The beginning of a new relationship can be a tricky course to navigate.
Guys (like me) aren’t that great at guessing what women think or want, and our ignorance often leads to otherwise easily avoidable arguments.
Setting ground rules for a new relationship may help you get past the small stuff and start enjoying your lives together.
Follow these relationship ground rules to establish a solid foundation built to last.
1. Regulate your PDA
People have different comfort levels when it comes to a couple’s behavior in public. Find the line (holding hands, smooching, heated necking on the subway platform) and don’t cross it.
2. Agree on the time you’ll spend together.
Decide on one day every week that you can spend together and no one else is invited. Everyone’s busy; designating together time is healthy for any relationship.
3. Don’t suffocate each other.
Being together is great; acting like conjoined twins is not.
Respect each other’s space and don’t take it so seriously if they ask for some time to themselves.
4. Don’t talk about the future until it’s time to talk about the future.
For example: Nothing freaks a guy out like the prospect of kids before he’s actually ready to have them.
Don’t think he doesn’t want to be with you if he shies away from the topic. He just enjoys the way things are and isn’t quite ready to add a mini-me to the mix.
5. Forge friendships with your partner’s pals.
Not that you have to be one of the bros, or do your research on each of her girl friends so you feel prepared for their weekly wine night she gave you an invite to, but it’s nice for you — and them — if you feel comfortable around their crew.
6. Stay in touch with your friends.
Don’t drop the friends who were with you before they showed up. Ditching the gals — or guys — will lead to feelings of resentment and neglect on their end, and if your relationship comes to an end, you’ll want that circle of support.
After all, they’re the ones who’ve been there for you through everything else.
7. Don’t hide things.
You don’t need to tell them about the time you hooked up with your father’s golf buddy, but it’s probably a good idea to tell him you’re still friends with your ex before they run into the two of you on the street. Honesty is fundamental to any healthy relationship.
8. Loosen up.
Don’t start a fight because he glanced at the attractive girl that just walked by, or you heard her laughing on the phone with a guy. Likewise, they shouldn’t get worked up just because you said Ryan Reynolds is hot.
It’s not like either one of you is trying to sleep with them (unless you are, in which case you should re-evaluate your role in this twosome).
9. Don’t kiss and tell.
This is a relationship, not an elongated one-night stand. There’s no need to talk about what goes on in the bedroom at the water cooler.
10. No assumptions or guessing games.
Don’t force them to guess what you really mean by, “It’s OK if we don’t go out on my birthday.” Being upfront with your feelings will prevent many conflicts.
11. Avoid “you always…” and “you never…” statements
When you’re in a heated argument, it’s easy to start using hyperbolic language. However, when it goes too far and you accuse your partner of “always” or “never” doing something, you’re only damaging the relationship by erasing any appreciation and acknowledgment of all the effort and kindness your partner has worked to put into the relationship.
You’re only discouraging them, too, so it’s a lose-lose situation.
12. Don’t say crushing words you can’t take back.
As you get to know your partner, you let down your guard around each other and learn one another’s secrets, pasts, and weaknesses.
One of the worst things you can do is take that knowledge and use it against them in a fight because you know exactly where to hit them where it’ll hurt the most. And that’s exactly what will happen, and they’ll never forget it, no matter how many times you try to apologize.
13. Know when to say you’re sorry.
The thing is, you will get in fights. You will make mistakes. You will, inevitably, be wrong about some things. This is normal, and you need to learn how to accept it so that you can apologize when it happens.
Your pride should never mean more to you than your relationship does.
14. Communicate your boundaries.
Just like discussing and agreeing on how much time you want to spend with each other and when, you’ll want to be clear about expectations surrounding your work life, how involved you want to be involved in each other’s friend groups and get-togethers, how you’ll spend holidays and if certain ones need to be with one or the other’s family, and your sexual needs.
15. Take time to be appreciative of each other.
As a relationship develops, sometimes we start to lose sight of the kind acts you do for each other. Relationships are about compromise, compassion, and consideration for one another.
Whenever your partner goes out of their way for you, helps you with something, or gives you a gift (however small), remember to acknowledge it and say thank you.
16. Listen to one another.
When building a relationship, remember you’re also constructing a “safe space” where each of you can turn to talk about whatever is bothering them and seek comfort. You may not always feel like listening, but it’s important to do it anyway.
You’re learning about each other, developing a bond with trust, and creating the potential for intimacy and love down the road.
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17. Keep a cool head when things start to get heated.
Maybe you’re in the middle of an argument with each other. Maybe you had a really terrible day. Perhaps you even got fired. Don’t take it out on your partner by unleashing your fury on them.
Give yourself time to cool down — whether you need to go on a walk, meditate, or do some breathing exercises. If you pick a fight while blind with rage, you’re literally unable to think clearly. Remember: don’t yell — discuss and resolve.
18. Keep a good sense of humor.
Life is already unpredictable. When you choose to combine yours with someone else’s, you can expect that lack of inability to anticipate what life will throw at you next by more than double.
Roll with the punches, be forgiving of mistakes that were one-offs and not intended to harm you, and be able to laugh at the absurdity of life. Not only will this promote self-growth, but positive growth in your relationship and a deeper connection between you.
19. Remember you’re on the same team.
Keeping a good sense of humor is part and parcel with remembering your on the same side, especially during the times you find yourselves in disagreement.
Don’t lose sight of the fact that you’re not fighting against each other, but for each other and the future you want together.
You should do your best to work as a team where you’re both on the same side and always in each other’s corners, encouraging one another to be your best selves.
Frank Hadley is a frequent contributor to YourTango who focuses on love and relationships.