Perhaps love is the process of my gently leading you back to yourself.
~ Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
In the Beginning
It’s intoxicating to meet someone and discover that you actually connect. (I mean, really connect. Not just: “You like The Office? Omigod! So do I!”) Especially if you’ve been in the dating trenches a long time, a trifecta connection of brains, beauty, and mutual interest can send you reeling into a state of full-blown smitten-ness.
As tempting as it may be to dive in to this love pool with all your clothes on, take a breather.
An initial connection is what we all want, but it’s not all we want. Relationships take time. See your new connection as a green light to continue learning about each other, not to start picking out china patterns together.
The Next Step
Congratulations. You’ve graduated from the awkward dating phase to an actual budding relationship. You no longer stare at the phone eating fistfuls of dry cereal wondering when it’s going to ring.
You’ve shared at least one dark secret each, and you’re both still talking to each other.
You’ve met his friends; she’s met yours.
Here are the Devil and the Angel of all new love relationships…and how to deal with them:
The Devil: Taking Your Partner for Granted
Some couples think that now they’ve snagged a mate, they can put away the good behavior and settle into smug oblivion. This is when couples begin to drive each other crazy.
A quick fix? Keep dating. No, not other people: each other. Make a point of continuing to go out at least once a week. Build that habit and it will help keep your relationship fresh for years to come.
Listen when your partner speaks. Even if you’ve heard the story before or if you think you know what’s coming. Just last night, I gave my partner a choice of three kinds of chocolate we could eat while we watched House of Cards. (Now, I know better; men don’t give a flying patoot about what kind of whatever they want. Chocolate is chocolate. But I was in a nurturing moment and wanted to give him choices.) He told me whatever, and I troddled off, returning with two of the three types I’d offered. When I showed him the chocolates, he said, “I knew you would do that.”
“What?” I asked, innocently.
“You’d be a Virgo and bring a selection.”
“I guess you know me very well,” I told him. But inside, I felt a zing. Did he know me so well that he could guess I would accommodate his every possible desire, like some housewench and not the woman who loved him and wanted him to be fully satisfied? Was my Virgoan eye for detail and accommodation no longer endearing? Perhaps I read some of that smug oblivion into it: I got your number, baby.
Of course, this angst was in my own head (another Devil in disguise). I realized that he was, after a fashion, complimenting me on my true nature, not berating it. That level of comfort is part of the fun of togetherness.
Which brings me to how I got myself into that scenario in the first place:
Never assume you know what your partner wants. Each of us is unique, and we are also capable of changing our minds. One of the most hurtful jabs one can give a partner is to shut down psychospiritual growth by stating how one’s partner typically behaves. (For example, at a party, a guy tells his pals he wants to go skydiving. His partner chimes in, “But you’re afraid of heights!” Instant shutdown.)
Let your partner grow beside you. Chances are he or she will not radically change their fundamental personality (say, by going from pacifist to homicidal maniac), so allow for shifting between you. Give each other room to blossom.
The Angel: The Freedom to be Yourself
The power to be oneself in all one’s shades and patterns is one of the biggest gifts we can give…and receive. The path runs two ways: In order to develop fully as a human being, we need space and loving support. Our partner needs the same.
You get what you give. As long as you both remember the love you have for each other and honor it daily (if not hourly), you will receive that love in return. Be fully yourself and celebrate the fullness of that wholly original being who has chosen to share this life with you.
Thank your lucky stars you found someone who gets your obsession with The Partridge Family, or that you whistle “The Star-spangled Banner” while you pee, or who doesn’t mind that you eat popcorn for dinner sometimes. This is a blessing. Don’t ever forget it. And make sure your partner doesn’t either.
In fact, go give that freakishly perfect person a hug. Right now.
Author: Rachel Astarte
Editor: Evan Yerburgh
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