January 11, 2022 — 12:41 PM
Ask someone about a missed connection, and you’ll likely hear a story filled with exquisite longing and aching hope. Whether it’s as small as a furtive glance with the cutie on the subway reading your favorite book or as heartbreaking as a budding romance cut way too short, meeting the right person at the wrong time can feel excruciating.
What does “right person wrong time” mean?
The idea of “right person, wrong time” refers to a connection with someone who seems perfect for you, but there are extenuating circumstances pulling you apart, leaving the potential unrealized. Despite the undeniable spark, there are external factors weighing the situation down with a sense of impossibility that can be difficult to overcome.
“Sometimes people who are wonderful partners for you (share your values, histories, interests, etc.) are also folx who are not going in the same direction in life,” therapist Dennis Nguyen, LCSW, (no relation to the author, by the way!) explains to mbg. For example, one or both people may be going through something challenging, experiencing a significant life transition, or simply aren’t currently interested in a relationship.
Since you aren’t able to see the relationship through, a “right person, wrong time” situation may leave you with a fear that you’re somehow missing out on this mythical soulmate connection—and make it easy to project fantasies onto them.
“You may feel like you have to do whatever it takes to make the connection work, even at your detriment, because it’s the ‘right person,'” says licensed mental health counselor Juliann King, LMHC.
When you’re faced with the possibility of love, you want to believe that you will surrender completely to the experience—but sometimes life happens. It’s painful when it doesn’t work out, but the reality is that the glittery, exciting feelings of liking someone happens fairly often in dating. The true magic is both people making the choice to commit to something together.
Signs you’re with the right person at the wrong time.
1. Your goals don’t match up.
Great relationships start with great sleep.*
You have fun together, but there’s a nagging feeling you’re on different pages. Maybe their goal is to travel and explore while you’re ready to buy a house and start a family, Nguyen says. To be together, one of you would have to sacrifice your individual dreams, which might be too high of a cost to pay.
“If you feel like your goals are incompatible or would create a lot of barriers to being together, this can be a sign that it’s the wrong time,” he says. “When two people are heading in a similar direction in life, there may still be barriers, but perhaps there isn’t as much of an obstruction.”
2. One of you is going through something challenging.
If you’re going through a rough patch, it can be hard for you to care for yourself, much less give a relationship the proper energy and attention it deserves. King notes if this is happening in the burgeoning connection, it’s natural for the relationship to take a backseat as priorities shift toward doing whatever you need to feel better. Unfortunately, maintaining a relationship may not be high on your list.
3. There’s not mutual effort being put into the connection.
It’s vital that healthy relationships have a mutual give and take, and it’s not one-sided. If you’re finding yourself too busy to text back or follow up on dates, take that as a hint that you aren’t able to give the emotional energy and/or time that’s required for a developing relationship. As Nguyen puts it: “Relationships take work! If it feels like you both keep running into problems where one (or both) of you can’t dedicate enough energy to the relationship, that can be a sign it’s the wrong time.”
4. There are a lot of life changes happening.
For the most part, relationships need a certain degree of steadiness to create something lasting and consistent. Nguyen says if there are too many moving parts—for example, family issues, big moves, job changes, or the busyness of the holiday season–it will be hard to lay the groundwork for a partnership to build on. “Someone may have had a lot of time with you during a lull in work, but now things are picking up and there isn’t as much time anymore. [That] might be a sign that you have to wait until the dust settles before determining if this can work out,” he says.
5. Timing is not on your side.
You’ve gone on some amazing dates, but they’re moving out of town next month, or they just got a new job that’s taking up all of their energy. While the connection is unbelievable, you can’t ignore that there are other things happening in their life that require their attention, which inevitably limits their capacity to give in other areas. King says if you’re finding yourself lamenting over some time-related barrier, that’s a big sign it’s not the right time.
6. The logistics make it hard to be together.
It might be one of these scenarios: They’re in a monogamous relationship with someone else. They have young children, and you aren’t sure whether you’re ready for the responsibility. You unexpectedly met them while you were traveling, and you don’t know if you want a long-distance relationship. They’re reeling from a bad breakup and might be on the rebound. You’re crushing on your supervisor, but your company strictly forbids romantic relationships at work. Although love is a leap of faith, sometimes the risk is too great to take, and the obstacles are too insurmountable to move past.
7. One of you is emotionally unavailable.
When you’re getting into a relationship with someone, there’s an element of radical vulnerability and honesty needed to take your feelings to the next level and cultivate a deep romantic connection. If one of you can’t participate in that exchange with your full self (i.e., you’re emotionally unavailable), King says it’s a hint that the relationship won’t be able to progress forward since there are parts of you that will be emotionally inaccessible, which makes it hard to truly know each other.
8. One of you is simply not ready for a relationship.
“One of you is healing. Whether it be from a physical, mental, or spiritual injury, healing is a time to prioritize yourself,” Nguyen says. “While it’s not impossible to have a healthy and loving relationship while healing, this again is a period of change and growth that may change both people as the healing continues.”
9. One of you is not ready to do the work necessary to grow.
When you’re in a relationship with someone, the connection can push you out of your comfort zone as unhealed wounds and unknown aspects of yourself emerge. If one of you feels uncomfortable facing those problems and can’t compromise on your way of life to include someone else, you’re not in the right place to devote what’s integral for the relationship to thrive.
10. Your gut is telling you it’s not right.
They’re seemingly perfect for you, but you keep feeling like there’s something off about the connection or there’s something missing. Although you can’t quite put a finger on it, don’t ignore those suspicions. “Sometimes even if someone hits all of your buttons in a good way, it just doesn’t feel right. It doesn’t have to make sense. Call it a gut feeling or intuition, perhaps this is a sign that it’s not the right time,” Nguyen says.
If you’ve determined you’ve met someone right at the wrong time, you might feel devastated that you can’t move past these complications to make the relationship work, but there is something you can do about it. Here are some pointers to start processing these feelings so you can move on or potentially make it work down the line:
1. Pause and reframe things from a place of abundance.
“It’s important to approach dating and partnership from a secure place. Instead of viewing things as the right person at the wrong time, try shifting that perspective to a right person at the wrong time,” King notes. “There are nearly eight billion people on Earth. There are so many people that you could have a beautiful partnership with.”
Nguyen points out that there is also no real urgency. Life is long, and people change. Just because it’s not working out with someone right now, it doesn’t mean that you’ve lost out on your one chance of happiness.
“Life will continue on, and there are plenty of opportunities to date [and] maybe even date this right person when the time is right. Even if this opportunity passes, there will be more,” he says.
2. Reflect and interrogate the connection thoughtfully.
Nguyen notes this can be one of the hardest things when you’re sure you’ve met the right person at the wrong time. Instead of fixating on them as the answer for your happiness, he recommends asking yourself different questions that can self-actualize you toward personal growth.
“Take time to reflect on what you need now and where you’re going in life. Yes, this person feels like the right person, but do you need the ‘right person’? Maybe you need more time to heal. Maybe you need to focus on taking care of your body, heart, and soul. Maybe you need to connect more with friends and family. Maybe you need to follow your career where it’s going or stay in place. What do you need now and how might this right person fit, if able?”
3. Consider your attachment style.
King notes that the belief that there’s just one “right person” for you is a sort of limiting thinking that can actually reveal an anxious attachment style, which is marked by an insecurity of being underappreciated—or an avoidant attachment style, where one views love from a place of scarcity.
“Moving to approaching connections from a more secure place may completely get rid of the idea of the right person, wrong time,” King says. Dating with a secure attachment style is about desiring a whole partner who is ready for you and can meet your needs.
4. Allow for true presence, and accept what happened.
Sometimes closed doors put you back on the path you’re meant for. Nguyen advises letting yourself accept the place that you’re at in life now by appreciating all the wonderful things you do have. “If this person isn’t able to contribute positively, that’s OK. There will be other opportunities for connection, but what’s most important is that you’re doing what you need for yourself and your priorities. Otherwise, you stand the risk of pushing yourself to be what someone else needs without caring for yourself.”
5. Cherish them and view them with gratitude.
Nguyen says it’s important to recognize the feelings and lessons this person helped you experience. Instead of viewing them from regret, try to cherish them and value the lessons they gave you. “Maybe this person prompted you to take a serious look at where you’re going in life. That is valuable! The process may have been painful and potentially very necessary,” he adds.
It’s gut-wrenching that you couldn’t have them in your life the way that you had hoped. But your good feelings for them can still persist by seeing them as an event for positive change in your life instead of a lost opportunity. Sometimes, certain people are only meant to be in your life for a short time to show you that there are a lot of people that can match with you or remind you of the kind of life-affirming beauty that love can bring. Plus, it’ll make it that much more meaningful when you do meet the right person where everything aligns.
How to know when it’s right.
When it’s the right relationship, it won’t just be based on pure luck. You’ll be in similar places in your journey and feel a strong, natural desire to do whatever it takes to be in each other’s life. Another giveaway is that you’ll feel low stress around them. King suggests looking out for signs that indicate emotional safety meaning you aren’t feeling doubtful, triggered, uncertain, or that you have to guess their next move.
King shares some signs that you’re with the right person at the right time:
- You’re both emotionally available and ready for a commitment.
- You communicate effectively, honestly, and clearly together.
- You don’t play games, and neither do they—their actions and energy match their words.
- You feel like you can be yourself, and you don’t have to hide anything.
- You can easily discuss things with them, and they reciprocate openly, too.
- You enjoy spending time together, and it feels safe to be around them.
- You can see yourself building a future with them, and they’re on the same page.
- Your values are compatible, and you’re both growing in the same direction.
- You’re able to move through conflict healthily.
- You want the best for each other, and there’s a lot of respect in the connection.
- You support their development as a person and vice versa.
- The relationship is challenging in a positive way; you want to bring out the best in each other.
- There’s a strong attraction to each other on all levels—spiritual, intellectual, mental, emotional, physical.
- There’s a big consideration for each other’s goals and an understanding that feels natural.
- If you have a history of being in unhealthy relationships, and this one feels different, you might be on to something.
- Compromise comes effortlessly for the most part; it’s something you want to do to maintain the relationship instead of feeling like you have to do it.
Meeting the right person at the wrong time is the expression of desire in its highest form. It’s intoxicating, but true love takes two people who believe the relationship is worth working on together. It requires a willingness to do the actions necessary to grow the connection and have it unfold wherever it’s meant to go.
“If someone is not ready or able to love you in the way that you deserve to be loved, it is OK to step away and trust that you will find the love you desire and deserve,” King says. “Don’t limit yourself to the right person, wrong time connection. There’s always more love to be found that can meet you exactly where you are.”
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