Being in love is intoxicating, especially in the early stages. Your new partner can seem flawless and it’s easy to find yourself getting attached too easily. How quickly is too quickly to fall head over heels for someone, and what can you do to stop yourself?
In this article, we’re going to help you understand why you get attached so easily, and how to take it more slowly to build a solid foundation for your future relationship.
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There’s no set time that it’s ok to get attached to someone you’re dating. Every relationship is unique. Not only that, but attachment isn’t something you either have or don’t have. It builds over time1. You might be a little bit attached or deeply, passionately attached.
Rather than thinking about a specific timeframe, it’s often better to think about whether your degree of attachment is at about the same level as the other person’s.
If you’re checking out primary schools for your future children while they’re wondering whether to make your relationship exclusive, this mismatch is going to cause problems.
Before we can explore how to avoid getting attached to someone too quickly, we need to understand why we get attached so easily. Here are some of the most common reasons:
We talk a lot about attachment styles because they have a strong influence over how you behave in a relationship2. Having an anxious attachment style means that you’re afraid of being abandoned. You get attached to someone too quickly in an effort to make you feel less anxious.
Sometimes, we become attached to someone unsuitable because we’re confused between sexual and romantic attraction. When we’re sexually attracted to someone, we assume we must have romantic feelings for them as well.
Once the sexual excitement wears off, you might realize that you feel attached to someone but you might not actually like them that much. This can make your feelings even harder to figure out.
Sometimes we develop feelings or behaviors that we normally wouldn’t because we subconsciously think they’re expected of us. In psychological studies these are known as demand characteristics3.
If you have an unrealistic idea of how love works, you might find yourself becoming attached because you assume that’s how things are ‘supposed’ to work. This is especially common if you believe in love at first sight or think that there’s a perfect person out there somewhere who will “complete” you.
Becoming attached like this isn’t “fake”. You really do become deeply attached. It’s just not necessary and it might not be a great basis for a healthy future relationship.
Being told that you wouldn’t get so attached to people if you were able to be happy alone can feel pretty insulting. We’re not trying to do that. In fact, people who feel deep, secure attachments to their romantic partners are often totally happy being single4.
The problem here isn’t how deeply attached you become. It’s how quickly it happens. If you don’t feel happy with your single life, you can feel a lot of pressure to make any new relationship official as soon as possible. You see your budding relationship as a gateway to a better, happier life. That’s a lot of pressure, especially early on.
Sometimes you might even find that you’re more attached to ‘the relationship’ than you are to your new partner. If you find yourself enjoying the thought of having a boyfriend more than you do actually spending time with him, you might want to look again at whether he’s right for you.
We’ve already said that getting attached too quickly is about a lack of balance between you and your partner in terms of your emotional commitment to the relationship. Sometimes, this imbalance is hidden because you assume that certain relationship milestones or events mean something specific.
For example, you might only have sex with someone you love. In your mind, having sex means that you’re already pretty attached to your partner. But, do you know for sure that they feel the same?
What about him introducing you to his friends? Does that mean you’re his girlfriend? Unless you’ve talked about it and agreed what it means, the answer might actually be no.
Realizing that you’ve misread your partner’s level of attachment to you is a horrible feeling and it can leave you feeling naive or misled. Try to remember that you share the responsibility to communicate effectively. If you’re experiencing this level of miscommunication, it’s possible neither of you is being completely clear.
Another reason many people become attached to people so easily is that they are “in love with being in love.”
Being in love is a heady feeling. You have all kinds of feel-good hormones swirling around your brain56. You’re enjoying the exciting part of being in a relationship without all of the day-to-day annoyances. It’s easy to believe that this honeymoon period will never end.
Of course, that’s sadly not true. The honeymoon period does end and, when it does, you might realize that you were more attached to the feeling of being in love than you were with the actual person.
Abusive partners don’t show their true nature until you’re already head over heels for them, so they have a vested interest in making sure that you fall for them as quickly as possible. They often do this by “love bombing”7.
Love bombing is when someone throws all of their attention, affection, and care at you all at once. This makes you feel as though they’re much more attached than you are, which lets you feel safe to attach back. It can even make you feel guilty for not being more attached.
Love bombing is a way to manipulate you into attaching too quickly. It’s overwhelming. Falling prey to love bombing doesn’t mean you’re weak or naive. It’s incredibly difficult to resist being love bombed.
You might think that it’s unlikely you’d be love bombed by several different abusive partners. Surely no one is that unlucky? It’s probably more likely than you think. Being abused damages your confidence and self-esteem. This makes you more vulnerable to abusive partners in the future8.
It’s usually worth keeping an eye out for repeating patterns in our relationships. If something keeps happening, we can ask what we do to make it happen. That’s not the case with abuse. It’s not your fault and you don’t deserve it. Ever.
If this sounds like what’s been happening in your relationships, you can skip the tips below for how to stop getting attached so easily. Instead, consider finding a great therapist to help you heal and work with you on rebuilding your self-worth.
From reading that list, you probably have a pretty good guess about why you get attached to people too easily. But how can you date without getting attached too soon?
Here are the top ways to stop getting attached so easily:
The first thing to do is think about what you mean by getting attached too quickly and whether this is actually causing you pain or making it difficult for you to maintain relationships.
Some people do just become attached more easily than others. It can sometimes leave you getting hurt but you might think that having an open, loving heart is worth the risk of pain.
If that’s you, remember that you don’t have to change yourself to fit with some arbitrary social rule. You don’t need to wait until the third date (or even marriage) before you have sex. You don’t have to laugh at his jokes or expect him to pay for dates.
Your relationship is just that. Yours. The pair of you. As long as you’re both happy, there might not be a reason to change.
Do check that your fast attachments aren’t putting pressure or expectations on your partner, though. You’re allowed to take the risk of falling in love super quickly, but it’s not fair to expect them to do the same.
We usually think of boundaries as protecting you from other people, but they can also be an effective way of protecting you from yourself. If you know that you tend to leap into relationships feet first, try setting some boundaries for yourself.
This might mean that you decide not to introduce him to your friends until you’ve been dating for a set period of time. You might only see him once per week.
One really good boundary is to keep your existing commitments, hobbies, and interests. This helps you maintain a strong sense of identity outside of your relationship.
Social media stalking someone isn’t really frowned upon these days. If he’s putting posts in the public domain, it’s not an invasion of privacy to look at them. Unfortunately, it does create an impression of increased intimacy which makes it hard to keep your distance9.
Spending your free time looking at his social media posts might help alleviate your craving for him, but try to resist the temptation. Rather than having a false impression of intimacy and emotional vulnerability, wait for the real thing in your face-to-face conversations.
In the early days, we all create an image of what our partner is like. It’s not until we’ve spent months or years around them that we can be sure that our image of them is a true reflection of who they really are.
If our image of them is unrealistically positive, we can become attached to the version of them in our mind, rather than the real person we’re dating.
Before you swoon all over the new Mr. Right, take a moment to think about how much (or little) you actually know about him. Being aware of how much you’ve shared with each other can help you keep your attachment at an appropriate level.
Try making a list of things you would expect to know about someone who is going to be your life partner. This might include his views on politics, religion, the gender pay gap, whether he has any siblings and much more.
How many of those things do you know about him? Do you have compatible views on the important things in life? Keep reminding yourself that there might be an absolute deal-breaker hiding in there somewhere. He might like pineapple on his pizza or think it’s ok to leave the toilet seat up. You just don’t know yet.
Getting attached too easily is mostly a problem if they don’t feel the same. Rather than getting attached and hoping that you’re both on the same page, try heading the problem off from the start by being open about your developing feelings.
It’s important that you’re actually being honest, and not using this as a covert way to find out how he’s feeling.
Try saying “I know it’s early days in this relationship, but I have a habit of leaping in head first and that tends to end badly. I like you and I don’t want to make the same mistake again. I’m not looking for an awkward ‘what is this’ conversation, but it would be good to know where you’re at right now so I can adjust my expectations.”
This tip sounds easy but it’s probably the most challenging piece of advice I ever give. Unfortunately, if you can manage it, it’s also probably the most effective.
Learning to feel happy and complete on your own is a huge step forward in resolving almost all relationship problems, including how to stop getting attached so easily.
When we fall in love with someone too quickly, it’s often a sign that we’re hoping they’ll somehow complete us or make us happy. For a stronger relationship, build your self-esteem until you really believe that you’re enough all by yourself. It’s not enough to know it intellectually. This is about really believing it.
Building up your self-esteem can also help you resist love bombing and other abusive behaviors.
Building your self-esteem is neither quick nor easy, so be kind to yourself as you work on it. One good place to start is to try to monitor your negative thoughts about yourself. Lots of us are highly critical of ourselves in our thoughts. Try to be more compassionate and speak to yourself kindly and with love.
We all know that trust is earned, but it can be hard to act on that knowledge. Most of us feel pressure to trust other people surprisingly quickly, especially if they suspect we don’t. The phrase “don’t you trust me?” implies that you’re being unjust in taking your time to trust.
Remind yourself that trust is not an either/or and you don’t owe anyone your trust.
Trust is something that grows as you get to know someone. We need to know a little bit about someone before we can trust them a little bit. We need to know a lot about them to trust them a lot.
Try not to feel pressured into blindly trusting someone. By the time they’ve earned your trust, you’ll also know whether you’re ready to attach to them or not.
You might have just had a great time with Mr. New and Shiny, but that doesn’t mean you have to delete your online dating profile on the way home. It’s completely ok to keep your dating options open for a while. In fact, it can be a positive.
Sometimes, dating other people can help you be sure about someone. He might have wowed you on your dates, but are you sure there’s not someone equally wonderful inside your next DM?
This is an especially useful tip if you suspect you might be in love with being in love. If your attachment is based on being afraid of being alone or being overwhelmed by the attention of a new relationship, dating other people can give you a helpful reality-check.
One of the biggest risks when we get attached too easily is that we can overlook some pretty serious red flags in our new crush’s behavior. We’re warned about red flags for a reason and it’s important that you pay attention to those warnings.
This is one area where having a close friend to confide in can be really helpful. Your friends won’t be blinded by your excitement about the potential of this exciting new relationship. They’re just focused on keeping you safe.
If you talk about your latest crush and your friends start looking worried, listen to their concerns. Try to put your feelings on pause for a bit and at least take things slowly and carefully until you have a better idea of what’s going on.
If you get attached too easily because of your underlying attachment style, don’t despair. There are lots of things you can do to become more securely attached.
Most of the ways to develop a more secure attachment style are about trying to resolve past pain and learning to fulfill our own needs. They make a huge difference to lots of problems in your relationship, not just how to avoid getting attached too quickly.
Unfortunately, this also means that they’re not a quick-fix solution. As always, try to be kind to yourself while you work on this.
It’s really tempting to imagine what living with this guy would be like or how your future life would pan out. These are lovely fantasies, but they make it far too easy to get attached too quickly.
You’re usually creating these fantasies based on the ‘ideal self’ he’s currently showing you. After all, we’re all on our best behavior in the first few months of dating.
If you can’t help these fantasies, try to give yourself a bit of a reality check. Remind yourself of similar fantasies you had about an ex and the big difference between your fantasies of romantic bliss and daily life with a man who can’t figure out how to work a mop.
If you’re prone to get attached too easily, you might be prone to getting even more attached shortly after sex. If that’s the case, think very carefully before you decide that you’re ready to become intimate.
There’s no rule about when you should start sleeping with someone in a relationship. There’s no such thing as starting too early or waiting too long as long as you’re both making the right decision for yourselves.
If you know that you usually fall for someone right after sex, take it slower than you usually would. This can sometimes have the unexpected benefit of making sex, when it happens, even more intense.
Some of the reasons you get attached too easily can be deep. Others are simply well-ingrained habits. In either case, they can be irritatingly difficult to change. If you’re struggling to reduce how quickly you become attached in a new relationship, it might be time to look for some professional assistance.
A therapist or an experienced relationship coach can help you identify the root causes of your eagerness to attach in a new relationship. They can work with you to build up your self-confidence and self-worth which lets you relax and enjoy the early stages of your exciting new relationship.
Getting attached too easily can be a sign that you’re struggling with issues around self-worth, independence, and autonomy. It doesn’t make you a bad person or mean you’re going to hurt others but it is a warning that you might get hurt yourself.
People usually get attached too easily if they have an anxious attachment style. This means that they lack confidence in themselves and are looking for a partner to help them feel secure. Ironically, it’s often a fear of rejection that makes you commit to relationships too soon.
People who get attached easily are open-hearted, generous, and loving. You may be afraid of rejection but you’re not shutting yourself off from others. That shows courage. Getting attached too easily puts you at risk of heartbreak, but it’s often better than going too far in the opposite direction.
Getting attached to someone works best if it’s something you do together. If you both get attached at the same rate, everything’s fine. The biggest clue that you get attached too easily is if you’re always more attached than the other person. This can create unnecessary pressure on the relationship.
As we’ve seen, there are loads of reasons why you keep getting attached too easily. Use the tips and techniques we’ve given you to help keep your heart safe and give your new relationship time to grow more naturally.
Did you find this article helpful? If so, please share it with others who might be having the same problem. How do you try to hold back from getting too attached? Let us know in the comments below.