It's so easy to get swept up in the rush of lovey-dovey feelings you get from dating someone new. But according to experts, it's pretty important to stay grounded during the first three months of dating. Because as amazing as those new love feels are, those first 90 days can determine whether or not your new relationship is the real thing or has an expiration date.
"The three month-mark in a relationship is usually when you either take the relationship to the next level and become more serious, or you decide that love isn't going to grow and you break ties," dating coach, Anna Morgenstern, tells Bustle.
Although every relationship differs, three months is considered to be the average length of the first stage of a relationship. According to psychotherapist and relationship coach, Toni Coleman, LCSW, you should be ideally making that transition from "casually dating" to "exclusive" around that time. But again, this varies depending on how much time you actually spend together and how much distance is between you two.
According to Coleman, many believe that "losing interest" is the reason behind why some couples can't seem to make it past three months. But that's not entirely the case. "It's not so much losing interest in one another as it is making a decision that this relationship is not one they want to invest more in and deepen," she says. "They simply don't feel that the friendship, connection, attraction and interest are strong enough."
So will your new relationship make it past those crucial first 90 days? According to experts, if your partner hasn't done these things in that timeframe, it may not.
1. Your Partner Can't Be Consistent With Their Communication
At the beginning of a relationship, texting, calling, and messaging typically happen very often. There's a lot of back and forth flirtation, and you pretty much expect it. But if your partner is no longer predictable or consistent with their communication, Emily Pfannenstiel, licensed professional counselor who specializes in therapy for women, tells Bustle, that's not a great sign.
"As your relationship progresses, your communication should be too," Pfannenstiel says. "They should be excited and wanting to talk to you! Playing coy is one thing, but if you feel like they go MIA on you every couple days, that's not good." According to her, it may take some time to get used to each other's communication styles. For instance, one partner might not like texting all day, while the other does. But in the early stages, it's especially important to check in and show some investment in the new relationship. If you're unsure of your partner's level of interest, Pfannenstiel suggests matching the level of communication they give you. If they're barely communicating, you may need to have a discussion about it.
2. Your Partner Isn't Their Genuine Self Around You
By the three-month mark, both you and your partner should feel totally comfortable being yourselves around each other. According to Samantha Daniels, dating expert and founder of Samantha’s Table Matchmaking, it's a time when you stop worrying about scaring your partner off with talks about the future or bringing up issues that need to be discussed.
"You should feel no boundaries when it comes to texting when you feel like it, introducing them to your family, and being mad if they hurt your feelings and saying so," she says. "The three month mark is when the dating games should be stopping and you can both be your genuine, honest, real true selves." For some people, it may take a little longer to open up and be truly comfortable. So you may have to be a little patient, depending on how your partner is. But it shouldn't take any longer than six months for them to be themselves around you.
3. They Don't Invite You To Hang Out With Their Friends
If your partner starts making more plans with friends and isn't making the effort to include you, Morgenstern says, that's an early sign your relationship may not last. When this happens, the tendency is to cling onto the relationship for fear of losing it. You may text them more or request to spend more time together. But as she says, "that is the absolutely worst thing to do."
Instead, let them be. Maybe they need space to figure out their feelings in order to move forward. "Plan a trip with friends for the weekend and have an amazing time reconnecting with your inner circle. Coming from a place of self love and inner confidence will save your relationship," Morgenstern says. "And if your partner does break it off, you'll be setting yourself up to walk away from the relationship as a whole person, not a broken shell of yourself."
4. Your Partner Doesn't Find Small Ways To Keep Moving The Relationship Forward
In order to create a well-balanced and healthy dynamic early on, you shouldn't be initiating everything as your relationship goes on. If your partner's interest in the relationship isn't strong enough to take it to the next level, they may take less of an initiative, be less affectionate, and show less physical closeness. In short, there's going to be distance and you're going to feel it.
"Couples should want to see each other, especially in the beginning," Daniels says. "So if you feel that your partner is straying away or they're coming up with invalid reasons to cancel plans, then this may be a sign they are losing interest." If this is an issue, you should discuss this with your partner. You can even offer up a plan where you come up with something to do one weekend, and they come up with something to do the next. But if nothing changes and you're still the only one moving the relationship forward, they may not be as invested as you are.
5. Your Partner Can't Be A Shoulder To Lean On
If your partner can't listen to you and be your shoulder to lean on in those first three months, Daniels says your relationship may not make it long-term. You shouldn't necessarily dump all your deepest and darkest fears on them right away. But if you're going through something at work or with your family, they should be there to talk and listen to you.
"This kind of thing is what takes your relationship to the next level," she says. "It establishes a level of trust and strength for both of you to feel comfort when seeking comfort." If your partner can't be that for you, that's not a great sign. The same goes for them choosing to lean on you during tough times. If you're not the first person they go to when they need to vent, or they need someone to lean on, they may not see the relationship as something really serious.
6. They Don't Make Solid Future Plans With You
A partner who sees a future with you will hint at it through the words they use. Even if they aren't thinking marriage at this point, they may talk about a future trip that they want to take with you or plans for your birthday in a few months. It's equally important to pay attention to the follow-through. It's one thing to say that you should go away together for the weekend, and it's another to actually book everything and hash out the logistics. If your relationship is one that is destined to get stronger, Coleman says you will make solid plans for the future together. For instance, you may not meet their family within those first three months, but you can make plans for it. But if your partner can't even commit to making dinner plans for next week, that's not the best sign.
7. They Don't Make Your Relationship A Priority
"There is much more that goes into maintaining a long term partnership; it's not just be all about lust and pheromones," Susan McCord, dating coach and talk show host, tells Bustle. "Relationships take work and need to be nurtured." As you go further along in your relationship, your partner should be putting a good amount of effort into the relationship. The "busy" excuse won't cut it. If someone wants to be with you, they'll make time. You will be a priority.
It's tough to realize that the person you're dating isn't putting in enough effort to be in a committed relationship with you. But as Coleman says, "You can't keep someone interested if they're not." Besides, why waste your time and effort trying to make a relationship happen if it's not meant to?
On the other hand, it's so easy to get hung up on timelines, especially when you first start dating. There's no shame in wanting commitment and exclusivity once you're realized your feelings. But just remember, every relationship is different. For some, life circumstances will only allow them to have two or three dates over the course of three months. For others, getting engaged after three months just feels right. If your relationship is making you feel anxious because you haven't done this, this, and that, by your third month together, don't panic just yet. If you and your partner can openly communicate about where things are at and where it's going, you're on the right track.
Anna Morgenstern, dating coach
Toni Coleman, LCSW, psychotherapist and relationship coach
Emily Pfannenstiel, licensed professional counselor
Samantha Daniels, dating expert, founder of Samantha’s Table Matchmaking
Susan McCord, dating coach for millennials
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