By Decoding Couples
The early phase of dating can be exciting and fun. You’ve got butterflies as you get ready for dates, your heart is racing when you walk out the door, and you have pings of adrenaline throughout the night as you get to know each other and try to decipher if there is a potential future with this person. This early phase of dating is also an opportunity to spot healthy and unhealthy behaviors in the potential relationship. Unhealthy behaviors can be easily overshadowed by the giddiness and excitement we may feel but it is still important to know what to look for!
Here are some signs of unhealthy behavior that may pop up in the early stages of a relationship:
- Gaslighting: When someone purposely misleads you, creating a false narrative and making you question your judgments and reality for their benefit.
- A Relationship History Where They Did No Wrong: “My ex was crazy, I did everything right.” or “I don’t know what happened, he dumped me out of the blue, I was the perfect partner…”
- Controlling Behavior: Making statements or asking questions to influence what you do or don’t do. This can be anything from commenting on your appearance, what you eat, who you talk to, or throwing shade at something you want to do or are passionate about
- Jealous Behavior: Behaviors such as joking they are going to show up on your friends’ doorstep because they text you too much, telling you what to wear or not wear because of attention you may attract, and making statements they don’t want to share you/want to keep you all to themselves.
- Inconsistent Behavior & Communication: Are they hard to get a hold of? Only call or reach out during specific times of the day/night (without a reasonable explanation)? Do their words not match up with their actions?
- Alcohol/Substance Centered: They always need to smoke/drink/pop pills etc. before, during, and after outing. They make remarks about needing substances to cope with stress, family, work issues, etc. and they have significant mood changes without explanation when substances are present.
Here are some signs of healthy behavior that we encourage people to look for in the early stages of a relationship:
- Consistency: Their actions align with their words. They show up when they say they are going to show up and who they say they are matches with their actions.
- Mutual Initiation and Conversation: You both put in effort to communicate and engage in conversation that deepens the relationship. You feel like your partner has genuine curiosity about you and you feel comfortable being curious about them.
- Vulnerability With Their Feelings: They are able to open up and show you vulnerability. We don’t mean sharing their deepest, darkest secrets on date two, but you know substantial information about their life that is more than surface level.
- Autonomy and Independence: Neither of you lose your individuality and pre-dating lives (i.e.: individual social lives, hobbies, interests, etc.). Of course, you may spend a good amount of time together in the beginning, but it is not all consuming to the point where you stop pursing your individual interests that make you feel good.
- You’re Sexually Compatible: Intimacy feels healthy, mutual, and good. Consent is in place; no one is feeling pushed or uneasy. You sexually feel comfortable and safe.
- You Feel Like Yourself in Their Company: What a huge one! You feel like you can be YOU. There is no judgment or shame for the core values you hold and the characteristics of your personality. You also get the feeling they get to bring their authentic selves to the table as well and aren’t forcing a version of themselves they’re not.
This is not a one size fits all list, and many of these things depend on other elements and context. The important thing to remember during the early dating phase is that the love we are seeking and that is worthy of our time and energy is love that elevates us and celebrates who we are. A worthy partner will celebrate and highlight the things you love about yourself and support the parts that need healing. When someone tries to dim your light or make you feel bad about who you are…that is not a relationship worth investing in.