Don't Smother The Spark: Too Much Too Soon
I was 27 years old before I learned that the skills that make a good relationship are not the same skills that start a new relationship. I’d paid attention to marriages and how to have a great relationship and began putting those things into practice. Everywhere I went people would tell me I’d be a good husband and father, except I wasn’t getting through the first few dates very smoothly. I was using deep relationship skills on a first or second date and killing the vibe. As I started learning a new set of skills and mindsets, I saw people all around me doing the same thing and giving too much too soon.
How Relationships Work: Building The Fire
In every relationship, there has to be some form of spark that kicks off the party. I think we all understand that romantic interest and chemistry that just makes things “different” than a normal friendship. Sometimes that spark is clear when you first meet the other person and other times that spark comes after a few dates or knowing someone for a few months. That spark is critical to go for the fire to start.
Wood is this analogy is time and attention. We give time and attention to the relationship which allows it to grow.
Some people have developed great relationships skills. They know how to go deep, share vulnerable things, give attention to someone else, give sacrificially, and be all in for someone else. These vital skills are like big logs to throw on the fire. These are the things that keep a fire going and give you warmth and longevity. These are the extravagant gifts, the soup or medicine when you’re sick, the staying in and taking care, the going above and beyond yourself to give the other person what they need. They are the substance that long term healthy relationships use to sustain and flourish.
Unfortunately, if you throw a log on that match that’s lit, you’ll smother it immediately. If you give too much time and attention to someone on the first few dates, they could often feel: smothered because it’s too much attention, like you don’t have a life or boundaries, like you’re living a fantasy because you don’t know them.
A relationship like a flame needs to grow and consume the smaller pieces as it develops.
In the beginning, fire needs little pieces of wood, stick, twigs called kindling. This kindling gives the flame enough substance to hold onto and consume causing it to grow. The other part a flame needs is oxygen to be able to breathe. That’s right, the beginning of the relationship actually needs breathing room and space to grow.
Many dating coaches have encouraged others to waiting so many hours before responding or being “busy” on the first time offered but accepting a later one. This can often feel like playing a game or manipulating the other person. The truth they’re circling here is that relationships need some breathing room at the beginning. There needs to be a chase involved, mystery happening, time for interest and questions to come up. It’s not about playing the game it’s about having a life so there’s something new to be added to your life. It’s no fun when it feels like one life is heavily relying on the other to make it interesting. Again, smothering.
There are some people out there who are really good at the kindling stage. They know how to flirt and to give a little and step back - let the spark take hold and grow into a little fire. They make dates fun and playful and let the other person feel like they’ve got all the butterflies and struck it rich with this one. That’s awesome. Unfortunately, they are really good at getting a relationship started, but they have trouble growing the relationship into something bigger, more serious and self-sustaining. These people perhaps have issues with giving sacrificially (giving beyond themselves), independence (not able to let someone else give to them), or being vulnerable as to what’s really going on inside (the bigger logs that are real substance of a relationship).
As you enter into a relationship, remember that the amount of time and energy you give is like wood on a fire. Depending how big the spark or fire currently is will help you determine how much time and energy you give to the relationship. If the relationship feels like it’s being smothered, step back for a minute. Give it some breathing room and let the fire and attraction catch up to the time and energy given to it. If you find that your relationships are great at the beginning but never seem to catch and go anywhere, look at how much of yourself (time, energy, and vulnerability) you’re giving to it. It may require you to change your lifestyle or be courageous and share things closer to your heart. In either case, a relationship is a process of give and take and letting it breathe for the attraction and relationship grow.