Well-Being//

Ariana Grande, Pete Davidson, and the “Too Fast Too Soon” Relationship

Should you pace yourself in the early stages of love? Three therapists weigh in.

The relationship between “God Is A Woman” singer Ariana Grande and Saturday Night Live’s Pete Davidson has come to an end after a 4-month engagement, TMZ reported. The duo, who’d only been dating a few weeks when Davidson proposed, effusively declared their love in interviews and across social media platforms. In August, the funnyman emphatically told GQ magazine, “The day I met her, I was like, ‘Hey, I’ll marry you tomorrow…I sent her a picture [of engagement rings].” Grande responded in kind, getting matching tattoos with the comedian, including acronym “H2GKMO,” referencing her favorite saying, according to People, which means, “Honest to God, knock me out.” She also inked Davidson’s father’s FDNY firefighter ID badge “8418” on her ankle in honor of him. (He passed away on the job on 9/11.) A source told the gossip rag that it was “too fast too soon,” for the young lovers.

But what does that actually mean? Is there really a “right” cadence to the beginning of a romance?

Thrive Global checked in with Michael McNulty, Ph.D., a certified Gottman Institute relationship therapist who practices at the Chicago Relationship Center, as well as renowned biological anthropologist Helen Fisher, Ph.D., who wrote Anatomy of Love, and Rachel Sussman, a licensed relationship therapist in NYC, to see whether there’s truth to the assessment that a relationship’s cadence can affect its outcome. 

They offered these helpful tips for how to thrive through the earliest stages of love — and beyond.

Be conscious of “positive illusion”

Yes, you should absolutely pace yourself in the early stages of love, advises McNulty, “because the whole falling in love experience results in a chemical rush of hormone Oxytocin,” which bonds lovers, but binds them to idealized views of one another, making both parties “feel wonderful about everything,” he jokes. In the fog of their chemical high, he says, people aren’t thinking as thoughtfully and as carefully as they typically would. “You have a tendency to overlook what you don’t like about a romantic partner and just focus on what you do like,” says Fisher,  “It’s called positive illusion.” Once the relative monotony of everyday life and the first squabbles take shape, the positive illusion starts to unravel.

Knowing yourself and your partner well will help you manage your differences

McNulty explains that at a certain point, if the relationship is going to survive and thrive, the individuals in the union must thoroughly know themselves and their partners to healthily navigate the differences that will inevitably emerge. “Really take the time to get to know each other and each other’s worlds. At the Gottman Institute, we call it Building A Love Map,” he says. “Getting to know your differences as partners and how they interface with one another in your couple is critical to your relationship’s success.” Rachel Sussman, a licensed relationship therapist in NYC agrees, emphasizing: “The early stages of a relationship should be slow and organic. We should take this time to truly get to know the person and see if we are the right fit together.”

Maintain your individuality and self-care habits

McNulty warns to resist the impulse to create a life that totally revolves around the your beloved, advising couples to sustain social lives and activities outside their union. “It’s important,” he says, “to keep that balance.” That means seeing your best girlfriends regularly, practicing a favorite hobby or sport, hanging with your family members or just making quality time for yourself. “That helps keep people centered,” he says, and slows the cadence or tempers the flame of your burgeoning love affair. Those spaces between seeing each other, Helen Fisher adds, allows you to miss one another and heightens the thrill of seeing one another anew. Mating in Captivity author Esther Perel, Ph.D., has talked extensively about the perils of weakening and subsuming your identity into your partner’s as the kiss of death for romance.

Allow yourself a mini pity party, but then work your way out of it

McNulty says it can take a good year to fully recover from a relationship as hot and heavy as Grande’s and Davidson’s. Part of taking care of yourself in the aftermath of a break-up is accepting the many feelings that will arise — hurt, disappointment, longing — and being gentle with ourselves. “A little self-pity is probably healthy.” But eventually, to catapult yourself out of a growing rut, he suggests getting some structure and nurturing new passions: find new ways to connect with people, exercise and eat healthy, while engaging your soul with meditation, spiritual practices, yoga or creative endeavors. And “If we can remember in the sting of the heartbreak that we learn something from every relationship,” McNulty says, “the better we’ll be moving forward.”

Practice Fisher’s concept of “slow love”

Most people actually eschew the fast track to matrimony that Grande and Davidson attempted, Fisher says. We’re more likely to be friends first, then friends with benefits, then full-fledged romantic partners before we marry, which she calls slow love. “By the time you walk down the aisle today, you know who you’ve got and you can keep who you’ve got,” she says, citing a 2015 study of 3,000 married people in the U.S., which found that pairs who dated for three years or longer before getting hitched were 39 percent less likely to divorce than couples who knew each other for shorter durations of time. 


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