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Setting Rules in a First Relationship

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If you’re in a first serious relationship like I am, there are a lot of questions and doubts swirling around. Part of you wants to hold back emotionally because, after all, this is the first time, and it’s rare to strike gold the first time you go digging. But you are so happy and in love and you just know this is a biggie.

But what does that mean? And how do we navigate the rocky waters of a serious relationship? The only guides we have are cheesy sitcoms. Do we actually need to exchange letter sweaters? Make a fuss on the six-month anniversary? Spend every waking moment together, or have our own time? Talk about every little detail of our childhoods? Can we disagree on something big and still be happy together?

It can be a difficult job to sift through what expectations to set in a healthy, supportive relationship. The important thing, however, is to do just that and have a clear idea of what your expectations are. If you’re expecting flowers every week but the significant other doesn’t believe in giving gifts, someone’s going to get their feelings hurt. Or if going out with friends of the opposite sex is upsetting for one person but not the other, some ground rules should be set. Living the monogamous life has plenty of pitfalls, but the smart, communicative couple can avoid most of them.

There’s no need to be mad jealous. The sitcoms always have a titanic rift in the relationship occurring if somebody goes out to a party without their s/o. Seriously, your boyfriend or girlfriend can have their own life. If you’ve got a ton of work and can’t go out one night, don’t guilt trip the other into staying home. If you both trust each other, there’s nothing wrong with hanging out with friends without one’s other half, even with members of the opposite sex. Unlike on TV, the mere presence of other girls will not make your boyfriend start salivating.

Talk things out, but also go to bed mad if necessary. The old proverb tells us never to go to bed mad and there’s something to be said for it; if issues are allowed to fester, they’ll eventually tear a couple apart. But it’s also smart to pick the right time to talk things out. If it’s late at night and you’re both stressed and exhausted, you’ll both just end up saying things you don’t mean and end up fogging up a problem rather than clarifying it. Agree to disagree until you’re both ready to tackle an issue.

Decide what your dealbreakers are. It’s important to know what you’re willing to weather and what you’re not. What are the problems or differences that would make you think the relationship would no longer work? It may sound grim to think about, but if you find yourself surprised by something you didn’t know about your s/o that leaves you wondering, make sure you know the difference between something that can be worked out and something that can’t. And be flexible! Surprises aren’t always a bad thing. In fact, it’s continually learning new things about your bf or gf that keeps a serious relationship fresh and invigorating. Not every difference is a dealbreaker.

Be where you’re needed. Ok, so you’ve decided you’re “going steady” now. It means committing to another person in a serious way – not just for having fun, but for the rocky times too. That may be the main difference between a fling and a serious relationship. In a fling, you stop being together whenever it stops being fun to be with that person. In a serious relationship, you’re there to be a shoulder to cry on and also an ear for complaints. Your bf or gf should support you, but that means supporting him or her just as much. In this egotistical age, we tend to forget that second bit.

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  • COLLEGECANDY Writer