I'll be the first to admit it: When I'm just starting off dating someone new, I rush to make things happen. If I finally find someone I like (which doesn't happen very often) I'm full steam ahead, trying to make things work and get us to a point of mutual, honeymoon-stage bliss. But in the process of taking the lead and moving things along rather than letting them flow naturally, I tend to show my hand too early and open myself up to rejection later on.
In allowing myself to embrace fully how I feel for someone while disregarding signs, I've learned something important about the start of relationships: There's a happy medium between sharing yourself and protecting your heart. Yes, it's important to let someone in or else you risk not progressing with them altogether. But if you let someone completely in from the start, you run the risk of developing intense feelings for them right away and they may not be mutual.
All relationship beginnings have an ebb and flow that involves responding to how your partner is feeling in that moment and taking mini risks of your own to let them know where you're at. But getting into that flow isn't always easy, so here are the best ways I've come up with based on my personal experiences.
1. Try Not To Plan Too Far Ahead
I've learned that I tend to get more invested in a relationship if I set up expectations for the future. Before I've even met my new beau's family, I'll start to imagine us a few months down the line, being head-over-heels for each other and relying on one another to get us our days. But when I started to plan ahead, I began to realize that I was living like what I planned was already taking place and as much as I wanted it, it wasn't guaranteed.
Taking your relationship for what it is in the moment is a much smarter way to the start off things; rather than imposing your own goals for the future onto things, take hints from how your partner is feeling and progress day by day. When you let things go naturally, you're a lot less likely to get hurt.
2. Take What He/She Says At Face Value
Ready for a great Maya Angelou quote? She once famously said, “If someone shows you who they are, believe them the first time,” and she was damn right. I'm totally guilty of this, and I'm sure I'm not alone, but I have a tendency to over-analyze what my S.O. says to try and discover a hidden meaning that fits with what I want from them.
Instead of spending all of your energy (and most likely your besties' energy) trying to uncover what they really mean, believe them. If your new partner is telling you they're not ready for you to meet their parents, take that at face value: They're not at that stage of the relationship yet, and that's perfectly fine. The more you trust what your new partner is saying to you, the better you'll be able to take cues from how things are progressing. That way, you'll see your relationship as less of a race to get to the finish and more of a steady walk toward the ultimate end.
3. Stay Away From Romanticizing The Situation
This is so hard to do when things are just starting, but be careful of it! When you just started dating someone, everything seems new and shiny because you haven't endured any problems yet. As a result, you may be convinced your partner is absolute perfection in human form, and you start to fall for them because of it. If you're setting up unrealistic scenarios in your head of who you believe your partner to be (or what you want them to be) rather than taking the time to learn who they really are, you're setting yourself up for potential hurt later on. Don't get caught up in honeymoon fantasies or else you may fall for someone who doesn't actually exist.
4. Share What You Feel Comfortable Sharing And What He/She Will Feel Comfortable Hearing
Like I said before, there's a happy medium to how vulnerable to make yourself at the beginning of a relationship and it involves just the right amount of sharing who you are without feeling too exposed. In order to find that sweet spot, only share what you feel comfortable sharing. If you don't want to tell S.O. about your childhood yet, that's OK. But if you do want to tell them some of things you don't tell many people, be aware of how they may take it. If they've been a closed book thus far, and you're ready to spill the beans about your darkest secrets take a cue from their actions. They may not be ready to share such personal details, and they may not know how to handle it if you do as well. Rather than rushing a connection through opening up, take hints from your partner and feel out whether you think it's the time. If all signs point to no, hold off for a bit.
5. Don't Be Afraid To Say No
Completely a given, but still important to note. If your partner is trying to move ahead in the relationship with something you're not comfortable with, don't feel like you have to say yes just to please them. When things start off we sometimes feel weird showing who we are completely out of fear that we'll scare someone off. But if your partner is about to do something you're not OK with, have no reservations about turning them down.
6. Don't Neglect The Other Things You Love
In new relationships, it's important to retain some aspects of independence and the best way to do that is avoid neglecting all things you loved before you met that person. If you drop your best friends and your hobbies like a hot potato as soon as you meet bae, it's going to be hard to get them back if things don't pan out. And if you keep doing you just as things start, you'll create enough distance between the two of you that'll keep you from rushing things, and show your partner that you're not about the smothering life. When you have other things to keep your mind on, you'll worry about your relationship less, while no longer running the risk of becoming more invested than the situation warrants.
7. Feel Each Situation Out
I've been pretty much saying this all along, but it needed it's own spot on this list. At the end of the day, the best way to know whether you're on the same page with a new partner is to feel things out. If you think he/she is not vibing with certain things, don't try to force it. You both need to feel comfortable. And if you have good reason to believe that they're taking things a bit slower than you had wanted, remember that some people need time to move forward and it may be best to move at a slower pace. It's not always going to be about them taking the lead, but it's important to be on the same page at the beginning at the beginning or else risk throwing things off for the future.
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