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Early Stages of Dating & 25 Expectations and Must-Knows of a New Romance

The early stages of dating can be exciting and confusing at the same time. If you don’t do the right thing, the relationship might not go anywhere.

early stages of dating

That first spark! Your eyes meet across a crowded room, or maybe you just bumped into each other in the ‘Fantasy’ section at the bookstore. Suddenly, Cupid’s arrow feels very, very real and you’re in the early stages of dating.

Before you know it, you’re holding hands under the dinner table, exchanging those coy glances. It’s official—you’re navigating the exhilarating yet enigmatic early stages of dating.

It’s a time of exploration and excitement but let’s be real—it’s also a stage filled with uncertainties, unanswered texts, and the nerve-wracking wait for the next date.

You’re caught in this blissful whirlwind, yet sometimes, you’re also a detective piecing together the enigmatic puzzle of your partner. Will they text back? Is it too soon to drop the ‘L’ bomb?

[Read: 35 new relationship advice and tips to avoid the common mistakes couples make]

The Psychology of the Early Stages of Dating

Navigating the early stages of dating is like figuring out a new smartphone: exciting, full of potential, but oh boy, can it be complicated!

Before we jump into the expectations, the should-do’s, and the oh-please-don’t-do’s, let’s understand why unraveling the psychology of this phase is so important.

It’s not just about finding out if your date is into you, it’s also about understanding why you react a certain way, why you’re feeling these intense emotions, and how all these can shape your dating experience.

After all, knowledge is power, especially when it comes to matters of the heart. [Read: Boundaries in a relationship – 43 healthy dating rules you MUST set early on]

1. First Impressions and the ‘Wow’ Factor

Ah, the intoxicating power of first impressions! You meet someone, and they’re everything your mom warned you about—only in a good way.

But beware, this is where the ‘Halo Effect’ can swoop in, making you overlook certain traits or red flags because you’re so smitten.

It’s crucial to remember that everyone has layers, like an emotional onion, and it takes time to peel them back and really get to know someone in the early stages of dating.

2. The Chemistry Behind the Butterflies

Remember that feeling when your date walks into the room, and your stomach does a little somersault?

That’s not just good lighting; that’s your brain playing bartender, mixing up a cocktail of dopamine, oxytocin, and other neurotransmitters that keep you coming back for more. [Read: Butterflies in your stomach – 16 steps to control and calm them instantly]

While this chemistry sets the stage for potential love, it’s essential to realize that it can also cloud your judgment. In the early stages of dating, this chemical rush can be your best friend or your worst enemy.

3. Know Your Dating Style: Secure, Anxious, or Avoidant

We’ve all got our unique styles when it comes to dating—some of us are cool as cucumbers, while others might be more akin to a basket of overripe bananas.

Understanding your own attachment style—be it secure, anxious, or avoidant—can offer invaluable insights into how you relate to others. [Read: Attachment styles theory – 4 types and 19 signs and ways you attach to others]

This becomes particularly important in the early stages of dating, where every text, call, or lack thereof can feel like a make-or-break moment.

What to Expect in the Early Stages of Dating

So you’re in the early stages of dating—congrats! It’s a unique and exhilarating period in any relationship, filled with new experiences and maybe a couple of “uh-oh” moments.

Knowing what’s likely to happen, how you might feel, and how to handle it all can be a real game-changer. So, let’s give you that roadmap. [Read: 48 Rules and texting etiquette for guys AND girls in the early stages of dating]

1. Frequency of Communication

You know that feeling when your phone buzzes and you’re hoping it’s them? Yeah, get used to that thrill. At this stage, communication varies.

Sometimes it’s a constant ping-pong of texts, sometimes it’s sporadic. Don’t freak out if they haven’t texted back in a bit. Keep your cool, and you’ll soon find your unique communication rhythm.

2. First Few Dates: Decoding the Settings

The early stages of dating usually include some classic scenarios: coffee shops, casual dinners, maybe even a park visit. You’re essentially test-driving each other’s personalities. [Read: 45 Special and sweet date ideas every couple should have on their checklist]

If they’re kind to service staff and don’t dominate the conversation, it’s a good sign. On the flip side, constant phone-checking or negative talk about others might be a sign to re-evaluate.

3. Physical Intimacy: When and How?

Will there be a kiss? Should you make the first move? You’re not alone in pondering these questions. Remember, comfort and consent are key.

There’s no set timeline, it’s all about how you both feel. And Sternberg’s Triangular Theory of Love? Keep it in mind: passion is just one corner of the love triangle.

4. Meeting the Squad: Friends as Barometers

When you meet their friends for the first time, it’s basically your debut in their social world.

Friendly banter and shared laughs are good signs. Conversely, if their friends seem standoffish or disinterested, it might be a red flag worth noting.

5. The Emotional Rollercoaster: Buckle Up!

During the early stages of dating, you’re likely to oscillate between excitement, hope, and, let’s face it, a dollop of insecurity.

“Do they like me? Was that a joke or a dig?” are thoughts that could whirl around in your head. It’s normal to feel a bit unstable, you’re still figuring each other out, after all. [Read: Emotional roller coaster – the signs, causes, and ways to end this relationship]

6. When to Be Exclusive: The ‘DTR’ Moment

In the early stages of dating, the “Define The Relationship” conversation is a pivotal point. You’ve probably been enjoying each other’s company, and you might even be dodging questions from friends about “what you guys are.”

Some people rush into exclusivity, while others take their sweet time. Look for cues in conversations and actions before you decide to have “the talk.” [Read: Define the Relationship – 30 signs it’s time to DTR and how to talk about it]

7. Balancing Time: Me, You, and Us

Time management can be tricky when you’re caught up in the whirlwind of new love. It’s easy to want to spend every moment together, but remember, you both have other commitments and, well, lives. [Read: Alone time – why you need it, how it helps, and how to make the most of it]

Balance is key, so make sure to have time for yourself, for them, and also for the relationship to grow at a comfortable pace.

8. The Awkward Conversations: Money and Exes

Ah yes, the topics we’d rather avoid but can’t escape: finances and ex-partners. In the early stages of dating, these topics might naturally pop up. It could be splitting the dinner bill or bumping into an ex during a date.

How you both handle these awkward situations can tell you a lot about each other and the potential future of your relationship. [Read: 28 Awkward questions to ask a guy and weird, embarrassing ones not to]

9. The Vulnerability Hurdle: Sharing Personal Stories

As you grow more comfortable, the conversation will likely shift from favorite movies to more intimate topics, like family dynamics or personal aspirations.

Opening up in the early stages of dating can be scary but it’s also a pivotal moment in deepening your connection. Just make sure you’re both on the same page about how much you’re willing to share.

10. Social Media Etiquette: To Post or Not to Post?

In this age of Instagram and Twitter, the question of when to ‘go public’ on social media can add an extra layer of complexity. Is it too soon to post that cute selfie you both took? [Read: Social media and relationships – 47 rules, etiquette, and where couples go wrong]

This can vary from person to person, but a good rule of thumb is to discuss it with each other before making your relationship ‘Instagram official.’

11. When the Unexpected Happens: Dealing with Conflicts

Even in the early stages of dating, disagreements or conflicts can arise. It’s how you both handle them that sets the tone for what’s to come.

Good communication is crucial here. Whether it’s a forgotten call or differing opinions, address it directly and try to resolve it together. [Read: How to resolve conflict – the 15 best ways to cut out the drama]

The Do’s and Don’ts in the Early Stages of Dating

Navigating the early stages of dating can sometimes feel like walking a tightrope. Lean too far one way, and you might fall. But don’t worry, we’ve got you. Here are some tried-and-true Do’s and Don’ts to keep you balanced and on point.

Do’s: The Roadmap to Awesome Early Dates

Before we dive in, let’s remember that the early stages of dating are like a two-way interview. You’re both trying to figure out if this could go somewhere special. So here are the Do’s. [Read: 21 Must-know forth date tips, what to expect, and things you MUST avoid]

1. Be Yourself: Authenticity is Your Best Wingman

You might be tempted to agree that “The Office” is the best show ever, even if you’ve never seen it. Don’t. People can usually sniff out inauthenticity.

According to Self-Verification Theory, we all want to be understood and accepted for who we truly are. So be yourself—it’ll make a stronger foundation for any future relationship.

2. Open but Not an Open Book: Maintain a Sense of Mystery

You don’t have to share your entire life story on the first date. A bit of mystery can actually strengthen your early connection, thanks to Uncertainty Reduction Theory. You’re both naturally curious about each other, so let the information unfold gradually.

3. Have Fun: Shared Laughter is Relationship Glue

If you both love goofy memes or bad puns, let it shine. Shared laughter can really help solidify your connection. It’s simple: joy and laughter create positive associations, which can only make your bond stronger.

4. Set Boundaries: The Beauty of Saying No *or Yes*

Especially in the early stages of dating, setting boundaries is more important than you might think.

Whether it’s about how much time you’ll spend together or your comfort level with physical intimacy, make it clear. Boundary-setting is essentially an act of mutual respect. [Read: How to say no – 15 ways to reason politely, stop pleasing, and feel kickass]

5. Stay Grounded: Keep Your Other Relationships Intact

It’s easy to get swept away in a new romance, but remember to nurture your friendships and family ties. You had a life before this new person entered the scene, and maintaining a sense of individuality is healthy and essential.

Don’ts: Pitfalls to Watch Out for in Early Dating

Alright, now that we know the Do’s, let’s talk about some Don’ts to help you avoid common missteps in the early stages of dating. [Read: Dating for three months – 25 signs, red flags, and BIG relationship must-knows!]

1. Over-Commit: The Risky Business of Going All In

You’ve had three great dates and suddenly you’re planning holiday visits to meet the parents? Hold your horses.

Overcommitting too soon can lead to the Sunk Cost Fallacy, where you may feel obligated to stick with the relationship just because you’ve invested so much, so quickly.

2. Play Games: Ghosting is So 2019

We get it, “The Rules” once ruled dating, suggesting you should wait three days before calling or texting. But honestly, game-playing is outdated. Social Exchange Theory says relationships should be mutual. If you like them, let them know.

3. Be Overly Clingy: Give Them Space to Breathe

While it’s natural to want to spend a lot of time with someone new you’re excited about, being overly clingy can suffocate the relationship in its infancy.

Keep the principle of autonomy in mind: independence in the early stages can foster a stronger relationship down the line.

4. Rush into Meeting Family and Friends: Good Things Take Time

While meeting someone’s inner circle can be a sign that things are getting serious as we discussed above, pushing for it too soon can be overwhelming for both of you. [Read: How not to screw up when you meet the parents for the first time]

So don’t rush into family gatherings or friend introductions. Let the relationship breathe a bit first.

5. Overanalyze: Turn Off the Sherlock Holmes Mode

In the early stages of dating, it’s easy to overthink and dissect every text, touch, or glance. While a certain level of analysis is natural, too much can make you anxious and stressed, hindering the natural flow of the relationship.

6. Ignore Red Flags: Your Gut is Smarter Than You Think

If something feels off, don’t ignore it. Your prefrontal cortex is doing its job by picking up signals.

Whether it’s a disrespectful comment or a lack of interest in your life, these early warning signs are worth your attention. [Read: Gut instinct – what it is, how it works, and 30 tips to follow and listen to your gut]

Every Relationship is Unique

Navigating the early stages of dating can feel confusing and unpredictable. Take a deep breath and enjoy the process. Each awkward moment or thrilling text is a stitch in the fabric of your dating story.

Remember, the best relationship you can have is with someone who wants what you want.

And while we’ve laid out the do’s, don’ts, and what to expect, keep in mind that every relationship is as unique as a fingerprint or your Spotify Discover Weekly playlist.

[Read: 23 Signs the person you’re dating is too good to be true and probably a phony]

So, whether you’re in the swiping phase or you’ve already entered the honeymoon phase, keep these tips in mind as you go through the early stages of dating. Love might be complex, but it’s also the most exhilarating game you’ll ever play. Are you game?

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Vinod Srinivas Serai
Vin Serai
Vin Serai is the founder of LovePanky.com, and has delved deep into the working of love and relationships for almost two decades. Having dipped his feet in almo...