11 Ways to Nurture a New Relationship

There's nothing more exciting than new love. Here's how to make it last.
Heather Bien - The Knot Contributor.
by
Heather Bien
Heather Bien - The Knot Contributor.
Heather Bien
The Knot Contributor
  • Heather contributes wedding, honeymoon, travel and relationship content for The Knot and WeddingWire.
  • Heather also writes for publications including Apartment Therapy, StyleBlueprint, MyDomaine, HelloGiggles and The Everygirl.
  • She holds a degree in Art History and Architectural History from the University of Virginia.
Updated Oct 26, 2021
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A new relationship is exciting, giddy and sometimes a little bit stressful. You're eager to spend your time with this intriguing new someone.

Everything they do is adorable and thrilling, and you're sure you two are on your way to first comes love, then comes marriage.

But when it comes to setting a new relationship up for success, it's important to be intentional. You may want things to magically fall into place with the right person, but it's important to lay a confident foundation that allows both of you to move into this new partnership with healthy boundaries, emotional vulnerability and, of course, fun.

Since the best relationships start with learning, we consulted relationship experts for their top tips on how to navigate the early days in a way that's both meaningful and blissful.

Savor the Honeymoon Phase

"In the beginning stages of a relationship, we feel like we're on a high, like we've never felt this way before," says therapist Kimberly Panganiban.

That description nails it, right? The first "I love you" is like riding on a cloud. The first time you cook dinner together is the best meal you've ever eaten. The first time you get away together is the best vacation you've ever taken. Everything is a delight, and you can't imagine there's anything you'd ever dislike about your partner.

Enjoy every minute of it—the honeymoon phase is wonderful. But eventually, life does go back to its even keel, and you want to make sure you've nurtured your relationship in a way that sets it up for long-term success.

11 Ways to Nurture a New Relationship

1. Build a rock-solid foundation.

"Setting a solid foundation of trust from the beginning is critical," Panganiban says. "If you play hard to get, date other people or act in other ways that undermine trust, it can begin to erode the foundation, which can be hard to repair moving forward."

Show up for your partner from Day One, and that precedent will follow you throughout the rest of your relationship. Be there as their support system, be available, and be transparent with your feelings. "If you act in ways that let your partner know you are there for them and they can count on you, you lay the groundwork for a solid foundation," Panganiban says. "Be responsive to them, follow through and show up."

2. Make time for deep conversations.

Sharing how we feel with someone else can be scary, but it's what differentiates our closest friendships from the acquaintances we see at happy hour—and you want your partner to fall into the former category.

"Vulnerability begins to build the wall of trust, which will continue to pay off throughout the relationship," Panganiban says. "Make intentional time to get to know one another on a deep level. Creating time and space to talk about dreams, fears, hopes, aspirations, feelings, goals, values and needs will help lead to a strong emotional connection."

3. Develop a friendship with your partner.

A strong long-term relationship goes deeper than sexual attraction and physical chemistry. "Through research conducted by Dr. John Gottman, we know that healthy intimacy in a relationship is created through building a strong friendship," Panganiban says. "Friendship includes knowing one another, expressing fondness and admiration for one another, and being responsive to one another's needs for connection and attention."

4. Allow each partner to contribute equally.

When we're excited about a new relationship, it's easy to make all of the plans and effort without even realizing it. While we don't want to play games, it's essential to make sure both partners are contributing equally.

"In the early stages of a romantic relationship, we need to focus on the volley back and forth," says Talkspace therapist Meaghan Rice. "We give a little and then we need to wait for the effort to be reciprocated before kicking back in again. While the wait is uncomfortable, it also gives us the most insight as to whether this person is able to match our levels of interest."

5. Show up for each other.

Rice notes that one simple question can tell you everything you need to know about your partner's loyalty and whether they're a good match. Ask yourself: "Can this person consistently show up?" You want to be the type of thoughtful partner who keeps their word—and you want someone who will do the same.

6. Schedule regular check-ins.

Relationships are work, and you should treat yours with the same level of seriousness as you would your job. Consistently check in with your partner to see where they're at emotionally, as that gives you both an opportunity to raise issues before they become problematic.

Institute these check-ins early on, and your relationship will be poised for success. "Carving out space for a transactional dialogue can help alleviate worry or wonder," Rice says.

7. Let your partner know you respect them.

"It's important to openly express your admiration for one another," Panganiban says. "When we feel loved and admired, it's easier to be vulnerable and intimate in a relationship."

Whether or not your love language is words of affirmation, it's nice to know you're appreciated, particularly by your partner. Start this habit early when all those crazy-in-love, gushy feelings are flowing.

8. Create daily rituals.

Panganiban recommends creating daily routines and rituals that give each day meaning. She says it's never too early to begin exploring these daily opportunities for connection with your significant other.

"It's important to have daily rituals of connection, such as sharing about your day, and weekly rituals of connection, such as date night," she says.

"Working together and being intentional about creating these rituals helps you stay connected, but also gives the relationship a sense of purpose and meaning. This purpose and meaning strengthens your bond and deepens your sense of commitment."

9. Create annual traditions, too.

"As the relationship progresses, continue building larger rituals such as how holidays and birthdays get celebrated," Panganiban says. "Rituals are unique and specific to each relationship, but make sure you have them and are continuing to build them in a way that feels meaningful for you."

This could mean creating new holiday traditions with each other or even instituting silly seasonal holidays meant just for the two of you.

10. Practice gratitude.

It may sound silly, but Rice says games (like having a competition of who can get the first text or compliment of the day) can be an easy way to build routine connection. "Once weekly, write your partner a handwritten note of gratitude," she says. "Slip it into their lunch box or a rearview mirror. Lipstick on the bathroom mirror is fabulous, too."

11. Don't neglect your time apart.

The best partnerships are created by two individuals who have a strong sense of self and come together to create an even stronger bond. So don't lose yourself in the relationship. "It's essential to prioritize dedicated individual time—workouts, friend time or time for an individual hobby," Rice says. "It fills us back up so we can continue to invest in our relationship."

New Relationship Energy Stressing You Out?

Of course, for all the first date excitement, giddy new love feels, and days spent hanging out with your new perfect person, anxiety can sometimes creep in. You wonder how your new partner feels and whether they also think this has the potential to be a lasting relationship.

"As we're getting to know someone and putting our best self forward, we may feel anxiety about whether this person likes us and where the relationship is headed," Panganiban says. "During this time, it can be helpful to implement self-care strategies to ensure we stay confident and secure."

If you feel yourself heading toward a negative spiral, Panganiban recommends mindfulness and positive self-talk. "If you find yourself in a loop of negative self-talk, identify that it's happening... and shift into positive thinking—for example, 'There is nothing to indicate this relationship will fail and, even if it does, I will be OK,'" she says.

Your new relationship will flourish when you give it time and space to grow, rather than coming at it from an anxious place. When you need validation (and we all do on occasion), try to avoid unleashing these feelings on your new partner, and instead look to those who know and love you. "If you find yourself feeling insecure and struggling to get out of it, it can be helpful to seek support from a friend or loved one who can remind you that you are loved and that no matter what happens with the relationship, you are worthy and enough," Panganiban says.

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