It’s easy to confuse flirtatious banter with those relationship mind games most commonly played by either one or both parties in the early stages. But does playing ‘hard-to-get’ ever actually work for building the foundation of a healthy and successful relationship down the line?
While we’re sure to have all seen or known lasting relationships that may have begun on uneven footing, Dan Auerbach, director with Associated Relationship & Marriage Counsellors, says that the best relationships are commenced from a place of trust and honesty. Here, he reveals his advice to starting relationships right.
“It’s really important to start a new relationship in a clean and trusting way. Couples often come into relationship counselling and when you try and work out what’s gone wrong, for a number of couples it’s that the relationship didn’t start well.
“For example, one partner may have been seeing several people at once, or was on-again-off-again with their ex, or maybe even was still in a full-time relationship. Sadly that sort of shakiness at the start can leave scars where one partner continues to mistrust.”
He says that if you’ve found a connection with someone that you’d like to see grow into something more serious, you might wish to “do something terribly old fashioned” and date them exclusively for a while.
We all carry certain emotional baggage from experiences in our past and from previous relationships. Someone who may have been hurt by cheating might naturally bring these worries into a new partnership, and of course, it can be difficult not to project your fears onto your new connection.
“We all bring our past relationships with us, but it’s a good idea to check in with yourself to make sure you aren’t projecting those experiences onto your new partner,” Auerbach says.
“If you’re concerned about something, learn to share that with your partner in a vulnerable way that invites connection, rather than defensiveness. We know from years of couple research that the couples who do well communicate regularly about how they feel about each other, share their concerns openly and are able to repair with each other if something goes wrong.
“The key skill to this is being in touch with your feelings and needs and learning to ask your partner for reassurance or support when you need it.”
Films and TV shows might lead us to believe that we should only ever begin a new relationship once we’re completely ‘over’ our previous one. But is it ever OK to start forming a new connection while you still feel invested in a previous one? Even if only a little bit?
“I’ve seen couples develop strong lasting connections even when at the start, one partner is still somewhat invested in an ex. Depending on your age and stage of life — for example, with first love, it can take some time for those connections to wane.
“The important thing is your commitment to your new partner and making them feel sure and safe. If that’s not something you can do, you’re not ready.”