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What Is a Relationship Timeline and Should You Follow It?

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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

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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 July 20, 2021

How to Overcome the Fear of Public Speaking (A Step-by-Step Guide)

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How to Overcome the Fear of Public Speaking (A Step-by-Step Guide)

You’re standing behind the curtain, just about to make your way on stage to face the many faces half-shrouded in darkness in front of you. As you move towards the spotlight, your body starts to feel heavier with each step. A familiar thump echoes throughout your body – your heartbeat has gone off the charts.

Don’t worry, you’re not the only one with glossophobia(also known as speech anxiety or the fear of speaking to large crowds). Sometimes, the anxiety happens long before you even stand on stage.

Your body’s defence mechanism responds by causing a part of your brain to release adrenaline into your blood – the same chemical that gets released as if you were being chased by a lion.

Here’s a step-by-step guide to help you overcome your fear of public speaking:

1. Prepare yourself mentally and physically

According to experts, we’re built to display anxiety and to recognize it in others. If your body and mind are anxious, your audience will notice. Hence, it’s important to prepare yourself before the big show so that you arrive on stage confident, collected and ready.

“Your outside world is a reflection of your inside world. What goes on in the inside, shows on the outside.” – Bob Proctor

Exercising lightly before a presentation helps get your blood circulating and sends oxygen to the brain. Mental exercises, on the other hand, can help calm the mind and nerves. Here are some useful ways to calm your racing heart when you start to feel the butterflies in your stomach:

Warming up

If you’re nervous, chances are your body will feel the same way. Your body gets tense, your muscles feel tight or you’re breaking in cold sweat. The audience will notice you are nervous.

If you observe that this is exactly what is happening to you minutes before a speech, do a couple of stretches to loosen and relax your body. It’s better to warm up before every speech as it helps to increase the functional potential of the body as a whole. Not only that, it increases muscle efficiency, improves reaction time and your movements.

Here are some exercises to loosen up your body before show time:

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  1. Neck and shoulder rolls – This helps relieve upper body muscle tension and pressure as the rolls focus on rotating the head and shoulders, loosening the muscle. Stress and anxiety can make us rigid within this area which can make you feel agitated, especially when standing.
  2. Arm stretches – We often use this part of our muscles during a speech or presentation through our hand gestures and movements. Stretching these muscles can reduce arm fatigue, loosen you up and improve your body language range.
  3. Waist twists – Place your hands on your hips and rotate your waist in a circular motion. This exercise focuses on loosening the abdominal and lower back regions which is essential as it can cause discomfort and pain, further amplifying any anxieties you may experience.

Stay hydrated

Ever felt parched seconds before speaking? And then coming up on stage sounding raspy and scratchy in front of the audience? This happens because the adrenaline from stage fright causes your mouth to feel dried out.

To prevent all that, it’s essential we stay adequately hydrated before a speech. A sip of water will do the trick. However, do drink in moderation so that you won’t need to go to the bathroom constantly.

Try to avoid sugary beverages and caffeine, since it’s a diuretic – meaning you’ll feel thirstier. It will also amplify your anxiety which prevents you from speaking smoothly.

Meditate

Meditation is well-known as a powerful tool to calm the mind. ABC’s Dan Harris, co-anchor of Nightline and Good Morning America weekend and author of the book titled10% Happier , recommends that meditation can help individuals to feel significantly calmer, faster.

Meditation is like a workout for your mind. It gives you the strength and focus to filter out the negativity and distractions with words of encouragement, confidence and strength.

Mindfulness meditation, in particular, is a popular method to calm yourself before going up on the big stage. The practice involves sitting comfortably, focusing on your breathing and then bringing your mind’s attention to the present without drifting into concerns about the past or future – which likely includes floundering on stage.

Here’s a nice example of guided meditation before public speaking:

2. Focus on your goal

One thing people with a fear of public speaking have in common is focusing too much on themselves and the possibility of failure.

Do I look funny? What if I can’t remember what to say? Do I look stupid? Will people listen to me? Does anyone care about what I’m talking about?’

Instead of thinking this way, shift your attention to your one true purpose – contributing something of value to your audience.

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Decide on the progress you’d like your audience to make after your presentation. Notice their movements and expressions to adapt your speech to ensure that they are having a good time to leave the room as better people.

If your own focus isn’t beneficial and what it should be when you’re speaking, then shift it to what does. This is also key to establishing trust during your presentation as the audience can clearly see that you have their interests at heart.[1]

3. Convert negativity to positivity

There are two sides constantly battling inside of us – one is filled with strength and courage while the other is doubt and insecurities. Which one will you feed?

‘What if I mess up this speech? What if I’m not funny enough? What if I forget what to say?’

It’s no wonder why many of us are uncomfortable giving a presentation. All we do is bring ourselves down before we got a chance to prove ourselves. This is also known as a self-fulfilling prophecy – a belief that comes true because we are acting as if it already is. If you think you’re incompetent, then it will eventually become true.

Motivational coaches tout that positive mantras and affirmations tend to boost your confidents for the moments that matter most. Say to yourself: “I’ll ace this speech and I can do it!”

Take advantage of your adrenaline rush to encourage positive outcome rather than thinking of the negative ‘what ifs’.

Here’s a video of Psychologist Kelly McGonigal who encourages her audience to turn stress into something positive as well as provide methods on how to cope with it:

4. Understand your content

Knowing your content at your fingertips helps reduce your anxiety because there is one less thing to worry about. One way to get there is to practice numerous times before your actual speech.

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However, memorizing your script word-for-word is not encouraged. You can end up freezing should you forget something. You’ll also risk sounding unnatural and less approachable.

“No amount of reading or memorizing will make you successful in life. It is the understanding and the application of wise thought that counts.” – Bob Proctor

Many people unconsciously make the mistake of reading from their slides or memorizing their script word-for-word without understanding their content – a definite way to stress themselves out.

Understanding your speech flow and content makes it easier for you to convert ideas and concepts into your own words which you can then clearly explain to others in a conversational manner. Designing your slides to include text prompts is also an easy hack to ensure you get to quickly recall your flow when your mind goes blank.[2]

One way to understand is to memorize the over-arching concepts or ideas in your pitch. It helps you speak more naturally and let your personality shine through. It’s almost like taking your audience on a journey with a few key milestones.

5. Practice makes perfect

Like most people, many of us are not naturally attuned to public speaking. Rarely do individuals walk up to a large audience and present flawlessly without any research and preparation.

In fact, some of the top presenters make it look easy during showtime because they have spent countless hours behind-the-scenes in deep practice. Even great speakers like the late John F. Kennedy would spend months preparing his speech beforehand.

Public speaking, like any other skill, requires practice – whether it be practicing your speech countless of times in front of a mirror or making notes. As the saying goes, practice makes perfect!

6. Be authentic

There’s nothing wrong with feeling stressed before going up to speak in front of an audience.

Many people fear public speaking because they fear others will judge them for showing their true, vulnerable self. However, vulnerability can sometimes help you come across as more authentic and relatable as a speaker.

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Drop the pretence of trying to act or speak like someone else and you’ll find that it’s worth the risk. You become more genuine, flexible and spontaneous, which makes it easier to handle unpredictable situations – whether it’s getting tough questions from the crowd or experiencing an unexpected technical difficulty.

To find out your authentic style of speaking is easy. Just pick a topic or issue you are passionate about and discuss this like you normally would with a close family or friend. It is like having a conversation with someone in a personal one-to-one setting. A great way to do this on stage is to select a random audience member(with a hopefully calming face) and speak to a single person at a time during your speech. You’ll find that it’s easier trying to connect to one person at a time than a whole room.

With that said, being comfortable enough to be yourself in front of others may take a little time and some experience, depending how comfortable you are with being yourself in front of others. But once you embrace it, stage fright will not be as intimidating as you initially thought.

Presenters like Barack Obama are a prime example of a genuine and passionate speaker:

7. Post speech evaluation

Last but not the least, if you’ve done public speaking and have been scarred from a bad experience, try seeing it as a lesson learned to improve yourself as a speaker.

Don’t beat yourself up after a presentation

We are the hardest on ourselves and it’s good to be. But when you finish delivering your speech or presentation, give yourself some recognition and a pat on the back.

You managed to finish whatever you had to do and did not give up. You did not let your fears and insecurities get to you. Take a little more pride in your work and believe in yourself.

Improve your next speech

As mentioned before, practice does make perfect. If you want to improve your public speaking skills, try asking someone to film you during a speech or presentation. Afterwards, watch and observe what you can do to improve yourself next time.

Here are some questions you can ask yourself after every speech:

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  • How did I do?
  • Are there any areas for improvement?
  • Did I sound or look stressed?
  • Did I stumble on my words? Why?
  • Was I saying “um” too often?
  • How was the flow of the speech?

Write everything you observed down and keep practicing and improving. In time, you’ll be able to better manage your fears of public speaking and appear more confident when it counts.

If you want even more tips about public speaking or delivering a great presentation, check out these articles too:

Reference

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