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Michelle Kennedy Headshot

The Too-Fast, Too-Soon Flytrap

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DATING
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A friend of mine fell in love. She declared it to the world through numerous romantic quotes and pictures she posted of her new boyfriend on Facebook. Their selfies show a couple beaming on day trips, hiking trails, and hammocks. The photographs, "likes" on each other's everything, and "in a relationship" status are all too familiar. After knowing each other for a cool 11 days, my friend and her beau are happily stuck in the "too-fast, too-soon flytrap."

I've spent some time in the flytrap. I've willingly jumped into that hypnotic, sticky mess on more occasions than I can count and more recently than I'd like to admit. It just feels so good to get stuck in there.

The trap breeds an insta-relationship where two people are immediately and comfortably eating French fries and watching Workaholics on a Wednesday night. They text 73 times in between visits, and the words "I love you" slip out sooner than the first accidental fart.

The poison in the flytrap also makes otherwise rational adults woozy and willing to A). believe this person they've known for 48 hours could definitely be a soulmate and B). forget that they are not a teenager anymore and don't know this new human at all.

So why not take it slow, and do it the mature way? Because it's easier to swan dive in and start pretending, I guess. Maybe leaping into the flytrap helps us avoid the vulnerable conversations that come when you authentically look each other in the face and speak the truth at a careful pace.

When people move into Flytrap-ville after two dates, they declare a Fantasyland-like commitment. For some, this feels like the other person is already invested and won't care about baggage and past mistakes. The flytrap fast-forwards us into a false sense of the good stuff that's attained through gradual exploration into communion with another.

The problem is, when we commit too fast, we don't give the potential union enough time to develop the trust it will need to survive the meatballs people bring into relationships.

I'm not only referring to hairy life stories; I'm talking about inevitable shortcomings like: quick tempers, and character defects that haven't been addressed or dealt with, that propensity to throw guilt, inability to take any responsibility for past relationship catastrophes, and passive-aggressive sneak attacks that are all hiding in boxes under the bed.

When our less-than-charming characteristics do appear (and they will), it's hard for some trap participants to handle them with reasonable empathy. Since we falsely believe our new companion walks on water, imperfections sting like hot coals in our hands. In the flytrap, reality is flipped upside down. We aren't truthfully getting to know each other because we're too busy tap-dancing to a beat we think the other person wants to hear.

On the other hand, trap life can cause one occupant to consider endorsing aspects of their partner that are totally against his or her own core beliefs. People tend to be so loved-up in the trap, they forget to set limits and articulate non-negotiable needs.

In the trap, people sometimes lose their sense of self and buy into the idea that they suddenly need someone to tell them what to do, think, and feel. God forbid that inevitable moment comes when one member realizes they haven't paid bills or spent time with anyone else in weeks. Requests for space usually result in fits of rage and panic. Want for separation is a direct threat to flytrap sanctity. We don't love authentically here; we take hostages.

In my experience, the flytrap keeps us safe for about a month, before we are forced to unstick ourselves and get real. The worst thing about the flytrap is it usually disintegrates in one of two ways: with a fierce and abrupt, "Fuck you, I'm outta here," or, after a grueling relationship where two people practically killed themselves trying to change another person who wasn't right for them in the first place.

If you've rolled around in the flytrap, you understand this alternate universe I speak of. Just remember, it's not all their fault. The trap simply can't thrive without the efforts of two willing and equally hypnotized inhabitants.

In The Mastery of Love, Don Miguel Ruiz writes about a pizza kitchen as a metaphor for self-love. He tells the story of a person making, eating, and sharing all types of glorious pizza in their happy kitchen.

Then, someone shows up and says, "I'll give you this other pizza if you let me control your life." If the person were starving, they'd grab that pizza out of desperation. If, on the other hand, their kitchen (a full life) was bursting with pizza (healthy relationships, self-love, a support system, self-esteem), there's no way they'd need to take another pizza from the controlling pizza negotiator.

The stronger we get, and the more we fill our lives with love, joy, and positive actions, the less I feel we'll barrel into flytraps. Trust in our path and worth should ground us in knowing the slow-build can and will yield everything we desire, eventually. We just need to first be patient enough to walk mindfully through the initial awkwardness of dating.

God bless my friend and the 11-day Facebook courtship. Hey, occasionally the too-fast, too-soon thing turns into a great relationship. I've seen it happen. It just hasn't ever worked for me, and honestly, I'd rather take my time baking some Chicago-style pepperoni with a side of ranch, here on earth.