I’m an experiential learner. This is not something I always knew. I came to this “epiphany” as I realized that I could take in tons of advice but couldn’t really learn from and act on it until I had experienced a particular life lesson on my own. So, lessons about relationships and love had to be – and still are – painfully (sometimes) learned.
The topic today is going slow in a new or potentially new relationship – from the perspective of an experiential learner. Slow refers to sex, personal disclosure, and involvement. Let’s have some spring vegetable stew while we’re chatting.
After a long marriage and divorce process (see About) and a good period of healing and recovery, I yearned to be in a relationship again. I also knew that I wasn’t ready to meet my soul mate because I wasn’t sure what I was looking for.
When you go into a marriage with relatively little dating experience, post-marriage dating is truly a whole new universe. Even if you married late and dated a lot before marriage, dating norms have changed. So we’re all starting over but the woman who was almost a child bride (not quite but now you can have maximum sympathy for me), has more to learn about what she wants and doesn’t want.
If I look back on my first relationship (not first date) after divorcing, I know that I was somewhat blinded by pheromones. Mr.A, a relatively recent widower, was also a newbie and excited to connect with someone. We leapt into sex rather soon after meeting, comforted by the fact that we were both post-long term relationship virgins. Ultimately we weren’t suited for each other. In hindsight, we didn’t have enough in common and were not even sexually compatible. And it was very clear that it was too soon after his wife’s death for him to be in a relationship.
But I started to learn a little about what I was looking for and truly enjoyed that excitement that came from flirting with a new man.
So, this wasn’t a slow cooker encounter… but I don’t regret it.
As I continued to date, I found that I wasn’t always discerning enough and leapt into some relationships (stir fry mode) without really evaluating whether they had the potential to go the distance. It was part of my Auntie Mame “just live” philosophy of life. I wanted to make up for lost time. After all, I had already begun the 6th decade of life. If not now, when??
So you see my reasoning. I wanted to experience men, love, sex – everything (within reason). There was no risk of pregnancy and, being careful, no risk of STDs. Unlike some younger (and older) women, I wasn’t after and didn’t have any first date sexual encounters — but neither did things progress at a slow cooker pace.
Recently, I dated a new man, Mr. Z (see The 36 Questions), and realized that we should not in fact have sex or continue our relationship (even though we had already gone on a number of long dates). Our lifestyles were just too different and I could not imagine a life with him. Fortunately, the feeling must have been mutual because things just seemed to slow down and stop.
I saw the value of a slow-cooker relationship with Mr. Z. It would have been emotionally entangling to go full speed ahead with him only to break up relatively quickly. Break-ups take a toll and it’s not always easy to “roll with it” when you are disappointed once again.
By going slow, you allow more opportunity to disclose vulnerabilities and to probe more deeply into what makes the other person tick – developing emotional intimacy as a precursor to physical intimacy. It may not be as easy to nurture that sharing once you have sex. For one thing, there’s more to lose.
So, you see I am learning. Going forward, I plan to make a list of essential attributes in my ideal man and relationship. I can use this list to help me decide whether I want to start or continue dating someone. I could not have created this list 3 years ago.
I hope that Amy Webb, author of
Data, a Love Story: How I Cracked the Online Dating Code to Meet My Match would approve of my lists. She took evaluation and planning in dating to a new level and had great results.
I found some more food for thought in a recent Match.com article that interviewed men for their perspective on sex and relationships: Guy’s Eye View: Slept Together Too Soon?
Age differences and the marital history of the men interviewed played into their viewpoints. Three men were quoted in the article by author Steve Friedman, including Alec, a 50-year-old never-married man. When asked about sleeping with a woman on the first or second date, his comment supported the slow cooker philosophy:
“In my mind, it doesn’t make a difference—as long as the woman understands that just because she slept with me, it doesn’t mean the rest of the relationship is also moving quickly. But I will say, it does sort of put pressure on the situation when you sleep together so quickly. It makes the getting-to-know-you part tougher.”
The same article quotes a 40-year-old divorced man who believes the timing of the first occurrence of sex with a woman does not indicate anything in particular for the relationship’s future. A 35-year-old never married man thinks men and women are wired differently. It’s o.k. for a man to sleep with others more quickly, he says, but for a woman it “would not bode well for the future.” I see a double standard in play for some men that regardless of how you view it, may be hard for women to escape from.
I’d love to know what you, dear readers, think of all this. Send me your comments and thoughts about slow cooking a relationship versus quickly stir frying it. In the meantime, happy dating.
• Data, a Love Story: How I Cracked the Online Dating Code to Meet My Match, Amy Webb, Plume
• Data: A Love Story – The algorithms, statistics, charts, and lists I used to game online dating and find my match, Amy Webb, Slate
• Guy’s Eye View: Slept Together Too Soon? Steve Friedman, Match.com