Dating 101: getting close safely

LOVE at first sight (or inbox message) does exist once in a while. Hollywood has built an entire industry on the line “You had me at hello.” That being said, creating real closeness with someone usually takes time. Initial attraction draws people together but it can’t replace experience or make you close without putting in time and work. Instimacy (instant intimacy) can be energizing, exciting, and fun but how can you be sure your fledgling relationship won’t crash and burn? Here are four ways you can feel the magic of something new while keeping your feet firmly planted on the ground.

1. Actions speak louder than words
In relationships there are two things—what a person tells you and what a person shows you. If you’re just getting to know someone on the phone and through email you’re banking on words more than actions. The danger is that you can feel really close to someone who simply can’t live up to their description of themselves. The world is full of people who are lazy, selfish, and untalented but how many people actually describe themselves as such? Spend time in person observing what a romantic interest does. If you don’t like what you see, run for cover.

2. We teach people how to treat us

This can be one of those obnoxious statements that doesn’t really ever seem to make sense. But Let’s break it down. Basically it means the best time to set the rules of a relationship is in the beginning of the game. Successful schoolteachers report that being more rigid in September and easing up as the year continues is the best way to gain respect and trust. It’s always better to back down from a boundary you’ve built than to build one after someone has crossed the line. At the get-go you can ask for what you want without years of built-up resentment and anger being the water under your bridge. You’re simply showing a new individual your standards. Don’t be afraid to speak up. A solid, safe person will respect your limits.

3. Love is a two way street
Make sure things are reciprocal. We interviewed a woman recently who shared with us what makes her current relationship different from previous unsuccessful relationships. The words she used were, “I move closer, he moves closer. He tells me how much he likes me, I tell him how much I like him.” In other words, there isn’t game playing. She doesn’t have to move away to get him to advance. They are both in it and that’s where they want to be. A good sign you’re in a healthy relationship is when both of you are on the same page (or at the very least reading the same book—the last thing you want is to be with someone who thinks they’re reading The Story of O while you think you’re reading Danielle Steel).

4. Keep it real
Fantasy is good fun but it can set you up for failure. Don’t come to a relationship with a sack load of expectations that you’re ready to throw down on some poor, unsuspecting fool. Don’t fail to take an honest look at a person. Someone can seem like your knight in shining armor only because you’re wearing your knight-in-shining-armor glasses. Men have these too -- they call them beer goggles. If someone seems too good to be true, they probably are. If they are that good, time will tell. Stay sober literally and metaphorically so you can see people for who they really are. Finally, don’t be Speedy Gonzalez. Real love takes time to grow.

In Cuba, there is a saying “When you’re in a hurry, slow down.” Let things progress slowly and naturally. You want to be in the relationship and enjoy its unfurling but you also want to be an objective observer gathering information about the person you’ve met, and how you feel in their presence. Safety is often an illusion. And there’s no guarantee of it. Human beings can be pretty unpredictable. But what you can look for is trust. Trust in yourself that you’ll carefully select a good guy. Trust in yourself that you’ll know when someone isn’t who he or she says they are. And trust in yourself that no matter what happens you will prevail.

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