Once you get into a relationship, it can feel like times moves at warp speed. One moment you're just dating, and the next you've been together for years. Because things can happen so quickly, it's important to really know yourself before starting a relationship, lest you get swept up in the whirlwind of it all and lose track of yourself and your goals.
But it's also important to enter a partnership as a whole, well-rounded person — as someone who can contribute to the health of the relationship — because life's now about the two of you. You'll want to know how you best communicate, what your weaknesses might be, how you plan to handle finances, how you'll compromise — the list goes on and on.
"When you know these things about yourself prior to getting in a relationship, they will help you have a healthier relationship and help you communicate with your partner before problems arise," relationship expert Dr. Venessa Marie Perry tells Bustle. Knowing yourself will also keep you on track to getting exactly what you want and need from your partner, while also saving you from getting stuck in something toxic. Below, a few important things you should know and think about before starting a new relationship.
1. What You're Looking For In A Relationship
Nail down a list of traits that describe your ideal partnership — before you set out into the dating world. "The start of a new relationship is an exciting period, and it’s easy to get caught up in the moment and forget about your goals for yourself and your relationship," says mental health counselor Alice Roberts, CSW, of Wasatch Family Therapy. "Having clear goals can help keep you focused on finding a partner who can truly share in them with you."
2. Whatever Your Deal Breakers Might Be
In the same vein, you'll want to clearly lay out any and all deal breakers. Can you date a smoker? Do you not want kids? How do you feel about cheating? "If you don't know and voice your deal breakers, you may end up compromising what it is you really want and need," certified relationship coach Susan Golicic, PhD tells Bustle.
3. Which Type Of "Attachment Style" You Have
Roberts tells me there are several different types of attachment styles, such as "avoidant," where you keep your SO at arm's length, and "anxious," which may cause you to need constant reassurance from your partner. And it's a good idea to know what yours might be, before partnering up. "Looking at past relationships to assess your attachment weak spots can help you do the work now to prepare for a secure attachment in your future relationship."
4. If You're Even Ready For A Relationship
When coming out of a long or emotional relationship, it's totally OK to give yourself time before starting a new one. "Take time to heal and evaluate why your previous relationship failed," says certified coach Anza Goodbar. "Plan for self-reflection time to evaluate your part in the ending of the previous relationship and what behaviors contributed to fights or frustrations that caused you to dissolve the relationship." That way, you can avoid them going forward.
5. Your Level Of Self Worth
It's a good idea to build up your sense of self worth — or self-esteem, self-confidence... whatever you want to call it — before starting a relationship. As Goodbar says, "It is impossible to be in a healthy relationship if you don’t value yourself. Take an inventory of the qualities you bring to the relationship and be confident in your ability to contribute to the growth and maturity of a blooming romance."
6. Whatever Your Weaknesses Might Be
At the same time, it's smart to be aware of your weaknesses, as well as any related shortcomings you might bring to the relationship. "Be willing to self-evaluate your areas of weakness and put a plan together to become more well-rounded," Goodbar says. "For instance, if you’re not great at conflict, plan to become better at dealing with disagreements in a manner that feels safe, but keeps you out of victim mode." This knowledge will give your relationship a chance at being healthier.
7. Whether You're An Introvert Or An Extrovert
It's possible to make a relationship work with any combo of introverted or extroverted tendencies. But you should still ask yourself which category you fall into. "Introverts process internally, and they need time to themselves throughout the day. Social settings tend to drain their energy. Extroverts process externally, often talking out what they think about," says life coach Dr. Ty Belknap. This info will help you navigate whatever social situations you find yourselves in, while keeping both you and your SO happy.
8. How You Plan On Spending Money
Since financial issues really can make or break a relationship, the more you know about what you'll bring to the table, the better. "If the relationship were to become serious, having a strong understanding of how you feel towards money can help someone better combine finances when they get to that stage of the relationship," says certified financial planner Lucas Casarez, in an email to Bustle.
9. What You Do And Don't Like In Bed
Your sex life can certainly be an ongoing learning process. And yet, you definitely want to be able to ask for what you want in bed. "Our sexual satisfaction isn't someone else's responsibility — we need to help our partner learn how to please us and that means knowing how and where we like to be touched and what sexual activities are more (or less) likely to bring us to orgasm," sex researcher and relationship therapist Sarah Hunter Murray, PhD, tells Bustle. "Related, but different, know your sexual boundaries — the sexual activities you don't feel comfortable doing and why." This will be good news for you, and your SO.
10. If And When You'll Be Able to Compromise
Go into a relationship knowing your deal breakers, as well as your boundaries. But remember — your partner is going to be doing the same thing. So, while you shouldn't ever budge on things that are important to you, it may be necessary to compromise occasionally. "Are you willing to compromise? Can you come to some sort of agreement or understanding? If you cannot give in or compromise from time to time, you may not be ready for a commitment," says psychic and spiritual counselor Davida Rappaport.
11. How You'd Like Your Career To Pan Out
As Rappaport tells me, it's a good idea to go into a relationship knowing how you'd like your long-term career goals to pan out. Of course, a relationship and a career can go hand-in-hand, and it is possible to figure these things out whilst dating. That said, the more you can plan your career beforehand, the less likely you'll be to get sidetracked as the years go by.
12. How To Listen To Your Intuition
The ability to listen to your gut is huge when out in the dating world, as well as once you're in a relationship. "Building a solid connection and learning how to trust your inner wisdom can be a life-saver," spiritual life coach Angela Lenhardt tells Bustle. "Your intuition may guide you to open doors, as it may also ask you to close doors. The beginning stages of a new relationship are always fresh and exciting, and learning how your intuition is specifically getting your attention may save you a lot of time, money, and heartache in the long run if the relationship is or isn't meant to be."
13. What Your Core Values Are
When it comes to cultivating a relationship, which core values are most important to you? "Knowing your core values and 'living' them are essential for your happiness and well-being," Lenhardt says. You can't expect your partner to be perfect (and vice versa) but you can stick by the things you truly find important in another person.
So go ahead and do some self reflection, and truly get to know yourself before getting into a relationship. What are your goals? Your deal breakers? Your core values? If you know these things, I promise it'll make for a healthier situation for you, and your SO.
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