From Lust to Love: On the Virtues of Taking It Slow

From Lust to Love: On the Virtues of Taking It Slow

Dear Eve,

I’m trying to get a guy back. This is our "short" history (my mistakes are numbered): I ended a two-year, depressing relationship, and I was on the rebound, not ready for anything serious. A week later, I went out with a guy I met. [1] We had sex on the second date (it was a great date). [2] I hung around his place for three days. Then he left for three weeks, and asked me not to sleep with anybody else in the interim. [3] I agreed, but freaked out a little because he wanted commitment. [4] Although I had agreed not to, I slept with someone else (not normal behavior on my part!). [5] I decided to tell the original guy, who cried but "forgave" me, and said he wanted to “take it slower" with me.

At this point I realized that I had strong feelings for him. I told him that I loved him.

Now he doesn’t think I’m “relationship material,” but the irony is that I really am: I’m very loyal, reliable, and loving. I had just happened to be on the rebound and not ready when I first met him. After realizing these feelings, I kept dating other people, even though I really wanted him.
I think I have another chance with this guy because he has been calling me again, but I believe we should continue to date other people as we get to know one another better. I do love him, and I want to win him back (but not sleep with him again until he's mine).
Is this a mistake?


What I love about your letter is that you are very clear about what your mistakes were. This level of self-awareness is very important if you want the situation to improve.

From what you have told me, it doesn’t sound like a huge mistake to pursue the relationship with him because as far as I can tell, he sounds like a good guy. However, there is another potential “mistake” that you didn’t point out that you may want to consider.

I suggest you stop dating other people while you are pursuing this relationship. He already has valid trust issues with you and if you go to him and say, “I love you and I really want to be with you, but until that happens I am still going to date X, Y, and Z…” you are neither going to appear trustworthy nor serious. On the flip side, if you go to him and say, “I realized how deeply I have feelings for you and would like another chance. I’ve stopped dating all other people to show you that I’m serious….”—the message will come across very differently.

One of the challenges of having sex early in the relationship is that it is hard to take a step backwards and start dating without sleeping together. Your plan of not having sex with him, after you already have, is probably not going to go so well. The problem with having sex while you are still getting to know each other is that it confuses the matter. Sex “ups the ante” in the gamble by increasing the emotional attachment significantly. Sexual involvement also makes it harder to think straight. When we are having sex before knowing someone well, we are far more sensitive to what we think everything means, and far less sensitive to what some things should mean. By that I mean that we are more sensitive about what a look or a comment might mean when we don’t know the person well enough to interpret or ask. Therefore, we are simultaneously less perceptive of or attentive to the little red flags that are flapping to warn us about impending problems. So go ahead and give it a shot—just do your best to use your head in the domain of the heart.

With aloha,

Intellectual Foreplay Question of the Week: Do your actions align deliver the same message as your words?
Love Tip of the Week: Love may be blind, but lust makes us not pay attention to what we see.

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