Starting a Relationship 101
There are typically many questions running through our minds when starting a relationship. Does she really like me? Could things get serious? Is he the right choice? Where is this going? In this transitional period, we spend about as much time analyzing the relationship as we do participating in it.
With everything from our casual text messages to our deepest confessions of love up to scrutiny, it’s easy to get sidetracked from the simple truth of how we feel and what we want. It’s tempting to say, “just listen to your heart,” but when it comes to starting a relationship, your mind plays an important role. Starting a relationship can be a joyful, stress-free experience when we learn to tune in to what’s important and to tune out the second-guessing, insecure and critical thoughts that lead us astray. With that in mind, here are some tips on how to mindfully fall in love.
Don’t be afraid to be vulnerable
When starting a relationship, it’s easy to put up our guard in hopes we won’t get hurt. It can be scary at first to think of opening up to someone or letting someone really get to know us on a more intimate level. Fears will naturally arise, as will the pain of past hurts. We may experience these emotions in the form of anxiety or an instinct to hit the brakes. We may even resort to old defenses that lead us to pull away from someone before they can get too close to us. The best thing we can do is be aware of these reactions. Notice when they arise, but stand firm in our determination to stay open and be vulnerable to what may happen next.
Avoid Game Playing
It’s way too easy to engage in common socially accepted forms of game-playing that have invaded the world of dating. These games tend to have rules like, “Don’t answer his text. Don’t let him think you’re desperate” or “Don’t call her for at least three days. Make her think there are other people interested in you.” Unfortunately, these games often lead to confusion, miscommunications and heightened insecurities. They cause us to deviate from the direct and honest communication that starting a relationship should involve. It’s best to spend more time thinking about how to honestly express who we are and how we feel rather than worrying about how we appear. Remember, people who are calm, honest and straight-forward tend to come off as just that.
Don’t Listen to Your Inner Critic
It’s common when starting a relationship to hear all kinds of critical inner voices. The critical inner voice represents a self-destructive thought process that fuels our insecurities and hurts our self-esteem. We tend to listen to this “voice” a lot when we start dating someone. We may have thoughts toward ourselves like, “I can’t believe you just said that. You sound like an idiot!” or “She doesn’t even like you. You’re wasting your time.” These thoughts cause us to question ourselves and the people we’re attracted to.
If a person is showing interest in us, we may think to ourselves, “He is really acting into you. What’s wrong with him? Is he desperate or something?” By undermining us and those with the potential to get close to us, our critical inner voice tries to ensure that we remain alone and unhappy. By standing up to this critic, giving ourselves and our partner a chance, we’re able to explore how we really feel and what makes us happy.
Think About What You’re Really Attracted To
One tricky aspect of starting a relationship is the fact that we aren’t always attracted to people for the right reasons. When we get involved with someone, there are certain questions we should ask ourselves that can help us to not repeat destructive patterns from our past. First, we can ask, “Does this person remind me of someone from my past? Could his or her personality fit patterns or dynamics that played out in my childhood or in a previous relationship?”
These answers may be hard to uncover when we’re first dating someone, but the reality is, we tend to pick people who fit comfortably with our previous experiences. These patterns can be destructive or hurtful to us, but because they’re familiar, we unconsciously recreate them with the people we date. If we felt rejected as a child, we may choose someone who is allusive or inconsiderate in the present. If we were dominated as a child, we may choose someone who is possessive and controlling.
It’s very helpful to get to know our relationship patterns and to try to break from destructive cycles we tend to repeat. By better understanding our past, we can better understand our motivations and attractions in the present. We can start to see the less favorable qualities we are drawn to in a partner and consciously choose people with healthier patterns of behavior. The change may challenge us, but ultimately, it will lead us to far more fulfilling, successful relationships.
Ask if He or She Has the Qualities of an Ideal Partner
As we start to think about what qualities not to look for, we should also think about what qualities to look for in a partner. An ideal partner is emotionally mature, honest, communicative, open to feed back, interested in our thoughts and feelings, independent, respectful, equal, compassionate, physically affectionate and has a sense of humor. This may sound like a long list, but these are basic qualities we can look for that, in the long run, matter more than anything else. Being able to trust our partner is key to maintaining lasting love in the relationship. When we are first starting a relationship, we can build that relationship on openness, respect and honesty. In doing so, we increase not only the longevity of the relationship but the quality of the time we spend together.
Comment: I chose this article, because it sheds a lot of light on insecurity in starting a relationship. Often times we have this inner head and voice creating a negative self picture. The article says its important to recognize the times when we are being aggressive with ourselves and to shed that guilt. Not only would this be an important addition to any Sex Ed program to better support relationships, but also as a foundation to help students avoid self deprecation in their other pursuits.