• Wed, Jun 9 2010

The Heart Monitor: How to Balance Your Relationship

A relationship, Woody Allen once said, is like a shark. It has to constantly move forward or it dies.

That’s not to say a relationship is a race. The steady hum of biological clock ticking shouldn’t result in jumping in the relationship pool before the water’s warm. It’s true what they say: only fools rush in.

So how do you strike a balance between dead sharks and fools? How can a new relationship continue forward and avoid sinking?

Maintaining a relationship is similar to other aspects of your domestic life that require responsibility. If you can’t remember to feed your pet goldfish, how will you remember to treat your significant other? I myself have been known to kill houseplants and small kitchen appliances.

So how do we keep a relationship on track without rushing into foolish territory? Balance, space and communication.

A trick for any budding relationship is to start small. Little surprises are wonderful. Expensive jewelry can smack of desperation. Cool it on the cufflinks and freshwater pearls. The best gifts are meaningful and nostaglic – like a framed photo of the first time you went out, books by favorite authors, or even Youtube videos specially uploaded from your last adventure. These smaller, thoughtful gifts you can dote on your partner without debting on your bank account.

Try not to spend so much time with your new lover that you’ve given up on your job, that novel you were talking about playing, learning to finally play the guitar, and flossing. A relationship—especially an early one—is only part of your life, not the whole of it. Keep your hobbies and your flossing habits up or, better yet, share some of them with your new significant other. I strongly encourage sharing good oral hygiene. It really benefits both parties.

Plan trips carefully. The first trip a couple takes should be no more than a long weekend and no less than a day trip. Don’t go with other couples and make it into some orgy of a camping trip—that’s for later, when you’re forever monogamous and very, truly bored. Go somewhere amusing and take a camera so you can frame some goofy moments (see previous tip), but beware of over-the-top romance. Skip the heart-shaped jacuzzi and chocolate covered strawberries. Opt out of the honeymoon suite. And forget Paris.

Remember your friends. Most relationships run the risk of alienating old friendships and drying up newer ones. Just because you’re in a relationship does not mean you have a new best friend. He might -feel- like your new best friend, and you might even think he’s your soul mate, but even best friends and soul mates have other friendships and relationships to keep in tact. And it’s not just for your friends’ benefit: it’s not healthy to put all your personal eggs in one attractive, very sexy basket. Leave some physical (and emotional) eggs for friends, coworkers and reminding old flames that you’re taken.

Introduce your besties to your new beau, but don’t force anyone out of his or her comfort zone. People prefer meeting naturally. And just because they’re your friends doesn’t necessarily mean they need to be your partner’s friends, too.

Be careful with the family, but don’t cut them out of the picture. Wait at least three or four months for a formal introduction, and keep things light. If these three or four months happen to fall near a traditional religious holiday, well, good luck. From my experience, I recommend a lot of Manischewitz wine and a good getaway car.

Just because you’re starting a relationship slow doesn’t mean you need to rush things in the bedroom, either. Like I said, you’ll have plenty of time for those orgies when you’re married. Building intimacy does not (always) require video equipment, ropes and lube. The beginning of a relationship is the perfect time for touching, hugging, groping, spooning and can’t-live-without-you-if-you-leave-the-bed-before-me kisses. And then—when it’s time— advocate for morning sex and lunch hour sex and evening sex and dessert sex.

A new relationship is like good foreplay: slow down but don’t stop. Keep each other guessing, indulge your own tastes, and pay close attention to what turns the other on. The last thing we need is another dead shark.

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