Jake and Amy eventually get together on Brooklyn 99
Credit: Fox

Believe it or not, there is a way to take things slow in a relationship without having to play any games. After striking out in the love department a couple times, every grownup eventually learns their lesson and starts to know what they want from a relationship. A lot of times, the only way to get those things is to not jump into something too fast and forget about all of your standards; to not throw everything you’ve learned out the window at the first spark of chemistry with someone else. But you do run the risk of someone accusing you of breadcrumbing them, which can often make the other person feel like a huge tool.

You can go slow without stringing someone along.

But it does mean you’re going to have to communicate with the other person and stay strong, since it can be tempting to throw all caution to the wind and run away with your new lov-ah. Here are some things to remember when you want to take things slow and be careful with their feelings.

1Pick a day to hang out, tell them, and stick to it.

The more you guys see each other, the easier it is to get tied up. Even if you have a blast every single time you hang out together, try to space out your dates. When you’re in L-O-V-E early on, it’s easy to let the days blend together. To take it slow, be really clear about when you can and can’t hang out. Like, if you only have time to hang out once a week (or that’s the cadence you know works for you if you’re trying to take your time getting into something), then hang out once a week, and try to lock down plans for a specific day within a day or two of each after each date. That way, they know they’re not being benched, and you both have something to look forward to.

2Don’t sleep over right away or all the time.

This all depends on you, but once you spend the night snoring next to someone, it’s hard to not to start swooning hard (well, assuming the sleepover went well). You can still ~sleep~ together, but after the deed is done, send them packing or throw yourself in a cab home. Aim to do this in a nice way, obviously — offering to spring for a late-night Lyft if they’re at your crib and you can swing it, or telling someone you simply sleep better alone will do the trick. It’s totally possible to build intimacy without tearing down all your boundaries at once.

3Or put off sex altogether.

If you want to take things slow, you can just opt to not have sex with someone right away. Unfortunately, this might actually lead to some people not waiting around for it, which just means they weren’t worth it anyway. But taking things slow when it comes to sex can put the brakes on a full-on fling. Try doing a little more every time you hang out. And feel free to keep it spicy in the text messages so they know you’re into it.

4Do group hangs.

Try to switch up your solo dates by inviting them to group hangouts. Not only does this give you (and them!) a chance to see how they fit into your crew, it’s also a really nice way to show that you respect them at least enough that you’re willing to be seen in public with them around other people you respect. You don’t introduce your friends to jerks, right? That way, they won’t have to wonder if you like while you take things nice and easy.

5Try to restrain yourself.

Don’t not do something you want to do, but when you start daydreaming about the future or thinking about showering them with gifts and sweet nothings, check yourself. If you have an uncontrollable urge to send them an “I love you!” text, wait an hour at least to see if you still want to. Actually, that goes for everything in the relationship. Be mindful about your words and actions, especially when you hear yourself saying, “Oh, why not?” There’s usually a reason not to do something impulsive or dramatic when you want to go slow.

6Just tell them.

This might seem a little obvious or cliché, but telling someone you want to take things slow is the best way to actually take things slow. Be sincere about it, and cop to really liking them, but also wanting to enjoy it and see how it goes. A person worthy of becoming your full-time lover will appreciate it. Using your words will usually work.

Falling for someone is a great feeling, but it can be scary. Taking things slow without toying with someone is a good way to make sure you’re getting what you need without being totally selfish about it.