The fact is dating, sex, love, basic human connection is hard. But we’ve got just the little snack to help. Ask An Alfawhore, the sex and love advice column from the tell-it-to-ya-straight, sex-positive, uber feminist older sister you always wanted is back. This week: when is it the right time to take next steps?

Dear Auntie Alfa,

I’ve been seeing someone for 6 months— in the beginning I was a little hesitant about if it was developing into something more serious but now we are feeling stable. Still, I am nervous about taking next steps like meeting each other’s parents. I’m trying to feel out if this is important to my partner, but also trying to choose the best method to communicate that I’m not quite ready for that. Do you think this is a red flag on my part? What are the best ways to communicate this type of boundary? I’m enjoying where we are now, but if I don’t want to move forward to this step does that mean I don’t see a future?

XO,

Afraidto Takeleaps

Dear Afraidto Takeleaps,

So you’re scared of heights, no big deal. Now you can take a seat with the rest of the population that thinks twice before throwing themselves out of a moving airplane. Heights are scary. The potential aftermath of falling from said heights is even scarier. But first things first, take a deep breath.

As humans we tend to do a lot of comparison. While we all think it started with the age of social media ruining our lives, and Instagram soul sucking us into nothing but a filtered mirage of our actual selves (as we compare ourselves to Polly Perfect with her perfect dog and perfect charcuterie arrangements), I hate to break it to y’all…this is nothing new. It’s a tale as old as time to measure ourselves in relation to others. Be it how fast we ran in the second grade relay race, or who of our group had reached second base first, there’s a constant urge to check in on our success via the “success” and/or subsequent failures of others. We measure ourselves against the societal norm, so to speak. Healthy? No. Natural? I’d argue so.

I think there are so many ideas of what a relationship should be at any given time, which takes away from the reality of what it is. You feel like perhaps at 6 months you should want to meet the parents. You feel that at this age (whatever it may be) you should be dating someone that’ll turn into your life partner…but isn’t that putting a whole lot of pressure on something that is still developing? And who exactly knows when the right time to do anything is within a relationship?

Yeah, maybe after six months some people are ready, maybe even bursting to connect with the fam, but you’re not. You’re not ready and what’s great is that you know that. You’ve been checking in on yourself enough to know that this is a boundary you currently have. And here’s the thing: that’s TOTALLY OKAY, healthy even. I would say you having personal boundaries and being self-aware of those boundaries is far from a red flag. I’d venture to guess you feel some sort of guilt about it, a guilt that doesn’t seem to be coming from your partner pushing the issue, nor the stability that you two seemingly have.

Perhaps they’re totally okay with you not wanting to meet the fam. Perhaps for them, meeting the family isn’t this next step that you are perceiving it to be. People are different. Every relationship is different. The bottom line is, as always, to communicate that. I know it may be a difficult conversation to have, fearing that if you don’t want this step maybe you don’t see a future. But to that I’ll give you a phrase my cowboy grandfather uses all the time, “Hold your horses.” Or in modern speak: chill out. You don’t need to be determining your future with this person after six months if you feel that you are in a healthy, stable, fun relationship that is filling you in the ways that you need. And what’s great is that if you tell them all of this, and they are a half-reasonable human being, everything should be just fine and dandy.

Write this on my tombstone baby, or tattoo it on my ass, but there’s just not one way to form a relationship, nor to live out that relationship, contrary to the heteronormative chains we’ve been enslaved into believing for generations and generations of our young little species.

I say try and stay zen and try not to stress about problems that don’t seem to be problems just yet. And if the time comes where they clearly communicate they want you to be meeting their parents, and there you still feel like it’s not something you want to do, well then…let’s dig deep into why exactly that is something that makes you so uncomfortable. What is it that “meeting the parents” represents for you? Do you think that meeting them means from there on out you’re committing to splitting your holiday vacations between your family and theirs? Is it a specific fear of general, monogamous commitment, or is it this specific partner that you fear committing to?

Until that time, sit back in the safety of your seat-belted airplane row. And remember the fear of the jump is always going to be there, but from what I know there’s also quite a thrill that comes with diving in.