my friend is the type who wants to make everyone feel welcomed (one of her best qualities!) and she started inviting him to staff events. Over time, as their friendship built, she started realizing that this guy would actually be kind of perfect for her – already got along well with her friends, was successful and hard-working, and had a great sense of humour.
From there, the feelings started. They continued to take it slow, ensuring that they truly knew they were a good match before becoming more serious. “You want to build the love over time,” says psychologist Robert Epstein, Ph.D. in the article Learn To Love: How To Live Happily Ever After. “It’s called an upward love trajectory. The downward one is the one we all experience, but the upward one is possible.” Because my friend took her time with her guy and really got to know him, they’re one of the most compatible couples I know.
In a world with instant gratification in almost all areas – next-day shipping, TV and movies when and where we want them, take-out food, etc. – it is no wonder why we often attribute a slow burn to no burn. We are trained to believe that not feeling that instantaneous connection we have become accustomed to means there will never be a connection. We discontinue many potential relationships after the first date, without even really giving it a shot.
In fact, studies actually show that a slow burn will lead to greater compatibility, and perhaps, longer-lasting relationships. “The slow burn is special because the foundation of the relationship is not based on appearance or sex, but genuine fondness and chemistry that grew into more,” says writer and blogger Charlene Eckstein. In an article published in Psychology Today, incompatibility and significant differences are the top reasons for which couples end up divorcing. Simply put, getting to know someone over time and allowing the chemistry to grow appears to be what keeps couples together and happy, not how instantaneous the chemistry was.
At the end of the day, what a successful relationship comes down to is not whether it started out with a lightning bolt of instant connection or not, but how much do you genuinely like this person. Do you enjoy spending time with them, and do you look forward to it? Are you easily able to talk and discuss various topics, even potentially difficult ones? Can you see them fitting into your life, and vice versa? Do you have other things you both enjoy doing together, and if you were faced with a challenge, could you go to the person you’re seeing for support? Regardless of how a relationship starts out, we want someone with whom we feel respected and cared for.
So maybe what we want isn’t really a slow burn or a rapid-fire, but a golden hour; we want someone we look forward to, and to quote my girl Kacey again, someone who makes our “world look beautiful…” and with whom “I know, I know everything’s gonna be alright.”
*Note: Kacey Musgraves had no input on this article. Her songs just seemed very fitting, and were stuck in my head.