Dating can be a thrilling, romantic whirlwind. It’s also a complex developing relationship that requires careful consideration and attention to detail as you get to know one another over time. Ultimately, dating leads to one of the biggest decisions you’ll ever make in your life–the decision to marry–so it’s important to cultivate a healthy relationship with your dating partner from the very beginning.
By following principles of what we call “smart love” and taking your time, you can build a healthy relationship with your dating partner. That’s why we’ve compiled this guide of 7 tips to help you start on the right foot. Let’s dive in!
1. Build your relationship on common ground
“Opposites attract” is a popular expression, but it’s not really true. When it does happen, it can be difficult for the couple to remain attracted to one another long-term. In our experience, couples who share ideas, dreams, and desires tend to have more staying power.
When you and your date enjoy the same music, movies, pastimes, foods, and interests, you’re more likely to build a close, enduring relationship. Sure, you’ll discover differences as you get to know one another. But the best matches are built on shared priorities and values–and a healthy amount of similarities.
2. Avoid making snap judgments
It can take time to truly get to know the person you’re dating. That requires patience and the ability to step back objectively and observe your date, rather than jumping to conclusions (good or bad) on a first impression.
One of our friends says that she brings her “oh-isn’t-that-interesting” self on a date, noting differences and similarities as if she were studying a different species. Approaching the first dates, in particular, with an information-gathering mindset helps you learn how to listen more and react less.
3. Pay attention to values
Your date’s values will determine the outcome of your relationship–and how you’ll ultimately be treated. Is your date cruel to her mother? Chances are, she’ll be cruel to you, too. Does he respect his sisters? Then he’ll be more likely to respect you..
Pay attention both to how your date treats their family, and how they treat themselves. Observe whether your date:
- Has a “victim mentality”
- Blames others for their problems
- Is wise with finances
- Behaves generously
- Keeps their promises
- Is dependable
- Considers spirituality to be important
The strongest relationships are built on shared values, so the more you know about your date’s values, the better.
4. Respect each other’s individuality
While shared values and common ground are vitally important to a healthy dating relationship, so is your individuality. You came into this relationship as two individuals with your own interests and personalities. Dating and forming a lasting bond doesn’t mean either of you should shed your unique identity.
If you’re not secure in who you are, your identity will morph from one dating relationship to the next. Show yourself and your date the courtesy of being yourselves and accepting one another as you are–because if both of you don’t know and accept who you are now, your relationship will suffer later.
5. No smothering allowed
This point goes hand-in-hand with respecting your date’s unique identity. Just as they came into your dating relationship with their own personality, they also came into it with their own friends and activities.
Dating is the addition of one new relationship into two separate lives. If you marry, you’ll create a new life together–but you’re not married yet. Don’t try to override or overtake your date’s activities and friendships. Don’t keep one another tied up 24/7 or expect each other to be glued to the phone at all times. Take it easy and take your time–and enjoy getting to know each other.
6. Remember that love isn’t static
Love has an ebb and flow, but it’s easy to forget that when we’ve put all our hopes into a dating relationship. You don’t fall into and out of love; instead, love rises and falls like the tide.
Love requires day-to-day work because “happily ever after” is a myth. It’s about existing in a loving state at all times. That initial rush of loving feelings isn’t permanent; that knowledge is critical for the times when those emotions aren’t there, and it will keep you anchored as you grow your relationship.
7. Know your bottom line
It can’t be overstated: people who practice smart love have standards of behavior for their relationships. Your bottom line declares what you can and cannot live with. It can involve things like limits on sex, specific behaviors, seeing other people, common courtesy, and more.
It’s your decision where you draw the line on each issue. You call the shots, so it’s important to know what you want from a dating partner. Ultimately, you have to be willing to end the dating relationship if your date is violating the bottom line–because a bad relationship is never better than being single.
Want insight into the 2018 dating landscape?
Get your tickets to the one-day-only movie event, The Dating Project, premiering in theaters April 17.
You don’t want to miss this!