Many people struggle to get past the first few dates with someone new because they fail to realize one very important fact about any romantic relationship: It is alive.
Okay, not literally–but it might as well be, for how sensitive it is to subtle fluctuations in the conditions it needs to thrive. A relationship has much more in common with the plants in a garden than with the decorative statues meant to look good but little else. In other words, having a healthy romance takes more than just showing up. It requires attentiveness and nurturing. Here are five tips for helping your new relationship flourish:
1. Give it time. Any gardener knows you can’t force fruit to ripen. Likewise, you can’t rush a relationship into reaching its full potential. Most of the attributes necessary for a healthy, lasting romance take time to develop—trust; understanding each other’s strengths and weaknesses; and compatibility demonstrated through both good times and hard times. If you try to load the relationship with too much emotional weight before it is able to handle it, you risk ruining what was almost ready. Be patient and, soon enough, you’ll reap what you have sown.
2. Give it space. Garden plants need plenty of room to set down roots—and so do new relationships. A common mistake is to try and cram romance into a life that is already too full. Or to jump in way too fast and forget your old life.
3. Feed it well. A budding romance needs a steady diet of some key nutrients. Among them is one that is often overlooked: creativity. In the early stages of a new relationship, time together is a relatively narrow window of opportunity. Don’t spend it doing “ordinary” things. Scour the weekend newspaper and websites for unique, outside-the-box date possibilities. Season your romance with the fresh and memorable flavor of originality. Pepper it with the little touches that communicate you are different from the usual “dinner and a movie” crowd.
4. Don’t overwater. At the other end of the spectrum, it is possible to smother a seedling relationship with excessive “care and feeding.” Pace yourself to be sure you aren’t overwhelming your potential partner with expectations neither of you are ready for.
5. Pull the weeds before they take over. There is no such thing as an issue-free relationship. Simply being human guarantees you will both find the rough edges in each other and in yourselves. The trick is to face potential problems when they first arise and not ignore them until they’ve grown out of proportion. As is so often the case, good communication is the handiest tool you possess for giving your new romance every possible chance to survive and thrive.
There is no magic formula for harvesting the lasting romance you seek. Sometimes a relationship is destined to fizzle no matter what you do. But nurturing every new opportunity is how you’ll be ready when the right one comes along.