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What Is a Relationship Timeline and Should You Follow It?

What Is a Relationship Timeline and Should You Follow It?

Everyone wants to be normal, right? I mean, it’s never fun to be the odd person out. Most people want to “fit in” and be a part of the crowd.

Why? Well, it’s because we all want to know that we’re accepted and/or loved by other people. We think that if we conform to the norms of society, then others will look favorably on us.

But is that really true? What is wrong with walking to the beat of a different drummer? Nothing, really. It’s just that most people have the perception that it’s not acceptable, which is really too bad.

Most of us are relatively “normal” and follow societal rules – even in relationships. But, of course, you have the outliers. For example, I had a friend who was married and he and his wife were swingers. Not everyone’s cup of tea, but it worked for them.

I think you get my point.

So, what is “normal” for a relationship in terms of when things should be happening in the relationship? Should you follow a relationship timeline or not?

The problem is, there really is no normal. Sure, there are averages, but generally speaking, what works for one couple doesn’t work for another couple.

For example, I’m the kind of person who, if on a first date I’m not feeling excited about the person, I don’t go out with them again. I need that instant spark to stay interested. But I have a friend who wasn’t sure about her now-husband even months before they got married. So, she takes a long time for someone to grow on her. I don’t have the patience for that.

But neither of us is wrong. It’s simply what is best for us.

With that said, let’s look at some of the “normal” timelines for relationships, and discuss whether you should measure your relationship up against it or not.

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How a Typical Relationship Timeline Looks Like

Again, let me reiterate that if you don’t follow these typical timelines, there’s nothing wrong with you – or the relationship. It’s just simply YOUR timeline. So, don’t get all worried if you don’t see yourself in these phases.

1. First “Date”

Obviously, in order to have a relationship you have to have a first “date.” I put the word date in quotations, because sometimes in romantic relationships, people start out as friends. So, there may not be an official “first date.” But for many of us, that’s how it works.

2. First Kiss

If you started out as friends, you might have your first kiss before your first date. Or, you might have it on your first date if perhaps you met online or on a dating app.

But should you really kiss on a first date? That’s totally up to you. There’s nothing wrong with it if you’re feeling like you want to. But some people prefer to hold off on any kind of intimacy when first meeting someone.

3. First Few Dates

Most people go out a few times to see if they want to keep seeing each other. I think I am not the norm. As I said, I have to feel very excited about someone to go out on a second date. But a lot of people just keep going out to see how it goes and to see if they want to progress further.

4. Dating

As you keep going out on more dates, you could probably consider that the two of you are now “dating.” This is a tricky phase, because one person might assume it, while the other person does not.

But whether it’s talked about explicitly or not, you can pretty safely assume that this is a dating phase.

5. Honeymoon Phase

If you keep going out, that probably means you like each other quite a bit. So, you’re probably entering the “honeymoon phase.”

This is basically where you are infatuated with who you are dating, and you can’t get enough of them. You kind of overlook any flaws and see them through rose-colored glasses.

6. See Each Other’s Homes

This is a pretty big step, mostly because it makes you more vulnerable. If you met online or a dating app, you have probably met out in public up until now because it’s safer.

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Once you get more comfortable with each other, then you will probably start hanging out at each other’s homes.

7. Dating Exclusively

As I said above, this stage is tricky. Some think that as time goes by, it is just assumed that you are exclusively dating each other. However, that might not be the case.

One or both people could be dating others. So, ideally, a conversation should take place where you are “defining the relationship.”

8. Meet Friends

Once you know that you are only seeing each other, then it’s a pretty good time to meet each other’s friends. It’s a good time to see how well you both fit in with the other person’s friend group.

9. Committed Relationship

Some people confuse dating exclusively with commitment. Just because you are only going out with one person doesn’t mean you are committed to them long-term.

I know people who were dating someone for six months and made it clear that it wasn’t a committed relationship. But then again, every couple is different.

10. Honeymoon Phase Ends

It’s really too bad that this phase has to end. It might not – there are probably some little old couples who have been together over 50 years who are still madly in love.

For most people, the infatuation wears off after a while. It’s different for everyone, but typically probably happens around six months to a year.

11. Meet Family

After you have been together for a while and think the relationship could last, then it’s a good time to meet each other’s families.

You might want to introduce them to your siblings and parents before you introduce them to your children (if you have them). That’s because children will be the most affected by your new relationship, for better or for worse.

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12. Have Sex

This is one area where people are wildly different with their timelines. Some people have sex on the first date and live happily ever after. Others wait until marriage.

So, you really need to do whatever feels right to you. Typically, most adults tend to wait probably 3-5 dates. But again, everyone has their own timeline with this.

13. Sleeping Over

Just like with sex, when you start sleeping over at each other’s houses is a very individual choice. Some people do it right away, and others wait months or even years to do this.

14. Travel Together

Not everyone travels a lot, but if you do, this is a challenging time for most couples – especially if they aren’t spending a lot of time together “living together” at each other’s houses.

Traveling with someone exposes who they really are, again, for better or for worse.

15. Living Together

Some people don’t believe in living together before marriage. Others think it is a must. But how long should you wait? Again, it’s all up to you.

I would think waiting at least a year would be a good estimate. After a year, you know each other pretty well and you can see whether or not you’d be compatible living together long term.

16. Engaged

Some people get engaged within months, while others wait years, decades, or they never do. Any of this is okay.

It’s even okay to never get married if you don’t want to. But the average timeline for getting engaged is somewhere around the 1 ½ to 2-year mark.

17. Married

Obviously, the next step is to get married. That usually occurs probably around six months to a year after getting engaged. The kind of wedding that a couple has is also highly individual.

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18. Kids and Beyond

First comes love, then comes marriage, then come the kids in the baby carriage. I’m sure you’ve heard that saying before.

Having children is difficult on a lot of couples because it completely changes your life. It’s not just about the two of you anymore. You can’t be as selfish as you once were.

19. Empty Nest

After years and years go by, finally you’ll find yourself in the empty nest years. It’s important to remember that you really need to put effort into staying connected as a couple throughout the time when your children are at home.

If not, then you will look at each other during the empty next phase and wonder who you are as a couple. You might have to re-discover your love.

20. Retirement Years

Not every couple makes it this far, but if you do, then that’s quite an accomplishment!

Hopefully these years will be filled with travel, grandchildren, and everything else enjoyable.

Should You Follow a Relationship Timeline?

So, should you have a relationship timeline or not? And the answer is that it doesn’t really matter.

What works for one couple doesn’t work for another one. So, don’t feel like you are pressured to follow the normal timeline like everyone else if you don’t want to.

Be yourself and negotiate your way through these phases as a couple, because that is what will make you truly happy in the long run.

Featured photo credit: Tiko Giorgadze via unsplash.com

More by this author

Carol Morgan

Dr. Carol Morgan is the owner of HerSideHisSide.com, a communication professor, dating & relationship coach, TV personality, speaker, and author.

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Last Updated on January 15, 2021

7 Ways To Have More Confident Body Language

7 Ways To Have More Confident Body Language

The popular idiomatic saying that “actions speak louder than words” has been around for centuries, but even to this day, most people struggle with at least one area of nonverbal communication. Consequently, many of us aspire to have more confident body language but don’t have the knowledge and tools necessary to change what are largely unconscious behaviors.

Given that others’ perceptions of our competence and confidence are predominantly influenced by what we do with our faces and bodies, it’s important to develop greater self-awareness and consciously practice better posture, stance, eye contact, facial expressions, hand movements, and other aspects of body language.

Posture

First things first: how is your posture? Let’s start with a quick self-assessment of your body.

  • Are your shoulders slumped over or rolled back in an upright posture?
  • When you stand up, do you evenly distribute your weight or lean excessively to one side?
  • Does your natural stance place your feet relatively shoulder-width apart or are your feet and legs close together in a closed-off position?
  • When you sit, does your lower back protrude out in a slumped position or maintain a straight, spine-friendly posture in your seat?

All of these are important considerations to make when evaluating and improving your posture and stance, which will lead to more confident body language over time. If you routinely struggle with maintaining good posture, consider buying a posture trainer/corrector, consulting a chiropractor or physical therapist, stretching daily, and strengthening both your core and back muscles.

Facial Expressions

Are you prone to any of the following in personal or professional settings?

  • Bruxism (tight, clenched jaw or grinding teeth)
  • Frowning and/or furrowing brows
  • Avoiding direct eye contact and/or staring at the ground

If you answered “yes” to any of these, then let’s start by examining various ways in which you can project confident body language through your facial expressions.

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1. Understand How Others Perceive Your Facial Expressions

A December 2020 study by UC Berkeley and Google researchers utilized a deep neural network to analyze facial expressions in six million YouTube clips representing people from over 140 countries. The study found that, despite socio-cultural differences, people around the world tended to use about 70% of the same facial expressions in response to different emotional stimuli and situations.[1]

The study’s researchers also published a fascinating interactive map to demonstrate how their machine learning technology assessed various facial expressions and determined subtle differences in emotional responses.

This study highlights the social importance of facial expressions because whether or not we’re consciously aware of them—by gazing into a mirror or your screen on a video conferencing platform—how we present our faces to others can have tremendous impacts on their perceptions of us, our confidence, and our emotional states. This awareness is the essential first step towards

2. Relax Your Face

New research on bruxism and facial tension found the stresses and anxieties of Covid-19 lockdowns led to considerable increases in orofacial pain, jaw-clenching, and teeth grinding, particularly among women.[2]

The National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research estimates that more than 10 million Americans alone have temporomandibular joint dysfunction (TMJ syndrome), and facial tension can lead to other complications such as insomnia, wrinkles, dry skin, and dark, puffy bags under your eyes.[3])

To avoid these unpleasant outcomes, start practicing progressive muscle relaxation techniques and taking breaks more frequently throughout the day to moderate facial tension.[4] You should also try out some biofeedback techniques to enhance your awareness of involuntary bodily processes like facial tension and achieve more confident body language as a result.[5]

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3. Improve Your Eye Contact

Did you know there’s an entire subfield of kinesic communication research dedicated to eye movements and behaviors called oculesics?[6] It refers to various communication behaviors including direct eye contact, averting one’s gaze, pupil dilation/constriction, and even frequency of blinking. All of these qualities can shape how other people perceive you, which means that eye contact is yet another area of nonverbal body language that we should be more mindful of in social interactions.

The ideal type (direct/indirect) and duration of eye contact depends on a variety of factors, such as cultural setting, differences in power/authority/age between the parties involved, and communication context. Research has shown that differences in the effects of eye contact are particularly prominent when comparing East Asian and Western European/North American cultures.[7]

To improve your eye contact with others, strive to maintain consistent contact for at least 3 to 4 seconds at a time, consciously consider where you’re looking while listening to someone else, and practice eye contact as much as possible (as strange as this may seem in the beginning, it’s the best way to improve).

3. Smile More

There are many benefits to smiling and laughing, and when it comes to working on more confident body language, this is an area that should be fun, low-stakes, and relatively stress-free.

Smiling is associated with the “happiness chemical” dopamine and the mood-stabilizing hormone, serotonin. Many empirical studies have shown that smiling generally leads to positive outcomes for the person smiling, and further research has shown that smiling can influence listeners’ perceptions of our confidence and trustworthiness as well.

4. Hand Gestures

Similar to facial expressions and posture, what you do with your hands while speaking or listening in a conversation can significantly influence others’ perceptions of you in positive or negative ways.

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It’s undoubtedly challenging to consciously account for all of your nonverbal signals while simultaneously trying to stay engaged with the verbal part of the discussion, but putting in the effort to develop more bodily awareness now will make it much easier to unconsciously project more confident body language later on.

5. Enhance Your Handshake

In the article, “An Anthropology of the Handshake,” University of Copenhagen social anthropology professor Bjarke Oxlund assessed the future of handshaking in wake of the Covid-19 pandemic:[8]

“Handshakes not only vary in function and meaning but do so according to social context, situation and scale. . . a public discussion should ensue on the advantages and disadvantages of holding on to the tradition of shaking hands as the conventional gesture of greeting and leave-taking in a variety of circumstances.”

It’s too early to determine some of the ways in which Covid-19 has permanently changed our social norms and professional etiquette standards, but it’s reasonable to assume that handshaking may retain its importance in American society even after this pandemic. To practice more confident body language in the meantime, the video on the science of the perfect handshake below explains what you need to know.

6. Complement Your Verbals With Hand Gestures

As you know by now, confident communication involves so much more than simply smiling more or sounding like you know what you’re talking about. What you do with your hands can be particularly influential in how others perceive you, whether you’re fidgeting with an object, clenching your fists, hiding your hands in your pockets, or calmly gesturing to emphasize important points you’re discussing.

Social psychology researchers have found that “iconic gestures”—hand movements that appear to be meaningfully related to the speaker’s verbal content—can have profound impacts on listeners’ information retention. In other words, people are more likely to engage with you and remember more of what you said when you speak with complementary hand gestures instead of just your voice.[9]

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Further research on hand gestures has shown that even your choice of the left or right hand for gesturing can influence your ability to clearly convey information to listeners, which supports the notion that more confident body language is readily achievable through greater self-awareness and deliberate nonverbal actions.[10]

Final Takeaways

Developing better posture, enhancing your facial expressiveness, and practicing hand gestures can vastly improve your communication with other people. At first, it will be challenging to consciously practice nonverbal behaviors that many of us are accustomed to performing daily without thinking about them.

If you ever feel discouraged, however, remember that there’s no downside to consistently putting in just a little more time and effort to increase your bodily awareness. With the tips and strategies above, you’ll be well on your way to embracing more confident body language and amplifying others’ perceptions of you in no time.

More Tips on How to Develop a Confident Body Language

Featured photo credit: Maria Lupan via unsplash.com

Reference

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