Dating is arguably one of the most confusing, frustrating and sometimes wonderful experiences you will ever have. The process will teach you valuable lessons about yourself, the ways you relate to others and the type of relationship you truly want. When you are infatuated with someone, however, it is tempting to skip over the early steps and jump straight into a committed relationship. Practice slowing down while navigating the uncertainty stage of your relationship.
Understanding the Dating Stages
Experts disagree about exactly how many dating stages exist or how long average couples spend in each stage. Yet all agree that new relationships go through a period of uncertainty. This stage comes after the early infatuation and courtship, but before you make any definite commitments. You have gone out enough times to be sure you like each other and want to spend time together, but you are not ready to declare undying love.
Why Uncertainty Is Good
Many people, especially in their teens and early 20s, spend the uncertainty phase trying to make sure the other person likes them. You might be tempted to make major changes to your personality or behavior, put your new partner ahead of everything else in your life or play it cool even though you are torn up inside. Being inauthentic will backfire and can actually drive your partner away. Instead, take the opportunity to calmly voice your true feelings and note how your new partner responds. Remember that this stage is not an audition. It is the chance for both of you to be yourselves and determine whether the other person is right for you.
How to Manage Uncertainty
Release your feelings of being judged by turning the tables, suggests clinical psychologist Seth Meyers in Psychology Today's "4 Rules for Surviving Dating." Use positive self-talk to remind yourself that your job is to focus on how you feel about the other person. Leave your friends and family out of the relationship at this stage, and do not allow yourself to picture a future together. Stay in the moment, have fun, and trust that what is meant to be will be.
Deciding Whether to Move Forward
Many couples break up during the uncertainty stage. They come to the realization that they are not romantically compatible and move on with their lives. There is nothing wrong with this. Every relationship teaches important lessons. You can use what you learn when you date someone new. If you are compatible, however, you might decide to move forward into a committed relationship. Sit down and have an honest conversation about expectations. Beyond making a commitment not to date others, decide what you both want the relationship to mean. You might want to spend more time together, exchange high school or college rings or make family introductions. Be honest and clear, and negotiate a relationship that works for both of you.
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