Building Bridges

Issue # 38 of 43 

David LeClaire
By: David LeClaire

Starting Off A Relationship On The Right Foot

No question there is an art to creating satisfying relationships. This begins with choosing the right partner for you then starting your relationship off on the right foot, followed by what it takes to sustain, maintain, and build a strong, interesting, passionate partnership.

In the past few weeks we've discussed a few elements of communication. This is a thread that is woven through the fabric of relationships and will come to the forefront of our discussions again and again. Not only is it important when it comes to avoiding or solving problems down the road, but it also plays a vital part in the beginning stages of a relationship as couples get to know each other and set a course for their direction together.

I often credit the women that I've dated, including my wife, with teaching me a great deal about relationships. I'll never forget one night when I was on a first date. We were sitting in a nice restaurant, and I was sharing with her that I was not interested in getting "involved" at the time. She asked why. I responded by saying something to the effect that "relationships" can be so encumbering, i.e. too much time, energy, and expectations.

She began to laugh. She said, "That's your interpretation of what relationships have to be. You have in your mind, based on past experiences, what is going to happen before anything happens. It's up to both people to decide what kind of a relationship they both want and how they go about it can be in a way that serves both of their interests. If we are to continue to see each other, it's up to us to decide how we want to do it. We just need to communicate from the beginning."

How true. The problem is, most people are afraid to get into such discussions at an early stage of dating since they don't want to "spook" their potential lover by implying they are really serious. And there is some merit to that fear. People who come on too strong from the beginning can scare off good candidates before enough of a bond is created to support such conversations. Yet one can find a way to slowly, gradually hit on some of these touchy but important subjects over the first few weeks together.

This is also true for asking questions of your potential lover. It's crucial that you get to know their character right from the beginning. (Of course this assumes you really are ready for a relationship.) It's helpful to find out their views on relationships, why their past ones didn't work out, what they've learned about themselves over the years, what they really want and don't want, what their weaknesses and strengths are, etc. But don't ask all of this at once! Take your time, don't interview them, but make sure you ask the important questions that will show you what kind of a person you've become attracted to - before you get emotionally hooked.

Once you get emotionally hooked, most people want it to work, so they get what I call "hope blindness" and shy away from learning about anything that may ruin their vision of what could be. Or they ignore warning signs because they are so ready for this one to work out.

Starting a relationship is sort of like dancing with someone. You must learn how to lead and follow, to match their rhythm, get into sync with them, and pace the development of it so that it gradually progresses. Not too slow or one of you will lose interest. Not too fast - you will scare them off or get in too deep before you know each other very well and then it will probably burn out.

Do not abandon friends for the new relationship. Major mistake. Keep them an active part of your life, and balance your spare time between time alone, with friends, and your new love interest. It will serve you in many ways to not get too consumed by a relationship. Surely by now you've heard to not put all your eggs in one basket. If it doesn't work out, your whole life doesn't fall apart and your friends are still there for you 100%. And you also "condition" your new partner that you need a healthy balance between them and your friends right from the beginning.

It's also important to not try to monopolize their time as you start things off. Be gracious and casual about when you can get together next. Appear interested but not desperate and overly anxious. Assume they have interests and a life outside of you, which you respect and admire. Look for once or twice a week that you can get together, even if just for a short time. You want to stay connected, but keep your cool. If they like you enough, they will eagerly anticipate being together again for a few days.

Share who you are with Mr. or Ms. Possibility, but don't download all of your past on them at once. Feel free to occasionally mention previous relationships, but don't keep returning to this topic or you'll annoy them in a big way. "Mark and I used to do this, Mark and I did that, Mark and I, Mark and I, etc. etc." Yuck. It's more helpful to ask about them than it is to just fixate on yourself.

As you are starting out, try to keep your first dates very safe. Instead of just doing dinner or night time activities, which often suggests SEX could be expected afterwards, try to schedule some day time activities, maybe lunch, maybe coffee, maybe a festival, a bike ride, or even just a walk. Leave it at that, without trying to spend the whole day and evening with them. You both get a taste without over-doing it.

There's much more to discuss as you attempt to begin a new relationship in a healthy manner.

David LeClaire has spent much of his time teaching at community college and private school, and lead communications training for Fortune 500 companies. Now a popular and active Seattle area sommelier, this graduate of Central Michigan University led seminars for a wide variety of organizations. LeClaire is the author of "Bridges To A Passionate Partnership." He can be reached at

Building Bridges Table of Contents

Text © 1998, David LeClaire. Part of the original Sideroad.
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