When you first start dating someone, you might find more than a few uncomfortable moments. But why are relationships so awkward in the beginning? Psychologically, what is going on there? Though it may seem as though everything should be super chill and fun and light-hearted and easygoing in the beginning — after all, you don’t have any shared baggage together yet, so why not just have a good time — unfortunately, the first few months of a relationship are often can be the most uncomfortable.
I spoke with 10 relationship experts to get a better grasp as to why this is so, and almost all of them agreed on one thing: Awkwardness crops up when you’re too busy trying to perform some more perfect version of yourself than reality, which never works, because you are you, and that real you is the best one there is in the world anyway.
As you get more able to just show up and be yourself, things start to feel more fluid and less uptight in a new relationship, which results in way more laid-back fun and way less awkward silences. In the meantime, there are lots of things you can do to alleviate the cringe-worthy moments. Here are 12 things to keep in mind as to why things can get so awkward in the first part of a partnership.
1. You're Learning The Lay Of The Land
“Typically, relationships are awkward in the beginning because you’re simply learning one another,” author and relationship expert Alexis Nicole White tells Bustle. “Although it’s often warm and fuzzy in the beginning, this is also the time when an individual must learn not only what to do but what not to do.” Though above all, you should just be yourself, and not try to mold your personality or what you do and refrain from doing as it relates to your new partner, it is true that relationships work best once you’ve learned all of the little things about someone.
In the beginning, you might be able to know what makes them tick, she says, but “sometimes, a couple never gets to disclose all of their pet peeves, and before you know it, you have set them off on the deep end.” If this happens, you may be dealing with someone who is carrying more baggage than you signed up for — be sure to discuss it right away.
2. You Haven’t Established Trust Yet
“Relationships are awkward in the beginning because trust has yet to be established,” Darren Pierre, educator, speaker and author of The Invitation to Love: Recognizing the Gift Despite Pain, Fear, and Resistance , tells Bustle. “When we trust another, we reduce fear, when we reduce fear, we alleviate the anxiety of being rejected.” In the meantime, you (and, likely, your partner) are wondering if you can really trust this new person.
“To help move the awkwardness, have the courage to be yourself, have the courage to be honest, and have the courage to trust your intuition about the person you are deciding to spend your time with,” Pierre says. Though you may be unsure about whether you can really trust them yet, if you give them the benefit of the doubt and go in with an open heart, you have a better chance at happiness.
3. You’re Trying Too Hard
“Relationships are so awkward in the beginning because both partners are putting forth so much energy trying to impress one another,” Tiya Cunningham-Sumter, certified life and love coach and author of A Conversation Piece , tells Bustle. “When two people first meet, they aren’t usually comfortable with being their total selves, so they put on facades and sometimes curb certain behaviors — and in some cases, suppress true feelings and opinions.”
But this can lead to serious awkwardness, as you and your partner feel tired and weird after too much pretending. “Trying to be your best self 24/7 can be draining, and it eventually affects the relationship,” she says. “When their true colors emerge, couples don’t actually know what to do with them.” Instead, eliminate the awkwardness by being real.
4. You’re Trying To Read Your Partner
“Relationships can be awkward in the beginning because both partners are still feeling things out and trying to read one another,” licensed marriage and family therapist and certified sex therapist Natalie Finegood Goldberg tells Bustle. “When we are trying to balance the task of reading our partner and being ourselves, our brain is multitasking.”
This kind of multitasking is confusing and difficult. “It's not combining two tasks we're familiar with, like eating and walking,” she says. “The task of reading a new partner is like walking on a new hiking path — a person will pay close attention to their steps, which makes it difficult to relax and be yourself in a way that isn't awkward.” Though you can’t wave a magic wand and make it stop, try to let go of all the obsessive thinking, attempting to read your partner like a book, and instead just show up.
5. You May Have Not Established Emotional Intimacy Yet
“Awkwardness in early dating comes from a number of things — the most common is getting sexually intimate before there is comparable emotional intimacy,” Dating coach and licensed marriage and family therapist Pella Weisman tells Bustle. Sure, everyone is different when it comes to sex, but have sex early on can leave them some people uncomfortable even if there is sexual chemistry. “This unevenness can leave you feeling awkward with your new lover when you're not in bed — and sometimes even when you are.” Since you don’t know this guy or gal that well, if you’re at a 10 in bed and a two everywhere else, just getting to know each other can be uncomfortable.
6. The Unknown Is Scary
“Relationships are awkward in the beginning for several reasons,” author, life strategist and speaker Carey Yazeed tells Bustle. “One reason is fear of the unknown — you know nothing about this person and are taking a chance, which can include getting hurt.” Since you’re not at ease with this person yet, you can’t feel comfy kicking back.
7. You’re Trying To Play It Cool
“Both parties want to please the other while not appearing overly eager,” online dating expert Anita Covic tells Bustle. You’re trying to play it cool, and so is your partner, which makes for some awkward moments.
“There is that care taken in what is said so that the ‘click’ happens,” Covic says. “The most important tip is to relax. Enjoy the conversation and have a good time.” And let go of negativity. “By thinking positively, there are ways to reduce the awkwardness,” she says.
8. You’re Worried
“Relationships tend to be awkward in the beginning because you are just getting to know the person,” Texas-based psychotherapist Richard E. Toney tells Bustle. “There is curiosity, anxiety, frustration, and worry regarding what the other person may think about you and your idiosyncrasies.” You might worry that if they really get to know you, they might not like you, for example.
“There is a sense of hesitation about how to be, what to wear, how to look, and what image should be portrayed,” he continues. And though positivity is the way to be, it can be exhausting. “You don’t want to look like a negative person in any way,” he says. “Therefore, the awkwardness comes from the desire to be accepted by a person of interest.” It can be awkward — and tiring.
9. Your Brain Is In Overdrive
“Relationships are awkward in the beginning because your brain is on high alert,” Dawn Maslar, a.k.a. “the Love Biologist,” tells Bustle. “Its job is to determine if this is someone you want to risk falling in love with,” she adds. In the start of a relationship, your brain has to do a lot of work to determine what you really think about this new person. “Once you fall in love, parts of your brain deactivate and the awkwardness goes away, but in the beginning it can feel downright painful.” Try to ease some of that pain by actively encouraging your brain to take a break — meditation and yoga do wonders.
10. Your Insecurities Crop Up
“Relationships can be awkward in the beginning because, often, meeting someone new can trigger our insecurities and take us out of being present,” spiritual empath Tracee Dunblazier tells Bustle. Though “the ultimate goal” in a new relationship may be “genuinely getting to know someone new,” insecurities can make us forget that, and instead focus on looking cool or wondering if our hair looks weird. Instead, tell yourself you’re cool enough and your hair looks awesome — and get out there and enjoy yourself.
11. It Doesn't Feel Official Yet
“It can also be awkward when you haven't established yet if you're together, and one or both of you is deciding whether to become 'official,’ or it's just too early to make that call,” Weisman tells Bustle. But just because you put a label on it, don’t expect things to ease up just yet. “Once you establish that you're together, things can still feel awkward,” she says. “Comfort and ease come from accumulated shared experiences; there's no way to get around this, [even] by deep, revealing conversations.” In other words, long talks won’t cut it. “You have to spend lots of time with someone before the comfort level goes up.”
12. You Have Unrealistic Expectations
“Another reason that relationships are awkward in the beginning is because of the unrealistic expectations that we create in our heads and then try to live up to,” Yazeed tells Bustle. “We work hard at portraying an image that we are ‘Mr. or Mrs. Right’ for this person, yet we don't have a clue.” Once again, for the cheap seats: Don’t do that. Just be you.
Images: Fotolia; Giphy (10)