Meeting and dating someone new can be exciting. At the very beginning of a potential relationship, you get excited every time you get a new text alert. Your conversations are great, things are still flirty, and you can’t wait for a chance to see them again.
But is it true—does absence make the heart grow fonder? Can you burn out a relationship by spending too much time together when you first start dating?
If you want to go in for the long haul (or even a semi-long haul), it’s worth paying attention to the signals you’re giving your new love interest. Playing hard to get can come off as high-maintenance or standoffish, while attaching yourself at someone’s hip seems clingy and…well, also high maintenance. There has to be a balance, right?
There is. You want to make the most of something exciting, but you want to make sure you maintain your own space and social circle. Keep things in perspective, but don’t forget to have fun.
Here are some tips and things to consider to help you achieve this balance like a boss.
Are You Getting Time in with Your Own Friends?
First things first: If you’re consistently turning down nights out with your friends to spend time with someone you’ve just started dating, take a step back and think about what that might mean. If you nurture your friendships and take time to be with your besties, they’ll be there long after a relationship fizzles, no matter how long or short.
There’s also an even more serious side to this one: If someone you’re dating is actively trying to keep you from seeing your friends, that’s a huge red flag for potential abusive behavior later on. You definitely don’t want to introduce your friends to someone new right away, but if that someone new never wants to meet your friends, let alone let you see them, that’s a sure sign of trouble ahead.
Introducing them to your friends early on may be awkward, but if you think they’re going to be around for a while it’s worth getting their input in soon—if only to see if they gel with the group. If you want your new love interest to be around 24/7 but they definitely don’t, that’s going to be a problem. And there’s a good chance they’ll see things you won’t. If you’re really together nonstop, give it about a dozen dates and then introduce them to your friends.
Does it Feel Right? Do it!
Once you’re past that critical test of knowing if the relationship has the potential of being a healthy one, focus on the fun. If you’re both having a great time, go for it! Life is short, and if you’ve got the time available, enjoy it! How do you know if you’re both having fun? You’ll have to trust that they’re being honest and trust your gut on the rest.
Are either of you checking your phones too often, or bored, or hinting at having other things to get done? Seems like an obvious sign you’re overdoing it. But it’s so easy to get into the groove of things that you can forget that you don’t have to be bored as a couple when you could be productive and enjoying yourself on your own. It’s not a judgement; we all need some alone time. Make sure you make time for it. But if you have time for yourself and still have time to see your new interest often, go for it!
Absence Does Make the Heart Grow Fonder
There’s something to be said for intentionally taking time away from your new relationship, though. All things in moderation. While you both may feel like you can’t get enough of each other, you both know you’ve got the willpower to spend a little bit of time apart.
It’s great practice if the relationship gets more serious and you find you have to spend more time apart because of school or work. It also sets expectations early about what kind of time and energy you have to give. Just because you can do something—like devote all your time to one person, possibly even texting them through a whole workday—doesn’t mean you should. Leave a little mystery and a little conversation for later.
Whether it’s text or in person, don’t you want to be able to ask someone “how was your day” without immediately knowing what the answer will be?
What’s the Texting Like in Between?
If part of your worry is that the other person is feeling a little smothered and you can’t tell, what’s it like when you two are apart? Do you text throughout the day? Do you start or end the day with a text?
Giving someone space now and then—even in an ongoing text thread—is always a good idea, but if they’re responsive in text, that’s a good sign they’re pretty comfortable with the amount of time you spend together and how well you’re clicking.
Open Communication Wins the Day
Ultimately, talking with your soon to be significant other is a good way to put the topic to bed. It can be awkward, but if you and the person you’ve started dating set expectations early it can set the tone for the rest of the relationship, however long it lasts. Just saying “Oh, I can’t; I have a friend’s birthday party that night” and honoring those plans sets a good boundary: they don’t need to accompany you everywhere.
You may miss each other, but that’s a good thing! There will be plenty of time to make them your plus-one, but dating early on is about making sure you and your potential match will get along well long-term. The best way to do that is live your life and see where they fit in—and they should do the same. It’ll benefit you both in the long run.