The first stage of a new relationship is typically exciting, to say the least. Chemicals are racing, every new thing you learn about this other person makes them so much more attractive to you, sex is hot… we could go on. But it’s not all glitter and rainbows. Once you get past the initial hot-and-heavy stage, the first year of a relationship is when we usually figure out if this is a relationship worth keeping around.
There are challenges that couples face during that first year, and learning how to deal with them is key. Here are just some of those common, first year challenges—and what to do about them.
Getting on the Same Page
Challenge: Figuring out what you are
How to Deal: Talk it out and DON’T expect the other person to change, says relationship and sex therapist, Kongit Farrell. “For example, if they say, ‘I really don’t want a relationship right now,’ respect that and decide if you’re OK with a FWB arrangement or not. If you are, fine; if not, it’s time to look at your other options. Don’t waste your time trying to make a person want what they’ve already said they don’t want.”
Making Time for Each Other
Challenge: Learning to sync schedules—especially after being single—so you have time for each other (and others)
How to deal: During the first year, you may find yourself making sacrifices in the form of gym time, friends and family time, and then catching heat with your friends and/or personal trainer. “Something has to give and you have to BOTH get creative with your schedule. One great way to fit in your partner-time is to do activities you both love together. Your time will go where your priorities are,” says Rori Sassoon, a professional matchmaker and CEO of Platinum Poire.
Managing Expectations and Compromising
Challenge: Agreeing on and setting expectations (e.g., they’re constantly on their phone for work, yet you expect their undivided attention all the time)
How to deal: You’re going to have to learn to compromise. You may expect ALL their attention when together but your partner has a very involved career. Caitlin Bergstein, a professional matchmaker with Three Day Rule, says to be clear about how you expect to be treated, then, find some middle ground. “When something comes up, stay calm to talk about how or why that action didn’t meet your expectations and how to fix it. Whether your significant other isn’t spending enough time with you or isn’t contributing enough financially, talk about it and let them know what you’re looking for.”
Challenge: Getting through your first mini-crisis and breakdown.
How to deal: First, you want to see if they are a healthy arguer, says Sassoon. “Look to see if you both have the healthy communication skills necessary to pull through. This can teach you a lot about your partner if you let it. For example: what buttons not to push, if they have any past wounds you should be sensitive of, and how to begin building a common language when you have different communication styles.” Dealing with the first fight can be scary and hard but also a needed learning experience on how to handle future fights.
Aligning Your Libidos
Challenge: Having misaligned libidos where they want it every week and you want it every day!
How to Deal: Farrell suggests visiting a sex therapist. “This is not the therapy of 1967—there are SO many solutions to sexual challenges today that a professional can help you to solve. Misaligned libidos can be managed with anything from sex toys and mindful masturbation to hormonal therapy. If this is the biggest issue in your relationship, consider yourself very lucky….and get yourselves to Sex Therapy ASAP!”
Learning Tolerance and Patience
Challenge: Learning to tolerate each other’s idiosyncrasies (you leaving your underwear in the bathroom, they drop food crumbs everywhere)
How to deal: Take action immediately or else they’ll just pile up and you’ll eventually snap. You don’t want it surfacing in the middle of a spat, either, advises best-selling romance author, Cindee Bartholomew. “Always be gentle and kind when broaching the subject. Humor may be used to diffuse the situation, but make sure you aren’t laughing AT them or making fun of them. If the idiosyncrasy is a big deal to you, let them know they need to make an adjustment. It’s important to be honest early if it’s just annoying or a deal breaker.”
Challenge: You’re uncomfortable with the pace of the relationship; it feels like he/she wants to get married TOMORROW. You want to wait a year or four.
How to Deal: Don’t be pressured, figure out where you stand, and set your time boundaries. “See if you can find a middle ground,” says Farrell. “If you find that their pace is just too far a stretch from your own, it might be time to consider letting go. Remember, time is something you can’t get back and not something you want to invest without careful consideration.”
Assimilating with Friends and Family
Challenge: Meeting the family and friends and not getting along with them.
How to deal: Rather than immediately tell your boyfriend/girlfriend that you don’t like this person, Bergstein suggests to start by talking to one of your friends, a family member on how to handle this person in a mature matter. You can try and avoid any interaction with them but eventually you’ll have to explain to your partner why it is you don’t want to be around this other person.