Summer 2018 was the season of whirlwind romances. First, Justin Bieber and Hailey Baldwin got engaged in July after dating for just one month. Then, Priyanka Chopra and Nick Jonas followed suit in August, only two months into their relationship. And of course, there was Ariana Grande and Pete Davidson, who started dating in May, were engaged by June, and broke up in October.
Is your head spinning? Us too, and we can only imagine how it would feel to actually be in one of these lightening-speed relationships. On one hand, your life would imitate a romance novel: unparalleled passion, being swept off your feet, and some seriously steamy moments (wink, wink). But then again, could moving that quickly set you up for failure when the love goggles come off, or have a major influence on your mental health if and when the romance falls apart?
“It was way too much too soon,” a source told PEOPLE regarding Grande and Davidson’s spilt. To be fair, it’s easy to get caught up in the emotion at the beginning of a relationship. Emily deAyala, PhD, president and clinical director of Revive Therapy and Healing in Houston, tells Health that fast-paced lovebirds like Grande and Davidson often confuse intensity with intimacy.
“The honeymoon phase of a relationship, which typically lasts six to 18 months, can feel incredibly intense, which oftentimes feels very intimate,” deAyala explains. “However, the rush of neurochemicals and hormones released in the early stages of a relationship masks issues that may be lying below the surface.”
When that window of heightened emotion closes and those chemicals and hormones return to their normal state, problems that existed all along suddenly become much more obvious, she says. Sure, sometimes it’s no biggie, like when you realize your partner’s “cute” way of chewing really drives you up a wall. But other times, these newly revealed problems can be deal breakers.
“If a couple is able to remain connected and even deepen their connection after the honeymoon phase, that’s when the actual intimacy sets in,” deAyala says. But if the issues that inevitably come to the surface are too much for the couple to handle, the drastic shift from being head over heels in love to considering breaking up can be very overwhelming and make a dent in your emotional health.
“With such intense positive feelings so quickly, it is likely that if it doesn’t work out, you will also experience intense negative feelings and hurt,” Rachel Needle, PsyD, licensed psychologist and certified sex therapist in Florida, tells Health. In other words, the higher the ups, the lower the downs, and it all could leave you spiraling into depression.
The pain of having such a once-promising and intense relationship might also make you gun-shy about getting involved in a new one, afraid that you’ll experience that roller coaster of emotion and then the devastation of a breakup again. You might start to distrust your own emotions or judgment, which sinks your self-esteem.
Dealing with a breakup is never easy, especially one that comes out of a whirlwind romance, and deAyala says therapy can help you take the experience and turn it into something positive rather than letting it negatively influence your future. “This is actually the perfect opportunity to work on yourself so that this doesn’t become a vicious cycle in all of your relationships,” she says.
When you are ready to start dating again, take steps to keep yourself from moving too quickly with your new partner. Of course you’re going to be excited at the beginning, that’s perfectly normal. But make a conscious effort to pace yourself and get to know the person instead of assuming you already do.
“Be sure to set boundaries, maintain some personal space, and don’t plan a lot of future activities right away,” Needle says. “It’s easy to get carried away with the excitement of making future plans.”
Another key to taking it slow: communication. Check in with both yourself and your partner to see how each of you are feeling about the relationship. That way, if one of you feels like things are moving too quickly, you can address the issue before it gets out of hand.
Use this as a rule of thumb: don’t make any big commitments until you’ve been dating for one full year, deAyala says. “It really takes a year to get to know someone,” she advises. You shouldn’t dread the idea of waiting to make it serious; instead, savor the excitement of learning about your new partner’s life and let yourself enjoy the beauty of falling in love.
“The most important thing is that both partners are on board and comfortable with the way their relationship is moving,” Needle says. “Healthy relationships need to be paced so that both partners feel comfortable.”
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