What Couples Should Do In The First Year Of Dating

There are as many ideas about relationships as there are types of artisanal coffee roasters. And to continue that terrible metaphor, not all of them are quite right — some are a little too bitter, or a little too light, and some just miss the mark completely. But even though we all have different takes on how to go about showing up for romance every day, there are definitely some things that every couple should do before they celebrate their first anniversary.

As I compiled this list, I went back through my own relationships and thought of things I've done — or didn't do — in the first year with someone. The things that made the cut for this list are all things that really contributed to learning about a new partner in those exciting, sparkly, delicate first 12 months. Though some are on the exciting side — I'm a firm believer in jetting off to Paris as often as possible, and I'm a serious advocate of bringing your lover along — some are quiet. I believe in making dinner together. I believe in snuggling in bed reading all night. I believe in morning showers à deux. Here are 9 things I believe every couple should do together in the first year of dating.

1. Make Dinner Together

This is a great way to connect — and to ascertain whether you're compatible. If you can give and take direction, delegate tasks and have tasks assigned to you, and generally work side by side with your partner in the kitchen, that's a good sign. Controlling people do not do well making a relaxed branzino on a Tuesday night. If that's your partner — or you — you'll find out right away by whipping up something together.

2. Take A Weekend Trip

If I could go on a Friday-though-Monday jaunt with my partner once a month, I'd be like [insert hands-in-the-air emoji here]. Unfortunately I'm not rolling in [OK, why not, insert bag of money emoji here]. But even if it's once a year, short trips with your new love are the most fun, and they're good dress rehearsals for longer trips. If you hop an hour away from your city or town for a sweet weekend together and it goes well, then you're ready for the next step.

3. Fly Somewhere Domestic

You'll learn a lot about your partner by strapping on your seatbelt beside them on a plane. I mean, not literally: The way your significant other fastens a seatbelt is negligible in the grand scheme. But airline travel, even if it's just an hourlong plane ride, always reveals things about people. How do they treat flight attendants? What do they do when the plane is delayed? How good are they at making decisions on the fly (yeah, yeah, pun intended)? How good are they at taking your needs into consideration?

Plus, boring learning stuff aside, traveling with someone you really, really like (and are falling in love with, or love, depending on how far down the rabbit hole you've gone) is the greatest. And, much more likely than not, you'll have a great time.

4. Go Abroad

Obviously, I'm a big believer in travel. This is mostly because it is incredibly fun, and the trips I've taken with lovers stand out in my mind as bright, shiny days and weeks full of sunny mornings and candlelit evenings that I remember well — the smells of a beach or the light of a late afternoon walk stay with me, emblazoned in my memory deeper than the sweet day-to-days of life. I also think it's worth traveling with a partner in the first year of dating because you'll learn a hell of a lot about each other. I've heard of couples traveling together and breaking up as a result, because they find out that they're totally incompatible. Of course, I'm not gunning for that outcome for anyone, but if it's going to happen, it's best to know that in the first year.

5. Have A Serious Fight

I hate to argue with my partner. I'm no longer terrified of fighting with my partner, though, mostly because I've learned that a conflict every now and then is OK, and even healthy, as long as you're with someone who truly wants to work it out (and doesn't just want to fight for the sake of fighting).

One of my favorite questions in a fight: "What are you upset about right now?" If both sides can express this, and then discuss what they say, and really hear each other, the fight might be over sooner rather than later. I would never suggest that you start a big blowout just to see what it's like to experience that with your partner, but in the first year, if you're in a healthy relationship and you and your partner both feel comfortable bringing things up, you'll have a serious argument. I promise. It's how you handle it as a couple that matters.

6. Meet Their Parents — And Vice Versa

I wouldn't suggest that this happens in the first few months, unless your partner's parents live down the street from them, or you live with your parents, or some similar arrangement. But as the first year comes to a close, if parents are in the picture on one or both sides and you still haven't introduced your partner to your parents, and/or they haven't brought you home, it might be worth asking yourself (or your partner) why that is so. You learn a lot about someone by seeing where they come from.

7. Attend A Wedding

Or a bar mitzvah. Or a grandparent's birthday party. Or someone's Thanksgiving. Point is, it's a good idea to go to a big family or friend gathering with your partner in the first year. If it's a wedding, you'll learn things about the way your partner feels about marriage (and have a ton of fun). If it's a family thing, you'll get to see how your partner interacts with your weird family, or they'll see how you navigate their creepy uncles. All of this is optional, of course, but going to a wedding or some other big event together in the first year is a vote of confidence in the relationship. It says, "I trust you, and I want you in my life."

8. Be Quiet

Don't get me wrong: I love a long, boisterous conversation over dinner. But it's important to be able to just sit together and enjoy a meal, the sounds of Schubert tinkling from a record player in the corner, a half moon slowly creeping higher in the sky. Or sit side by side on public transportation and watch the stops pass. Or walk down the street silently. When this feels good — and not awkward or sad — you're in a healthy place.

9. Read In Bed

Reading cuddled up next to your partner all night is one of my favorite activities in the world. It affords the opportunity to do number 8 — be quiet alongside your partner — while also having the added comfort of touching your partner's skin and smelling their scent but not actively engaging with them. You hear their sighs, take in the sound of their pages turning, and spend time with them — you're both present — but it's not all about each other. It's about the amazing novel or collection of essays or whatever that you're each taking in separately. Bonus: Read aloud to each other in bed sometimes. Trust me. You won't regret it.

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