It always interests me to hear the experiences of new relationships. They start fresh and exciting, learning about each other with both partners feeling important to someone who is eager to be with them.
New relationships fall into their own rhythm. Each person has their expectations of the other, which they will either proactively discuss or they will wait to come to the surface on their own.
Expectations of each other, what the boundaries are, and how we want to be treated are some of the topics necessary when two people get together to form a relationship. There is definitely work to be done as a new couple endeavors to carve a new path for themselves.
Let’s add another dimension: friends and family. What is considered ‘normal’ or ‘routine’ for one partner, may be completely foreign and uncomfortable to the other, even offensive.
John has a solid group of friends, and they have been very close for years. The guys like to get together on a regular basis at John’s place to watch the ball game. In comes John’s new girlfriend Sue. At first, it’s fun to be included in this very exclusive group, but that lasts about two weeks.
Sue does not want what is now “their place” to have the guys over once or twice every week, leaving a mess, invading her privacy, and limiting the amount of time she gets to spend with John. It’s a challenge. They both realized that they needed to make allowances for each other’s lifestyles as well as create one of their own.
They decide to have the guys over 2-3 times per month which meant John needed to let the guys know that he is not as available as he was, and although John valued their friendship, he now wanted to make more room for Sue.
Another area is religion and culture. We are raised in the home of our family of origin and learn and practice the customs they set out for us. We may be with a new partner who is of the same background or not. As a couple, it’s important to determine what customs appeal to both of you. They may be the same or they may not.
Once you’ve figured out what works for you as a couple, you’ll need to stand united if challenged by others. You may get push-back from family members who expect you to show up on certain holidays or both of you practice a particular religion or participate in regular events.
Those are their choices and preferences. You have the right to create your own. You can simply tell the other family members that you have a different way of honoring your traditions, it may be different than theirs, and that is what you have chosen as a couple. You may participate from time to time as you have in the past, but it won’t be every time.
Every family or group of friends has its history and its way of interacting. You cannot change those dynamics, nor should you. What you can do is create what YOU want as a couple. It doesn’t mean that we have to behave identically as a couple, we can choose to be different. Either way, the theme here is to set up what you both want, set the boundaries, communicate them in a loving yet firm way to family and friends and most importantly, be willing to stick to it when challenged.
I’ve seen many strong relationships deteriorate because of a lack of cohesion as a couple, followed by no boundaries set for outsiders and the conflict kicks in. Believe in yourself and what you want, believe in the strength of your relationship, be polite and firm with others and know that you are not responsible for their reactions if they don’t agree with you.
In setting boundaries, your relationship will flourish!