Relationships For Dummies
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New relationships are fragile. If you rush through important intimacy stages, the relationship takes a hit — and often ends prematurely. Following are a few suggestions about how to slow things down and keep your new relationship on a healthy track.

Don't jump into bed on the first date

This may seem like a no-brainer, but lurching full speed ahead in lust mode is one of the more common mistakes — becoming sexually intimate too soon. People get caught up in the passion and wanting to please. But . . . if you have sex early in the relationship, you're sharing the most intimate behavior you can possibly share with someone you hardly know.

Credit: "Relaxing in Shade," © 2008 Ed Yourden, used under a Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license:

Talk about getting your feelings, behaviors, and time spent in the relationship out of sync! Because your partner hasn't had time to get to know or care about you, he or she may neglect to inform you about a sexually transmitted disease (STD), fail to take appropriate pregnancy and STD precautions, and/or even disappear after the act.

Resist spending the entire weekend together

If you've been seeing one another once a week, suddenly spending the weekend together can be too much, too soon. Your relationship just isn't ready for it. Instead, have dates that gradually increase in length and frequency.

The same advice applies if you initially meet online. Communicating via e-mail is fast and easy, so you and your partner can begin to feel close very quickly. However, when you live in different cities or states — or even farther away — having a normal first date can be difficult.

Instead of spending a relaxed three hours together, for example, your first date might last the entire weekend. After all, you've both spent a lot of time, money, and energy to travel some distance to meet.

Don't do it! Moreover, don't let that great build-up of excitement convince you to hop into bed together either. If you do, you may very well break up shortly after the weekend, and one or both of you could get hurt. So no matter how you meet, online or off — pace yourself. Leave your new friend wanting more of you — not less. You'll be glad you did.

Keep your own life

People sometimes make the mistake of dropping their friends when a new love enters the picture. Whether you're male or female, it's best to maintain your friendships and family ties, and keep a healthy, balanced amount of activities with those people, even when you're dating someone special.

Remember, your romantic mates will come and go before you finally settle in with a long-term partner. On the other hand, if you show loyalty and nurture them properly, your friends and family will usually be there for you. So treat them with care; don't blow them off.

Be careful when you're needy

If it's Christmas (or New Year's Eve, or Valentine's Day, or the anniversary of your last breakup, or . . . , or . . . , or . . . !), and you usually feel alone and needy around this time, be careful. Avoid bars, curb your drinking, and keep in touch with your common sense.

Don't spill your guts about your ex or your loneliness, and avoid jumping into bed with someone just because he or she is there. Spend time with friends rather than someone too tempting to resist.

Take it with a grain of salt when someone else is needy

People often make emotional statements they don't mean. A friend or child might yell, "I hate you!" when angry. An adult might profess to be in love when he or she desperately wants to love and be loved. When that person later calms down and feels less needy, he realizes he doesn't feel that way after all.

If you meet someone online who quickly becomes intense about you without even meeting you in person, or if she says she loves you after knowing you for only a few weeks, take it with a grain of salt. Understand the comments in context; factor in the person's state of mind before responding.

Be respectful, positive, and polite, but keep realistic expectations about your friend and the relationship. The odds of any one relationship working out long-term are low, so chances are, this one won't work either. When you're realistic in your expectations, you're not hurt and shocked if your date does a 180-degree turn. Moreover, if the relationship lasts, you can be pleasantly surprised.

About This Article

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Dr. Kate Wachs is America's only Psychologist-Matchmaker. She runs The Relationship Center™ in Chicago, the only full-service introduction and counseling center of its kind. She has helped millions of people through matchmaking, counseling, and her media appearances.

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