EARLY DATING TRAPS TO AVOID, AND THE IMPORTANCE OF BALANCE IN EARLY DATING.
The excitement that goes hand-in-hand with a new relationship is undeniable. The butterflies, the nervous anticipation… there are few things as electrifying as spending time with a new love interest. Unfortunately, it can be all too easy for some to fall victim to early relationship traps – emotional triggers that play into low self-esteem, and set new relationships up for inevitable failure. For those of us who have suffered emotional wounds, consistently falling into early relationship traps may prevent us from developing mature, healthy, long-term partnerships. Without even realizing that we are doing so, we may be searching for a partner to heal these old wounds and make us feel happy and whole. While we can still heal ourselves while we are involved in a romantic relationship, the key is that we truly heal ourselves – we don’t look to another person to do the work for us.
Finding Balance in Relationships
So, how do we begin healing? The first step is recognizing and acknowledging that there is some healing that needs to take place. Take a look at the following early relationship traps, and determine how many you regularly fall victim to. Everyone is capable of developing and maintaining a healthy, joyful relationship once old wounds have been adequately healed.
1. Spending less time with your friends.
When we meet someone new, someone that makes us feel emotionally exhilarated, we will want to spend as much time with that person as possible. Without even realizing that we are doing so, we may begin to blow off other plans. We may unintentionally distance ourselves from our friends, opting to spend any free time with our new flame. And this makes sense, seeing as the brain has quite an appetite for dopamine. At the start of new relationships, dopamine levels are often exceptionally high. This causes a giddy feeling – those ‘fireworks’ that everyone talks about. We feel butterflies in our stomachs right before meeting up with a new romantic interest; our hearts skip a beat when they shoot us a text in the middle of the day. Naturally, we are inclined to choose that excitement over quality time spent with old friends.
The problem is, when we consistently choose our new partner over our old friends, we are slowly driving a wedge between ourselves and our existing support system. It is perfectly normal to want to spend ample time with a new love interest for a week or two… maybe even a bit longer. But those who are already self-established and autonomous will know when and how to regain social balance. Those who lack a stable sense of self-identity, on the other hand, may have a much more difficult time distributing their time amongst old friends and their new flame.
2. Compromising your non-negotiables.
We all have a list of non-negotiables, though some of us may be far more lenient than others. Regardless of rigidity, it is healthy and normal to formulate a solid list of ideals when it comes to choosing a compatible mate. As well as ideals, there are those things that we simply will not tolerate. In many cases, these are the same across the board. For example, no one wants to be with a partner who becomes physically aggressive when angry. No one wants to be with a partner who refuses to get a job and become self-sufficient, or who winds up in jail on a regular basis.
When we know what we deserve, we refuse to settle for less. But for those of us with low self-esteem and a lack of self-worth, settling may come naturally. We might overlook glaring flaws, convincing ourselves that any positive attention is worth the inconvenience; that things are bound to get better… eventually. When we disregard our own standards (or when we fail to have standards at all), we are likely harboring a deep-seated fear. Perhaps it is a fear or rejection, or a fear of being alone – a fear that predominantly stems from unresolved wounds.
3. Changing personal interests to ‘fit the mold’.
One of the most crucial components of every healthy relationship is compromise. Say our new love interest loves horror films, while we prefer romantic comedies. In this case, compromise may look like going to see the new slasher flick in theatres one weekend, and renting a few good rom-coms for the next movie night in. This kind of compromise is healthy. In agreeing to see a horror movie, you are not sacrificing a major part of yourself – you are simply negotiating; expressing a mature willingness to try new things. Compromise, in this sense, is necessary.
However, compromising all of your own wants and needs in order to appease your new love interest is just the opposite of healthy. If you hate horror movies but pretend to love them in order to placate your partner, you are denying yourself the right to independence within the relationship. This type of behavior prevents you from forming an equal partnership, and disallows a vital expression of individuality. Knowing who you are and being true to yourself is vital to the overall functionality of the partnership.
4. Slacking on personal responsibilities and prior obligations.
Because that early relationship dopamine rush is so very appealing, we may forgo a few pre-existing obligations in order to spend as much time as possible with our new companion. Maybe we skip out on a family dinner, or call in sick to work so we can spend the day in bed, cuddling and watching movies. Once the excitement of the new fling begins to wear off, we will go about business as usual. For some, however, the urge to neglect prior obligations and personal responsibilities might linger. If it does, this inattention might stem from a place of unhealthy attachment rather than short-term infatuation.
Unhealthy attachment, like other early dating traps, is likely the result of unresolved fear (in this case, fear of being rejected or replaced). We make excessive amounts of time for our new partner because we fear that if we don’t, we will be abandoned or forgotten. When we are secure in ourselves and have a firm and realistic grasp of our own inherent worth, we will understand that a healthy, loving partner would never make us choose between our former commitments and a committed relationship.
5. Putting all of your eggs in one basket.
There is absolutely nothing wrong with making a long-term commitment to a romantic partner. However, this commitment often occurs mutually after a long period of companionship. Committing to someone right off the bat can be dangerous, seeing as this will make the possibility of dismissal all the more painful. When we get to know a new romantic prospect, we are essentially testing the waters – seeing if the potential for a long-term relationship exists; assessing compatibility, and exerting our own independence while practicing compromise and healthy communication. When we put all of our eggs in one basket right off the bat, we are setting ourselves up to be heartbroken. In placing so much emphasis on a new relationship, we are relying solely on someone else to live up to our expectations. And then if they don’t, we will either lower our expectations or force something that isn’t meant to be. After all, this is it. Isn’t it? We’ve got to make it work.
When we come from a place of emotional maturity, we understand that not every new relationship will end up working out in the long-term. Taking a realistic stance will help us to avoid unnecessary grief. However, we will only be able to view prospective relationships pragmatically if we understand our own value.
Knowing Your Worth
When we jump headfirst into a romantic relationship without first knowing our worth, we are liable to fall victim to fear of rejection. There is little room for fear in healthy relationships – when we are fearful, we are motivated by self-interest and insecurity. In order to be part of a mutually-beneficial and fulfilling relationship, we must first be secure in ourselves. And in order to be secure in ourselves, we must heal all existing wounds. It is important to note that we do not necessarily need to heal pre-existing wounds before entering a relationship – we must simply become aware of them. This is crucial, because old wounds are bound to rise to the surface eventually; especially when we feel emotionally triggered.
Becoming aware of everything that we bring to a new relationship will help us determine what work we still need to do on ourselves. The early stages of a new romance are thrilling – and they’re supposed to be! But if we find that we are consistently sacrificing bits of ourselves, and struggling to maintain a healthy balance in other areas of our lives, we may need to take a deeper look at what is motivating our desire for closeness. If we find that our actions are driven by fear and insecurity… we’ve still got a bit of healing to do.