Is Head-Over-Heels A Good Thing?
By Kimberly Dawn Neumann
You meet, you like each other, things are going great… and then, your date starts professing true love and talking future—on your third date. You feel flattered, of course, and happy to inspire such strong feelings in another person.. But, if you’re still in the maybe-this-could-have-potential stage and your new amour is head-over-heels, things can get tricky.
“It can actually be a little scary when one person in a new relationship is suddenly like ‘I know we don’t know each other well, but I think we’re the kind of couple who could wind up married,’” says JoAnn Magdoff, a psychotherapist in private practice in New York City. “There might be potential for that someday, but at the moment, you barely know each other.” In fact, premature adoration can actually add an unexpected layer of pressure to a budding romance, especially if you’re on the receiving end and aren’t ready to barrel forward at 100 mph. What’s the best way to handle it? Read on as experts and real people weigh in.
Ways to gauge if things are moving too fast
That “butterflies” feeling, unexpected silly grins, and a sudden need for less sleep—there is a level of giddiness in any new relationship that’s wonderful… and the last thing you want to do is kill that magic. So how can you tell when your date’s feelings are the natural high of falling for someone… and when they’ve hit fast-forward? According to the experts, there are definite head-over-heels “symptoms.” Magdoff suggests one clue is too many phone calls, texts, and emails. “There is sort of this assumption that you’ll be available to the other person all the time,” says Magdoff. It’s one thing for a date to show interest, entirely another to desire constant, 24/7 communication. “Also be aware if the person starts asking too many deep questions about you too quickly or is working too hard to please you,” she says.
Love coach Rinatta Paries advises caution if the person is pushing physicality, mentions that you are “soul mates” or starts making long-term plans – which could range from discussing future holiday plans to mentioning marriage, living together or children – too early on. “I would also be wary if your date tells you that he or she has never felt this strongly about someone before or thinks you are perfect and can do no wrong, as those are signs of being in love with the idea of love more than the real you,” she warns.
What’s behind these warp-speed ways
Of course, it’s wonderful to be cherished and adored. But when your date starts worshipping you within just a few dates, you’ve got to wonder: Are those feelings real? “All feelings are genuine feelings, so you can’t discount them,” says Magdoff. “But what you must consider is if they’re stemming from something deeper.” As an example, Magdoff says she once dated a man who was ready to marry her almost after the first date. She discovered the reason upon viewing a family photo. “His mother died, he missed her and I looked exactly like her—it was scary,” says Magdoff. While most examples may not be that extreme, it does raise a good point: Oftentimes, heightened emotional feelings are connected to something completely separate from you.
Sadly, there is also the “actor factor”—in other words, someone might claim his or her adoration only to have it turn out to be a means to a physical end. “Unfortunately there are quite a few people out there who are very ardent and act very in love at first but then – funny thing – start cooling down as soon as they’ve had sex,” says Sam Hamburg, Ph.D., author of Will Our Love Last? In other words, if the rush for intimacy eclipses the desire to get to know each other, it might be time to think twice.
And then, there’s the syndrome made famous in that Robert Palmer song—when your date is addicted to love. “In this case, rushed feelings are not about the person loving you but about the person being into the whole feeling of love-at-first-sight and the buzz that gives,” says Paries. “As soon as your date gets used to you just a little bit, he or she won’t be stimulated by you anymore and will lose that intense feeling.” Which means your date may start looking for that love “fix” elsewhere.
Finally, there is the fantasy. Every relationship begins with a little idealization, but if your date sees you less as a real person and more as a character in their love story, you’re likely in a danger zone. “I call this ‘the perfection project,’” says Patrick Raymond, 37, from New York City. “I’m with my dream girl and I’m her dream guy but we’re not really dating each other. We’re dating the fantasy we each have of our ideal mate until reality wakes us up.”
A better getting-to-know-you plan
So what, exactly, is the “right” pace for a relationship? “The bottom line is if it feels like too much too soon, it is,” says Magdoff. “Slow it down—you get to control things that way.” But how can you take a step back without dashing your date’s enthusiasm? “Some people will interpret this slow-down to mean that his or her date is not really interested,” says Gregory Schmitt, 34, of New York City. So, if you do like this person, you must make it clear that you do see potential. “Let him know that you like him and would like to see if you will make a good match, but that there is no need to rush,” says Paries. “Remind him that if you work as a couple, you’ll have a lifetime to be together.”
You can also slow down the pace without freaking out your date by making firm plans to see him or her—far, far in advance. Think of it this way: If she knows she will definitely see you three Saturdays from now, she can relax and look forward to it, rather than stress over when you’ll want to get together.
Now, don’t think we’re trying to kill your dream of love at first sight… it does happen! But sadly, a happy ending is not the most common outcome here. “Fools Rush In is not just a popular song, it’s the truth,” says Paries. “Relationships that are built in a hurry crumble most of the time, leaving at least one person bewildered and devastated.”
So when does head-over-heels translate into something that can last? As the old saying goes, it takes two to tango. “Actually, falling in love is like dancing—you have to read the emotions of the other person and adapt to your partner or you’ll end up completely tangled,” says Schmitt. “People experience infatuation all the time, but that kind of love is usually short-lived. Falling for someone’s personality, humor and mannerisms is when you find yourself really in ‘trouble’—in a good way.” And learning about those things usually takes… time.
Kimberly Dawn Neumann is a New York City-based freelance writer whose work has appeared in such publications as Cosmopolitan, Redbook, Fitness, and Marie Claire.
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