There is nothing like that feeling when your heart is doing star jumps and you can’t wipe that ridiculous smile off your face. You walk to work with a skip in your step, life feels lighter and you no longer care that your neighbours continue to play loud music, at all hours of the night…
Why? Because, you are in love…
Got a problem? No worries. Your sweetheart is only one tap of a button, and a smiley face away.
But when your texting of cringe-worthy emoticons is hitting a wall of silence, and you have spent the better part of three consecutive weekends alone—at the very last minute—then it is painfully clear that your feelings are no longer being reciprocated.
But before you text him your favourite line from James Cameron’s Titanic: “I’ll never let you go!” Be aware that any notion of romance and longing on your part, could only ever be interpreted by the receiver as: CREEPY STALKER. DELETE CONTACT!
And with this in mind, the idea of dating or forming a relationship with someone new, can be incredibly daunting. Clinical Psychologist Karen Nimmo, says our foremost challenge in entering a new relationship, is fear: “A fear of commitment, failure of being hurt and lonely. We are all shaped by our past—families, experiences and previous relationships— these can get in the way of forming healthy partnerships.”
“Many daters keep their options open in case there’s someone better, just a click away.”
Karen says that dating sites and Apps also make ‘finding love’ incredibly competitive and more disposable. “Many daters keep their options open in case there’s someone better, just a click away. I had a client who was told she was perfect after her first date, only to be dumped a day later for someone even more amazing who had come online overnight.”
While technology makes it easier to meet people, can we safely assume that true love can be found on the internet, especially when we are more likely to say things that we might not reveal in person?
“Almost everyone who is looking for love is online. Dating sites boast higher hit rates than meeting someone through work or friends or in a bar, and although there can be problems, there are also a lot of success stories.”
The key, Karen says, is to establish both sets of expectations early on, keeping in mind that it is best to chat for a while before you meet, meet in safe places, and leave alcohol out of the mix because it will mess with your decision-making.
Another factor that can interfere with the promise of a new relationship is baggage. How much are you carrying, and are you prepared to completely let go? “Some people shoot too high, some settle too low. Don’t let your past have too much influence when you meet someone new. See a counsellor or psychologist if you’re not sure! Compatibility in attraction, interests, expectations and behaviours is ideal. Flexibility is important in any relationship but just make sure you are not the one making all the compromises.”
But if you are single and unsure whether or not you’re ready to take the leap into a new relationship, apparently you are not alone. “That’s half the problem for people entering relationships. Many people are reluctant to ask a potential partner about their relationship history, but it’s important information. You should also watch their behaviour— actions will tell you more than words.”
So, once you have found Mr or Mrs Forever and have negotiated your way through, and around the hurdles of social networking and online flirting, it can be far too easy to lose sight of who you were before you entered the relationship—your lives, interests and friends not only intersect, but have amalgamated. So what is the secret to striking the perfect balance between me time and we time?
“A blend of me and we time is healthiest. If your partner wants more time with his or her mates than you, then it’s a big Red Flag. Ignore this at your peril. But beware of dating someone who wants to spend ALL of their time with you. Did they not have a life before? What may seem flattering in the beginning will eventually feel suffocating.”
Beyond the fun and early days of giddy excitement, the keys to maintaining a healthy relationship are fun, flexibility, kindness and consistency: “Consistency in a mate might sound boring, but knowing you can count on your partner—their choices, behaviour, emotions and their treatment of you—is priceless.”
Karen Nimmo is a Clinical Psychologist based in Wellington, New Zealand.
To find out more, head to her website: On The Couch.