How to transition from meeting to dating to a healthy relationship - Christian Connection dating advice

How to transition from meeting to dating to a healthy relationship

Finding someone we want to date and carry on dating is one thing. Transitioning into a healthy relationship with that person is another. When we find someone with whom we want to pursue a relationship, it’s tempting to throw ourselves into the experience, to the exclusion of all else. How do we grow closer to someone while holding onto ourselves and avoiding self-sabotaging behaviours so we form a healthy relationship?

Wanting to spend a lot of time with our romantic partner is a natural part of the bonding stage of the relationship. But there’s an important difference between bonding and merging to create a healthy relationship.

Understanding bonding

When we bond with someone, we grow in affection for them. We find out more about them and we learn to trust them, because they have earned our trust. In turn, they learn to trust us. This happens gradually – by spending quality time together, by engaging in fun activities, and by trying out each other’s hobbies and passions.

In healthy relationships, both people create space for the relationship to develop whilst also maintaining their lives outside of the relationship. They continue to see friends and family members and they carry on practising their hobbies.

There’s a healthy balance between time spent together and time spent apart.

In this scenario, if the relationship fails, we may feel disappointed, sad or hurt, but we won’t feel broken, isolated or desperately alone, because we have maintained our friendship circles, our support networks and our lives outside the relationship.

Understanding merging

How to transition from meeting to dating to a healthy relationship - Christian Connection dating adviceMerging is a different experience.

This happens when we throw all our eggs into our date’s basket, usually at great haste. We stop seeing friends and family members, give up our hobbies and dedicate all our time and energy to making the relationship work. The couple quickly becomes an island.

This is a vulnerable position to be in.

We will be desperate to make the relationship work because it has become our sole focus. This means we may ignore red flags and override our intuition when something feels amiss.

Then, if the relationship breaks down for whatever reason, we will feel bereft and alone. We may even try to rekindle it, despite knowing the person isn’t right for us, because our partner has become our only source of companionship, affection and care. We will also take a long time to recover from the relationship breakdown, meaning we may miss other romantic opportunities.

Understanding yourself

Can you relate to either of these scenarios? Are you at risk of merging rather than bonding?

If you feel you might be tempted to merge your life with another to the exclusion of all else, share your truth with trusted friends, ask for other people’s perspective and support, journal about your fears and pray about them.

Practically speaking, think about the healthy boundaries you want to set around the relationship and the support you will need to maintain these boundaries.

How to transition from meeting to dating to a healthy relationship - Christian Connection dating adviceFor example, you can decide, both individually and as a couple, how quickly you want the partnership to progress, how much time you want to spend together and apart, and how deeply you want to get to know each other. In healthy relationships, each person will also support the other to maintain friendships and to continue with activities.

Remember, aim for a healthy bond rather than a merged state.

At the other end of the spectrum, some of us are prone to ending relationships in the early stages at the first sign of trouble.

As we move from dating into a relationship, it’s inevitable that we’ll hit some bumps in the road. As we get to know someone better, we might learn things about them that we don’t like so much, and we might be tempted to break things off.

This was one of my patterns.

I used to date with the fantasy that my partner would be perfect, rather than human. This fantasy was rooted in my early life experience. When our parents struggle to care for us, we emerge into adulthood with the fantasy of perfect care – the hope that someone will do the job our parents couldn’t do, read our minds and perfectly meet our needs.

As soon as I hit a hurdle in the early stages of a relationship, I’d assume the man wasn’t right for me and I’d run for the hills – until I matured emotionally and learned that healthy relationships involve niggles and disagreements and that there is no such thing as Mr. Perfect.

Understanding how to grow a healthy relationship

How to transition from meeting to dating to a healthy relationship - Christian Connection dating adviceRed flags are red flags, of course, and we need to pay attention to them, but some challenges arise because the couple needs to work through them, as two healthy adults. If both partners can do this, intimacy will increase and the relationship will strengthen.

I wonder if you can relate to disappearing for the hills at the first sign of conflict. If so, I encourage you to share your feelings and behaviours with a trusted friend, with God, and/or with a professional. Take the time to explore whether you too have the fantasy of the perfect partner and relationship, and make space to heal any childhood wounds and mature emotionally.

If we can accept ourselves as perfectly imperfect beings and become willing to accept another person’s inevitable flaws, our hearts will be open to love.

In summary, then, bond don’t merge and work through any challenges rather than fleeing from them. Both behaviours will help to build the healthy foundations required for a relationship to blossom and grow.

Enjoyed reading ‘How to transition from meeting to dating to a healthy relationship’? Read more posts on emotionally healthy singleness and dating here.

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