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Wellness > Sex + Relationships

Ok, I found a significant other. What the hell am I supposed to do now?

This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at Wake Forest chapter.

As someone who just started their first serious relationship, I feel like my head is constantly on a swivel (in a good way). I am always learning new things about myself and my boyfriend. I’ve been exploring some of his interests that are new to me, learning how to balance my time, and I’m in the process of trying to figure out how to not sleep in the middle of the bed. 

Starting a new relationship has been amazing. It has also been extremely scary. 

But, I know I’m not alone in this feeling. I’ve seen my friends start new relationships too, all of them also expressing the same anxieties I feel now. While before I was extremely unqualified to give advice on this situation, I feel now that I understand what needs to be heard and said. When I told my mom that I was officially dating my boyfriend, she made a really good point that has stuck with me: 

While it feels like all the hard work is done once the relationship is established, that’s actually when all the hard work begins. 

In sum, maintaining a relationship is hard. And while it might feel like too much work sometimes, interpersonal bonds are vital for humans. In fact, studies have shown that intimate relationships can significantly increase immune support, reduce feelings of pain, and reduce overall stress. Not only is it nice to have someone who will compliment you when you wake up with a bedhead, but they can also save you from getting a cold! Not actually, partners aren’t superheroes. But, they are important. So, it’s good to know how to maintain them. 

Personally, I think one of the biggest questions that have come up for me, and a lot of my friends entering their first relationships, is: am I doing this right? And honestly, who really knows? Each individual and relationship is unique and different. Something that works for you and your partner might seem unimaginable to your friend and their partner. But, there are some key things and mindsets that have helped stay on the right track, and maybe they can help you too. 

Bring up the hard topics, and learn how to talk about them. 

Spending time with your partner is great until it isn’t. Because we spend so much time with our significant others, challenges and disagreements are bound to happen. It’s human nature. Maybe one of you is going through a tough time. Perhaps you both disagree on how to split time between each other and friends. Or, the sex is just lacking passion. In a study done in 2009 by Cummings et al. looked at 100 couples and tracked their conflicts over the course of a 15-day period. They found that all the partners tested fought 748 times! The issues ranged from personality to intimacy, to money. The third most brought-up conflict was communication. Whatever it may be, big or small, use this challenge as a place for growth and an opportunity to have conversations that need to be had. 

Communication is often seen as the key to a good relationship. But, how do you communicate well? And, how do you communicate about the hard stuff?

John Gottman, a popular relationship expert, established the technique called table talk in 1976. The goal of it is to establish the point of miscommunication and work in a problem-solving fashion. Let’s take a look at how it works:

Steps to Successful Table Talk
Partner A begins by assessing their intended impact of their statements by rating them in a “positive” or “negative” way. Partner B assesses these statements on the receiving end and establishes the actual impact. They respond based on their assessment and deliver their own statements Partner A is now on the receiving end of the statements and works to assess what is coming from Partner B. This partner of assessment from both sides and steady communication continues until problem-solving is complete 

Gottman’s technique is just one of many ways to communicate in a time of discomfort and conflict. There are countless other ways to navigate these situations. Figure out what works for you and your partner!

Psst…Conflict tip!
Don’t be afraid to ask questions or get clarification on what you or your partner is saying! This limits the continuation of miscommunication and propels the conversation forward!

Get out of that rut: continue to try the new things. 

Sometimes we feel stuck, and that’s ok. A study done by Sin and Mena in 2010 showed that the “honeymoon phase” within relationships fade over time. Remember that it is natural, however, don’t just accept this fact. Find new ways to create excitement in the relationship and learn new things. By creating new, positive experiences with you and your significant other, you can create new dynamics within your relationship. 

Aron and Aron established a model in 1996 that explores a feeling that many people in long-term relationships feel. Researchers admit that sometimes relationships and the people in them hit a rut. There is a point where it feels like expansion feels like it is no longer an option. However, that is not the case. In 2000, Aron & Aron also conducted an experiment to have couples participate in new and exciting challenges. One of these activities was a three legged race! Once the challenges were done, there was a significant increase in overall satisfaction between partners. 

While there is no need to do a three legged race with your partner on the way to work every morning, this is a great example of making a new change in a relationship that will increase overall feelings in a positive way. 

Let’s spice things up: Date Ideas!
Go to a concert together. Maybe even music neither of you listen to!Go to an amusement park. Pick the largest roller coaster there!Check out a museum. Try a new workout class you’ve been meaning to go to together!

Accept the person standing in front of you. 

You became interested in them for a reason. Maybe it was a terrible pick-up line, or that they were wearing a shirt with your favorite band on it.

Your partner is a special person to you and you are to them. We often think about our significant others as the best people in the world — and, they are — but, they are also human. Remember that they make mistakes, go through hardships, and have insecurities like any other person. You have them too! When you agree to be in a relationship with someone, you agree to love every part of them. While it might be hard to sometimes, remember to see the human in them. 

In short, relationships are special. They are an important and significant part of our time on earth. However, it’s not always sunshine and rainbows. Acknowledging this fact and accepting the work that you have to do in a relationship is the starting point of establishing healthy relationships in your life. Now, when my friends ask me for help I am able to confidently give them advice on how to go about this time of change. Will they take this advice? I’m not too sure, that’s up to them. However, the research stands for itself! So remember: learn to talk about the hard stuff, work to get out of that rut, and always accept your partner for who they are. I am sending you all of my luck and best wishes with this new and exciting time in your life!

My name is Madeline Tallarico and I am Editor-in-Chief of the Wake Forest University Chapter. I am from Boston, MA and studying Psychology, Neuroscience, and Writing.