While it would certainly make things easier if everyone developed feelings at the same pace, some people simply take longer to fall in love than others. These folks aren't the type to talk about soulmates on a first date, and they rarely start planning their future with someone they just met. Instead, they take their time and survey the relationship, before allowing themselves to get so serious.
Of course, there's no timeline when it comes to love. And there's no need to rush how you feel or to say things you don't mean. All relationships unfold at different rates, and sometimes it can take years to cultivate the type of connection worthy of such a big emotion. But there are quite a few interesting reasons why someone might take longer to fall in love, or hesitate to move things to the next level.
"Some people shy away from love and relationships because there is an inherent risk of being heartbroken," Ashley R. Bryant MS, LPC, CRC, BC-TMH, a psychotherapist and founder of Legacy Family Services, tells Bustle. "Individuals who have gone through bad breakups in the past may be less likely to approach love enthusiastically." If they have baggage — which is not uncommon after a tough relationship — they may need time to unpack it all, figure out where they stand, and get used to the idea of being in a relationship again. And that's OK.
Bad breakups can also make it difficult to trust others. "When a person has a fear of being hurt they tend to be more guarded, making it difficult for them to fall in love," Dr. Nicole L. Arkadie, Ed.D, LCSW, PPSC, a licensed clinical therapist, tells Bustle. "They may have fear of rejection and don’t know if their feelings may be returned, so they slow down or deny their feelings."
This might explain why some people don't seem interested even though a relationship is going well, or aren't quick to call back or plan another date. "They will not be as open to the process," Arkadie says, as a way of protecting themselves and feeling less anxious. And that can be something they do on purpose, or without even realizing it.
Other times, if someone seems to be taking forever to say the L word, it may be because they're afraid of "ruining" the relationship. "For some people, being in a relationship is all about having fun," Bryant says. "Thus, the moment love is interjected in the relationship, they may feel pressured to reciprocate the emotion."
If this is a fear, it'll be tempting to keep a partner at arm's length so everything can stay the same. Admitting you're in love can certainly change the dynamics of a relationship, which is why they'll do whatever they can to slow things down or keep their emotions at bay.
Of course, "if a person is slow to fall in love, it’s possible that they are evaluating your relationship," Jonathan Bennett, a certified counselor and relationship and dating expert at Double Trust Dating, tells Bustle. "Falling in love requires a lot of commitment and vulnerability and your partner might need more time and self-reflection to determine if the feelings are truly love."
That's why, for folks who take a long time to fall in love, it's important to be honest about how you feel and what you want. "As long as you and your partner are moving in the same direction, I wouldn’t stress if one person starts to develop feelings earlier," Bennett says. "For many people, acknowledging love is a major step and requires a lot of vulnerability," and it's OK to take that space.
That said, it can be frustrating to have feelings for someone who doesn't seem to have them back, which is why ongoing communication is key. If you're the one who's already developed feelings, "you should communicate to at least make sure your partner sees the relationship moving in the same direction," Bennett says.
There are lots of reasons why someone might take longer to fall in love, from bad breakups, to fears of rejection, to simply wanting to make the right choice, but the right relationship will get there in time. As long as you're both on the same page and being supportive throughout the process, there's really no need to keep track.
Ashley R. Bryant MS, LPC, CRC, BC-TMH, psychotherapist and founder at Legacy Family Services
Dr. Nicole L. Arkadie, Ed.D, LCSW, PPSC, licensed clinical therapist
Jonathan Bennett, certified counselor and relationship and dating expert at Double Trust Dating