While being your authentic self and showing up as the real you in relationships is the only way to find true contentment, that does not mean we get carte blanche to be unfiltered, self-centered and obnoxious. Why? Because if you want to have a healthy and thriving relationship while also being you, you have to practice a certain amount of relationship etiquette in order to get along and keep people in your life.
In the early stages of a relationship, we tread on fragile ground because the new duo hasn’t developed enough of a history of positive experiences, or legs, to weather a lot of mess ups. Most of us know this intuitively, and present our best selves in the beginning, and that is as it should be. Just make sure when you do this, your best self presents what you really think, feel and believe, presented gently, and considerately.
Ultimately new relationships will be tested, like when we travel together for the first time. I can’t count the times I have heard my single clients in budding relationships say something like, “Well, we’re going on our first trip this week, so we’ll see how that turns out.” Yes, traveling together is likely to present a microcosm of who the person really is – if they aren’t patient or if they’re moody or a slob, you’ll see it.
So, if you’re planning a trip with your new love and don’t want to blow it, here are some helpful tips:
- Go with a humble attitude. When I think of humility in relationships, I think of a “What can I do for you?” attitude, as opposed to the “What can you do for me?” stance. If you really care about the person you are with, you really should desire to do all you can do to accommodate them and see that their needs are met. P.S. This is a stance that should be maintained throughout the relationship, whether traveling or not.
- Go with the flow. If you want to wake at the crack of dawn and get going on a packed agenda and your partner wants to sleep in and take it easy, then be OK with you doing your thing, and them doing theirs while weaving in time together when it works. The worst thing you can do is negatively judge or scrutinize your new love because they aren’t like you. Relaxing and sleeping or packed agendas are just preferences and should not be viewed as bad things.
- Forget about relationship mathematics. If you’re the type that sits around and counts how many accommodations you’ve made for your partner compared to how many they’ve made for you, and concluded that you are on the short end of the stick, forget about seething in resentment. Instead, adopt that servant’s attitude (See #1) and be happy that you could be such generous and loving partner. If you really need your partner to do more for you, simply ask them, gently and respectively, like, “Honey, may I make a request? Can we not go to that restaurant you picked tonight and just grab a sandwich somewhere? I’m kind of burned out on the big meals.” Think: Requests – not complaints or criticism.
- Be aware of yourself. If you know you are a slob, be mindful of how that will affect another person’s sensibilities. Pay attention to your suitcase, your toiletries … don’t hog the counter, closet or floor space. Make sure you leave plenty of areas clear and clean for your partner. Wipe the counter after you make your mess, don’t leave gross things hanging around. And for those that are anal retentive and feel horror when one little thing is out of place, forget the idea that others will ever meet your standards. If you really need it to be a certain way, have a sense of humor about it, and make it that way so long as it’s OK with your partner, without resentment.
- Control your mood. Yes, moods can be controlled most of the time. If you tend to have dark or stormy moods, just say it: “I am in a dark or stormy mood-mode. Please forgive me.” Then do everything in your power to return your best self back to the relationship – as soon as you can! In my own life, I give myself an hour. What you must not do is let it drag on for many hours or days.
- Do not expect your partner to mind read. So many partners tell me their love “should know” what they need, and this is simply ridiculous. We have to train our loves how to love us by telling them what makes our heart sing. Over time, they catch on and become more intuitive, but in the beginning, you really need to spell out in detail what makes you feel loved and cared about, or if you have a want or need.
Couple’s therapists often use the term, “Being Relational.” Being relational means you are a person who knows how to bring your best self to a relationship consistently, who can speak up about their wants and needs respectfully, can receive requests and corrections gracefully, and who maintains an atmosphere of solidness and safety when it comes to commitment and communication, such as; “You can count on me to accept who you really are without fear of contempt or criticism.” This will free you up to be the real you. That’s how solid relationships are built.