Starting a new relationship can feel a bit disorienting. At first everything is exciting; this is what you’ve always wanted, right? Months or years – seems like a lifetime – of dating, and all of a sudden here he is! What’s next?
Relationships require care and encouragement and it helps to get things started on the right foot. Perhaps your first thought is, “so when do we start living together?” Whoa – slow down. Most of us know guys who went home from the bar together the night they first met, and one of them basically never went home. Other couples have been together for years, but find it more agreeable to keep separate households.
Take time to find out what the right rhythm is for each of you. If your tendency in the past has been to make a commitment like moving in with someone after only a few weeks only to find that the relationship never should have happened, make a commitment to yourself that this time you are going to wait at least six months before combining your CD collections. What’s the rush?
Part of dating is trying to make a positive impression – being thoughtful, considerate, romantic. Those are good things in a relationship, too, but face it – if he hangs around, your lover is going to see you at times other than when you are on top of your game.
Allowing your partner to see you at times when you aren’t your best – when things haven’t gone well at work or you’ve had a painful conflict with your crazy family – isn’t stuff you would usually recommend for a first date. But being yourself in good times and bad is the way he’ll get to know you and the way the bonds of intimacy will deepen between you.
If you let your partner see you warts and all, he’ll probably show you his less-attractive stuff as well. It can be a little startling seeing Mr. Right’s flaws.
Don’t think you can change your partner. The start of a relationship offers a great opportunity to learn all about his eccentricities: the way he mispronounces that particular word of his, or his curious need to keep his checkbook in perfect balance.
See if you can practice just noticing rather than criticizing. Who is this peculiar creature that now shares your life? Promise yourself you won’t nit-pick these little things. Learn to relax and laugh at yourself and your reactions to these little things. Criticism and nagging aren’t going to get you off on the right foot.
Some men handle intimacy easier than others. Intimacy requires us to let down our guard and become more open and vulnerable. The trouble is, most men have learned from an early age that making yourself letting down your defenses is a stupid thing to do because you’re likely to get hurt. This makes closeness a real challenge for guys, even if it’s what we most want. You really care about what this guy thinks of you, and the temptation is to try to look good rather than be genuine.
One of the secrets of relationships is that if the relationship is a healthy one, we actually become safer in it by lowering our defenses. Our partner responds to our openness with more openness of his own, or we learn that the blemish that we worried would cause him to run away turns out to be no big deal.
Perhaps you’re home with Mr. Right and you have your first argument. Nothing too serious, but it’s hard not to feel unsettled. What’s going on here?
A piece of advice many couples have found works for them is: never go to bed angry. Stay with the argument until it gets resolved instead. Conflict can make you anxious when a relationship is new, but don’t shy away from speaking your mind.
Relationships where one or both partners avoid showing their true feelings in disputes with one another are relationships that aren’t going to last.
Acknowledge that you’ve heard what he’s saying; if you think he’s right, say so. If you think he’s off base, let him know. Understand that relationships require compromise. The optimal outcome isn’t likely to be your partner unconditionally surrendering because you’ve out-argued him; the best outcome is going to be something that leaves each of you feeling well-heard and respected, and the issue in question moved toward resolution.
Maybe the biggest mistake partners make is believing “I know what he is thinking.” You don’t – at least not until you ask him. You think his lack of interest in sex last night meant he’s getting bored; maybe it just means he’s tired.
Don’t make assumptions. Ask your partner what he’s thinking or feeling.
In fact, taking a few minutes regularly each week to check in is great practice that can deepen relationships. Even ten minutes apiece to ask one another, “How are you this week?” can lead to better mutual understanding, greater closeness and more opportunity for intimacy.
Another difficult issue for couples moving beyond the newlywed stage is sexual interest. When you are dating, sex with your new boyfriend feels pretty special. After a while you will get to know every hair and freckle on your partner’s body, and the novelty of sex will wear off.
Life’s other demands can crowd out lovemaking. Most of us aren’t all that eager for sex after working long hours and knowing we’ve got another exhausting day ahead of us tomorrow. Throw in household chores and a hundred other distractions and sex can get pretty stale before you know it.
It may feel unromantic to schedule date night together, but doing penciling it in your schedule is a lot more romantic than watching another week go by without making enough time for one another.
Some couples create routines or rituals that work for them: Friday nights are strictly for the two of them, no intrusions permitted, or Tuesday evenings are the night to cook a special dinner together rather than rely on the usual quick meal after work.
Keeping sex passionate requires paying attention.
When you are first together, the sex may be so hot it’s hard to believe things will every cool down – but they probably will. The frequency of lovemaking often slows down after a few months, but the satisfaction both partners receive from sex can increase as they learn more about how to turn one another on.
Take time to start your relationship off on the right foot and you’ll like the results.
Have you found the right one, or are you still searching?
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