Have you ever been in a new relationship and found yourself making choices that you wouldn’t normally make? Maybe you’re staying out at night way past what’s healthy, or maybe you’re finding yourself completely lost in the emotions of the newness and forgetting to follow through on everyday responsibilities? I’m sure we’ve all been there. Dating is fun and exciting, but one of the biggest dangers to any new relationship is the quick release of euphoric emotions that turn wise men into drunken poets at a moment’s notice. I can’t tell you how many times I have seen innocent, headstrong couples end up in a world of pain because they underestimated the driving force of unbridled emotions.
How to Win at Dating
Our feelings are a very vital and powerful part of any love relationship. However, they are very poor decision makers. When starting a new relationship, here are four healthy guidelines that will help you keep your cool in the midst of emotional euphoria:
1) Start apart and slowly work your way in.
Our crazy feelings have a way of pushing the pace way beyond what each person can realistically handle. It’s really important that each person manages his or her need for speed by starting apart and slowly working closer as trust is built. Trust and commitment level should always dictate the amount of intimacy that each of you gives in the relationship. By respecting this guideline, over time you will slowly become more intimate as trust and commitment builds.
All too often we use our intimacy to build connection and relationship instead of allowing the foundation of trust to build our intimacy. If I am going to give you the most sacred and vulnerable piece of me, I better be sure that you know how to handle it before I offer it to you. The beautiful thing about slowly moving together is that the risk of becoming completely heartbroken is dramatically lessened because we are allowing commitment and trust to dictate the pace of our passion.
2) Communicate before acting.
Communication is one of the vital organs of any relationship. When you are just starting out, make sure that you don’t take any major steps without first talking through them with your partner. A major step is any decision that is going to involve the other person, from how often you hang out together, to holding hands and kissing or anything else that could possibly violate the needs of the other person. By talking through each step and sharing your needs and desires, you are creating an environment of trust where intimacy can flourish.
Another major aspect that communication brings to the table is the ability to set and meet expectations for the relationship. Anytime there is more than one person involved in something, you can be sure that there are expectations that need to be met. Having the right expectations is crucial for the health of both people because any expectation that goes unmet leads to pain. However, an expectation fulfilled builds trust and connection. Throughout your relationship, the expectation that each of you have for one another is going to change as the relationship matures. So it’s vital that both people talk through the expectations that they have of each other, so that the needs of the relationship get met as they go deeper.
3) Never make a decision of commitment while “under the influence.”
When you are deciding to hold a girl’s hand or use a word like “love,” make sure that the relationship is ready for that type of intimacy. Because our emotions are so powerful, oftentimes the decisions that we make while we are “under the influence” are much different from the decisions that we would have made while being “sober.” Making decisions of commitment with a sober mind keeps the relationship from being an emotional rollercoaster and it also drastically lessens the amount of remorse and regret that we experience from making rash choices.
A really safe way to ensure that your decisions are coming from a sound mind is to sleep on the choices that you are making. When I first started dating, if I was out on a date with a girl, regardless of how much I wanted to hold her hand or kiss her, I would wait until I had gone home and slept on it. And when I woke up the next day, if I still felt the same way, then I would move forward as long as she was good with it too. I can’t tell you how many times that principle has saved me from complete catastrophe, not just in my love life, but in every area of life. Making decisions with a sober mind is the only safe way to live life.
4) Don’t leave home without your peace.
Many times throughout my life I have found myself in epic battles, fighting for possession of my own peace.The opponents that we fight in our minds manifest themselves in the form of insecurity, anger, loneliness, rejection, self-pity and frustration. And though these feelings are not evil, if left unattended, they will become as destructive as the devil himself. One of the most important things to know about these feelings is that they need immediate attention because they can have so much influence over us. I refer to these feelings as “red flags.” Every red flag, whether it is loneliness or insecurity, leaves you extremely vulnerable.
For example, a teenager in a dating relationship who feels insecure and doesn’t deal with it before he or she leaves the house, runs a huge risk of trying to fill that need for security with some type of sexual encounter. So the goal here is to recognize red flags and deal with them quickly by meeting the need in a healthy way before you leave the house.
Setting Yourself Up for Success
I want to encourage you to commit yourself to proactively put emotional health at the forefront of any relationship. In dating, specifically, it’s important to think through what success looks like to you before your emotions get the best of you. Enjoy the butterflies and chemistry that come with the excitement of new love, but always keep that in balance with taking care of your heart well. Which of these four keys really stands out to you today? And how do you stay emotionally healthy when dating?