Have you ever met someone who is exactlyyy what you're looking for in a partner, but they're moving out of state the following week? Have you ever fallen in love with someone who’s “not in a place to date right now"? Have you ever had amazing chemistry with a coworker but couldn't pursue it because of a very strict no dating policy?
If any of these three scenarios sound familiar to you, it's likely you may have found yourself in a right person, wrong time situation.
As the name suggests, this is what happens when you meet someone who could very well be your soul mate, but because of external circumstances, a relationship is just not feasible.
Keep in mind though that what constitutes as the “wrong” time looks different for everyone. Despite the fact that some people may say that love conquers all, moving, job changes, family drama, personal stress, and countless other parts of, oh I don’t know, being a functioning adult, can make dating feel impossible.
Relationship coach Shula Melamed agrees that apart from chemistry, attraction, and a shared taste in takeout, timing is a super integral part of a serious relationship.
“Sometimes [people] don't have the bandwidth to commit to a relationship or we are in a different phase of life than the person we love/that loves us,” says Melamed. “We can fall in love with a lot of different people, but they aren't always going to be the people we can build a life with.”
In other words sometimes “bad timing” is more about incompatible values, needs, and life goals at a given moment than literal time.
Here's What You Can Do If You Think You've Met the Right Person at the Wrong Time
Despite wanting to yell, cry, and blame all your problems on anyone but yourself, clinical psychologist Joshua Klapow, PhD, suggests taking a deep breath and thinking about your options.
If the problem is you or this person is moving, could you make long-distance work? Are you down to try an open relationship? Would scheduling a weekly date night be enough? What would take it to make this relationship happen? And are you both able to do it?
“It’s not ‘love’ that keeps people together, it’s actions driven by love,” he says. “Willingness to sacrifice, compromise, communicate, live with conflict, and be willing to grow.”
The key here is to communicate and be honest, direct, and realistic about what you can offer each other at that time, says Melamed. You don't want to lead someone on or make someone believe a relationship could be on the table if it's not feasible.
Which brings me to my next point: While you may both be able to find a way to keep dating, Klapow continues that some compromises aren’t worth being made. If the relationship starts taking a toll on your mental health or if you feel like you’re being pressured, shamed, or are bending over backward to “make it work”—it might be time to walk away.
“Weigh the options and consequences,” Klapow says. “The barriers to being with someone may outweigh your need to be with them.”
Big reminder though: We’re not always meant to seriously date everyone we have a connection with, and calling things off doesn’t mean you don’t or didn’t love them.
As Kaplow puts it: "We can love one another and still go in separate directions. We can retain our love for each other and not stay together because we have had a life change, personal changes, and/or a change in priorities.” And that's absolutely okay.
Can You Get Back Together When the Timing Is Better?
Melamed and Klapow agree that sometimes wrong timing just takes, well, time. After a month, year, decade, whatever, you may find the circumstances keeping you apart have lifted. And Melamed confirms that “if the connection is still there when the timing lines up, it can be an incredible opportunity to see what can happen."
But while this all sounds good and happy, unfortunately, there is a catch."Timing is slippery," says Kaplow. "When we come back and the timing is right for us, it may be that the timing is now no longer right for them.”
As Melamed says, you’re best bet is to be optimistic but still realistic. Don’t pass up your dream job or a chance to move somewhere you’ve always wanted to live because you’re waiting for the timing to maybe eventually work out.
“Live your life and if things happen to align later, fabulous,” Melamed says. “Don't wait around and shut yourself from other opportunities.”
How to Know If Someone Is “The One” in the First Place
When you’ve finally found someone that likes all the whiny 2000s emo bands you do, gives amazing back massages, and likes brunch, you may wonder if you’ll ever find a better match. So if bad timing is what's keeping you apart, you may question is they are actually “The One" despite the circumstances.
Here are some signs someone’s your person for the long haul:
You’re on the same emotional frequency, meaning you’re looking for the same type of relationship at the same time, and you’re both committed to putting in the work to make it work.
You have aligning values, life goals, and ideas about how you navigate life.
You bring out the best in each other and lift each other up. The relationship is a source of positivity for both of you.
You can navigate conflict and disagreements with respect and love. You don’t shame or intentionally hurt each other.
You allow each other to be yourselves and you want each other to grow and develop as individual people.
There’s a deep emotional, physical, and romantic attraction and chemistry.
You’re able to communicate openly with them and be vulnerable. You feel safe with them.
You want the best for each other and encourage each other to grow and take new opportunities.
While your date may check all of these boxes, Melamed notes that being super connected to someone isn’t always enough to make it work. You have to both want the same type of relationship and be in a place to have that relationship.
And not to sound too much like your older aunt who uses bar shampoo, there will likely be many loves in your life. Though the timing sucks with your current flame, and not being able to date them is painful, I promise you’re not missing your one shot at happily ever after.
“There are many ‘ones’” Melamed says. “Love is not a finite resource. When you open yourself to the possibilities of life, you will find this to be true.”
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