NYC Psychotherapist Blog

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Saturday, February 4, 2012

Dating vs Being in a Relationship: Take Time to Get to Know Each Other

In these times of "instant" everything, I find that people often rush into relationships very soon after getting to know each other. After just a few weeks, instead of getting to know each other over time, they're already defining themselves as a couple in a relationship. Shortly after that is when problems usually begin because they don't really know each other.

Why Are People Rushing into Relationships Before They Know Each Other?
I'm not sure why people are in so much more of a rush than they used to be. Possibly with the advent of online dating websites, people feel more pressure to get into a committed relationship quickly because they're aware that there's lots of "competition" out there. Anecdotally, I hear this from both friends and clients that there's a feeling that if you don't "snap up" that the person you like, he or she will keep the online dating profile active and find someone else.

Dating vs Being in a Relationship

Are You Filling in the Blanks Based on Your Fantasy?

When you jump into a committed relationship with someone you hardly know, you usually fill in the blanks about that person based on the fantasy you want. Often, people don't even realize that this is what they're doing until they're surprised to discover something about this person they didn't know and don't like. Then, they're disappointed and wonder how this happened. But the truth is that they didn't really know the other person hardly at all before they rushed into the relationship.

Taking Time to Get to Know Someone Before Getting into a Relationship
My grandmother used to use an expression that my cousins and I used to laugh at called "keeping company." It was sort of the equivalent of dating, but maybe a little more serious. This quaint expression meant that two people were interested in one another and romantically involved. Usually, at that point, they would have met each other's families and it was assumed that they were not seeing anyone else. The next step, if there was going to be a next step, would be that they would get engaged.

While I'm not definitely suggesting that we go back to how things were in my grandmother's day when it comes to relationships (there was a lot that was prudish and oppressive), I see certain advantages to people taking their time and dating for a while before they define themselves as a couple.

How long is "a while"? Well, I think it takes at least a year, ideally two years, before you can get to know someone well enough to have some idea if you're compatible. Of course, you might say it could take a lifetime to get to know someone, and I wouldn't disagree with you. Most of us know couples who thought they knew each other well and then after 25 years discover that they don't.

My point is that the purpose of dating is to take the time to get to know each other over a period of time, seeing each other in all kinds of circumstances (not just over candlelight where everyone looks good) and making a decision based on reality and not fantasies.

Getting to Know Each Other to Establish a Foundation for a Stable Relationship
So, before you hire that U-Haul to move your stuff into the other person's apartment after just a few weeks or months, get to know him or her better. If it's not going to work out, it's better to know in the let's-get-to-know-each-other dating phase than after you call yourselves a couple. If it's going to work out, you'll have built a good foundation for a stable relationship.

About Me
I am a licensed NYC psychotherapist who provides psychotherapy services, including talk therapy, EMDR, clinical hypnosis, and Somatic Experiencing for individuals and couples.

To find out more about me, visit my website: 
Josephine Ferraro, LCSW - NYC Psychotherapist

To set up a consultation, call me at (917) 742-2624 during business hours or email me.

Also, see my article:  Dating in Your 40s, 50s, 60s and Beyond

Are You Dating Someone Who Has Problems Making a Commitment?