Our guest, Dr. Ramon Presson, is a licensed marriage and family therapist in Franklin, Tenn and is author of several books including two co-authored by Gary Chapman.
In a recent conversation between Dr. Ramon Presson and C.K. Collins, aka Kelly, discussed the danger of accelerating relationships in the dating world, particularly post-divorce or later in life. Dr. Presson refers to this phenomenon as the "dating speedway" and emphasizes the importance of pacing in relationships.
Dr. Presson points out that while it may be challenging for individuals in new relationships to pace themselves, there is a corresponding danger in accelerating the relationship. He suggests
using the acronym "date" to help remember the key factors in pacing relationships.
Disclosure -- Deep and personal self-disclosure quite early in the relationship
Affection -- The level of physical affection and sexual intimacy ramps up quickly, perhaps even immediately
Time together -- Early, the couple may see each other daily, spend most of the weekends together if possible, go on trips together early in the relationship
Expression of feelings-- One or both say "I love you" or "I think I'm falling in love with you" or "I think I could spend the rest of my life with you" too soon in the relationship.
The "D" in "date" stands for disclosure, emphasizing that one of the ways to accelerate a dating relationship is by early deep and personal self-disclosure.
C.K. Collins notes that she has experienced both slow and fast approaches in relationships, and the fast approach can sometimes come across as anti-personal. Dr. Presson agreed, noting that while deep level early-on disclosure can accelerate intimacy, there is a timing aspect to this. He recalls a client who had a three and a half hour first date in which they both "spilled their guts," emphasizing that while he is all for being open and honest, there is a time and place for this level of disclosure.
To further emphasize the importance of pacing in relationships, Dr. Presson refers to a study by psychologist Arthur Aaron, which explores whether intimacy between two strangers can be accelerated by having them ask each other a specific series of personal questions. The 36 questions in the study are meant to be asked gradually over time to build intimacy, rather than in one sitting.
As they continued, they discussed the impact of rushing affection in relationships. Dr. Presson highlights how quickly physical and sexual intimacy can lead to an emotional bond and desire for exclusivity, which can create discomfort or tension if one person is more ready for a commitment than the other. He stresses the importance of pacing the relationship and taking the time to talk about sex before engaging in it.
Collins notes that rushing affection is common in online dating, and that the pandemic may have contributed to a shift towards impatience for acceleration of relationships.
Dr. Presson warns against the mindset of "I'm older and wiser now, so I can accelerate the relationship," suggesting that past experiences should actually make one more cautious and not rush into things. Instead of interpreting age as a factor that allows people to accelerate relationships, Dr. Presson advises people to be wise and pace their relationships based on their past experiences to avoid repeating the same mistakes. Overall, Presson highlights the importance of taking one's time in relationships and not rushing physical or emotional intimacy.
Collins shared that this is the one she feels most aligned with. Because she had retired, she had a lot of time to spend with another person and it could have sped the relationship up.
Presson agreed. He said, “If I have available time and I'm interested and excited about the other person and they can be very interested and their time their availability matches up then why choose to spend less time together when the time is available? And you know the indicators early is this is going well right? I think I'd like to have some more of this. I really like you.
Presson suggests daters not treat it like an all you can eat buffet and have to consume the whole thing within the next week.
The disclosure, and the affection levels are naturally inclined to accelerate when those large blocks of time are like this fertile soil for the disclosure and the affection to take off and that's in a way that's ultimately wonderful. However, typically one person’s affection accelerates faster than another and then you have a heartbreak because one person backs off.
Expression of Feelings
Collins began the discussion on expression of feelings when one or both parties say, I love you, or I think I'm falling in love with you, or I think I could spend the rest of my life with you. She shared that it had happened to her that somebody said it too soon. And it did make her automatically take a couple of steps back.
Presson advises that just because you're thinking it doesn't mean you need to say it, and holding that for a while is not being dishonest. Holding back for a bit means not putting you on the spot or putting pressure on you.
Take time to interview yourself, slow yourself down and ask what am I wanting to feel? Why am I wanting this person to reciprocate these feelings early?
Oftentimes, we hear the term sexual addiction or sex addict. But there's a term called romance addiction, or romance addict. And it's not even so much about sex. It’s about the person wanting to feel “this thing.”
Ask yourself, “I'm infatuated, I'm smitten. Am I really in love with the person? Or am I in love with a feeling?”
Presson does go on to say it is a legitimate need to feel valued, feel important, and to feel special to someone. He sometimes talks with his clients about the difference between a desire and a response to an unmet desire, hope or wish is disappointment.
And the response to an unmet desire or wish or hope is disappointment. The response to an unmet need or requirement is either despair or resentment. So by pacing the relationship you can avoid the pitfalls. Check in with yourself.
In summary, Presson suggests avoiding the temptation to rush into a new romantic relationship after a divorce, due to the desire to feel valued and important by someone again. They both caution against confusing infatuation with love and suggest taking the time to work on oneself before diving into a new relationship.
Presson also talks about the importance of connection in a relationship, beyond just sex, including meaningful conversation, shared activities, and touch. He distinguishes between desires and needs and encourages listeners to slow down and ask themselves what they truly want and need in a new relationship.