After a rocky start, The Bachelorette has seemingly wrapped filming its 24th season, with host Chris Harrison sharing an August 30 Instagram Story that hinted he was back home. (ICYMI, after postponing the season due to COVID-19, the season 24 lead Clare Crawley, was re-cast after she found love *super* early during filming). Which is all fine and dandy—until you do some math. With current lead Tayshia Adams having stepped in for Crawley at the beginning of August, and the show wrapping filming around August 30 (and that’s being generous), that means that Adams has met, dated and found the love of her life all within the span of a month. Take into consideration also that Crawley reportedly quit the show after falling in love with one of her contestants in 12 days (!!) and we have some seriously accelerated relationship timelines on our hands. And while we know reality dating franchise is far from *actual* reality, we have to wonder: Can you *seriously* fall in love in a month or two?
Well, it kind of depends on who you ask—and what you want from your relationship.
It’s important to know the difference between lust and love
“Research shows that those crazy fast relationships that happen so quickly and intensely usually don’t last,” says Lee-Anne Galloway a dating coach and matchmaker based in Toronto. “It takes a little bit of time for you to assess if a partner is right for you. And [that] doesn’t mean that there’s no passion; it doesn’t mean that there’s not that excitement. It’s just is a bit of a slower build.”
Which isn’t to say that you can’t fall for someone IRL within a two-month or even a 12-day timespan. Actually, lots of research supports the idea that the “can’t eat, can’t sleep, reach for the stars, over-the-fence world series kind of stuff” feeling you got when you lock eyes with a stranger across the room or came home buzzing from a great date is 100% real. (Women’s Health actually found that men wait 88 days to say “I love you” compared to an average of 134 for women). According to research published in The Journal of Sexual Medicine in 2010, physiologically, it only takes a fifth of a second for your brain to produce the chemicals dopamine, adrenaline and norepinephrine that give you that Beyoncé and Jay-Z-level “Crazy In Love” feeling. These substances—which increase when you fall in love, and are referred to by some as “the internal elixir of love“—create feelings of euphoria, restlessness and preoccupation. These feelings are often associated with being in love.
Which is lovely, but Galloway wouldn’t recommend jumping into an engagement or marriage (see: Love Is Blind) immediately upon feeling them—most likely because what you’re experiencing in the first few weeks and months of a new courtship is *actually* lust.
“Generally, we in the relationship world suggest six months to a year before you decide to get engaged, because in that first six months especially, the love chemicals are just taking over,” Galloway says. “The lust is what happens first; that comes first for all of us,” she continues. “You feel so great and elated, maybe you’re not eating and [your relationship] is all you can think about.” And while it’s A-OK to be wrapped up in this feeling and this person, as Toronto-based dating coach and author Laura Bilotta says, it’s important that people understand the difference between love (a more emotional attachment) and lust (physical attachment), “as they can often be mistaken for one another.” Which isn’t only confusing, but can also cloud your judgement during an important period in your relationship. “That’s the time where it’s harder to evaluate if this person is the right person for you,” Galloway says of this infatuation period. “So if you’re not paying attention to the things you should be looking for (editor’s note: like shared values and actual compatibility—more on this later), sometimes it can cause a disaster and [the relationship] won’t necessarily last.”
Remember Too Hot to Handle‘s Francesca Farago and Harry Jowsey? The couple that couldn’t keep their hands off each other, left the show a couple, got engaged over Zoom only for Jowsey to unceremoniously dump Farago once the show premiered? Yeah, sounds *kind of* familiar.
There are some pros to finding love on an accelerated timeline
Which isn’t to say that there aren’t any positives to an accelerated love timeline like the one found on reality TV. In regards to The Bachelor specifically, the element of no outside factors (considering contestants are sequestered in one location together without access to phones, books or the world beyond their love bubble) allows partners to be in the moment and focus solely on the other person. “You might actually gain a little bit more trust during that time,” Galloway says. With contestants perhaps going on six dates over a two-week time period (as opposed to the IRL standard of, like, two every two weeks), “maybe now you’re sharing and disclosing more, and then you’re able to build trust more quickly. And trust is one of the biggest things you’re going to be looking for in a relationship.”
Another way in which finding love on a condensed timeline may be beneficial is that it forces potential partners to see how they handle conflict much quicker than normal—which can be telling for how they’ll work together in the long-term. “Especially on a show like The Bachelor—where there’s other players in the game—does jealousy show up and how do you handle that?” Galloway asks. In many cases, she continues, partners in the lust stage might be hesitant to address or confront conflict directly, for fear of losing their new partner. “When you’re in love, you don’t worry about that,” she says. “You know that you’re going to be able to confront that conflict and get through it.” But during an accelerated timeline, partners may be more willing to address issues as they appear instead of putting them off. “If you notice that every time you have a conflict [in the lust stage] the two of you blow up and you’re fighting and yelling at each other, you’re more than likely not going to last. So, the accelerated time could help you in that way, because if the two of you face conflict head-on together and get through it, that could be a really great sign.”
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But ultimately, it takes time to find out if someone is right for you—whatever that looks like
Bilotta agrees that an accelerated timeline *can* be beneficial in forcing potential partners to be more upfront about what they want and need in a relationship—and posits that a genuine connection in two months *is* possible, as everyone is different but says: ” I do feel two months into a relationship is a little early [to get engaged]. At two months, you’re very much in the honeymoon phase. Everything is exciting, and you start to fall in love with the idea of being in love with this new person. It’s more about possibility than reality at this point, since it’s still the beginning.” Not to mention the fact that while, as Galloway says, you may face conflict at a similarly accelerated pace, at two months, “both parties are still on their best behaviour. You may not really know this person fully.” This can lead to red flags later on, once the rose-coloured glasses are removed. “You need time to be able to see these things, which is what will help you determine whether someone is the right fit for you,” Bilotta says.
But it’s also important to note that what may be the “right” amount of time to be in a relationship before getting serious can look different for different people. For Dr. Natasha Sharma, creator of The Kindness Journal and The 8-Hour Therapist, establishing a connection and knowing whether or not it’s a good fit is more about the quantity and *quality* of actual time spent together getting to know one another, rather than a specific timeline. “If you only saw a person once per month for a year, that would not be as significant as seeing someone once per day for 30 days,” when it comes to fostering a connection, Sharma says. “It’s not about a ‘timeline’ per se,” she continues. “The recipe for understanding the potential for any relationship is quantity + quality of time together (no matter the period of time). If this happens over eight weeks, so be it! If it’s eight months or three years, also fine.” In addition, Sharma also notes that the speed at which you can determine if a relationship is a fit for you also depends on an individual’s self-awareness. “If you have a good sense of yourself, your needs and your relationship goals, you’ll know what type of person suits you best, and this of course should expedite the process.”
And it’s all about making sure you and your partner are on the same page
Ultimately, whether you’re engaged two months or two years into a relationship, it’s about making sure that you’re on the same page as your partner when it comes to what’s important to you. “Generally, you want to make sure that you are on the same page with the major values,” Galloway says. “Do you have the same beliefs around money and finances? What is your family life going to look like? Are you on the same page, spirituality-wise and health and fitness?” For any clients that could potentially come to Galloway, ready to throw themselves fully into a brand-new relationship, the matchmaker and dating coach would have them evaluate the relationship realistically. Often when couples break up, if you said “look back to the beginning, could you see that [conflict or red flag] in the beginning?” they say yes, according to Galloway. “People are going to show up and show you who they are, but you have to be honest [with yourself]; are you willing to see those flaws or those cracks or those things that don’t work?”
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For anyone who’s currently in their own whirlwind romance—or wondering why they can’t have a 12-day wooing like Crawley, Bilotta has some advice: Don’t rush. “I would encourage them to take things slow,” she says. “Take your time getting to know this person. Talk about the things that are important to you, and really work to keep communication lines open. Be vulnerable, but also keep your eyes open. And don’t lose yourself. People often want to spend every waking minute with a new partner, but I encourage people to remember to focus on themselves. Prioritize your needs, go out with your friends, do the things you love and still work towards the person you want to become.” And most importantly? “Remember to just have fun! Dating is meant to be enjoyed and savoured—so enjoy the honeymoon phase.”