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A Guide to Your First-Ever Romantic Relationship

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Do you feel a pit in your stomach or a fiery passion in your heart? That might be this thing called emotion, which ranges from sadness to sincere love. When you find a connection with someone (whether your zodiac signs align or not) and enter your first relationship, you’ll start to feel things you might’ve never felt before. Your emotions become heightened and more intense.

“You might start to empathize with your partner, heavily taking on their emotions on top of yours,” relationship expert and certified sex therapist Aliyah Moore told Glowsly. “You might feel a magnetic pull toward them. Or you might even start to visualize a future with them.”

From a science-based perspective, your brain experiences a literal reaction when you become attracted to someone, whether emotionally or physically. “Neurotransmitters that help us feel good, specifically dopamine and oxytocin, are involved,” Michele Goldman, a psychologist and media advisor at Hope for Depression Research Foundation, said. “They are activated in the part of our brain that is responsible for keeping us alive, interestingly not the part of our brain that is for judgment, decision-making, insight, [or] problem-solving.” 

While these unfamiliar emotions can be intimidating and confusing, they should be no excuse to run away from them — or your partner.

What societal constructs do cis-gendered men and women face regarding relationships?

These are generalizations and, in no respect, universal nor applicable to genders beyond the binary.

“Research suggests that [cis]women tend to place a higher value on emotional intimacy in relationships compared to men,” Moore said. “This may be because [they] are socialized to prioritize emotional expression and communication from a young age and may feel more comfortable sharing their emotions with a partner.”

She added, “[Cismen], on the other hand, may prioritize physical attraction and sexual intimacy. From a biological perspective, men have higher levels of testosterone than women, which can lead to a greater interest in sex and physical intimacy.” As a result, men may be socialized to prioritize physical appearance, sexual prowess, independence, and autonomy.

With that in mind, here are some tips to help you feel confident and optimistic about your new romantic relationship.

Rule #1: Don’t let fear control you

The first rule is to avoid letting fear push away your partner. Just because you haven’t felt these strong feelings before doesn’t mean there’s something wrong with letting them surface.

When you find something real with someone, your first thought might be to throw them away or hurt them before they get the chance to hurt you. Whether you fear abandonment or vulnerability, have past relationship trauma, or aren’t ready to commit to someone long-term, understanding why you’re hesitant can help you avoid rash decisions. After all, you don’t want to regret any sudden or poor decision-making and lose the person you love.

“Many people have trouble with fear of commitment,” behavior psychologist Justin Gasparovic said. “But letting fear dominate your choices can keep you from enjoying the pleasures of a committed relationship. It’s crucial to face your anxieties and figure out how to deal with them in a healthy way instead of letting them rule what you do.”

Rule #2: Acknowledge your emotions

Woman sitting on a couch writing in a journal

These new feelings emerging in your heart and body might be difficult to put into words. But rather than pushing them as far down as possible, try acknowledging or expressing your emotions.

“Emotions are a fundamental part of human connection, and sharing them can help to deepen the emotional connection between partners,” Moore said.

Acknowledging your emotions can take the form of writing down your thoughts, telling your partner how you feel, or talking to a therapist. Better communication translates to a healthier relationship.

Forming a journaling habit can be a therapeutic way to release the thoughts and feelings that may be weighing you down. The act of physically writing down your thoughts can translate to a clearer headspace.

Journaling may help to “process emotions, provide an outlet for self-expression, reduce stress and anxiety, increase self-awareness, promote problem-solving, … lower levels of the stress hormone cortisol, boost the immune system, and improve sleep quality,” Moore said.

She continued, “When we write about our thoughts and feelings, we activate certain parts of the brain that are involved in processing emotions, memories, and language. This can help us to make sense of our experiences and reduce the intensity of negative emotions.”

Here are some guiding questions to help take your cluttered thoughts out of your head and onto paper:

  • What emotions am I feeling? Sad? Angry? Satisfied? Depressed? Excited?
  • How does my body feel physically? Is my heart beating fast? Is there a lump in my throat? A pit in my stomach? Do my legs feel weak?
  • What am I scared of?
  • How does my partner make me feel?
  • How do I feel when I’m with my partner?
  • What do I need from my partner?
  • What do I love about my relationship?
  • What can we work on in our relationship?

Use these questions as inspiration, but once your pen hits the paper, feel free to write anything that comes to mind. Once you’ve let it all out, notice how you feel mentally and physically. The hope is that you’ll feel a bit lighter and calmer. If not, keep writing! 

Rule #3: Listen to your partner and act accordingly

Listening to what your partner is asking for and noticing what they need from you will guide your relationship in a healthy direction. If you’re unsure, just ask! Listening to your partner isn’t the end-all-be-all, though. It’s crucial to digest what they’re saying, then work with them to act on it to improve your relationship.

“Listening deeply involves not only hearing the words that are spoken but also understanding the underlying emotions and perspectives that are being conveyed,” Moore said. “This requires [you] to be fully present and attentive, which can be challenging in a world full of distractions.”

Relationships are all about giving and taking. It’s no longer just you that you need to take care of and consider. You can still prioritize yourself, of course, but your partner should be next on the list. If they’re unhappy, figure out why. If they like something you’ve done for them, continue doing it more often. Communication is key — there’s no time for guessing games! 

Rule #4: Keep dating, always

Couple on a date in the hatch of their car

Keeping the spark alive is crucial no matter how long you’ve been dating. But at the same time, you want to ensure you and your partner maintain your individuality.

“Setting boundaries and communicating needs with one’s partner is equally important,” Moore said. “When self-care is prioritized, it leads to a higher level of self-confidence, fulfillment, and self-worth in the relationship.”

Separating your life from your partner’s life while cherishing regular quality time together can strengthen your relationship by keeping it vibrant. One way to do this is by planning weekly or monthly date nights. Getting out of the house, trying new activities, spicing things up a bit, and spending quality one-on-one time can maintain the passion that formed when you met initially.

Continuing to date doesn’t mean you need to overspend. Here are some affordable yet exciting date ideas to try with your partner, new or old.

  • Organize a board game night.
  • Plan a picnic at the park.
  • Go to the movie theater.
  • Try a new ice cream shop.
  • Play a card game.
  • Cook together for a night in.
  • Spend a day at the beach (if the weather permits!).
  • Do karaoke night.
  • Attend a cocktail-making class.
  • Go on a run together.
  • Make vision boards.
  • Visit your local zoo. 

Rule #5: Reassure your partner

Whether you think they need it or not, it’s always nice to be reassured. Tell your partner you love them, show them you appreciate them, or surprise them with cute little gifts to make them smile. Nothing is worse than being caught off guard if the relationship doesn’t work out down the line. Be sure to continuously express to your partner how you’re feeling to keep them in the know.

Little gestures and acts of kindness go a long way, and ensuring your partner knows how you feel about them and what the relationship means to you is critical to an open and healthy long-term connection.