In 2022, most of us expect instant gratification in almost every area of our lives (think: streaming the latest movies, fulfilling our flavour cravings with food delivery apps or shopping the latest looks from our fave influencers’ social media accounts) — but do we really need to rush when it comes to love?
If you’re looking for romance — for real love — sometimes a slow, sustained crackle of deep love and affection can be more gratifying than a bright (but quickly extinguished) spark. Enter the latest dating term we keep hearing: “slow burn love.”
To help us understand just what slow burn love is (and why we may want to embrace it as we approach cuffing season this fall), we turned to Laurel House, one of eharmony’s relationship experts. Read on to learn more about slow burn love — and House’s expert tips for how to fuel it.
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What is slow burn love — and why is it on the rise right now?
Slow burn love is a love that goes beyond the initial spark of attraction — it is, as the name suggests, a kind of love that requires time and attention, but that can also last.
“Slow burn love takes time to grow. While it grows, it simultaneously deeply roots into the hearts and minds of a new budding couple,” House tells us. “And though there might not be chemistry at first with slow burn love, this is actually a good thing, because a slow burn creates an environment for true, emotional intimacy.”
…we are taking time to understand how to date again with a different style and purpose.
Why are we yearning for that slower burn when it comes to our romantic relationships right now? As House explains, we’ve all been through a lot in the past few years — and that may have spurred a desire for something deeper for many people.
“Thanks to COVID, we have had time to think. A lot. We have learned more about ourselves and discovered our wants, needs and expectations,” House says. “Because of this internal shift, as we are reentering the dating and relationship space, we are taking time to understand how to date again with a different style and purpose.”
As our priorities shift, House explains, so does the way we approach dating and relationships.
“Instead of dating for the purpose of fun and superficial [times], we are PrioriDating and the priority is real, deep and emotionally expansive love. And that type of love is created through vulnerable conversations that take time to have, once complete trust has been established,” House says.
How can we foster slow burn love?
So, if you want to experience a slow burn kind of love, what’s the secret ingredient? It’s all about emotional intimacy — which can be a bit scary, but rewarding.
“Emotional intimacy is created through confidently vulnerable conversations,” House shares. “When you open up and have those ‘hard’ conversations in which you expose your vulnerable truth, and share your stories, you are opening your heart.”
“You know that you are opening your heart because you are feeling emotions, and in doing this, you are opening yourself to the possibility of feeling for the person you are talking with. And when the person who you are talking with opens their heart through sharing their stories as well, they too are sitting there open-hearted. And now you are two people who are open to the possibility of feeling feelings for one another.”
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What’s the difference between chemistry and intimacy?
If you’re looking for love, it’s also important to know the difference between chemistry and intimacy — and to consider that it can take time to really develop the latter.
Chemistry, House explains, can be exciting but it can also mask certain things when it comes to relationships.
“Chemistry is that feeling of… ‘in love.’ Love may be blind, but chemistry is blinding. The danger of falling for just chemistry is that you are blinding yourself to red flags, ignoring the danger signs and choosing to overlook the fact that this person may not be good for you.”
On the other hand, “intimacy is ‘love,’ and it develops and grows over time. It also endures,” House explains. “It is formed on a deeply rooted foundation of trust, understanding, honesty and authenticity. Intimacy is the commitment to the commitment. That’s not to say that you can’t have both.”
By taking the time to identify what you’re experiencing with another person, you may be able to better court the type of relationship that you want in your life right now.
“As intoxicating and tempting as it may be, chemistry can pull you, like gravity, to the wrong person. It’s like a drug. In fact, chemistry triggers the brain in the same location as cocaine,” House tells us. “It also triggers a similar physical reaction: the feeling of angst, sweaty palms, nervousness, a racing heart, crazy obsessive thoughts… wait, how is this a good thing again? Then the drugs wear off and these two people suddenly wake up, look at each other, and realize ‘I don’t know you, and what I do know, I don’t like.’”
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Timing is everything
Of course, it’s also important to consider that both you and your potential love need to be in the same place when it comes to seeking slow burn love.
As House explains, even if you are ready for that deep love, the timing has to work both ways.
“You may gravitate towards and attract people who aren’t in a place where they are ready to be in a relationship or people who are already in a relationship with someone else,” House says. “Or it may simply be that you are a budding flower, taking your time to trust and open up, therefore making it take longer for them to truly see you and all that you are and can be. You may be sexually intimate with them, but they aren’t sure that you are the one who they want to be with for real… yet.”
“You don’t excite them to the point that they can’t not be with you. But there’s hope! You linger in their head and heart even when you are apart. And because you are a slow burn, through ongoing engagement, interesting conversations, continued intrigue, you may be slowly but surely embedding yourself into your mind and heart, which can create an even more enduring relationship.”
Related: 10 signs you’ve found the one.
Can friendships turn into slow burn love?
Research has shown that friendships that turn into a romance can be a good way to start a relationship — and House echoes the possibility of friendships turning into a slow-burn love situation.
“Slow burn love can develop from any type of initial interaction,” House says. “Friends can shift into lovers, though reshaping the relationship and breaking free from the friend-zone can be challenging.”
Again, though, House stresses the importance of being on the same page if slow-burn love is the goal. “Instead, starting a slow burn relationship from a dating app platform like eharmony, where there is the baseline understanding that both are interested in creating something real, is actually the best way to begin and lead into a deeply enduring love.”
How can you build slow burn love?
If you’re going on dates and deep intimacy and slow-burn love are your goals, it’s a good idea to plan dates that have the potential to help stoke those fires. As House explains, you want to aim for “connective dates.”
Set the stage for romance.
“Connective dates include three essential musts: conversation, connection, contact (eye contact, potential for physical contact),” House says.
“You also want to literally set the stage for romance. Whether you love or hate the show The Bachelor, it’s a great example of how to have an effective first date. Dates on The Bachelor are specific and strategic when it comes to manufacturing emotions through the use of red roses, candles, warm colours, soft and sensual textures, romantic music and activities that allow for conversation, as well as heart-racing shared experiences that help to build trust and opportunities for more expansive and simultaneously deeper connections. Do that. Set the stage for romance. Maybe not helicopters and yacht trips — but there are plenty of realistic date ideas that can achieve the same effect.”
Connective dates include three essential musts: conversation, connection, contact.
Put simply? Do things together that will excite and connect you with your date.
“Experience new things together. Maybe even things that scare you. Shared experiences help minds and then hearts open. And that speeds the connectivity of a slow burn relationship,” House says.
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Date ideas for slow burn love
What makes a good date if you’re looking to grow a slow burn love? House has some ideas:
- Choose activities that tap into your heart, memories and emotions. “By connecting to already established emotions, your heart will be open and therefore can be translated to an open heart for your partner too,” House says. “Go back to childhood games. Go visit your childhood neighbourhood and hotspots.”
- Get your heart rate up — no, not by having sex. A friendly competition or something active can be a great way to deepen your bond. “It’s been shown that people who work out together feel more chemistry towards each other, thanks to the release of sweat-induced endorphins,” House says. “Go play pool, ping pong, or challenge [your date] to a game of shuffleboard. Once you work up a sweat, grab a drink and dinner and deepen the relationship with great conversation.”
- Watch a hockey game. While it may not be this land’s official national sport, hockey is one of the most popular spectator sports to watch in Canada — and it can be a great date idea. “Elevated emotions from thrilling endorphins can easily be mistaken as chemistry and attraction,” House says, “and hockey games don’t hold out on that, thanks to fast-flying pucks that slam into the glass and get you out of your seat. In addition to the excitement, you are sitting next to each other, snuggling up to stay warm and with plenty of time to talk, tell stories and get to know each other.”
- Be a tourist in your own town. Exploring the place where you live can be a fun way to make memories with your date. “Regardless of where you live, there are interesting activities to do that you likely reserve for when guests are in town,” House says. “Instead of keeping these treasured destinations hidden away for a special occasion — like you do with your china or nice lingerie — get out there and explore like you’re an out-of-towner! Buy a guidebook and take your date for a tourist-worthy adventure.
- Stretch your minds together. As House explains, “for many, engaging the mind can result in engaging the heart. Exciting thoughts can lead to excitement in the heart too. Have a book club together. Watch the most important movies ever made and have a movie club. Pull out board games. Play Scrabble or Gin. Go to an independent bookstore. Books can say a lot about a person. Pick a cool, funky, independent bookstore and walk the aisles together, each picking out your [fave] book and a book you have wanted to read, then telling each other about it.”
- Try poking fun at each other (nicely!). Sometimes, being lighthearted can be the key to growing love. “You might not think that roasting (making fun of) your significant other is a way to actually improve your relationship,” House says, “but here’s the key: it has to be done strategically. It’s essential that your personalities and senses of humour mesh, or you might take offence, get defensive, feel hurt or shut down. So assuming that your partner is aligned with your personality, here are the great things about roasting each other: Your quirks are celebrated, or at least acknowledged. When you are roasting each other with your partner’s best intentions in mind, you aren’t going to go for any low blow. This isn’t about hurting each other, this is about having fun with each other.”
Can you talk your way to slow burn love?
Another love-building tip from House? Lean into deeper and different types of conversations. “Start asking different types of questions. Make it a fun date night activity. There are no rules to using these questions,” House says. “You can each answer each. You can pick which you individually want to answer. You can use them as conversation starters, building on the question and letting it be the base for any other layers or side topics that come to mind.”
“The key is to lean in. Answer the questions unapologetically, confidently, vulnerably and without fear of judgment. And have fun! Look at the questions as opportunities to explore — yourself and others. These questions can help you to get clear on who you are, what you need, what you dream, and how you connect with others.”
Some ideas? House suggests asking questions like:
- “What one word would you use to embody what you want to improve about yourself? And why?
- “What is the one word you would use to describe what you wish you had more time to do?”
- “What is your favourite music? What memories do you have associated with it?”
- “When have you been hurt most? How is that still shadowing your life?”
- “What makes you feel most safe: physically, emotionally, financially?”
- When in your past (yes, even in past relationships) have you felt and not felt that way?”
- “Are there times in your past when you ignored your intuition and regretted it?”
- “If you weren’t in your career, and money wasn’t an issue, what would your dream career be, and why?”
- Where have you travelled in your life that made a profound impact on your life?”
How does physical connection play into slow burn love?
While deep emotional connection and intimacy are important to slow burn love, House notes that physical connection and sex can “help to spark the flame,” too. However, if slow burn love is the goal, timing is, again, key.
When it comes to sex, House notes that “it definitely shouldn’t happen immediately, because you might not feel the physical attraction yet. Instead, wait until you are sexually attracted to something not physical about them — like their brain, their personality, the way they treat you or whatever else it is that you find sexy about them. Because once you find something that is truly sexy about them, beyond the face, you will be deeply and enduringly turned on. And that’s when sex will be mind-blowing. Wait for it. It will be worth it. Believe me.”