By Kate Mooney
The beginning stages of a new relationship can be thrilling: You’ve found someone you really like, and they like you back! Now you have texts to look forward to, dates to go on, and new intimacies to share. During the initial infatuation phase when you’re dating someone new, it’s easy to get swept up in the moment and breeze past important early steps, like pacing yourself to build trust, discussing relationship goals, and taking heed of any red flags. Early on, enjoy yourself and don’t overthink it, sure; but it’s worth being practical-minded too. With that in mind, Bumble spoke with relationship experts who gave their best new relationship advice.
Go slow and get to know each other—without sacrificing all your time
Dating coach Damona Hoffman encourages her clients to practice “slow love” when they’re seeing someone new. This means preventing yourself from rushing into a new relationship by doing things like continuing to set aside time to spend alone and with friends. “Slow love” is also smart because trust and values can’t be determined in a short period of time, and spending all of your time together early on without any boundaries can lead a new couple to develop “a false sense of closeness,” Hoffman explains. When that happens, you might feel that you know and trust someone before they’ve demonstrated their trustworthiness, which could lead to problems down the road.
Therapist Leah Aguirre agrees that spending all of your time together at first isn’t the best way to go. “It’s so important that you have a life and an identity outside of a relationship,” she says. You’ll also be missing out on the courtship if you put your new relationship in the fast lane by moving in together right away or constantly cancelling plans for the other person.
Don’t be afraid to show who you really are
Sometimes in the beginning of a new union, people downplay personality traits out of fear they’ll scare someone away—and likewise, they ignore red flags in their partner. But your true natures will come out eventually, so you’re not doing each other any favors by hiding them. “Don’t be afraid to show who you really are,” advises psychotherapist Tonya Lester.
You want a partner who loves and accepts you for you, idiosyncrasies and all. If you’re not comfortable showing them your whole personality, that could be a sign that you two aren’t compatible. “The great thing about being in the right relationship is that you can be authentic,” says Lester. And if you have certain requirements that are deal breakers, like wanting kids or not believing in monogamy, it’s best to get those conversations out of the way early on.
Listen to your gut
In the whirlwind of a new infatuation, it can be hard to listen to your gut feelings about the situation. Get in the habit of checking in on yourself to be sure the relationship is actually serving you, suggests Aguirre—either by journaling, reflecting, or talking it through with a friend or therapist.
Aguirre suggests asking yourself questions like “What am I feeling when I’m around this person? Is this person adding to my life, or adding more stress? Am I feeling anxious or like there’s a lack of trust?” Once you know how you’re feeling, you can figure out if anything needs to change and communicate that more productively with a new partner.
Be open about your relationship goals, even when you’re not sure
It’s normal if you’re uncertain about whether the new person you’re seeing is going to become your long-term partner, says Lester. “Ambivalence early on just might mean you need a little more time to get to know the person and get comfortable,” she says. If you’re having fun but you’re not sure how serious things are, after a month, three months, and six months, check in with the person you’re dating to see how you feel, suggests Aguirre. You could discuss whether you’re ready to further define the relationship by becoming exclusive (if you haven’t already); maybe you’re happy with the relationship at its current pace and don’t feel pressured to establish a timeline; or perhaps you feel like you need some space or more time alone.
And if the person you’re seeing pushes back on discussing the relationship, or gets defensive? “That’s an indicator they’re not ready to have adult conversations,” says Aguirre, and it’s also telling of what kind of partner they’ll be.
A new relationship can be a wonderful means to share experiences and grow with another person, whether you find lasting love or more short-lived intimacy. Communicating your needs, taking it slow, and being your honest selves can set the tone for an authentic, respectful connection—no matter what happens for you two down the line.