Starting a new relationship is a thrilling and transformative experience that can be both exciting and nerve-wracking. Often we can get so excited about all the new thoughts and feelings about being with someone new it can feel overwhelming, sometimes in a good way. Other times, not so much!
Dating someone new is a time filled with hope and excitement but also with uncertainty, and a multitude of emotions. In this blog post, we will explore what to expect when embarking on a new relationship and how to identify the essential relationship milestones.
The early stages of a new relationship are characterised by intense infatuation and passion, the “initial spark”. This initial spark is often rooted in desire and novelty. It's a time when you're getting to know each other, and everything seems new and exciting.
This is something I refer to as the rose tinted glasses stage. Often, I feel people are falling in love with how they feel within themselves just as much as they are with the person they are dating. All the newness and excitement takes over as people look at their next chapter. People romanticise their lives in this stage and envision the next chapter with the person they are dating within it.
It's essential to keep a few things in mind during this phase. The first thing is to embrace the passion. Let the passion and infatuation flow through. Enjoy the thrill of getting to know someone new. In this stage it is also important to maintain independence and keep your own passions and interests flowing. Remember to maintain your individuality and independence, even as you become deeply connected to your new partner so to maintain balance within.
As your connection deepens, you'll experience the power of vulnerability and this is emotionally connecting. Emphasise the importance of open communication and shared vulnerability to foster intimacy. Some ways to navigate that are through open communication and active listening. Be honest and transparent with your partner. Share your feelings, thoughts, and fears. Actively listen to them as well. This builds trust and shows that you value their thoughts and emotions and overall them as a person.
Conflict is a next and very natural occurrence within any relationship. I call this the power struggle phase. I work with couples during the power struggle phase. I believe, in the modality of couples therapy support I offer which is called Imago, that the power struggle is the phase where people go from trying to please and validate to looking at being pleased and validated. During the power struggle phase for couples is the consideration of not ‘what can I do for my partner’ to ‘what can my partner do for me’ we turn towards our own needs and desires for a relationship and the future. Essentially, it’s exiting the romantic phase and having to iron out differences in how we communicate. This stage can happen anywhere from 6 months to 2 years down the line and if not address consciously to overcome the conflicts in a helathy loving way, it can last all the way up to 20 years for couples.
How you navigate conflict can make or break a relationship. You should always go into a relationship with the knowledge that you might not agree on everything, whether big or small issues. Expecting disagreements is inevitable but effective communication is essential. Conflict is normal, and it can always serve as an opportunity for growth within a relationship. Learn how to communicate effectively during disagreements. Avoid blame, and focus on a solution. You may even have different values, opinions, or preferences afterwards.
Identifying relationship milestones can help you gauge the progress of your relationship and take a moment to be present with each other about how much you’ve evolved together as a couple. These milestones may differ from one couple to another, but there are some common ones you can expect:
Defining a relationship and solidifying that by expressing it to family and friends usually starts towards the beginning of a new relationship. Defining a relationship is a conversation where you and your partner discuss the nature of your relationship, whether it’s exclusive, casual, or leading towards commitment. By introducing your partner to friends and family it reflects your own commitment to your partner but also your friends and family.
Uttering those three words, “I love you, is a milestone that signifies the depth of your emotions and your connection. Feeling loved and valued is a positive loop that impacts the mental health and self-esteem for both partners. It expresses the growth in feelings for eachother as well as the yearning for a relationship to stay together, to stay committed. It is a form of open communication that validates and reassures your partner that they are not alone in their feelings. This can be a scary milestone in many relationships when both partners cannot say those three words at the same time. It is often seen as a sign of rejection, which can lead to arguments and heartbreak. However, this doesn’t always need to be the case. A partner can say “I love you” without saying it out loud but with their actions.
Deciding to share a home is also a bigger step and an even stronger indicator of commitment. It shows a want for closer proximity together as well as to become a daily part of your partner's everyday life and decisions. This change in daily life and intimacy can eventually lead into discussions of long-term plans like marriage, children, or shared finances signifying an even deeper yearning for a future together.
It is important when diving into a relationship to maintain a sense of independence within yourself. Continuing to engage in activities and hobbies that are important to you and maintaining boundaries within the relationship and respecting each other's space and privacy. This is important to deterring away from a relationship feeling suffocating which can lead to arguments down the line.
Over time, the passionate spark that characterised the early stages of your relationship may mellow. Spend quality time together, take time to set up dates with each other, free from distractions, to reignite the emotional connection. Also try new activities or adventures together with you and your relationship is fresh and exciting. Take time to constantly try to learn new things.
Challenges and Growth
Every relationship faces challenges, and how you overcome them is a testament to your commitment. These challenges can be opportunities for growth. Learn to adapt and be open to changes. Life will throw curveballs, and your relationship will evolve from it as long as there is open conversation and a willingness to grow with it. As time goes on, both you and your partner will change and grow. Encourage and support each other’s personal growth and self-discovery. Every now and then it is okay to talk with your partner and reevaluate your individual and shared goals, adjusting alongside them if and when necessary.
Gratitude is a powerful force in any relationship. Focus on the positive aspects of your partner and the relationship. It is important to regularly express appreciation for your partner and the love you share for them. Some people are better at doing this verbally and some through actions and body language. As your partner acknowledges your expressions of gratitude it is important to then acknowledge their small, everyday acts of love and kindness as well. This loop of validation and reassurance is what keeps a relationship open and confident in each other.
Starting a new relationship is a beautiful journey filled with growth, challenges, and transformative moments. Understanding what to expect and how to navigate the various relationship milestones is crucial for building a strong and enduring bond. Remember that every relationship is unique, so be patient, open, and willing to adapt as your love story unfolds.
If you’d like to work together I work with individuals and couples to find, build and deepen loving relationships. I provide one to one support with people all over the world who are dating and relating with one another. If theres anything you feel that could be holding you back from deep connection, I’d love to hear from you and help you work it out.
Sarah Louise x