The one that got away: What to do when you fall in love too quickly
For the last few weeks I've been thinking about someone. Thinking often and intently. I don't mean to - I haven't seen her since the beginning of the year, and we didn't date for very long. But even still, I keep catching myself thinking of her intently, imagining what could have been. Things ended because my feelings became too intense too quickly. Now her name's like a tune that's stuck in my head. I know I shouldn't be this way, but I just can't help myself. I've fallen for her hard.
What do you do when you find yourself saddled intrusive thoughts, when you fantasise about the one that got away? So how do you hit the breaks when things are moving too quickly, and ensure that you can guard yourself against falling in love at the drop of a hat? The answer lies in a lot of self discipline, control and introspection. But what are the warning signs to look out for that tell you you're falling head over heels way too fast?
Often we have sex too soon. The definition of "too soon" varies from person to person. For some, "too soon" could mean within the first month of you knowing a partner, or mean having sex after the first date, or maybe after only knowing them for an hour or so! It's not something that's universal to everyone. Sometimes early sex can really hamper a relationship in the long-term. There are plenty of people who can do the whole no-strings-attached schtick without a second thought, and that's fine for them - but for those of us to see sex as more than just physical gratification (e.g. as a means of furthering an emotional connection) having sex with the right person at the wrong time can push you straight to an intimate place, making you much more vulnerable than you would have been otherwise.
You might text them too much, or send them too many Facebook messages, or Whatsapp them, or even call directly. Maybe you haven't known someone long, and suddenly your heart skips a beat whenever you feel your phone vibrate or hear the buzz of your text tone. That's fine when the other party is happy to reciprocate, but if your communication is disproportionate then maybe you need to pull back a bit, otherwise that silence and that empty inbox is going to be that much harder to cope with if things go south.
Sharing stuff is an important part of relationship - if you want things to be serious then at some point, no matter how stoic you might be otherwise, you have to open up to the other person and share your doubts, fears and insecurities. But you can have too much of a good thing. Developing a relationship with someone should be like opening Christmas presents - you should be savouring the pleasure and excitement of discovering new and surprising things. Even if you're deeply comfortable with someone, to the point you feel like you can share every secret you've had since the age of four: don't. Hold back and ration yourself. You don't want to give too much away or overwhelm the other person.
We're all guilty of visualising what-could-have-been and other imaginings when we've fallen for someone and want to stay with them. Imagination is like a balm, fantasises a packet of aspirin that's always at your elbow - but anyone can become addicted to them. It's a bad idea to fall in love with someone who fulfils a broad criteria, but you can lean too far in the opposite direction and become totally obsessed with the one person.
Now that's fine for married couples and species that mate for life, but after a fortnight? Way too unrealistic. If you find yourself interacting with others and finding them unsatisfactory by comparison, that could be your first clue that you're putting the other person on a pedestal.
Now that you've seen what to look out for, here's what you can do to put things in reverse and take back control of your feelings for someone. If you've fallen for someone badly and are becoming fixated on them, the best thing to do is to look at the experience in the long term. Too often in romantic situations we apply think in terms of permanent solutions to transient emotional issues. Take some time to look at the whole and assess your feelings from a long-term perspective.
If you've been obsessing over someone then the best way to bounce back is by finding something else to do that makes you happy and gives you worth. When you fall for someone too fast you're probably stuck in a rut from chasing an imagined contentment, maybe to fill an unfulfilling vacuum in other parts of your life. Taking up a new hobby, learning a new skill or a language, or even just diving into a personal project or self-improvement, can make up the difference and boost self-esteem.
Often, our need to get into a relationship quickly and push for more and more intimacy is a result of boredom and a desire to have something and someone new and exciting in our lives. But if you find yourself too attached to someone then you inevitably miss out on some of the pleasure solitude affords. You can be alone without being lonely: learn to enjoy spending time in the company of yourself.
If circumstances mean that you and the object of your affection can't be together, if they're not ready or not willing to get involved with something they're not prepared for, then don't harbour any ill will towards them. After all, if they've chosen to distance themselves from you then there's nothing you can say to change their mind. Let them decide whether the relationship is right, give them plenty of space, and above all, don't resent them for what is ultimately their decision.
When you've fallen in love with someone, no matter what the pace, it feels like the desired person is the only one in the world. This kind of monomania makes it easy to become complacent, and neglect making new connections, meeting new people. Obsessing over one attachment cuts you off from a whole host of others. It says "I'm convinced I've met the perfect person for me, and I'm certain, without evidence, that I won't meet someone better." Don't ignore other people and other romantic opportunities.