New relationships are always so exciting. First kiss, first-hand-hold, first shared meal, first intimacies…
But they can also be so stressfully wonderful when the two of you decide to become “serious”. Maybe it’s a matter of shared accommodations- she moves in with him, or vice versa, or maybe it’s an agreement to spend nights over at each other’s homes.
Whatever it is, that starts the “serious” relationship in full swing, there are a few items that you need to “check at the door”, in order to keep a balanced, healthy, quality intimate relationship.
Before I get into the skinny of this article, I will give you my “experiences” that will show you that I am NO EXPERT in the area. My words are based on the fact, that I finally (think) I have mastered a good, healthy, open relationship. Yesterday marked 9 years of living with my partner, Dave, and things are really good.
But they haven’t always been great. It has taken a lot of work, effort, and trial and error. It has been up, and it has been down, and everywhere in between. As I sit here, writing this, though, I feel like I have been through enough shit to know what I am telling you is truth. I know that I am in a healthy, loving, respectful relationship.
Now, let’s talk about all of the stuff that needs to be left outside, when you cross the threshold from the “beginner stage” of a relationship, into the “serious stage”.
What to Leave Behind When You Share a Life Together:
- Your lack of commitment- If you are a person who refuses to lock down an honest, loyal commitment to another person, do NOT begin the level of “serious”. Just. Don’t. They are full of hope that the two of you will see a future together, but if deep down, you feel like you cannot stay 100% loyal, without wavering, call it quits. At the very least, step back and re-assess how to be committed. Remember there is another person involved, who has feelings. If you are going to hurt them, do it sooner, rather than after she/he has unpacked their lives in your house.
- Your lack of ambition– If you are the type that loves to sit in the basement, playing video games on the weekends, and have only been making yourself go out on hikes, or wine tasting on weekends, because of your other half- You are going to need to stick to those ambitions. Complacency is a killer of relationships. At first, you spend all the time and energy making efforts to appease your love, but when they decide that they are in love with your energy and ambition, it is unfair to take that away. Never stop making efforts. If you find that you cannot follow through with plans or going places you did while you dated, you need to be clear about that before you cohabitate.
- Your fear of communication: If you cannot communicate effectively,your relationship is doomed. Couples who are new, and filled with rainbows and butterflies, have taken time to get to know each other over meals in restaurants, or drinks, or long walks. It is EASY to talk then, and to be open. Also, in new relationships, you HAVE A LOT TO SAY. You are just getting to know everything about each other. You learn about family, culture, work life, extracurricular activities, and so much more. Even after you become intimate, you are learning about each other’s bodies and having those moments of pillow talk.
Once you share a home, and responsibilities, and life, that all changes. Conversations become less intimate and more, “what’s for dinner?” Suddenly, “how was your day?” is interrupted by TV sets, phones, and life. You need to take those quiet times, to talk with each other openly, and not AT each other. Start conversations with provocative questions, like, “What was the best part of your day?” or “Have you thought about where you want to go for vacation in the summer?”
Topics such as these invite responses. They give you a reason to keep the chatter going, and you can share ideas, even while you chop vegetables for supper.
4. Past Relationships- All of them, and every part of them. Get rid of souvenirs stashed in shoe boxes. Delete pictures of ex’s from your phone. Stop talking about “this one time”, in comparison to your current relationship. They are your EX for a reason. If you want to keep them in your life, know that you will fail at every other relationship. Even if the relationships are “cordial” they will always set a standard, either good or bad, in your relationship, unless you let them go.
5. Your desire for your partner to change– So many people decide to dive into relationships with the attitude of, “yea he/she does this, but that will change when I move in”. WRONG. If you expect your beloved to make changes, simply because you are now sharing their life, you are setting yourself up for disappointment. You are asking them to be someone they aren’t, and that is unfair.
Even if they DO change the behaviour that you don’t appreciate, can you honestly say that they are better people for it? Probably not. They are simply appeasing you, and are most likely not happy about it. The trick is to be willing to accept your partner for who they are- maybe in spite of the fact they smoke, or play video games, or whatever. You can always work together to find a shared interest that may help them see that the activity is less important. Or, just be aware of who you are moving in with, and accept them.
6. Your competitive ego– Friendly competition can be fun. Maybe you both enjoy trivia, or Scrabble, or sports. You want to best your opponent, on friendly terms. There is nothing wrong with that, as long as at the end of the day, you can still lay in bed happy. However, if the EGO comes into play, and it begins battles between you of “I am right and you’re wrong”, or “I told you that would happen”, or even, “Ha! You’re a loser!” then you have problems.
Egomania is a major buzzkill in loving relationships. The last thing that we need to tolerate is feeling inferior to our partner, at anything. This has been a huge stumbling block over the years for Dave and I- I finally had to tell him, a few years ago, that when he uses, “I knew it. I told you that would happen”, it makes me feel beneath him. Then, I had to demonstrate, when he messed up, to show him what it feels like. I pointed out that “I was right” about something, and it stung for him. I didn’t want to go there, but it sent a clear message. His being on the receiving end made him realize how much it sucks.
7. Work Stress– Of course you want someone to rant to at the end of a shitty day, and that’s okay. But allowing work stress to be the reason why you are yelling at your partner, and making them feel stressed out, is unfair. The rule in our house, is we have one hour to vent about work, and it’s usually as we are making dinner. Once that hour is up, no more work talk is allowed in the house. Of course there are exemptions, like when work calls at home during non office hours and we need to rant, but in our home, those are few and far between.
8. Parenting advice– This can be a major hot button topic. Of course the exceptions to this rule, is “IF you are asked for it”, or IF you have been deemed as your partner’s new parent.
I cannot stress enough, how unbelievably awkward it is, when someone who is not your child’s parent tells you what you are doing wrong, or what you “should do”. This is especially true when you don’t ask for their advice or opinions.
Getting into relationships where your partner has children is a major challenge. Their kids have been raised a certain way, until you came along. You are best to observe, and ask questions about the child and their background, before making attempts at “advising” your partner.
Of course, if you see that the child is at risk of danger, that is a different story, but if the child seems to be healthy and happy, and is learning to embrace you as a “step parent”, don’t rock the boat. It will only create unnecessary havoc for you, your love, and the kids. It’s always better to comment on all of the positives you see in the child, before making bold attempts at insulting the way the child is being raised.
My daughter was an adult when Dave met her, and she still isn’t a huge fan of him. The reason why, is because he tried too damn hard to be a “dad”. Kids need adaptation time when a new person is brought into a relationship, and often it can take a LONNNG time. They see this new person hugging and kissing their parent, and sleeping with them- It’s hard for them to adjust to. As the newcomer, you need to back off, and allow the relationship to grow.
9. Toxic Secrets- All relationships have secrets. Each person has their own mental rolladex of stuff that has happened to them, that they don’t want others to know. Secrets can be okay, and they are expected, especially if you are mature and have a long past.
Toxic secrets, on the other hand, are not welcome in new relationships. Maybe you have a secret addiction to drugs, or you have a criminal past. Maybe you have been the victim of rape, or you have another family of a wife and kids in another country ( you would be surprised how often this happens) .
If you have a deep secret that will affect the other person, in ANY way, it needs to be spit out. It is unfair for your new life partner to be blindsided and hurt by your “secret life’”, after they have built trust and a life with you. If you know it will impact your relationship, share it before you share door keys.
I have run the gamut of relationship problems. I brought my own set of baggage into mine and Dave’s life, that should have been left outside, or in a flea market bin.
It has taken me a long time to recover from his Ex being in his life, and for me to accept that I cannot change who he is. It has also taken him time to adjust to my quirks, and to be able to be open, through effective communication with me.
My daughter is a very lovely, well adjusted 25-year-old, with anxiety. She is not perfect, but in my eyes, she is the most precious, amazing human on this Earth. He has learned, over time, that he has to keep boundaries in check when it comes to her, and how she was raised. If it came to a choice between him or my daughter, she would ALWAYS WIN. But, I will always try and work on having a life with both of them.
Never compromise who you are because of anyone. If someone you have fallen for wants you to make drastic changes in your beliefs, lifestyle, appearance, career, or anything- that is a red flag. You may need to accept that the other person is not your match.
Stay independent. Remember if you share a life with someone, it does not mean that you need to be with them, in order to survive. If shit hits the fan, you need to know that you are your own person- they don’t make you who you are. Having your own space, your own friends, and your own interests is HEALTHY. Being able to respect each other for your independence is one of the best gifts you can give each other.
Stay true to yourself, leave your baggage at the door, and live an open, honest life together. Communicate and respect each other- and you will succeed.