Starting a new relationship can feel a bit disorienting. At first everything is exciting; this is what you’ve always wanted, right? Months or years – seems like a lifetime – of dating, and all of a sudden here he is! What’s next?
Relationships require care and encouragement and it helps to get things started on the right foot. Perhaps your first thought is, “so when do we start living together?” Whoa – slow down. Most of us know guys who went home from the bar together the night they first met, and one of them basically never went home. Other couples have been together for years, but find it more agreeable to keep separate households.
Take time to find out what the right rhythm is for each of you. If your tendency in the past has been to make a commitment like moving in with someone after only a few weeks only to find that the relationship never should have happened, make a commitment to yourself that this time you are going to wait at least six months before combining your CD collections. What’s the rush?
Part of dating is trying to make a positive impression – being thoughtful, considerate, romantic. Those are good things in a relationship, too, but face it – if he hangs around, your lover is going to see you at times other than when you are on top of your game.
Allowing your partner to see you at times when you aren’t your best – when things haven’t gone well at work or you’ve had a painful conflict with your crazy family – isn’t stuff you would usually recommend for a first date. But being yourself in good times and bad is the way he’ll get to know you and the way the bonds of intimacy will deepen between you.
If you let your partner see you warts and all, he’ll probably show you his less-attractive stuff as well. It can be a little startling seeing Mr. Right’s flaws.
Don’t think you can change your partner. The start of a relationship offers a great opportunity to learn all about his eccentricities: the way he mispronounces that particular word of his, or his curious need to keep his checkbook in perfect balance.
See if you can practice just noticing rather than criticizing. Who is this peculiar creature that now shares your life? Promise yourself you won’t nit-pick these little things. Learn to relax and laugh at yourself and your reactions to these little things. Criticism and nagging aren’t going to get you off on the right foot.
Some men handle intimacy easier than others. Intimacy requires us to let down our guard and become more open and vulnerable. The trouble is, most men have learned from an early age that making yourself letting down your defenses is a stupid thing to do because you’re likely to get hurt. This makes closeness a real challenge for guys, even if it’s what we most want. You really care about what this guy thinks of you, and the temptation is to try to look good rather than be genuine.
One of the secrets of relationships is that if the relationship is a healthy one, we actually become safer in it by lowering our defenses. Our partner responds to our openness with more openness of his own, or we learn that the blemish that we worried would cause him to run away turns out to be no big deal.
(Part Two - continued tomorrow)
John R. Ballew, M.S. an author and contributor to GAYTWOGETHER, is a licensed professional counselor in private practice in Atlanta. He specializes in issues related to coming out, sexuality, relationships and spirituality. If you have any questions or comments you can submit them directly to GAYTWOGETHER or John R. Ballew, M.S. - www.bodymindsoul.org.