Three Ways to Build Romance in the Early Stages of Dating

What is the most successful way to build romance in the digital age?  Surprise—through incorporating old school concepts of attention, common interests, and patience.   Moving slowly and smartly sparks satisfying relationships of trust and true love.

Three universal relationship builders are attention, common interests, and patience. 

1. Attention Reveals Intention: Translation—Ditch Your Device

You sit down with your date for dinner, at a great table with a gorgeous view.  You are both impressed and encouraged by what you consider to be the perfect setting for a perfect date—until your partner whips out the phone and places it on the table between the two of you.  Boom.  The ambiance is now tainted by the distraction of the device.

And there it sits.  A prominently placed third wheel vying for attention.  Ready to vibrate, beep, or God forbid ring during at any minute.  Some phones constantly remind you there are three of you at the table through intermittent buzzing or flashing as news alerts and emails intermittently light up the screen.  

This creates one of the biggest turn-offs that occurs in the early stages of dating—the perception of distraction.   A device on the table is exactly that—a visible distraction-waiting-to-happen that can detract from your ability to cultivate chemistry.  Better idea: make a great first impression by intentionally ditching your device in order to keep the focus where it should be—on your date.

2. Born to Bond: Chemistry Through Common Ground

Relational bonding occurs through exploring common interests and activities.  The key is finding areas in which you authentically overlap, as opposed to temporarily faking interest.  You lose credibility when you gush about how hockey has always been your favorite sport—yet you are clueless about game-related terminology.  Or you profess a passion for bird watching—yet do not own a pair of binoculars.

Avoid feigning knowledge in an area where you have none, but to be open to experience.  Be encouraged by your partner´s invitation to participate in his or her world.  If a man invites you hunting, fishing, or proudly shows you his comic book collection, take heart.  This is a good sign.  Women do the same thing when they desire a deeper connection. We want to share our lives with others who are important to us.

Once you have identified areas of shared interest, you can plan dates that incorporate areas of common ground.  Yet because your goal is to be paramours not pals, remember to keep the focus on each other.  That means that when scheduling a date geared towards enjoying a common interest, such as theatre or sports, be sure to include face-to-face time on the front or back end of your adventure, to create an opportunity for emotional bonding as well. 

Incorporating this time on the front end allows you to re-connect emotionally sooner rather than later—particularly when it has been a while since your last date.  On the other hand, post-event face time gives you a back-up plan.  If conversation temporarily stalls, you can always default to discussing the common experience you just shared.  

Relational bonding through common interests develops over time.  And speaking of the importance of time, when it comes to cultivating a successful and satisfying relationship, research reveals the value and wisdom of progressing slowly both emotionally and physically.

3. Patience is a Virtue Both Physically and Emotionally

In a sample of 10,932 individuals in unmarried, romantic relationships, Willoughby et al. (2014) found delaying initiation of sexual activity to be positively related to relationship outcome.[i] Their results provide support for earlier research by Busby et al. (2010) demonstrating the sexual restraint theory, indicating that abstaining from sex until marriage (as compared to initiating sexual activity early in a relationship) resulted in better marriages in terms of marital satisfaction, sexual quality, and communication.

The study by Willoughby et al. went beyond Busby et al.´s findings in demonstrating the timing of the positive relational impact of delaying sexual activity.  Busby´s research examined couples who later married, where the current research found relational benefits of abstinence to be apparent earlier in relationship formation, not just after marriage.

Slow and Steady Solidifies Relational Satisfaction

Relationship development requires both time and attention.  During the early stages of bonding, moving slowly both emotionally and physically allows both parties to get to know each other at a comfortable pace, paving the way for a healthy future.


[i] Brian J. Willoughby, Jason S. Carroll, and Dean M. Busby, “Differing Relationship Outcomes When Sex Happens Before, On, or After First Dates,” Journal Of Sex Research 51, no. 1 (2014): 52-61.


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