Starting A Relationship: Are You Really Ready?

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If you are human, you have probably asked yourself this question at some point: “Will I ever find romantic love?” (people who don’t ask this question aren’t not human, they’re just hard to come by or they got tired of asking). Maybe you worded it differently in your head, had some expletives thrown in for emphasis, or cried some version of the question through a mouthful of Ben & Jerry’s Chubby Hubby.

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The trouble for some of us is we have such a hard time finding romantic love. Maybe we dive into relationships too quickly and realize there is no connection too late. Maybe we don’t even give relationships a try for whatever reason. Or maybe we’re just plain looking for the wrong things in the wrong places.

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More than anything, starting a relationship requires knowing yourself, knowing what you want, and knowing that you are not guaranteed to get what you want.

Know Yourself

Maybe you rolled your eyes when you read “know yourself,” but the point cannot be stressed enough. Getting into a relationship means taking the first step towards smashing two people’s worlds together. It is not a small undertaking. If you don’t know your own world well enough to navigate it on your own, it can be confusing and difficult, let alone kind of unfair to rope another person into that.

Here are two questions for you to think about before you try to start dating someone:

  1. Can I successfully describe myself to another person? – If the answer is no, go directly to self-reflection. Do not stop at Go. Do not collect $200. Just take Tina’s advice and get to know YOU. What you like, what you want, and what you live for.
  2. Am I looking for a relationship to feel better about myself/less lonely? – It’s easy to get into a relationship for these reasons, because if someone else likes you or wants to spend time with you, you can’t be that bad right? The problem is when you are interested in someone not because of who they are but because of how they make you feel. Like it or not, you are basically using someone to feel good, which is still using someone.

Know What You Want

Before you get into anything, even in line at McDonald’s, it’s better to know what you want. If you want sushi, McDonald’s would be a bad choice. Relationships are no different. You cannot go into a relationship with someone unsure if you are ready to be vulnerable with another person; that’s kind of the whole deal with relationships.

Here are some questions to ask yourself to help you figure out what you want out of a relationship:

  1. Looking for now? Or looking for later? – Not everyone approaches dating the same way or with the same expectations. I’m not saying you should tell someone that you want to marry them when you are just getting to know them. Just try to be on the same page, be realistic about what you want out of dating in general, and find out what the person you are interested in wants out of dating, too.
  2. Do I want sex, or do I want a partner?Relationships are partnerships. Yes, not every relationship grows into a successful partnership. But, both people have needs, wants, and a world to worry about, let alone the other person’s. If you are more interested in having sex with the other person than you are in getting to know the other person, don’t lead them on just so you can do the deed. They are more important than your sex-drive.

Know that “No” is OK

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There are other fish in the sea, as the saying goes. And while the sting of rejection, well, stings, it doesn’t mean the end of everything.

In fact, here’s a quick list of the things that “No” doesn’t mean:

  • Yes (had to get this one out of the way)
  • That you should never try again (though trying again and again with the same person is kind of the same as thinking “no” means “yes”)
  • You’re ugly
  • They’re mean
  • That you’re stupid
  • That they’re stupid
  • That there’s something wrong with you
  • That there’s something wrong with the other person
  • That you need to prove anything to yourself or to them

Just remember…

Contrary to another saying, people do change. Maybe not in huge, life-altering ways, but everyone goes through changes over their lifespan. It’s ok to not know yourself entirely before you start a relationship, and it’s ok to question who you are while you’re in a relationship. Just be sure to be honest and open with yourself and, more importantly, with whomever you end up with. It’s not just “the right thing to do,” it can also feel really good to just be real.

About Catie Martin

Catie Martin, LMSW is the Corner Health Center's in-house improv master and therapist extraordinaire. Little known fact: therapists with a sense of humor are better than therapists without a sense of humor.

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