The beginning of any new relationship is usually a lot of fun (albeit a little stressful). Think about it: Someone you like and enjoy feels the same way about you. What could feel better than that, right? But even if both parties are on the same page feelings-wise, it's still important to maintain decorum because, no matter how into each other you are, there are still some right and wrong ways to begin any new relationship that can ruin the whole thing.
Of course, it's totally natural to feel intense passion and attraction for the person you're seeing, but being so enraptured may cause you to ignore potential red flags, such as the misalignment of your core beliefs and values. We chatted with psychologist and relationship expert Kelly Campbell, Ph.D., to hear her thoughts on the subject and get some insight regarding the best (and worst) ways to go about a new relationship.
Meet the Expert
Kelly Campbell, PhD, is a professor of psychology at California State University, San Bernardino. She specializes in relationships.
Do Add Variety to Your Dates
According to Campbell, mixing things up early on is a great idea. Instead of the usual Netflix-and-chill scenario, she suggests taking morning walks together, scheduling lunch dates, and enjoying the company of friends and colleagues. "It can be illuminating to see your partner navigate different situations and relationships," she adds. Plus, one potential road to a breakup is monotony, so try to avoid getting stuck in a rut too early on by keeping each date different than the last. Keep in mind: You don't have to spend a ton of money to have a great date with your new partner.
Don't Always Be the First to Initiate Dates
Every date can feel like a first date in a new relationship because there's so much ground to cover: where you went to school, what your hometowns are like, and how many pets you had growing up, among about a million other topics to address. Our advice? Save these sweet stories for in-person dates. Campbell suggests, "If they initiated plans the first time, you can initiate the second time and so on, but don't always be the person texting first, calling, and initiating plans."
If they get used to you being the one doing all of the planning and reaching out, they'll stop making an effort because they know you will.
Do Maintain Independence
Spending every waking moment with a new partner can put you at risk of losing yourself and your friends, too. "In the most long-lasting relationships, partners maintain their sense of independence," says Campbell. "See family and friends, continue to exercise and work hard, and prioritize alone-time; balance is important." If you make your whole life about your new partner, you end up putting a lot of pressure on the relationship to be your sole source of happiness and fulfillment.
Don't Skip the Sexual Health Conversation
"If you aren't comfortable asking them about STDs and STIs or telling them about your own sexual health, it's not yet the time to have sex," Campbell admits. Wait until you're both comfortable having an honest conversation about health before becoming intimate. That way, you'll be able to enjoy it more and have a bit more confidence in the relationship.
You also shouldn't feel shame talking about sex outside of health. Tell your partner what you like, what you don't like, and what you'd want to try.
Do Watch Out for Red Flags
Campbell says that ignoring red flags only prolongs the inevitable demise of the relationship. If, say, your new love criticizes you, makes plans, and repeatedly cancels, you catch them in a lie, or you see them treating others poorly, "they're probably not worth investing in for the long-term," she notes. Trust us, it's easy to throw on a pair of rose-colored glasses when you really like someone because you want to see the best in them, but it's important to see all of someone, not just the good things.
Don't Be Close-Minded
“Try to remain open to trying new foods and participating in new activities,” Campbell advises, “The start of a new relationship ought to be light and fun, and things can become more serious with time.” With that in mind, maybe keep the conversations about highly controversial topics to a minimum in the beginning.
Do Respect Yourself
Treating yourself well sets an example of how your partner should treat you, and it signifies what you will and will not tolerate. "There's nothing wrong with being principled, knowing yourself, and being yourself," Campbell offers. "Do things for yourself, too." If they call you with an impromptu date invitation, but you need a self-care night to put on a face mask and snuggle with your furry friend, suggest a different day for date night.
Don't Denigrate Yourself
"If you have things in your past that you consider less than ideal—for example, if you just got fired or your previous partner cheated on you—then find a way to discuss or disclose these things in a positive light," Campbell advises. Keeping these things secret because you want them to see you a certain way is never a good idea.
Being vulnerable is part of dating, especially in the early stages of a new relationship, so you shouldn't feel any shame in sharing about past relationships (or anything else, for that matter). No one expects perfection, so hiding experiences that shape you into who you currently are isn't necessary.
Don't Have Sex Too Soon
We live in a time of sex-positivity, meaning we don't believe that you should wait until a certain amount of time goes by before having sex with your new partner for the first time. "The amount of time to wait before having sex differs for every couple; there is no such thing as too soon or too long. The right time is when both people are 100% ready," Campbell discloses. The worst thing you can do in a new relationship is to have sex before you feel ready because you're worried they'll lose interest in you if you wait.
Do Communicate Often and Well
"Say what you mean and mean what you say, be direct and considerate, choose battles wisely, treat your partner well, and avoid destructive things like yelling, insulting, and judging," Campbell says. You may notice that you feel like you can read your childhood friends' minds because you know them so well, but that kind of closeness comes with time and, unfortunately, years together is the one thing you and your new partner don't have. You can't expect them to be able to guess what you're thinking, so be as communicative as you possibly can.