20 Mistakes to Avoid in a New Relationship


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A new relationship is an exciting prospect, but it can also be an emotional minefield as both partners learn to effectively communicate and cope with each other's idiosyncrasies. If you're in the early stages of a new romance, these are some of the most common mistakes and ways of thinking to avoid as the relationship develops.

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Some people — especially those with less experience in long-term relationships — may rush into commitments too quickly, often acting on suspicions that this may be their only chance at love. Escalating the intensity of a relationship prematurely can be a sure recipe for driving away the other partner. "A relationship is a process, and it needs to unfold over time," says Kory Floyd, a professor of interpersonal communications at the University of Arizona.
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You may hear that honesty is the best policy, but that doesn't mean it's advisable to unload every bit of personal information at the onset of a new relationship. Those prone to committing too quickly should be careful not to spill all the beans at once on subjects such as family, finances, and previous partners. "If we do that too early in the developmental trajectory of a relationship," says Floyd, "we run the risk that if it doesn't work out, we've given out a lot of very personal data that can come back to hurt us."
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While being too revealing or brutally honest can hurt a relationship early on, so can consciously keeping secrets or withholding information that's consequential to the relationship — i.e. things that would be emotionally damaging for the other person to find out. "Not all dishonesty is the same. There's a real role to play for the motivation behind dishonesty and what it is that I'm actually trying to cover up and why," says Floyd. "A lot of dishonesty in a relationship can be highly problematic."
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It'll often seem easier to let things go in a relationship rather than harp on them, but suppressing your feelings too often can become problematic down the line, postponing arguments until those feelings have reached their boiling point. If something about the relationship troubles you enough that you're complaining about it to others, it's likely more advisable to take it up with your partner instead.
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On the opposite end of the spectrum, some partners prefer to tackle every potential disagreement head-on as soon as it arises. However, trying to immediately talk through every minor squabble can become exhausting for both partners and escalate conflicts that would otherwise resolve themselves over time. "It doesn't necessarily mean avoiding that topic forever, it just means avoiding that conflict right now and waiting for when it can be dealt with in a more rational manner," Floyd says.
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Whether resulting from a partner's past dishonesty or our own insecurities, being constantly suspicious or jealous is a definite red flag and usually indicates trust issues somewhere in the relationship. This mistrust can stem from many sources but usually manifests in paranoid behaviors like snooping through a partner's texts or following them to see where they go.
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Everyone has different subjects they're sensitive about and standards for what they expect from a partner. Clarifying and being aware of those expectations will help a relationship avoid unnecessary conflict. Otherwise, you run the risk of unwittingly crossing those boundaries and angering or embarrassing a partner by showing up at an event uninvited or sharing personal information with friends.
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Excitement over a new relationship may lead to a practice called "love-bombing," wherein one showers their partner with verbal affirmations, physical affection, and favors to the point of excess. Acting out behaviors associated with a more established relationship before reaching a strong, emotional foundation may ring hollow, overwhelming a partner rather than ingratiating them.
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In contrast, some people may come across as undervaluing their partner and the relationship by not investing enough time, energy, and emotional affection as is appropriate. While a relationship can be an outlet talk about oneself, be wary if either you or your partner fails to reciprocate by listening and showing concern for the other person's experiences and emotions.
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Often occurring in tandem with not investing enough in a partner's emotions is the mistake of focusing too much on a relationship's physical aspects. "If everything we have and value about the new relationship is physical or sexual, it can be very fulfilling in the short run, but it's not enough to build a long-term relationship," explains interpersonal communications expert Kory Floyd. "At some point, the physical attraction and sexual excitement are going to fade, and when that becomes the primary focus, we're not investing in things that will give that relationship a fair chance of sustaining itself."
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Watch out for partners — including yourself — who get bored and prematurely leave a relationship once the excitement of infatuation fizzles out. Anthropologist Helen Fisher has termed this type of person as a "love junkie." They may cycle through relationships quickly because they want the "high" of being in love all the time, without devoting the emotional labor necessary to develop a sustainable, long-term bond.
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When a relationship moves quickly, you risk only discovering a partner's bad habits, problematic behaviors, or questionable beliefs after making a commitment. "This can create what psychologists call cognitive dissonance," explains communications expert Kory Floyd. "Often the easiest way to deal with these conflicted feelings is to ignore or rationalize them away when it would be healthier to communicate about those behaviors or recognize them for the red flags they are."
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We've probably all had a friend who started neglecting other hobbies and personal connections in favor of their new partner. According to Floyd, one of the physiological symptoms of infatuation is a reduction of the brain's serotonin levels, resulting in an ADHD-like state wherein one's attention keeps reverting to the object of affection. Not only is this poor prioritizing and alienating to other friends, but it can also set the relationship up for resentment and disappointment as one single person will rarely if ever be enough meet all our relational needs.
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It's easy to get antsy in the early stages of courtship about where the relationship is headed, leading to impatience for commitment and excessive worrying over whether you and your partner have a future together. "If I'm constantly bringing up that insecurity of not knowing where we're at, at some point the cost of that will outweigh the reward of staying in the relationship," says professor Kory Floyd. He recommends accepting the ambiguous developmental process of a relationship and learning to see it as a source of hope and excitement rather than fear and uncertainty.
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Some people repeatedly ignore red flags in a relationship; others tend to imagine them at every turn. If you're prone to interpreting even minor transgressions as breakup-worthy offenses, remember to check your unrealistic expectations and communicate with your partner about repeat problems that bother you before making any rash decisions.
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Passive-aggressive behaviors and statements are intended to hurt another person, but come cloaked behind a seemingly innocuous facade to allow plausible deniability and avoid responsibility. Examples may include consciously "forgetting" to call back or disguising insults as playful teasing. "It's never healthy for a relationship if the motivation behind my behavior is to hurt the other person," says professor Kory Floyd. "[Passive aggression] often has no less a negative effect on the recipient, and once we identify that pattern in a partner, it can hurt us even more."
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"A question people often ask me is, 'how can I get my partner to be more affectionate with me?'" says Floyd. "Which is simply another way to say, 'how can I change them?'" Though personal growth is part of a healthy relationship, trying to change a fundamental part of your partner is extraordinarily difficult, not to mention ill-advised.
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When we become impatient with some aspect of a partner's behavior or personality, we may issue an ultimatum that they meet our standards at once. This is more likely to infringe on their sense of autonomy and breed resentment or rebellion. According to Floyd, a better but more time- and labor-intensive method to help your partner improve is to model desirable behaviors and "invite change" rather than demand it.
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One of the most harmful cognitive distortions people fall into in new relationships is what's called projecting, or making premature assumptions of how another person thinks or feels, usually based on our own thought patterns. This is a natural way of empathizing with others to some extent, but when we make statements or decisions for our partners without recognizing those assumptions and our own flawed view of events, it can make them feel ignored or misunderstood.
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One of the most common things people project is their own insecurity, assuming or accusing others, especially romantic partners, of only pretending to love and care for them. When one partner constantly doubts the sincerity of the other's love, the psychological subtext is often, "Who would love me?" Without correction, this needy, disbelieving attachment style can become a self-fulfilling prophecy, driving the other person to give up on the relationship once their earnest affections are repeatedly dismissed.

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