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Published on March 1, 2019

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 May 21, 2019

How to Communicate Effectively in Any Relationship

How to Communicate Effectively in Any Relationship

For all our social media bravado, we live in a society where communication is seen less as an art, and more as a perfunctory exercise. We spend so much time with people, yet we struggle with how to meaningfully communicate.

If you believe you have mastered effective communication, scan the list below and see whether you can see yourself in any of the examples:

Example 1

You are uncomfortable with a person’s actions or comments, and rather than telling the individual immediately, you sidestep the issue and attempt to move on as though the offending behavior or comment never happened.

You move on with the relationship and develop a pattern of not addressing challenging situations. Before long, the person with whom you are in relationship will say or do something that pushes you over the top and predictably, you explode or withdraw completely from the relationship.

In this example, hard-to-speak truths become never- expressed truths that turn into resentment and anger.

Example 2

You communicate from the head and without emotion. While what you communicate makes perfect sense to you, it comes across as cold because it lacks emotion.

People do not understand what motivates you to say what you say, and without sharing your feelings and emotions, others experience you as rude, cold or aggressive.

You will know this is a problem if people shy away from you, ignore your contributions in meetings or tell you your words hurt. You can also know you struggle in this area if you find yourself constantly apologizing for things you have said.

Example 3

You have an issue with one person, but you communicate your problem to an entirely different person.

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The person in whom you confide lacks the authority to resolve the matter troubling you, and while you have vented and expressed frustration, the underlying challenge is unresolved.

Example 4

You grew up in a family with destructive communication habits and those habits play out in your current relationships.

Because you have never stopped to ask why you communicate the way you do and whether your communication style still works, you may lack understanding of how your words impact others and how to implement positive change.

If you find yourself in any of the situations described above, this article is for you.

Communication can build or decimate worlds and it is important we get it right. Regardless of your professional aspirations or personal goals, you can improve your communication skills if you:

  • Understand your own communication style
  • Tailor your style depending on the needs of the audience
  • Communicate with precision and care
  • Be mindful of your delivery, timing and messenger

1. Understand Your Communication Style

To communicate effectively, you must understand the communication legacy passed down from our parents, grandparents or caregivers. Each of us grew up with spoken and unspoken rules about communication.

In some families, direct communication is practiced and honored. In other families, family members are encouraged to shy away from difficult conversations. Some families appreciate open and frank dialogue and others do not. Other families practice silence about substantive matters, that is, they seldom or rarely broach difficult conversations at all.

Before you can appreciate the nuance required in communication, it helps to know the familial patterns you grew up with.

2. Learn Others Communication Styles

Communicating effectively requires you to take a step back, assess the intended recipient of your communication and think through how the individual prefers to be communicated with. Once you know this, you can tailor your message in a way that increases the likelihood of being heard. This also prevents you from assuming the way you communicate with one group is appropriate or right for all groups or people.

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If you are unsure how to determine the styles of the groups or persons with whom you are interacting, you can always ask them:

“How do you prefer to receive information?”

This approach requires listening, both to what the individuals say as well as what is unspoken. Virgin Group CEO Richard Branson noted that the best communicators are also great listeners.

To communicate effectively from relationship to relationship and situation to situation, you must understand the communication needs of others.

3. Exercise Precision and Care

A recent engagement underscored for me the importance of exercising care when communicating.

On a recent trip to Ohio, I decided to meet up with an old friend to go for a walk. As we strolled through the soccer park, my friend gently announced that he had something to talk about, he was upset with me. His introduction to the problem allowed me to mentally shift gears and prepare for the conversation.

Shortly after introducing the shift in conversation, my friend asked me why I didn’t invite him to the launch party for my business. He lives in Ohio and I live in the D.C. area.

I explained that the event snuck up on me, and I only started planning the invite list three weeks before the event. Due to the last-minute nature of the gathering, I opted to invite people in the DMV area versus my friends from outside the area – I didn’t want to be disrespectful by asking them to travel on such short notice.

I also noted that I didn’t want to be disappointed if he and others declined to come to the event. So I played it safe in terms of inviting people who were local.

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In the moment, I felt the conversation went very well. I also checked in with my friend a few days after our walk, affirmed my appreciation for his willingness to communicate his upset and our ability to work through it.

The way this conversation unfolded exemplified effective communication. My friend approached me with grace and vulnerability. He approached me with a level of curiosity that didn’t put me on my heels — I was able to really listen to what he was saying, apologize for how my decision impacted him and vow that going forward, I would always ask rather than making decisions for him and others.

Our relationship is intact, and I now have information that will help me become a better friend to him and others.

4. Be Mindful of Delivery, Timing and Messenger

Communicating effectively also requires thinking through the delivery of the message one intends to communicate as well as the appropriate time for the discussion.

In an Entrepreneur.com column, VIP Contributor Deep Patel, noted that persons interested in communicating well need to master the art of timing. Patel noted,[1]

“Great comedians, like all great communicators, are able to feel out their audience to determine when to move on to a new topic or when to reiterate an idea.”

Communicating effectively also requires thoughtfulness about the messenger. A person prone to dramatic, angry outbursts should never be called upon to deliver constructive feedback, especially to people whom they do not know. The immediate aftermath of a mass shooting is not the ideal time to talk about the importance of the Second Amendment rights.

Like everyone else, I must work to ensure my communication is layered with precision and care.

It requires precision because words must be carefully tailored to the person with whom you are speaking.

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It requires intentionality because before one communicates, one should think about the audience and what the audience needs in order to hear your message the way you intended it to be communicated.

It requires active listening which is about hearing verbal and nonverbal messages.

Even though we may be right in what we say, how we say it could derail the impact of the message and the other parties’ ability to hear the message.

Communicating with care is also about saying things that the people in our life need to hear and doing so with love.

The Bottom Line

When I left the meeting with my dear friend, I wondered if I was replicating or modeling this level of openness and transparency in the rest of my relationships.

I was intrigued and appreciative. He’d clearly thought about what he wanted to say to me, picked the appropriate time to share his feedback and then delivered it with care. He hit the ball out of the park and I’m hopeful we all do the same.

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Featured photo credit: Kenan Buhic via unsplash.com

Reference

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