A new relationship can be as exhilarating as it is terrifying. You finally found that guy you click with, someone you really enjoy spending time with who seems to really like you … and you’re terrified of screwing it up, of making some deadly mistake that will end things before they even start.
It’s so sad to see how many women can’t even enjoy being in a new relationship because they’re so worried about ruining it. I get e-mails every day from women all over the world begging to know the secret formula for how to behave so they don’t scare their new guy away. The levels of worry are so high you would think they’re dating a baby mouse rather than a full-grown man!
But I’m not one to judge; I used to feel the same way. Even when I started dating my husband … even though I knew better, even though I knew he was crazy about me, even though I was confident that he was “the one,” a part of me was absolutely terrified that maybe I was wrong, maybe I would screw this up just as I had screwed up so many relationships in the past (him included; we dated in high school and it ended because I wanted things to be more serious … and he wanted to be a teenage boy and live in a world where “serious” wasn’t part of his vocabulary).
To help give you some peace of mind and an understanding of what lays the foundation for a lasting, happy relationship, here are some basic rules to follow for a new relationship (some of these might also help you if you’re single, or even in a committed relationship).
1. Choose wisely
Fortunately, most of the feedback I get on my advice is positive, but when I do get negative feedback it’s usually from women who didn’t follow this step … they didn’t choose the right man to get involved with. If you choose to date a guy who tells you he doesn’t ever want a commitment or he wants to keep things open, or who clearly just isn’t a good guy, then all the relationship advice in the world isn’t going to save your relationship!
Guys tend to be much better at seeing a situation for what it is. If they meet a girl who just doesn’t have it together or seems to be a mess emotionally, they don’t get involved. They see the red flags, they hear the alarm bells, and they leave. A woman, however, tends to see a “damaged” guy as an opportunity to play savior. Instead of running away, she sees the good in him, the positive qualities, the man he could be.
She empathizes with his situation and hopes her love will heal him. Then she gets upset when this guy who has never had a serious relationship in his life doesn’t want a serious relationship with her, or fools around with other girls. A leopard can’t change its spots. You can’t invest in a guy who clearly isn’t marriage material and then get upset when he won’t give you the commitment you want.
Instead of getting swept up in how cute or charming or exciting a guy is, ask yourself if he has the qualities you want in a long-term partner, and look at how he treats you in general. That is the real question to consider, the one that would have saved me personally from years of heartache and pain had I given it any thought.
2. Don’t ask for reassurance of how he feels, just trust it.
A new relationship can become a breeding ground where all your insecurities run amuck. And it’s up to you to rein them in … not him.
If you feel insecure about yourself or the relationship, nothing he says will change that. You don’t need weekly progress reports updating you on where he stands and how he feels. Know that you are a wonderful girl, and he’s with you because he thinks you’re wonderful, too. The fear that his feelings will suddenly change with a sudden gust of wind is often the result of something within you, not something he is doing (and if it is the result of his behavior, then he probably isn’t the right guy for you, or isn’t serious about the relationship) .
If you put pressure on the relationship, you squeeze the life out of it and it stops being enjoyable and fun. Don’t push him for reassurance or test him to see how much he cares about you. Just realize he does and hold on to that conviction.
3. Stop trying to win him over and show him you’re good enough.
A big mistake most of us make in relationships is getting caught up in trying to prove ourselves to the other person. Instead of considering how we feel about them, we get caught up in trying to make him feel a certain way about us.
Don’t try to be what you think he wants; be who you are and trust that if he’s the right guy for you, it will work out. A man can tell when a woman is trying to impress him, and it comes across as desperate. Don’t ever try to sell yourself to him or modify your behavior to cater to him and prove you’re good enough. Just be comfortable with who you are (and if this is hard for you, try to uncover the reason why you feel that your true self isn’t good enough).
When you try to win him over, you create an unbalanced dynamic where he is the authority on, and judge of, your worth. If he responds to you favorably, you believe you’re worthy. If he seems to be losing interest, you panic and try to do whatever you can to win him back.
Instead of using his feelings as a measuring stick to determine your worth, take the focus off yourself and try to learn about him and see what he’s about and if you’re a good match. People only fall in love with those they feel secure around. If you have an agenda and see him as a means to fill a void within yourself, he will feel it and his guard will reflexively go up, making it impossible to develop a real connection.
4. Don’t forget your friends!
We all have that one friend who disappears as soon as she starts seeing a new guy … don’t be her! When you abandon your friendships, you create an empty space that the relationship is left to fill. Humans are social creatures; the need to connect and form bonds is essential to our emotional well-being.
A lot of women who become overly dependent on men or their romantic relationships are lacking close platonic relationships. They may have a lot of friends, but these friendships are superficial and lacking in intimacy. We all want to be seen and accepted for who we are. If you don’t have that in your life from friends and family, you will seek it from an intimate relationship.
Friendships are important and fill our needs in ways a relationship, especially a new one, can’t. Try to focus on deepening the bonds you have with people in your life, be it friends or family. Try to form real, genuine connections. This will satisfy your need for closeness so that it isn’t a big gaping empty hole that you expect a man to fill by himself.
5. Don’t give up your hobbies and passions.
You must always continue to do things you love. Whether it’s art or music or exercise, continue to engage in activities that bring you joy and make you feel alive and connected to your essence. People in unhealthy relationships often give up things they enjoy for the sake of the relationship. They prioritize the guy above all else (even if he doesn’t do the same) because the relationship is the most important thing to them.
The more you abandon other areas that fulfilled you, the more you expect him to compensate. You should also not stop pursuing your dreams and goals. If a relationship demands so much change, you are either abandoning who you are (this happens when you don’t have boundaries) or it’s a bad, toxic, unhealthy relationship you need to get out of immediately.
6. Be positive!
There is nothing men love more than a positive, happy woman. Similarly, there is nothing more repulsive to a man than a negative, whiny woman who is always in a bad mood. Yes, life can be hard and sometimes we just really gotta complain, but try not to make this a habit. The more comfortable we are with someone, the more comfortable we may feel unleashing a daily litany of complaints and grievances. No one really wants to be on the receiving end of this, though. And no one, man or woman, likes to be around a negative, unhappy person. In your relationship, and in your life in general, try to focus on being happy and positive. See the good and try to let that radiate through you.
It involves more than just not complaining, though. Being positive is a vibe; it’s an energy that comes across. You can be saying all the right things, but if you feel negative inside, it will still some across. Our vibe attracts people or drives them away. This is why women often encounter a phenomenon where they only attract the guys they don’t want and not the ones they do.
Why does this happen? Well, in a nutshell, with the guys you don’t want it’s easy to be happy and positive and unconcerned, because you don’t have much at stake. You don’t let worries or fears or insecurities enter the picture because you’re not so attached to the outcome. Instead, you just enjoy your interactions with this other person and if it works out, great. If it doesn’t, then that’s fine, too—you weren’t so into it anyway.
Now with the guys you do want there is more at stake. You really want things to work out, and this activates your fears … specifically, your fear that it won’t work. This leads you to think negative thoughts … you think about all the guys you liked and how it didn’t work out with them, you dwell on your negative characteristics and worry that they will prevent you from getting the love you want, you worry obsessively that you will do something to cause this guy to lose interest.
This worry leads you to feeling upset, and this can take several forms: feeling angry, nervous, self-conscious, paranoid, bitter, jealous, unworthy, foolish, unlovable, etc. All of this comes from stressing over the relationship, which leads me to my next point.
7. Don’t stress over it.
Stressing never leads to anything good and instead causes more problems than it solves. When you stop stressing out and obsessing about your own fears, worries, and nightmare scenarios, something great happens: you give the relationship room to breathe. Usually it’s at this point that both of you start enjoying the relationship a lot more.
When you stress, you activate your fears and insecurities. This is something I know about first-hand: on my second date with my husband, I did something that has always been a problem for me … I talked way too much. I’m just a talkative person! I realized I was talking a lot more than he was, but I couldn’t seem to help myself. I didn’t hear from him for almost two days after that date, and you can guess what I spent that time doing … stressing out over the fact that I’d talked too much, thinking about what I wished I’d done differently (letting him get a word in edge-wise!) and getting furious with myself for being such a Chatty Cathy.
I remember feeling just nauseous over the whole thing. When I did hear from him, I was completely on edge and measured everything I said. Fortunately, I was eventually able to rein myself in by giving myself the exact same advice I’m giving you in this article. I stopped stressing and started enjoying the relationship for what it was, and just let things happen without panicking whenever I thought I saw something that looked like a bad sign.
Fortunately this allowed us to really connect, and this story had a happy ending. (By the way, I only recently told my husband about those two days of agony I put myself through, and he was cracking up and thought it was very cute and sad, and he also had no recollection of me talking too much on the date … so I made myself crazy for no reason!)
8. Focus on building a connection, not reaching some goal
In order for a relationship to last and become something real, you need to create depth of connection. You can’t get caught up in trying to reach some goal or milestone. Let me tell you that having a title will never give you a sense of security if you don’t already feel secure. A lot of women get caught up in strategizing about how to take a relationship to the next level, but this type of transformation doesn’t come about by force or strategy. It happens organically as a relationship naturally deepens.
Again, it’s about getting out of a self-absorbed mindset where you’re consumed with how he feels and how you’re presenting yourself, and instead focusing on building a connection. It’s about dropping your guard a bit, showing some vulnerability, and connecting to him in meaningful ways. That’s what lays the foundation for a meaningful, lasting relationship.
Don’t get caught up in the illusion of who you think he is, or what being in a relationship with him will represent. Be open to his world and recognize what’s meaningful to him. Figure out what he wants in his life and what his goals are, and support him. And share yourself with him, your real self, not the image you’re trying to project of what you think he wants so you can win him over.