Working as both an advice columnist and life coach, I’ve learned a few things about relationships. What I’ve learned best is that our never-ending search for connection grants us a never-ending supply of questions. Whether you’re a youngster gearing up for your ﬁrst rodeo, or a veteran with ﬁfty years of marriage, the desire to connect with others remains, as do the questions.
While we all have different relationship and dating questions at different stages, I’ve compiled answers to some of the most popular relationship and dating questions out there.
Your 5 Biggest Relationship and Dating Questions Solved
- How to get over a breakup?
Realize that all breakups affect us differently. This is because our partners mean different things to each of us depending on both how invested we are in them, and what they represent to us.
At the base level, breakup recovery is about reclaiming our independence and using ourselves to ﬁll the void that has been left. To me, this is a three-step process:
First, it’s important to acknowledge and be comfortable with our feelings. We tend to judge ourselves for missing someone and try forcing ourselves back into what we feel is stability. What this does is propels us into a second battle against ourselves. The grief that we ﬁght is a normal part of breaking up, and going through it is progress. The more we embrace grief, the more we’ll learn from it.
That’s great news because the second step for us is to dissect our feelings as objectively as possible. We’re now feeling more level-headed, and can ask ourselves questions about if our ego is playing a role in this heartache, whether or not the relationship was healthy, if these feelings are codependent, and more. Asking questions like these enables us to decipher which feelings are rooted in love and which are rooted in fear.
We might uncover ways in which we unknowingly contributed to the breakup, which allows us to take responsibility and make better decisions going forward. Another important discovery that can be made in this step is what our partners represent to us subconsciously. Oftentimes, when we obsessively miss a partner, we’re missing what they symbolized to us, be that a father figure or symbol of security in our lives. The mental commentary disguised as, ‘I miss my ex’, could actually be ‘I feel insecure’. This type of discovery is invaluable and shifts our understanding of what real recovery requires by revealing the real issues at play.
Finally, our third step is to start generating new feelings amidst the acceptance of our grief. Breakups affect our relationships with ourselves, so rebuilding how we feel about us is essential. Create new connections by doing what’s right for you. Throw yourself into the activities that make you happy, and navigate this breakup recovery with the best version of yourself by surrounding yourself with like-minded people and exciting activities. As an added bonus, this might just be the avenue through which you meet the right person.
- What does a healthy relationship look like?
Well, if it isn’t the mother of all relationship and dating questions? When I gauge what makes for a healthy relationship, I always refer back to Attachment Theory. Attachment Theory suggests that in romantic relationships, our attachment to our partners falls into three different categories; anxious, avoidant and secure. Unlike the subjectivity that comes with many psychological principles, Attachment Theory gives us a speciﬁc goal to strive towards. Theoretically, a relationship will thrive if both partners have a secure attachment to one another.
When a couple shares a secure attachment, it means they are understanding of and communicative about one another’s needs. Trust has been built on both sides because the partners are secure enough with themselves to be open about who they are with one another. Should there be friction or disagreement, it’s discussed with mutual respect. Should a disagreement cause the relationship to end, it will likely be based on values rather than pride.
Beware of how other attachment types can be mistaken as secure. Anxious attachments will seem very secure as they shower their partners with affection, never leave their sides, and get terribly upset if they feel the love they’re receiving is in question. This display of affection might be well-intentioned, but it’s usually more about codependency and their own insecurities than genuine love.
Avoidant attachments will seem very secure as they’re ﬁercely independent, don’t make demands on their partners and rarely show much emotion. While these can be very attractive qualities, if taken to the extreme, such behavior is regularly displayed by people who are afraid to get too close. Whether it’s fear of being hurt, fear of losing freedom, or something in between, avoidant attachments will inevitably leave their partners and themselves needing more.
A healthy relationship looks like two people who come together to help each other grow and because they want each other, not need each other for attention and affirmation. Developing secure attachment in a relationship is something that can be grown and worked on as a couple, if you both share the same goals and values for the relationship.
- Sex on the ﬁrst date – yes or no?
As we get older and more mature, we realize that relationships come with many gray areas. There’s no right or wrong answer to the question of sex on a first date. Depending on what the partners are looking for, relationships have different needs, expectations and practices.
Understanding what both you and your partner are looking for is what will determine whether or not having sex on the ﬁrst date is the right decision. What’s more important to understand is that the decision made on that ﬁrst night does set a precedent. Regardless of who you are, sex is a display of intimacy. So you should approach it in whichever way makes you feel most comfortable.
Having sex on the ﬁrst date will typically indicate that the relationship will either be more physical than romantic or that there is significant chemistry between the two of you. But it doesn’t have to be either. Maybe it just feels right or doesn’t. These intentions can change as the couple gets to know one another, but having sex on the ﬁrst date is a choice each person needs to make in terms of what is right for them.
- How to build trust in a relationship?
In order to build trust in a relationship, we must drop our defenses and keep the lines of communication open. The best chance we stand at having the partners we desire is to behave in the way we’d like them to. If we’re willing to be open, our partners are likely to do the same.
This can depend on whether or not our partners have deep-seated trust issues that make it difﬁcult for them to open up, but the more we initiate trust by being vulnerable with them, the more likely they are to reciprocate. It’s also worth noting that this type of behavior helps both partners to understand one another and puts them in positions to fulﬁll one another’s needs in healthy ways.
Not only does this build more connection, but it prevents everyone from having bottled up emotions that are apt to be acted on in unhealthy ways. Some practical tips on communicating with your partner, include giving them your full attention, use ‘I statements’ and don’t interrupt them!
- What is ghosting?
‘Ghosting’ has unfortunately become quite common in the modern dating world. When someone is ghosted, it means that a person they were building some kind of relationship with stops talking to them with no explanation or forewarning. They disappear, like a ghost. As trivial as it can sound, ghosting causes a lot of pain. When we get ghosted, it’s easy to feel as if we’re somehow not good enough and can ﬁnd ourselves confused about what went wrong. Or getting angry and insisting that the person who ghosted us is human trash.
Both reactions are reﬂections of someone who is suffering from a damaged ego and scrambling to ﬁnd answers which may never come. If this sounds like you, have no fear. You might have been ghosted for any number of reasons.
Most people doing the ghosting are doing so because of something they feel is wrong with them, rather than the other way around. They’re unsure of what they want, they’re not over an ex, or any number of random variables in between. Being ghosted only needs to be as hurtful as your assumptions allow it to be. See it as an opportunity to take things in stride, embrace the fact that you can’t match with everyone and frame it as an opportunity to build resilience.
Relationship and dating questions like these are so prominent because it’s relationships that make the world go round. As you reﬂect on the most meaningful moments of your life, you’d be hard-pressed to ﬁnd many that don’t involve a person or a group of people that you care about. Do your best to prioritize your relationships, and work on yourself to share the best version of you to those you care about. You won’t regret it.