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Slipping Into the Dance: A Relationship with Promise and Reserve

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We can’t get too optimistic, can we? When we are starting a relationship (let’s say we’ve been dating for six months) it’s best not to get too far out ahead of your time together.

Establishing Healthy Relationship Patterns

I have been known to move too fast. I fall in love, I fall hard, I imagine the best. I overlook red flags that signal issues in the long-term viability of the relationship. (Note: I am only interested in a long-term relationship, if things drift or become disconnected, I’m going to pass.)

What are some of the inflection points that are essential to synchronizing your flight plan with your new partner?

  • holding our independence and alone time
  • cherishing the time we do spend together
  • eliminating sarcasm, ambiguous complaining, and cynicism
  • putting in the time and energy to build the relationship
  • working on our issues outside of the relationship, so we can bring our best selves to our partner
  • keeping the goal on shared emergence, shared success
  • establishing optimism and faith together
  • trusting that transparency is the shared goal, saying what’s working, asking for changes in places that are not working

As we go into our next six-month period are we able to deepen our connection? Does some of the dance of our relationship still feel unsteady or uncertain? What are the blockers and gaps that cause either of us frustration? Can we take on our own growth and self-discovery process and bring the ideas and energy back to our partners?

Growing and Stretching

If you are not growing with your partner, what are you doing? People set priorities differently. And in relationships, we begin to interleave our priorities: the priority of our own lives and the priority of our lives with our new partner. If we miss the interleave if we continue to behave as if we are just “dating,” the relationship will begin to flounder. Both partners have to be committed to growth, integrity, and stretching for the joint goals of the WE. Either we are building a team for the future or we are not. There is no time to be complacent, lazy, indifferent, or distant. None.

Silence and distance bring distrust.

Okay, so let’s say you are texting with your partner. You know they are off work and probably doing their early evening routine. You text,”Hey sweetie, I’m wondering if you’d like to go see this band on Saturday?” And, nothing. Sure, maybe they are busy at that moment. But an hour later, still waiting for a reply, you begin imagining things.

Here are a few issues we project when our partner becomes less responsive or quits replying in the same affectionate way.

  • they are not interested anymore
  • they are dating someone on the sly or dipping back into the dating pool
  • they are being passive-aggressive for some unspoken offense
  • they are gaming you
  • they are testing your faith or patience
  • you are no longer a priority or a delight
  • your messages have become more of a chore

Misses and Repairs

When something goes wrong in a couple’s communications it’s important to sort things out before feelings become dampened, or imaginations run wild in a negative direction. The repair process is easy.

Here is what happened.

Here is how it made me feel.

Here is what I’m asking for.

Here is how I’m prepared to behave in the future if this occurs again.

It’s a part of Brené Brown’s BRAVING process. You ALWAYS stand beside your partner. Even in conflict, you learn to stay close, stay warm and optimistic, and stay honest about what’s hurting or not working. The last step, the most critical part, is the repair. Whenever there is a fracture, however small, there needs to be a repair to the WE. It is vital to reestablish the trust you have been working to enhance. One person says, “That hurt.” Their partner says, “I’m sorry. Here’s what happened. I’ll go work on it. I will behave differently if it comes up again. AND I’m sorry.”

The Short View

The immediate plan is to continue growing, learning, and communicating with an ever-evolving sense of security and trust. Then, don’t start talking about rings, living together, and retirement, until you’ve had a chance to go through at least one cycle of the seasons. Note to self: even if things are going great, be aware of the friction, and your own miscalculations that could lead to a failure. Let the time together grow the connection. And pay attention when there are disconnections. Are they getting easier to examine and move through? Are there sticking points that continue to come up, even after the boundaries and requests have been established and agreed upon?

The Long View

We want to be loved. We want to land in a safe and excitable relationship that we can grow into for the rest of our lives. By slowing down a step, we might avoid the long-term partnership that fails based on issues that were obvious in the first six months. By giving our partner’s the time alone to continue their own journey, we can allow them to show up as they naturally would, and we can learn from listening to their rhythm. Maybe our partners require more alone time. Or, the opposite, maybe they are a bit too dependent on the energy and affirmations of the relationship to keep them going.

Just pause and remember, there is no hurry. There is a need to be focused and specific about our goals. Then spend time with and without your partner to see how things unfold between you. Why rush into living together? Why kill the “alone time” opportunities before we’ve had adequate time to establish a working cadence for the future partnership?


We’re in the big dance now. You’re in a relationship that has great potential. This is the most slippery time in relationship-building. Our hearts can get out over our rational and discerning minds, and we can begin to project, “THIS IS IT. THIS IS THE BIG LOVE.”

You may be in the process of establishing a lifetime partnership. Let’s make sure we’re not deluding ourselves into partnering with some who is unavailable emotionally. Watch how the schedules and priorities shift through a change of season or two. If this is THE ONE then you are home free and there’s no need to rush things. If this is a MISS then slowing down will give you an opportunity to correct or opt-out.


John McElhenney – life coach austin texas
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