By Fran Sherman, LCSW
Just as we watch the calendar for the change of seasons, love has its own timelines. That may seem silly to say about something as natural as love, but when it comes to certain milestones in a relationship, the timing has to be right.
Jump into the next step of a relationship too quickly, and you may not get a second chance to do it right. Wait too long to make the next move or ask the next question, and you might not get the opportunity again.
Love doesn’t come with a handbook, but I try to help my clients take the right steps in their relationships at the right time. It’s not the same for everyone, but you can tailor these suggestions to your own situation and circumstances:
- When to say “I love you” — When we are in a new relationship, our brain produces the “feel-good” chemical oxytocin that helps us bond to a mate. During this time we can’t breathe, can’t eat, can’t sleep. It’s a feeling of intoxication. It’s then that it’s easy to say “I love you” because we’re feeling love and adoration. It’s best to wait until our brain chemistry regulates, in several months to a year, to know whether or not you’re really feeling love. It also depends on your age – 17, 27, 37 or 57. Life experiences teach us love.
- When to move in/get married – It really depends on your age. It’s different whether you’re in your 20s or your 50s. You need to wait at least four seasons before you really know someone, and then it takes a lifetime to really know someone. If you wait for the house, the money or the perfect job, it never will happen because life always gets in the way.
- When to break up – When there’s no communication, no camaraderie and you’re unhappy more than you’re happy, then it often is time to move forward.
Relationships are full of milestones. We pass them when our relationships are first blossoming. We tick them off when we begin moving forward, together as a couple. We tackle them when times are tough. Even looking back over the years, to savor what we’ve accomplished in our relationships, is a milestone. Each has its own characteristics and its own unique timing.
Is there the “perfect” time to plunge into these milestones and the many, many others you’ll encounter on your way through the adventure of love? Certainly, there’s no science to it, but knowing to take the right next step at the right time is a big plus.
You won’t find them on the calendar, but paying attention to love’s timelines will help you build and maintain healthy, loving relationships.