Recently we went on a double date with my boyfriend’s friend N, and his girlfriend. We only saw N’s girlfriend once before at his party a few months back and didn’t know much about her. N was a perennial bachelor–frankly, the sort of good-looking, well-dressed, super successful NYC bachelor who gets thumbs up from other guys–so we were both curious to see who this special lady is. It turned out she was a really nice, smart, sweet model (of course)–which honestly wasn’t the surprising part. What did surprise me was their relationship timeline: they’d met in June, and moved in together after just three months. Now their parents were meeting over the holidays. On the other hand, they didn’t kiss until their fifth date because she didn’t feel ready before.
All of this was in complete opposition to the relationship timeline I’d experienced in my one major adult relationship with my boyfriend. We met almost five and a half years ago. We moved in together after 1 1/2 years. Couples have met, married, and even had kids in the time we’ve been together. Case in point, my sister and brother-in-law met just 2 months before us, but they’ve been married 1 1/2 years now. And we’re not even close to getting engaged or arranging our parents to meet (eeek). But we kissed at the end of our first date and (Mom close your eyes) my boyfriend was the one who was all gentlemanly and holding back by our second date.
All this has made me feel a little bit strange. Is there ever a timeline that shows your relationship is “on track”? What’s a “normal” timeline anyway? And I’d always thought that physical chemistry has to be palpable on the first date for it to become a full-fledged relationship, but apparently that’s not always the case. The thing is, like other “rules” about love, I think the new normal for love is that there is no one correct relationship timeline. Here’s what I think is the truth about the relationship timeline.
1. If a guy is interested in you, he will text you within 5 days.
I still do think that this rule applies, only because I haven’t seen evidence to the contrary. You had your first meeting and exchanged phone numbers, so how long do you give (if you don’t make the first move)? The old rule was that he will text you within 3 days–I have extended it to 5 because people are busier nowadays. (And you are too, you hard-charging professional woman, you).
2. You don’t need to kiss at the end of first date.
I’d always personally believed that it’s not a successful first date if you don’t kiss at the end. But I’ve now seen enough happy couples to know that this isn’t necessarily true. Some people are quick to warm up, and others need a little more time to get to know one another before getting physical. This was the case with my sister, too–but not for lack of feeling or warmth. This might mean you kiss on second, third, fourth or even fifth date. Every couple is different.
3. There is no Three Date rule.
There is no appropriate time to start sleeping together. Thankfully, we are now at a point in civilization when women are not judged for “giving away” ourselves “too soon”–it’s no longer about withholding our goods so we prove our value, but exploring intimacy at the pace that feels right for you personally. Whether that means having sex on the first date or tenth, be true to how you feel.
4. When and how you deal with your finances.
Back in the day, it used to be that the man would pay for all the dates for like, forever, if he had any respect/feelings for you. In our post-feminism times, how you deal with your shared expenses and budgets is completely up to you. For some women that means offering to pay after the fifth date, while others believe in splitting the bill right away. But rather than following a certain external expectation, it’s about doing what you think is right and comfortable for you and your partner. And no judging either way–a woman is not a “gold digger” or “high-maintenance” if she likes being treated, and neither is she “not being smart” or heaven forbid, “emasculating,” if she believes in paying her share.
5. When you get engaged or married.
The timeline for marriage tends to have two separate factors: your personal age and your relationship age. People get engaged/married early (age-wise), late (age-wise), quickly (relationship-wise), or slowly (relationship-wise). The truth is that none of that says anything about the validity of your relationship. It’s okay if you get married young and quickly, older and slowly, or any permutation thereof…including never. Making your relationship an official partnership is valuable, but not the only–or even the most important–thing that legitimizes your love. Sometimes it might even be more romantic to stay the way you are because you’re perfect the way you are and nothing needs to change (maybe I’m taking the really parisienne view on this one?).
6. But really, there is a deadline for talking about kids.
I think the only real relationship timeline that still exists is when to have the discussion about kids. While women now have more choice over when and how they choose to have children–including some companies like Apple and Facebook that cover the cost of freezing eggs and delaying pregnancy–it’s still the reality that having a family happens in a relatively narrow window of time for most women. After a certain age, it’s appropriate to have that discussion so that you both understand where you stand.
What do you think about relationship timelines? Do you judge your relationship by when you do things? And did I miss anything?
Also in Love: 6 Signs that You Should Break Up
How to Tell If You’re Emotionally Cheating
5 Signs that You’re Settling for Less
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Photo: Steven Depolo via Flickr