Timing is everything, right? I’ve certainly ruined a good joke by blowing the timing of the punchline, definitely missed a handful of flights by miscalculating my schedule (sorry, Mom!), and I also imagine I’ve missed bumping into my future soul mate because I was running late. (Stop being so f*cking punctual, future babe!) As in life and comedy, timing is everything in dating, too. Finding the right person is key, but what happens when you find the right person at the wrong time?

Many people have an idea of what their life will look like when they’re ready to settle down, whether it’s achieving a specific level of success in their career or being “this many” years old. IMHO, finding someone you have chemistry and a connection with is challenging enough, so I asked April Masini, relationship advice expert, what to do when you actually find that special someone but the timing is off. Read below for her tips on identifying this issue in your relationship and how to handle it.

CHEMISTRY, BABY

Why would you like someone who’s not right for you? One reason: chemistry. Ah, that intangible force that makes the very air around you and your honey sparkle. (At least that’s how I envision chemistry, so go with it.) Masini explains, “Having chemistry with someone is very different from having long-term relationship compatibility with them. In fact, you can have great chemistry with someone who’s not right for you for a dozen different reasons.” If you’re thoroughly hypnotized, you might overlook certain issues — like they just got out of a serious relationship, or they’re about to move across the country. So, feel free to blame the flameout of this fire (and my imperfect GPA) on chemistry.

ARE WE THERE YET?

Masini agrees that, “Timing is everything! Many times people, men especially, decide that they’re ready to settle down and they do. This could come after a decade or two of dating, or within the first few years of dating.” She explains that it usually has to do with an idea of what age you think you want to be before you get married, or how much money you want to be making. So even though you have chemistry and compatibility with someone, if they’re not where they think they should be, the timing won’t be right. Sometimes it’s just a mental shift of being “ready” and Masini delightfully illustrates, “It’s like a taxi cab that turns on it’s yellow vacancy light. The next person who flags it down gets the ride!”

TICK TOCK, B*TCH

Biology. (Look at me, writing about all this science!) This can play a huge factor in why a great person isn’t right for you at this time. Masini says, “Women who want children often use their biological clock to factor in timing. They may feel that they’ve got time on their clocks in their early 20s, but later, they may feel that it’s time to partner up and create a family.” Or flip that around — you might discover that your perfect person wants a family yesterday, but you’re not even thinking about spending your extra income on anyone but yourself. Either way, know that you don’t need to be in a relationship to start a family — if you are so inclined, you can certainly go about doing so on your own.

REBOUNDERS

People fresh from a breakup span the range of being ready to jump into a new relationship to never wanting to be part of an “us” again. If someone you’re dating is amazing but exhibits signs of not being over their ex, take heed. Masini advises, “Some people feel ready to replace their partners after a divorce or a breakup. They’re focused on getting that relationship back — with someone new, and for them, the timing is now!” The opposite can also be the cause of relationship demise, and it’s truly no fun to part ways with a great person just because their past relationship still looms in the rear view mirror. If a person is rebounding and you want a relationship — sorry, honey. Know that your time is too precious to waste on someone who’s thinking about someone else. You deserve the world!

LEAVE A LIGHT ON

I hate wasting a good thing, which is perhaps why I have a lot of expired treats in my fridge! I asked Masini how she would counsel someone with a case of “right person, wrong time” and she suggests to “be as clear as possible with yourself, and your partner. Don’t waste your time or theirs. If they are never going to make the money you want a partner to make, and are committed to life as a poet living in a garret, and you want retirement savings, kids, a house with a mortgage and two cars, cut off and move on. Be polite and kind, but firm and clear.”

Now, time passes and people change, so you might consider leaving a door open for someone once they’ve gotten to a better place or have resolved whatever issue they were grappling with. Masini agrees, “You can leave the door open — if there are changes. For instance, if the poet goes to law school and wants to stay in touch, that’s a good reason for keeping the door open.” Ultimately I like to think that when the really right person shows up, the timing will make sense and I truly hope that I — for once! — won’t be late.

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