I started a relationship with someone I met recently and things are moving quickly. It’s only been a couple of months and we’re already talking about marriage. I like how things are going, but I’m nervous that I’m jumping into something too soon. What should I do?
I’m going to structure this answer around a relationship attachment model developed by Dr. John Van Epp, author of “How to Avoid Marrying a Jerk.” He outlines a sequence that suggests getting to know the other person, developing a deep trust, learning to rely on one another, and gradually increasing the commitment to each other.
The danger of accelerated attachment to another person without adequate knowledge, trust, and reliability is that the brain gets hijacked by the heart, even if there are indicators that the relationship isn’t healthy.
Following such a sequence can help even the most love-struck individual avoid over-attaching to another person before serious commitments are made to each other. I will now explain how this sequence can help you think more clearly about the health of your developing relationship.
Getting to know another person happens over time and in a variety of settings. You may learn a lot about your partner on the first few dates, such as their preferences in food, entertainment, and hobbies. However, please note that not all information is equally weighted. For example, knowing their favorite movie isn’t the same as knowing how they relate to their siblings and parents.
As you get to know this person, it’s critical that you spend lots time with them, preferably face to face, so you can take in as much information about them across settings and situations.
Increasing your knowledge about your partner can happen much more quickly than the next two areas: trust and reliability. These two areas can only happen over time. Can you trust them with your confidences? Find out if they keep promises, if they blame others, if they run away from their problems, and so on. You can only assess these over time. If your partner breaks your trust or acts unreliable early in the relationship, it must be addressed and discussed with them before the relationship moves forward.
Commitment is a result of increasing levels of knowledge, trust, and reliability. If these three areas are growing in a healthy way, it’s safer to commit.
Please note that physical touch should be kept consistent with your level of commitment. Over-attaching through physical touch will prevent you from paying attention to the “know, trust, and rely” steps, which are crucial building blocks to the future of your relationship.
Many relationships fall prey early on to the intoxicating feelings linked to physical intimacy. When these feelings eventually wear off, many individuals are horrified to discover they don’t know the other person, can’t trust them, and realize they aren’t reliable. Pacing physical intimacy with commitment can prevent such a disappointment.
As you follow this sequence, you’ll have guideposts to measure your progress so you can balance your brain and your heart as you find your way in this new relationship.