"How would you feel about moving in together?" Most of us have had a partner who was looking intently (and lovingly!) into our eyes as they asked this question, looking for some clue that we feel as ready as they do about "taking things to the next level."
As we hesitate, we often hear (or maybe have said), "After all, it's been three whole months, how long does it take for you to make a commitment? Then you do have commitment issues? Never mind, I shouldn't have brought it up." Ever had one of these conversations about going steady, getting engaged, moving in, or committing to an exclusive sexual relationship? No? Then stick around, you're young yet.
When it comes to advice for those still not quite convinced about the Intentional Interview, there's a carrot and, if needed, there's a pretty awful stick. First, the sweetest of carrots, still fresh from the 1981 creative garden of the Pointer Sisters:
I want a man with a slow hand
I want a lover with an easy touch
I want somebody who will spend some time
Not come and go in a heated rush
I want somebody who will understand
When it comes to love, I want a slow hand
But, outside of the bedroom, what could this possibly mean? If we've already conducted an Intentional Interview, what's it going to take to get a green light? How long, O’Lord, how long must I wait before getting into my next committed relationship?
Well, the French have a word or two about this and their ominous words constitute the stick:
"Qui se marie à la hâte se repent à loisir," which, if we can trust my 7th-grade level French here means, "He who marries in haste, well, that dude repents at his leisure." Most of us have experienced regret about getting into a committed relationship with someone who turned out, in hindsight, to have been so very wrong for us. It's a bit like any loss with the accompanying grief, and many of us have experienced the five stages of romantic grief: growing doubt, definite disappointment, dawning horror, confession of failure, and then, usually, cynical disillusionment.
This is going to be shocking news to the young and the very romantic but, sometimes, our romantic partners don't work out and the discovery of this can take a very long time. Five months into a relationship we find out about something that we never even dreamed needed to be asked ("What do you mean, you voted for him? Who does that?"). Five months after that, there's a baby on the way and, well, you really thought your partner would handle it better, you know, like get a job maybe or stop drinking so much?
Which brings us to the question: If I performed my due diligence back in the day and I took my time doing a thorough job of it, then did the Intentional Interview fail to perform as advertised in 2020 by old What's His Name?
No. Old What's His Name didn't let you down. You just didn't read installment #6 of his series, you know, A Slow Hand. Oh, you did? Then you forgot that he explained that the Intentional Interview is a lifestyle of intimate discovery. But sometimes, we discover wonderful and sometimes we discover terrible.
My getting to know someone well enough to ensure smooth sailing, true love, and a happy home life is a process that starts the very day I'm intrigued enough to start talking to them, and continues to the day one of us slips this mortal coil. The Intentional Interview continues right up to the end, which is to say, when I'm done enjoying getting to know my partner.
People who go to sleep at the wheel on this one are like gardeners who weeded—once, and then are shocked, (shocked, I tell you!) to find that additional weeds crept in over the months. And rabbits have been eating the lettuce. And there are gross bugs everywhere! Staying aware is not a bad thing. Pretty adaptive, actually.
But what is so much more important is what the Pointer Sisters were talking about: Pleasure is not decreased by taking the time to savor it. If we're really enjoying getting to know one another, what's the rush? If I'm with someone I'm absolutely loving getting to know, why would anyone want to hurry the process? There is an answer to that and if this is you then you'll recognize yourself in this single word.
Neediness. When my pleasure at getting to know someone is eclipsed by my emotional neediness then I'm likely to get things very wrong. The reason why this is so is simple: I irrationally believe that if I "lock it down," or "close the sale," or "put a ring on it before someone else comes along," then I will somehow be safer. Safer, as in, no longer alone. This relationship then, is like a life raft and I need it or I'll drown. But maybe, before I try to share my life with someone, maybe I should get a life worth sharing. This is hard for needy people.
We all have emotional needs but needy people's needs overshadow their ability to enjoy the other person for their own sake. They're caught in a universe a lot like the 1992 film Glengarry Glen Ross, where coffee, well, "coffee's for closers." Only those who get a commitment get the intimacy, love, and emotional freedom that they suspect exist out there. They've substituted the destination of commitment for the amazing journey of intimacy that is learning about the people we love.
If we don't learn from the Pointer Sisters, then we're going to French class whether we want to or not.