Relationships that move along at a steady pace often outlast a whirlwind romance with drastic ups and downs. Emotional upheavals can cause you to take more chances than you should, to allow unhealthy behavior that is not in your best interest, and can cause you to call a halt to a promising relationship before it really ever gets started.
If you want to be more certain about where you stand before you commit your precious time and deal with the effects on your emotional health, these are some steps you can take by yourself and as a couple.
Steps to Take by Yourself
1. Take responsibility for your own happiness. It’s easier to show restraint when you develop realistic expectations for any relationship. You create your own success in life. It’s good to have a partner, but you’re still whole all on your own.
2. Develop a stable sense of self-esteem. Believing in and knowing your own value provides an effective guide to what’s acceptable in your interactions with others. You can be generous and forgiving from a position of confidence rather than neediness, and lean on your own strength and assurance.
3. Know your own priorities. There’s still some social pressure to get married in our society. Give yourself credit if you’re a responsible member of the community who functions better in a different arrangement, and don’t let anyone – including well-meaning relatives and friends – push you into a commitment you’re not ready for.
4. Question Hollywood stereotypes. Movies and romance novels are filled with couples who fall in love at first sight, have little if anything in common, and get married about a week later. It’s important to separate fact from fiction and to avoid measuring your real-person, real-world relationship against one drawn from fiction.
5. Monitor your time. Be honest with yourself about how much time you and your new partner really spend together. It’s often one of the best indications about how seriously they regard the relationship. If any aspect of the relationship is one-sided, it’s time to figure out what that means and how it’s supporting your and your partner’s needs.
6. Focus on character. Above all, concentrate on learning all that you can about your potential partner’s character. Anyone can take dance lessons, but integrity will be more difficult to develop if it’s not already in place.
Steps to Take as a Couple
1. Talk openly and honestly. Summon up the courage to discuss sensitive issues. If things progress, it’s important for learn about each other’s childhoods, finances, and views on marriage and children before they become fodder for huge blowout arguments.
2. Be respectful. Be sensitive when sharing personal information. Appreciate your partner’s honesty even when their views are different from your own. Don’t insist that you have to be carbon copies of each other’s views and principles, and be accepting of differences.
3. Share a variety of experiences. Get to know each other in different settings – out of the office if that’s where the majority of your interactions are, or in a more casual setting if your prior interactions are in a formal environment. You may see a whole different side when someone gets out of the office and onto a softball field.
4. Take on new challenges. Sharing activities together will teach you more than staring at the same TV screen night after night. Sign up for a philosophy class together or go kayaking.
5. Make friends with other couples. Spending time with other couples will also give you insights into each other. In addition, you may find role models you want to emulate.
6. Hang out with each other’s friends. Your friends may spot issues you fail to see if you are infatuated. Make your own decisions, but consider feedback from those who know and love each of you independently.
7. Meet each other’s families. Families have a tremendous influence on most of our lives. Observe how people talk about their parents and whether they keep in touch with their siblings. It may reveal patterns that will repeat themselves if you start your own family together.
8. Trust in increments. Trust is a gradual process, and it can grow over time. If someone shows up on time for every coffee date, you can feel more secure asking them to feed your dog while you’re away for a week.
9. Set limits. You may both have certain requirements in mind for any long term relationship. If certain requirements are a “must” for you, determine sooner rather than later if your new partner fits the bill – being honest about these potential “deal breakers” is always a good idea.
You can be romantic and sensible at the same time. Taking care of your own welfare and being respectful and considerate towards others protects you from getting swept off your feet and puts your relationships on more solid ground.