Naturally everyone makes mistakes in a relationship from time to time. One thing that I've recently realized is especially scary? Screwing up when you're just starting to date someone new. Brand-spanking-new relationships are equal parts fun and terrifying: you're super excited to get to know someone and see where things go, but you're also low-key terrified that something will get effed up along the way. So what's different about making a mistake only weeks into a blossoming relationship?
"The biggest difference between making an early mistake in a relationship as opposed to one later is that in a healthy long-term relationship, trust has been established," Dr. Jason Whiting, author of Love Me True: Overcoming the Surprising Ways we Deceive in Relationships, tells Bustle. "Long-term partners know that the other has their back and they aren't going to abandon or deliberately hurt them. So a mistake there is more easily fixed, and the conversations are usually easier to have."
Simply put, it sucks to make a mistake early on because your new-ish beau doesn't yet know you well enough to judge whether something you do is a one-off lapse in judgment, or a revealing glimpse of your true behavior. While some people might be more forgiving early on in a relationship, there's also the reality that when you've only invested a short amount of time, some people might find it easier to cut-and-run instead of working things out.
"Usually early mistakes are misunderstandings because the couple is still getting to know each other," Whiting says. "They don't have the long-term knowledge of each other's humor, background, or communication style, so they are more likely to jump to conclusions." But there's a big difference between minor mistakes or miscommunications and more serious red flags to watch out for in a new relationship. Controlling or manipulative behavior, extreme jealousy, or always needing the last word during an argument can be indicators that your partner is toxic.
Here are seven common early relationship mistakes you might encounter — luckily, communication and honesty can usually help patch things so your relationship doesn't end prematurely.
Mistake 1: Coming On Too Strong
"[Being too available] can backfire in so many ways," Anita Chlipala, relationship expert and author of First Comes Us: The Busy Couples' Guide to Lasting Love, tells Bustle. "Your date might wonder if you really like them, or if you’re just anxious for a relationship. There’s some truth to we want what we can’t have. When a reward is out of our reach, we try harder to get it. Being too available or coming on too strong can be a turn off and can make someone quickly lose interest."
The Fix: Don't be afraid to initiate conversation and date-planning, but remember that healthy relationships involve some degree of independence. The best way to make sure you're both on the same page? Use your words, and have a convo about how often you both want to see each other. Whether that's once a week or every other day, the only thing that matters is that you're both clear about your expectations — that way, no one is overwhelmed or disappointed.
Mistake 2: Being Dismissive
As Lorde once beautifully crooned, "It's a new art form showing people how little we care." Those lyrics are probably all too real for anyone who's taken a dip in the murky waters of online dating. Although there's a balance between being too available early on in a relationship, as mentioned above, it's also important to not be too quick to cut someone off.
"I commonly see people who expect to 'just know' right away whether there’s a connection with someone," Chlipala says. "This isn’t always the case. You need to invest time in dates, sometimes for weeks, to see if you can make a relationship work. Don’t dismiss someone because you don’t feel it right away."
The Fix: Don't ignore your deal-breakers, but be open-minded and realize that connections aren't always an instant spark like TV and movies might have us believe. A 'mediocre' first date might actually lead to an amazing second date, so if you're on the fence, just give it a shot.
Mistake 3: Oversharing
I'm definitely a repeat offender when it comes to oversharing. It's important to be open and honest in a new relationship, but that doesn't mean you need to lay your deepest darkest secrets onto your new partner from date one. "When you first meet someone, the information you begin to acquire is over-emphasized," Chlipala says. "You don’t have much to go on in the beginning, so the actions your date takes or the details they give you take on more significance. In a long-term relationship, you’ve spent more time with someone and you have a bigger context into which to put their behaviors and quirks."
The Fix: When you're seeing someone new, allow yourself to be vulnerable if the mood is right, but don't force deeper, more revealing conversations to happen prematurely. If you do let something slip that you realize (too late) might be a little intense, all you have to do is own up and admit that you're feeling insecure about how much you shared. Your partner's reaction will tell you a lot about how understanding (or not) they are.
Mistake 4: Being Defensive
When you're just opening up to someone new, you might be quick to jump to your own defense if your partner challenges something you do or say. But being defensive isn't productive: it's important that you're both open to the other's perspective, and can talk about it calmly. "It’s better to own up to your actions without having to defend them," Chlipala says. "If a person doesn’t respect you (or is a hypocrite), you’re better off without them."
The Fix: Learn to communicate without getting defensive. Especially in a new relationship, it's important to build a foundation of mutual respect, so even if there's a disagreement, no one feels attacked or judged by their partner.
Mistake 5: Posting Excessively On Social Media
I totally get the temptation to show off a new partner to the world. In addition to being generally wonderful, the guy I'm seeing has such a chiseled jaw that all I want to do is snap a selfie together and make my Snapchat friends green with envy. But social media's role in relationships is tricky territory, and it can be especially dicey in new relationships.
"This is way too soon and puts unnecessary pressure on the relationship," Chlipala says. "Hold off on the pics and check-ins until you’re exclusive. Or even if you are exclusive, frequently posting, tagging [them] every time you’re out, etc. can also put pressure on a new relationship."
The Fix: Unless you're both self-proclaimed social media fanatics (in which case post to your heart's content), it's best to wait until you're both comfortably settled in a relationship before taking to the web. "Cool it until you’ve spent a few months together — you want to allow some time for infatuation to fade," Chlipala says.
Mistake 6: Doing Too Much, Too Soon
It's understandable to have the urge to go out of your way to treat a new partner well, because you want to show them you care. But if you're bending over backwards for a new beau, it can give the impression that you're a pushover who's content to put in tons of effort and receive little in return.
"[Early on] you teach someone not only how to treat you, but you also establish roles in the relationship," Chlipala says. Something as simple as taking equal responsibility for cooking dinner and cleaning up after can create the healthy expectation that you and your partner are equals.
The Fix: Don't be afraid to accept help and support from your partner in the early stages. "It’s important to let your partner help out, step up, etc.," Chlipala says. "Even starting small such as when your date or new partner is coming over for dinner and asks if you need anything, say yes, even if you really don’t. You can create the habit of having your partner step up, even if it’s in small ways."
Mistake 7: Showing Insecurity
One thing that can run rampant in new relationships? Insecurity. There's a lot of gray area when you first start seeing someone, before you define the relationship, and naturally that might result in some doubt or insecurity on either end. You shouldn't feel ashamed to talk about any doubts or legitimate concerns you might have, but it's not fair to project your insecurities and lash out at a new partner when they've done nothing to deserve it.
The Fix: Check in with yourself and try to get to the root of the insecurity you feel. Have you been cheated on? Has your partner previously been proven untrustworthy? Don't let jealousy or insecurity control how you treat your partner, but instead address what's causing it — whether that's something internal or something your partner can work with you on.
"It is actually good to experience some mistakes in an early relationship because they provide some realistic tests for the couple," Whiting says. "Do they communicate well and work it out, or does one or both become petty and accusing? Is there an apology? These are key indicators for a healthy relationship, and since all relationships will hit bumps... it is good to see if the relationship is healthy and flexible."
So if you just started seeing someone and the two of you hit a minor roadblock or two, remember that successfully working through mistakes together is a crucial skill that healthy couples must all eventually learn. If you screw up, look at it as a chance to grow together as a new couple, instead of giving up and throwing away a good thing.