From dating to a relationship: how do you make the next move?
The process of building a committed relationship from the loose pieces of a casual dating routine can be incredibly daunting. This step requires immense vulnerability in at least one of the partners as the first to express their feelings and hopes for the future. Their vulnerability can be fed by insecurities about their partner having mismatched feelings, and/or their partner rejecting them.
On a deeper level, a new relationship requires both parties adapt to changes imposed by the commitment. But this important aspect easily takes the backseat to the beautiful, sparkly haze of new love-interest bliss, which makes it easy to be lazy about understanding how to appropriately make the next move.
There is so much value in understanding yourself deeply before attempting to understand someone else. An important step to take before starting any relationship is to look inwardly, and determine whether you are ready for a relationship. This includes checking-in on your own happiness as a single person: if you don’t enjoy your own company, it is likely your potential partner will eventually find it difficult too. This step also serves as a protection measure for potential failure: the more secure you are with yourself, the harder you are to break, and the easier it will be for you to brush yourself off and continue dating. It’s also important to be sure you are taking care of yourself and that you have your life together in as many ways as possible before you commit to playing a major role in another person’s life. It is much harder to make major personal life advancements when you are beginning a relationship because most time and effort usually feels better spent on the new partner. Being an interesting person with hobbies, interests and values that add to another person’s life is crucial in attracting and maintaining a relationship. Regardless of whether these interests are entirely sympatico with your partner’s, having hobbies you can call your own and can introduce to your partner will help keep the relationship alive and healthy. Introspectively decide what it is you want from a relationship in general, and specifically from the potential relationship at hand. This will help you lay-out the expectations you have of yourself and of your partner from the beginning, which will allow you to gauge how well the relationship may work.
Think about how well you are understanding your partner in your current dating experience. Seriously think about how this person would fit into the direction you would like your life to go. Make sure they are a person you have been–and will be–able to trust. Really meditate on how you would like your relationship to grow and what would be necessary in a partner and in yourself to foster that growth. Make sure the relationship feels natural, and you feel comfortable in knowing that you have some deeper understanding of that person, and them of you. Obvious red flags in their behavior are the only signs you’ll likely be able to detect prior to beginning a relationship. So aside from these, pay attention to what they have told you directly and how you feel when determining whether to suggest beginning a relationship. There is no way to know every intimate detail about your partner before experiencing commitment with them; so regardless, it’s going to be a learning curve, and you can’t expect to understand every single move they make and vice versa.
Making the move
Once you’ve done some self-discovery and determined this partner is the perfect fit for your life, channel that confidence and recognize that taking this step won’t kill you.
Don’t overthink it
One of the worst things you can do to yourself in this situation is overthink the whole thing before it has even begun. It not only places unnecessary stress on you, but can also make you appear insecure about the proposed relationship, which can then negatively feed back to your potential partner. It is not productive to get your hopes too high–although this is almost impossible to suppress as your worried mind tries to soothe you with pretty pictures of you “future” together. But you also need to retain some of this hopeful confidence and avoid reading too far into your partner’s actions, subsequently writing your own story about their feelings. This is not to say that you shouldn’t be paying attention to how they’re reacting to you, but often their intentions are obvious. If you’re hearing from them sparsely and/or late at night, you haven’t met their friends, and your relationship is mostly physical, it’s likely this person is not taking your relationship seriously and they are not ready for a commitment with you. If the person has blatantly told you they like you, they are constantly trying to see you, and you genuinely have a lot of fun together, a relationship is probably the next logical step.
If they’re not giving off blatant signs–and let’s be honest, most relationships are not so cut-and-dry– then communication is of the utmost importance. An individual can be showing all clearly positive signs, but have their own inner struggles or just a different idea of what they want in a relationship. So, it’s important to open lines of communication about this. This is also a time-sensitive issue: you don’t want to rush things and end up pushing your partner away, but you also don’t want to wait too long and confuse them or cause them to lose interest. But again, don’t over think this. Tell them you would like to be in an exclusive relationship if it feels natural. If it doesn’t, communicate with them and find out why. It’s not worth playing games or being ambiguous: most of the time, the other person will feel relieved because they’ve waiting to communicate about it as well. And either way, whether they take the bait or not, at least everything is out in the open and you aren’t continuing to waste your time if your intentions are mismatched. Beginnings of relationships are not always neat and tidy. You or your partner may be nervous about the idea and need to ease into the situation. It is essential to keep patience with one another and to work equally hard to make the relationship succeed.
So now what?
Once you’ve both committed to a relationship, the real work starts. Just because there is now a label on your feelings and you’ve had some good communication about it, does not mean you get to lay down on the job. It’s time to put it all into action, and to keep that overthinking mind on lock and key.
Keep your distance
It is so easy to fall into a routine of seeing each other every day and doing almost everything together. And this is not necessarily a bad thing– it’s great to have a lot of bonding time in the beginning of a relationship. However, just as it was before you started dating, both partners should have their own lives that continue to grow in order for your relationship to continue growing. It is unhealthy to be solely dependent on each other for fun or entertainment because this puts too much pressure on the relationship. Be sensitive with this topic: encourage each other to pursue interests on their own in a positive way, and communicate about it clearly to avoid any confusion or heart ache if one partner is having a more difficult time branching off.
Take it easy
While it is important to maintain standards you’ve set for your relationship, take things slow. Don’t expect them to come meet your entire family just a couple weeks into the relationship; and it’s also probably asking too much to demand they spend Christmas with your family instead of theirs in the early stages of a relationship. Although you may look forward to these steps you will eventually make within your relationship, it’s important not to rush them and create pressure around them.
It’s not easy being green
Unless they have already given you a reason to not trust them, there is no room for jealousy in a new relationship. Beginning this way is a nasty downward spiral of never ending hurt feelings and misreading situations.
Put out fires early
When complications arise–which is perfectly normal when still getting to know someone—use elevated communication that is kind, well thought out, and clear. Responding to an upsetting text message with a simple “k”, or passive aggressively apologizing with a “sry” should not be in your repertoire of argumentative language. And really, communicating in person rather than text is much better for avoiding miscommunication due to misreading expression or inflection. Learning to positively communicate frustrations early is excellent for further relationship development and can help you practice handling more serious obstacles you will no doubt face in the future.