Looking for love brings a lot of significant events – of course, there’s moving in together and getting married, but don’t discount the importance of everything that comes before. Now more than ever, there’s a seriously high amount of landmarks to navigate. It’s not just about when you’re going to meet his friends or be his date to a wedding. There’s also everything technology brings us to contend with, often starting before you even meet. Here’s a guide to all the milestones you’ll hit early in your relationships and how to handle them.
Exchanging phone numbers
Whether you meet in person or online, you’re going to need to swap phone numbers with a date to get and stay in touch. This opens up a whole world of dating anxieties – does she text you back soon enough? Are you texting too often? Does he seriously expect you to use the phone to actually call him?
The etiquette of texting alone is enough material for a book, but here are a few pointers. Before your first date, keep it short and sweet. Arrange where you’re meeting and when and text if you’ll be late or you can’t find her. Don’t give into the temptation to chat extensively before you’ve even met – you’ll just give yourself a headache thinking about what could happen and why it’s been three hours since you heard from him.
After that first date, send a text if you had a good time – a text, as in one. Wait for a reply before you send the next, and stay focused on setting up another time to get together. Things should evolve naturally from there, but keep in mind that people’s phone habits are different. He may be glued to his phone all day, but maybe you only get yours out on breaks at work. Don’t stress about it. And while a couple texts in a row is fine, try not to go over three if you want to look mentally stable.
The first date
Getting to this milestone is a lot harder than you might think, especially if you’re being technical about it. Think about the last time you went out on a date – and think about the last time you went to hang out with someone you’d really like to date instead. If you wait until hanging out with someone you’re interested in gets declared a date, you might be waiting a long time. Instead, go ahead and ask him out on a date when you’re setting up plans. Using the actual word date will also make your intentions clear, which is a bonus.
If you’re not too attached to the idea of dating itself, this milestone is likely to be the first time you meet or the first time you see each other without friends around.
Either way, the first date can make you a nervous wreck. Where should you go? What should you do? When should you schedule it? Worst of all: What are you going to wear? If you keep in mind that this person has agreed to go on a date with you, or at least to hang out with you alone, you’ll feel a lot better. She wants to see you – she’s not in it for the chance to go to a nice, reasonably priced restaurant at 8 on a Saturday.
Give yourself a pep talk before you head out if you need it. Crank up your favorite playlist and wear your favorite clothes – but don’t grab a drink to help you feel less anxious. You need to be clear-headed enough to be the best version of yourself. And remember that version doesn’t discuss controversial topics in the first few minutes.
Connecting on social media
This one’s just as much of a minefield as texting. If you know your date’s first and last name – and we hope you do pretty soon in the dating process – you can find her on Facebook and probably other social media too. So what do you do about it?
Adding a guy you had a single date with is a no-go. Resist the temptation, even if you can’t help but stalk his public profile a little. At this point, you don’t really know whether you’ll even like him in a week, let alone whether you really need his family Thanksgiving photos popping up in your feed months later.
Hold off on the Facebook add until you’re pretty sure you’ve got the beginnings of a relationship going. Maybe you want to adopt the old three-dates rule for social media, or maybe it can wait until after you have the define-the-relationship talk.
As for changing your relationship status online, this rule is set in stone. Do not under any circumstances change it until you have had an actual conversation and agree that you are now dating. Anything else is a little bit nuts – and guaranteed to scare her off.
Defining the relationship
Out of all the milestones on this list, defining the relationship is probably the one people dread the most. There’s a lot on the line, after all. You’ve been on a few dates, maybe slept together and probably met a few of each other’s friends. If you’re at this point, it’s because you really like the person you’re seeing. Because of that, trying to define the relationship can feel like courting disaster.
It doesn’t have to be that way. Pay attention to when you start wanting to know exactly what you’re doing with this person – it could be when you try to introduce him and can’t find the right word, or when you accept an invitation to a party next month and don’t quite know whether you can say you’re bringing her for sure. Then wait about a week. Bring up defining the relationship when your head’s a little clearer and you have some perspective, and bring it up gently. Don’t say “I want to define our relationship,” or, even worse, “We need to talk.” Try something like “I really like spending time with you and I want to know where we’re headed, or even, “Hey, is it cool if I call you my girlfriend?”