Lockdown Love: Why There’s No Such Thing As Coming On Too Strong
Words by Ebony-Renee Baker, 25, from London
In the summer of the pandemic, London saw a brief window of open pubs (remember those?), living room dance parties and beautiful remnants of what city life used to look like pre-COVID.
That short-lived relaxing of lockdown rules meant singletons were finally able to go on dates again - not the weird socially-distant ones that usually ended awkwardly or illegally, but real dates at real restaurants and bars.
Like most single women, I grabbed this newfound freedom with both hands. It was August 2020 when I met Lee* for drinks in a pub garden, only a handful of hours after we'd matched on Hinge.
From his towering height and eclectic tattoos, to his dedication to the environment and great taste in fiction novels, I was hooked from the start. The chemistry was there, the drinks kept flowing and it felt like we'd redeemed a bit of the summer we'd been deprived of. In the space of two short weeks, date one quickly turned into date six.
Two and a half months later, we had already ploughed through the usual dating milestones, from learning cute words in his native Czech, to a couples' IKEA trip.
So when I asked him to be my boyfriend not long afterwards, only to be presented with utter shock and denial, I started to wonder if I'd come on too strong.
"I didn't realise that's what you were looking for," he said. I beg your pardon? I thought, caught completely off guard by his sudden apathy. And... well... that was the end of that.
Half a year on from that fateful rejection, do I regret making that move so early on? Absolutely not.
Dating in a global pandemic has definitely taught me that I simply do not have time for that. After all, the alternative to not telling someone how you feel - and ultimately showing your true colours - is simply delaying the inevitable reaction (be it positive or absolutely savage).
Call me impatient or unrealistic, but I maintain there's no such thing as coming on too strong in dating. Having open communication early on is key and avoids disappointment and heartache down the line.
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In the School of Life's 2016 study into relationships, experts refer to this dilemma as 'The Problem of Closeness.' This, in a nutshell, acknowledges the obvious: that we're all vulnerable and living in constant fear of rejection whenever we start seeing someone.
In other words, it's completely normal to feel vulnerable at any point in a relationship - so why not just tell them how you feel and get it over with?
Of course, my rejection from Lee wasn't my first or even my last. Growing up, I was incredibly shy and no stranger to boys ignoring me in the playground. I didn't grow out of my adolescent awkwardness until at least 20, when I finally I realised that there was no point in hiding who I was. In accepting that rejection would always be a part of life, I simply became more sure of myself.
A few months before Lee, I had a similar, albeit shorter-lived, situationship with a guy called Angelo*. Angelo and I met on Bumble just before COVID restrictions started lifting in July and we'd hit it off with rambling conversations about beards, tattoos and the intricacies of the Black Lives Matter movement. We met for a happy hour drink in a park in east London, spoke for hours and parted ways just before midnight.
In my Uber home, he texted me saying, "So I know this is kinda rushing in here, but I just wanted to let you know that I had a really good night. I think you're gorgeous and I'm really looking forward to hanging out again. I'm keen, what can I say."
From there - and probably due to the enforced isolation of the pandemic - our courtship went from 0 to 100, only to perish in a fiery crash before we'd even hit the first exit. After a super flirty, relationship-y couple of weeks, he pulled the trigger after deciding things were "moving too fast".
In the same way that I believe Lee felt too shaken by reality in a year when nothing felt like real life, Angelo chose to avoid the situation when it became too much. And in all honesty, a lot of people would probably do the same, too.
The School of Life acknowledges this as well, highlighting the two most common reactions to situations like these: avoidance and anxiety. In both instances, individuals are likely to turn away from these situations where they feel too vulnerable (ironic, right?).
Ultimately, protecting yourself and choosing to open up is always a balancing act in any kind of relationship. But, when it comes to showing your true self and trusting that you'll eventually find people who match your energy, why not just... go for it?
When life eventually goes back to normal and we're not taking anything, especially dates, for granted, it acts as a valuable reminder that we have no time to waste.
* Names have been changed to protect privacy
Featured Image Credit: Ebony-Renee Baker
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