The early days of a relationship can be so much fun. The dates are exciting, everything you learn about the other person is fascinating… But that doesn’t mean that things are always perfect, and the expectations and boundaries you set in the first few weeks and months can often help define the relationship. I decided to list some of the most common mistakes people make – and how to avoid them!
Let’s start with a simple one: don’t play games. The whole “wait three days before you call her” is tired, boring and problematic. Clear communication and honesty are crucial for relationships, and if your time together starts with one person manipulating the other then you’re building on a rocky foundation. Your partner isn’t going to like you more if you toy with them, and honestly, if you feel the need to do this then it seems like you don’t like them much, either.
Don’t expect immediate monogamy. Until you’ve had a conversation about your relationship and discussed being exclusive, your partner is completely within their rights to see other people, as are you. It’s not unusual for people who are “on the dating scene” to be talking to a few other people and possibly meeting up with them. If you don’t want to share your partner after the first date, say that to them. If you don’t, you can’t be upset if they see someone else: they’re breaking a rule that they didn’t even know about, and therefore cannot be held accountable.
Try not to rush things. If you’ve met someone you really like, that’s great! But you don’t immediately need to introduce them to every member of your family or ask them to move in with you. There are a couple of reasons for this. Firstly, it can be a bit off-putting and make you seem clingy and insecure. Secondly, if you see a (long term) future with this person, there’s no need to hurry to different relationship milestones, because you’ll have plenty of time to do that. Enjoy the honeymoon period! It’s a lot of fun and it won’t last forever. Finally, you don’t want to tie yourself to another person at the start of a relationship and then find out you’re actually not compatible long-term. For every fairytale couple who get married after six months and get to sit, grey haired on a porch surrounded by their grandchildren, very much in love, there are ten more who have to go through an excruciating breakup because they didn’t realise that they were in a relationship with a lazy doofus who never ever does the dishes.
Be honest. We all try to look our best when we start new relationships, from using a picture that’s a few years old in an online dating profile to making our jobs sound just a little bit more interesting than they actually are. But this isn’t particularly healthy behaviour, and it’s really just best to avoid it. You should like your partner for who they are, and they should feel the same way about you. There are a few things that are worth being upfront about, but the most important is children. If you’re a parent, you should say this to new partners. They may not want to get involved with a potentially complicated family situation, and that’s absolutely fine, so to avoid wasting anyone’s time, just explain that you do have children and the extent of your involvement. Aside from everything else, constantly trying to lie and hide your kids is going to create all kinds of issues.
We all know people who get into relationships and immediately forget their friends, families and hobbies and, when you do finally get to hang out, spend the entire time talking about their new partner. Don’t be that person. Relationships are wonderful, but they shouldn’t be your whole world. You were a complete person with a full life before your partner came along, and you need to make sure that you maintain friendships and interests outside of your relationship. There’s actually evidence to suggest that couples who spend time apart and develop themselves as individuals are happier when they do come together.
The honeymoon period of a relationship is usually the most intense. A lot of people really enjoy it – in fact, there’s a whole phenomenon where people get into relationships, date for about three months and then break up when the new-relationship sparkles have started to dull. But if you want your relationship to last, it’s important to find a way to build a good base, with affection, communication and honesty at the centre. Because as fun as the first part of the relationship is, it’s later on when you get the deeper intimacy and a much more rewarding emotional investment.