Beginning a relationship can feel a lot like entering uncharted waters (no matter how many times you've done it). There's no map. Every girl you date has unique personality traits, needs and desires, so you can't necessarily approach each relationship the same cookie-cutter way.
Perhaps you're ready to take things to the next level with someone you've been dating. Or maybe you want to be with a friend you've developed feelings for over time. Regardless of how you've arrived at this crossroads, five practical tips can help you get off to a good start and navigate your path as a couple. These tips aren't tricks, rules or games. Leave that to dating -- you know, that casual, noncommitted time spent together doing things like going to movies or out to dinner. The approaches we'll discuss here are fitting if you want to set yourself up for something much more: a relationship that's about an emotional, committed connection.
First things first. Identify what you want out of a relationship. Think big picture here. Maybe you want to see multiple girls at one time to play the dating circuit. Or maybe you want to fall in love and be in a monogamous relationship. Whether casual or committed, relationships are much easier (and more fun) if you know what you want out of the experience before you start one.
Our brains are wired to experience lust, romantic love and attachment (a sense of calm and security for a long-term partner), according to Dr. Helen Fisher, an anthropologist and expert on romantic love. She says it's possible to experience these three distinct types of love simultaneously -- even for three people at the same time. Which ones are most important to you? If you're after all three in one person, great! Just get clear on what you desire so you can manifest it.
Actualize your ideal relationship by listing qualities you’re looking for in a partner. Religious values, intelligence, hair color: Whatever you care about, put it on your wish list. Next, whittle it down to qualities you can’t live without. You might have a list of 30 preferences, but only seven non-negotiables. Consider only dating people who make your short list. Why? It’s simple: You’re more likely to find the relationship you want.
When you find your non-negotiables in one person, you've got something special! That kind of connection doesn't happen every day, so protect and cherish what you have.
Share your intentions with the girl you're dating. Do it relatively early on, not six months into seeing her. This means explaining your expectations and hopes not only for your own future, but for your future together. Do you hope the relationship grows into something long-term, or do you plan to split up when you move across the country for school soon?
Talk instead of making assumptions. Different activities and gestures mean different things to different people. Meeting each other's parents or getting physically intimate automatically equates to a monogamous relationship to some people, but it might mean casual dating to others. Remember, sharing intentions doesn't mean you have to know specifics like whether this girl is right for you now or is the one you want to marry down the road. It's about disclosing the direction you're going, not necessarily the destination. Where are you headed? Answering this question helps avoid miscommunications, hurt feelings, lost time and bruised egos.
You should be able to be yourself around your special lady friend. What are you normally like when it comes to things like hobbies, humor, spirituality or goals? Do you change when you're around her? Hopefully, not much. Sure, sometimes change can be a good thing if she helps you evolve and mature. But in general, if you behave in ways that are inconsistent with who you really are to satisfy, impress or appease her, you might be dating the wrong person.
Real affection is when someone is into you for you. It comes from a place of acceptance, not a place of deception where a woman has been duped by an act you've put on.
Gravitate toward girls who celebrate and encourage the authentic you, not the ones who press you to change for them rather than for yourself.
People mostly feel (and give) affection in one of five main ways, according to Dr. Gary Chapman, author of best-selling book "The Five Love Languages." Chapman defines the five love languages as physical touch, words of affirmation, acts of service, quality time and gifts. He advocates communicating your feelings for your partner using the language she most identifies with. You can tell her "I love you," "You're so beautiful" or other words of affirmation 100 times a day, but if her language is physical touch, she's not going to feel the magnitude of what you're trying to communicate. A hug and kiss when she walks in the door or a foot rub while watching a movie probably will go further in making her feel cherished and close to you. (And don't forget to let her know your own love language.)
A big part of a successful relationship is to show your girl you get her. For example, don't keep giving her roses if she's made numerous comments that wildflowers are her favorite. If spending quality time together is big for her, say yes to her invitations to go on walks, watch the sunset or turn off the TV at dinner and talk instead. If you don't, no matter what you do, she probably won't feel very loved or understood.
If you want to date one or more people at a time just to have fun, carefree experiences, knock yourself out. Spend whatever you've budgeted for the ladies. Have a great time!
But if you're looking for an intimate relationship and perhaps something more long-term, let's assume you want to be with a woman who's with you for you -- not your money (or lack thereof). It's fairly easy to have a good time with almost anyone when you're doing fun things like dining at nice restaurants, attending swanky events or living the high life. Right?
So, find out if you two have a close bond by doing free or cheap things together. If you're able to feel closeness and have a blast without spending a dime, what's holding you two together probably has more to do with your dynamic than you simply being a vehicle to fun times.
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- Chapman, Gary. "The Five Love Languages." Moody Publishers. 2008.
- "Helen Fisher Studies the Brain in Love." TED Live. July 2008. (Feb. 21, 2011).http://www.ted.com/talks/helen_fisher_studies_the_brain_in_love.html
- "Helen Fisher Tells Us Why We Love and Cheat." TED Live. Sept. 2006. (Feb. 21, 2011).http://www.ted.com/talks/helen_fisher_tells_us_why_we_love_cheat.html