You’re entering into a new romantic relationship and you want to do everything you can to start on the right foot. You want to promote a relationship that is healthy, supportive, and thriving. How do you accomplish this?
Here are four guidelines to consider in order to support a new relationship:
- Be authentic. When you first meet someone, you naturally want to put your best foot forward. Dating can sometimes feel like a series of job interviews. But if you’ve decided to pursue a closer relationship, you need to make sure that your partner has the opportunity to get to know you—the real you. We all have parts of ourselves that we like and some parts that we don’t. If you try to hide aspects of your identity, you might be successful for a period of time, but eventually your partner will discover the real you. Instead, try to show the real you to your partner from the beginning. If you’re hesitant, try talking about it. You could say: “I know I’m irritable in the mornings. I usually need some space,” or “I don’t have the best diet, but I’m working on it,” or “I get anxious in large groups.” If you and your partner are not a good match because of aspects of either one of your personalities, it’s best to know sooner than later.
- Establish boundaries. When you begin a new relationship, you’ll want to be flexible, patient, and caring with your partner. You may be so focused on meeting their needs that you ignore the fact that your needs aren’t being met. It’s important to teach your new partner about your boundaries so that they have the opportunity to have healthy interactions with you. Think of it this way: If someone were to accidentally step on your toes and didn’t realize it, you would say something. If not for you, then for the sake of your toes. If you didn’t say a word, how would they know? Here are a few examples of healthy boundary-setting: “When we eat out, the restaurant needs to have vegan options.” “No, I will not lend you any money.” “Please do not call me that. I don’t like it.”
- Embrace conflict. You might feel tempted to avoid conflict in your new relationship because of fears of the relationship ending. But conflict—from the slightest disagreement to the most passionate argument—is a healthy part of every relationship. These experiences are important in building trust, learning and respecting boundaries, and strengthening attachments. For example, if your new partner does something you don’t like, tell them. If you feel that your needs are not being met, tell them. Basically, if anything is not right in the relationship, let it be known. It’s important to allow breaks to occur in the relationship so you can both find solutions, negotiate compromises, or facilitate growth.
- Learn from your past. You’ve made mistakes in your relationships—we all have. Any negative interactions in past relationships that you have not addressed will have a negative impact on your current relationship. If you are aware of your past patterns, consider talking to your new partner and asking for their assistance in helping you to not repeat old patterns. For example, you could say: “I’ve been told that I don’t listen at times. Please let me know if you notice this so I can work on it.” If you are struggling to identify past negative interaction patterns and figure out how to change them, you might want to consider meeting with a counselor.
Beginning a new romantic relationship is an exciting step. Try doing these four things to support a healthy, thriving relationship.
If you’d like help with your relationships, Symmetry Counseling provides individual therapy, couples therapy, and family therapy. Contact Symmetry Counseling at 312-578-9990 to schedule an appointment.