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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 April 14, 2021

How to Deal With Anger (The Ultimate Anger Management Guide)

How to Deal With Anger (The Ultimate Anger Management Guide)

We all lose our temper from time to time, and expressing anger is actually a healthy thing to do in our relationships with others. Expressing our differences in opinion allows us to have healthy conflict and many times come to an agreement or understanding that works for everyone. However, there are times when anger can become overwhelming or damaging, and during these times, it’s important to learn how to deal with anger.

Expressing anger inappropriately can be harmful to relationships, both personal and professional. You may express too much anger, too often, or at times that are only going to make things worse, not better. In this article we will look at anger management techniques that will help you better control your emotions.

Let’s take a deeper look at how to deal with anger.

Expressing Anger

Anger is a natural and normal part of almost any relationship. This includes relationships with your significant other, kids, boss, friends, family, etc. Anger provides us with valuable information if we are willing to listen to it. It clues us in to areas where we disagree with others and things that need to be changed or altered.

Unhealthy Ways to Express Anger

Here are some common yet unhealthy ways to express anger that you should avoid:

Being Passive-Aggressive

This is a term many of us are familiar with. Passive-aggressive behavior happens when someone is angry but uses indirect communication to express their anger.

Some of the more common passive-aggressive behaviors include the silent treatment, making comments about someone behind their back, being grumpy, moody, or pouting, or simply not doing tasks or assignments that they should.

This is a passive-aggressive person’s way of showing their anger. It’s not very productive but extremely common.

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Poorly-Timed

Some people get overwhelmed and express anger in a situation where it can’t really do any good.

An example would be getting angry at one person in front of a crowd of people. All that does is make people uncomfortable and shuts them down. It’s not a healthy way to express anger or disagreement with someone.

Ongoing Anger

Being angry all the time is most often a symptom of something else. It’s healthy and normal to express anger when you disagree with someone. However, if someone is angry most of the time and always seems to be expressing their anger to everyone around them, this won’t serve them well.

Over time, people will start to avoid this person and have as little contact as possible. The reason being is no one likes being around someone who is angry all the time; it’s a no-win situation.

Healthy Ways to Express Anger

What about the healthy ways[1] to adapt? When learning how to deal with anger, here are some healthy ways to get you started.

Being Honest

Express your anger or disagreement honestly. Be truthful about what it is that is making you angry. Sometimes this will entail walking away and thinking about it for a bit before you respond.

Don’t say you’re mad at something someone did or said when it’s really something else that upset you.

Being Direct

Similar to being honest, being direct is a healthy way to express anger.

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Don’t talk around something that is making you angry. Don’t say that one thing is making you angry when it’s really something else, and don’t stack items on top of each other so you can unload on someone about 10 different things 6 months from now.

Be direct and upfront about what is making you angry. Ensure you are expressing your anger to the person who upset you or you are angry at, not to someone else. This is very counterproductive.

Being Timely

When something makes you angry, it’s much better to express it in a timely manner. Don’t keep it bottled up inside of you, as that’s only going to do more harm than good.

Think of the marriages that seem to go up in flames out of nowhere when the reality is someone kept quiet for years until they hit their breaking point.

Expressing anger as it occurs is a much healthier way of using anger to help us guide our relationships in the moment.

How to Deal With Anger

If you feel angry, how should you deal with it right at that moment?

1. Slow Down

From time to time, I receive an email at work that makes me so angry that steam is probably pouring out of my ears.

In my less restrained moments, I have been known to fire off a quick response, and that typically has ended about as well as you might imagine.

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When I actually walk away from my computer and go do something else for a while, I am able to calm down and think more rationally. After that happens, I am able to respond in a more appropriate and productive manner. Doing things that helps you learn how to release anger can make an uncomfortable situation more manageable before it gets out of hand.

2. Focus on the “I”

Remember that you are the one that’s upset. Don’t accuse people of making you upset because, in the end, it’s your response to what someone did that really triggered your anger. You don’t want to place blame by saying something like “Why don’t you ever put away your dishes?” Say something more like “Having dirty dishes laying on the counter upsets me—can you work with me to come to a solution?”

When you are accusatory towards someone, all that does is increase the tension. This doesn’t usually do anything except make your anger rise higher.

3. Work out

When learning how to deal with anger, exercise is a great outlet. If something happens that angers you, see if you have the opportunity to burn off some of the anger.

Being able to hit the gym to get a hard workout in is great. If this isn’t an option, see if you can go for a run or a bike ride. If you are at work when you become angry and the weather permits, at least go outside for a brisk walk.

Besides working some of your anger out through exercise, this also helps to give your mind a chance to work through some ways to address what it is that upset you.

If you’re not sure where to start with an exercise routine, check out Lifehack’s free Simple Cardio Home Workout Plan.

4. Seek Help When Needed

There are times when we could all use some help. Life can be stressful and overwhelming. It’s perfectly fine to seek some help from a mental health professional if it will help you get back to a healthy balance.If you find that you are angry all the time, it might be a good idea to go talk to an expert about learning to control intense emotions. They can give you some sound advice and ideas on how to get your anger to a more manageable and healthy level.

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5. Practice Relaxation

We all seem to lead incredibly busy lives, and that’s a good thing if we are loving the life we are living. That being said, it is very beneficial to our physical and mental well-being to take time out for relaxation.

That can mean spending time doing things that help us calm down and relax, like being around people we enjoy, practicing deep breathing or listening to music. It could be making time for things that help bring us balance like a healthy diet and physical activity.

Many people incorporate techniques such as yoga and meditation to calm their minds and release tension when learning how to deal with anger. Whatever your choice is, ensure you take time out to relax when warning signs of anger start to bubble up.

6. Laugh

Incorporating humor and laughter on a regular basis will help keep anger in check and help you get over a bad mood and feelings of anger more quickly. This isn’t part of formal anger management techniques, but you’ll be surprised by how well it works. Remember, life is a journey that’s meant to be enjoyed fully along the way through healthy emotion. Make sure you take time to laugh and have fun.Surround yourself with people that like to laugh and enjoy life. Don’t work at a job that just causes you stress, which can lead to anger. Work at something you enjoy doing.

7. Be Grateful

It’s easy to focus on the bad in life and the things that cause us negative emotions. It’s vitally important to remind ourselves of all the wonderful things in life that bring us positive emotions, things that we easily forget because we get caught up in the whirlwind of day to day life.

Take time out each day to remind yourself of a few things you are grateful for in order to help you learn how to release anger and invite in more positive feelings.

Final Thoughts

Life can be overwhelming at times. We seem to have constant pressure to achieve more and to always be on the go. People we are around and situations we are in can cause stress, anger, and negative emotions. At times, it can seem to be too much, and we get angry and our emotions start to get out of control.

During these times, keep in mind that life is an incredible journey, full of wonder and things that bring you joy. When you find yourself angry more often than is healthy, take time out to remember the good things in life—the things that we seem to forget yet bring us so much positive energy and emotions.

Use some of the tips included here to help with how to deal with anger and better control your emotions.

More Resources on Anger Management

Featured photo credit: Andre Hunter via unsplash.com

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