There is nothing like the euphoria of a new love interest. You have finally met someone that you really like, and we are talking the can't stop thinking about them, butterflies in your tummy type of like. You are on cloud nine until the fear sets in.
What if they don’t like me as much as I like them? What if they are still not over their ex? What if all they want is a hook-up? Am I going to get hurt again? And round and round we go until we have twisted ourselves in knots. This is when the self-sabotage starts to set in.
We start to read into everything. Why haven’t they text me back right way? Who else are they seeing? What did he mean by that? We start to feel anxious and obsessed. We may begin to interrogate our new partner or over-react. Or drink way too much and make a complete dick of ourselves and our new, shiny relationship blows up into smithereens.
Here are my top tips on how to not screw up a new relationship or ruin things before it’s even has a chance to start.
1. Keep your baggage to yourself (for now)
One of the biggest mistakes I see people make (and to be honest, I have done myself), is airing all of your dirty laundry right away. Ranting about your ex, talking about how you were abused as a child, disclosing your three abortions and two STD’s, listing all the ways you've been hurt and how you have huge trust issues are all ways we can make a new partner run for the hills.
Everyone has baggage of some kind. However, oversharing before there's a real bond can overwhelm a new partner and unfortunately, put them off. You can absolutely tell your partner your life story, just wait until you're sure that you can trust this person before you disclose all the gory details. Getting to know a person and creating intimacy is a process and one that shouldn’t be rushed. People are much more able to handle your sad stories if you share them gradually as the relationship builds. Keep it light and fun in the beginning.
2. Don't rush commitment
A secure, healthy person takes their time getting to know someone and deciding whether or not their prospective partner is a good fit for them. Telling someone you love them right away, making plans way ahead in the future, and introducing them to your family too soon can overwhelm a new partner and freak them out. Relationships can only succeed when there is a foundation to build them on, such as shared experiences and interests. Just because you both ordered the same meal doesn't mean you’re compatible in every way.
Instead of worrying about whether or not they like you, take your time assessing if they are a good match for you. Is this really a person you want in your life and do they have the qualities that you are looking for in a partner? It takes a while to really get to know someone. If you move too fast, you could end up waking up married to a psychopath because you didn't take the time to get to know them before it was too late.
People can keep a lid on the "crazy" for around three months. Any bad behaviour in the first couple of months should be a major red flag as people are on their best behaviour in the first few months. Workplaces have a ninety day trial period for a reason.
3. Don’t have sex with them right away
As my grandmother used to say, "Your body is your house, and you don’t just let anyone off the street come inside your house. You want to make sure they are trustworthy before you let them in."
People are on their best behaviour in the beginning and when you have sex with someone, especially as a woman, your body makes all kinds of intense chemicals bonding you to them so that you will stay with this person in case you get pregnant. These bonding hormones can also blind us from seeing all the red flags that come up telling us that this is not a person we should get involved with. We can also be hurt much worse if that person doesn’t want to see us again after we slept with them.
Be a challenge. Men go on safari and hunt for weeks trying to capture a trophy to take home. If they shoot their target in the first hour, they don’t have the same feeling of satisfaction that they get if they have to work for it. You are valuable. You shouldn’t give yourself away to people who don’t deserve it. Building up sexual tension also makes the sex much more explosive.
4. Identify your triggers
Try to identify what triggers your sabotaging patterns. Is it insecurity? Someone not meeting your expectations? Not feeling good enough. Address those underlying feelings with a good therapist or friend. Learn what triggers you, and find ways of calming yourself and addressing your emotional needs without sabotaging your relationships. By understanding what triggers you, you can learn better-coping strategies, and not let your emotions overwhelm you, which can cause you to act out in ways that can end your relationship.
A lot of our patterns of sabotaging behaviour stem from childhood. Acting a certain way got you the attention you craved, positive or negative. You may be repeating behaviours that worked for you as a kid, in your particular family, but now push perspective partners away.
5. Sort yourself out
Do you have issues that need addressing? Do you have a history of being highly anxious, insecure or jealous in relationships? An addiction you can't seem to get a handle on? Still angry at your ex or family? A pattern that keeps coming up in relationships that ruins it every time? While we all have things we need to work on, we tend to avoid addressing our issues or expect our partner to be our therapist.
Healthy people don't want a partner with tons of issues. They don’t want to hear you go on and on about how horrible your exes have been and help you work through all of your problems. Find a good therapist, read some books addressing your issues and face your
problems. Learn about attachment types in relationships and how this affects your reactions. I think many different factors affect our ability to have a healthy relationship; however, the theory that I have found to bring me the most significant insight is The Adult Attachment Theory. When I first read about it, it was like a bolt of lightning. Everything was illuminated. You can find out more about attachment types and even take a free test to find out what your type is by clicking this link.
Learn to let go of your fear and remember not every relationship is the same. Just because your last relationship went up in flames, this doesn’t mean that your current one will too. The fear of abandonment and rejection can be intense and overwhelming, but it can show you where your wounds are, and what needs to be healed.
Don’t be afraid to get professional help. Your mental health is the most important resource you have, and money spent getting help is invaluable. If you can’t afford a therapist at this moment in time, a library card can be a great resource. Trust that if your new relationship doesn’t work out, it wasn’t meant to be. And if they really are the right person, it will work out no matter what obstacles come up.
Books I recommend:
- Getting The Love You Want by Harville Hendricks
- Attached: The New Science of Adult Attachment and How It Can Help You Find - and Keep Love: The New Science of Adult Attachment by Amir Levine & Rachel Heller
- Why You're Not Married…Yet: The Straight Talk You Need to Get the Relationship You Deserve By Tracey McMillan
Caroline Cranshaw is a hypnotherapist, founder and trainer at the New Zealand Integrative Hypnotherapy Training Institute and the author of The Smoking Cure. Find out more about her at nzhypnotherapy.co.nz. Listen to Caroline's new podcast WTF Stories & Advice.