One of the things that I tell all of my clients who are dating is that you want to put in the work upfront so that you choose a good partner. What does this mean for a relationship? It means that the first year of your relationship may be a little bumpy, but that is a good thing!
I frequently hear from my clients that the first 6 months to a year of a relationship should be “easy.” I agree, but only to a certain degree. If you find yourself battling your partner frequently, or being disrespected, those are not signs of a healthy relationship. Or conversely, sometimes people proudly tell me, “We never fight.” I don’t view that as an indicator of a healthy relationship because instead I wonder if one or both partners are conflict avoidant. These types of people avoid conflict and then think that things are ok and “easy,” but in reality that may not be the case. If you don’t speak up for what bothers you or what you want in your relationship, you risk not being as happy or wondering if you chose the “wrong” person.
So why should the first year of a relationship be bumpy?
In the beginning as you’re winning each other over, you may be overly accommodating. When some of the infatuation starts to fade and you become more comfortable with each other, you’re probably showing more of your true selves. If you enter a relationship thinking that it should be smooth sailing but then it isn’t, you may immediately call it quits. This isn’t a good thing because it causes you to avoid inevitable problems that arise in every relationship instead of working through them from the start. I’ve worked with many clients who bolt at the first sign of problems, and as a consequence dismiss someone who could have been a good fit for them.
When some of the infatuation starts to fade and you become more comfortable with each other, you’re probably showing more of your true selves.
Dating is the time to determine if you have long-term compatibility. You’re two strangers with two different backgrounds and life experiences trying to see if you can accommodate your differences in respectful and supportive ways. Through your interactions, you’re both learning what the other is sensitive about, what you can and can’t accept in a relationship, and how your partner handles conflict and other emotions. If you are truly open and vulnerable with each other, you risk being hurt. Why would doing any of this be easy? It shouldn’t be, but if you are both willing to be open and address issues that come up, you will have a better idea of whether or not you can make your relationship work for the long haul.
Through your interactions, you’re both learning what the other is sensitive about, what you can and can’t accept in a relationship, and how your partner handles conflict and other emotions.
Be intentional in your pursuit of finding out if your partner is a good fit for you, even if it means rocking the boat. Expect a few bumps along the way, since those bumps can help you determine if you should be together after all.