If you're like most people, you probably try to avoid awkward moments at all costs, but particularly so when it comes to your personal life. You probably don't want your partner to witness you having an awkward moment. And yet, that's exactly what you should do — especially if you're thinking about getting married.
Awkward moments will crop up on their own, as you go through the early days of dating, as you possibly move in together, and as you think about getting married. And your knee-jerk reaction might be to smooth them over as quickly as possible, or try to downplay them. But it may be a good idea to embrace these awkward moments, and see what they can teach you about your relationship.
"Awkward moments are a part of life and important for two people to experience to grow as a couple," Jonathan Bennett, relationship and dating expert at Double Trust Dating, tells Bustle. "Many people hold a ridiculously ideal view of marriage and relationships. Then, when the imperfect reality sets in, they can’t handle it. The best thing you can do is to accept your partner’s imperfections and learn to embrace the occasional awkwardness."
Here are a few things you and your partner might want to experience before getting married, according to experts. These awkward situations offer the perfect moments to bond, learn more about each other, and feel more comfortable — which will only make you that much comfier if you decide to stay together long-term.
Witnessing Each Other's Bathroom Habits
While it's OK to retain a certain level of privacy — now, and even after you get married — it never hurts to be real with each other, and let your guard down a little. And one way to do that may include witnessing each other's bathroom habits, Bennett says, and seeing if you're compatible in that way.
There's also something about seeing your partner's face covered in toothpaste, and chatting with them whilst they pee, that can be quite bonding if it's something you guys are cool with.
Being Sick Together
While your knee-jerk reaction might be to hide from their germs, nothing says "marriage material" quite like partners who help each other through their sickliest moments.
"When you’re both sick, it can be a very gross experience," Bennett says. "But, if you can love each other in the midst of a terrible cold or flu, then you can love each other through anything!"
Plus, this will gear you up to navigate more intense things should they arise in the future, such as surgeries, pregnancies, and so on. Knowing that you've got each other's backs through it all can be an immense comfort, and make you better partners.
Being Honest During Disagreements
When you're newly in love with someone, you might not want to have an argument, or be honest about your opinion. And yet it's so important that you both get used to speaking your minds, and saying what you feel — even if it leads to a disagreement.
As Dr. Tessina says, "You have to learn to disagree and work things out if you’re going to have a real relationship." And the sooner you can do that, the better. Relationships are always easiest in the very beginning, before "real life" sets in and makes things tricky. If you learn how to work together through differences now, you'll be able to sail through larger problems down the road.
Sitting Through Awkward Silences
If you can sit in a room together, and just enjoy each other's company without any conversation or loud distractions, then you might be reaching a marriage-level of comfort. And that's a beautiful thing.
"Most new couples talk non-stop, learning about each other, sharing life experiences and talking about their likes and dislikes, but once the initial flurry of conversation is done, there is often awkward silence," Dr. Tessina says. "However, these silences can be viewed as a growth stage in the relationship. If you relax, and let the silence be there for a while, a deeper level of conversation may open up. In order to succeed, couples need to learn how to be silent together, how to talk about awkward topics, and how to keep the conversation going. This is just another learning process."
Attending Awkward Family Events
Meeting the family for the first time can be awkward, and yet it's something you'll likely have to do at some point — especially before getting married. Same goes for navigating holiday events, where you might encounter a weird family member or two.
Whether it goes well or not, experiencing these moments together can teach you a lot. "If you are able to deal with things and let them roll, this will help your relationship with your partner," Davida Rappaport, a psychic and spiritual counselor, tells Bustle. "Learning to let things go is so important ... If you work together as a team, you can handle any difficult relations."
If you can bond with each other's families, great. If not, knowing that now will help you figure out how to move forward, and whether or not you'll involve them much in your lives after getting married.
Talking About Boundaries
Even though it can be an awkward conversation, it's important to establish healthy boundaries with each other ASAP. "It can be very awkward for a couple when they start sharing space, especially when they discover they need boundaries in order to feel comfortable with their partners under certain situations," Rappaport says. "They may need privacy and sacred space from time to time ... Over time, they may relax some boundaries, but not necessarily all of them. The longer [you] are together, the easier it will be to respect and understand [your] partner’s need for privacy, etc. — and [your] own."
Going On Vacation
Going on vacation together — and navigating airports, getting lost, and witnessing each other when you're hungry and tired — will teach you a lot about how you operate as a couple.
"Taking vacations together can be difficult," Rappaport says, so if it can happen before you get married, all the better. It provides a great opportunity to chat about communication styles, and to learn how to agree to disagree.
Meeting The Friends
While you don't have to share the same friend group in order to have a successful long-term relationship, it's always a good idea to meet the folks who are important to your partner, and vice versa.
"This can sometimes be a nice experience, but it can be also very awkward," Joshua Klapow, PhD, clinical psychologist and host of The Kurre and Klapow Show, tells Bustle. "Spend some time with your partner's friends only. Maybe their childhood friends, or their work friends, any group where you have no real connection. You will learn a great deal in this situation."
And that's what these "awkward" moments are really all about. You may want to avoid them, but leaning into them can prove to be quite eye-opening. Uncomfortable experiences can bring you closer together, teach you more about each other, and help you form a healthier and more intimate relationship.