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Dating Relationships Change Over Time

Mark Dombeck, Ph.D. Updated: Mar 4th 2016

Don't Be Afraid To Leave Your Relationship If You Become Uncomfortable With It

Relationships develop over time as partners share experiences with one another. Partners initial ideal thoughts of each other and both being on good behavior tends to give way to a more balanced and accurate view of each other as they learn each others strengths and weaknesses and come to understand whether each other is trustworthy and responsible. While no relationship is perfect, some relationships are revealed to be dangerous or unhealthy to remain in and others come to be seen as unworkable. Unworkable, dangerous or unhealthy relationships can generally be identified by paying attention to one's emotions which will become persistently upset with regard to the relationship. Certain behaviors or demands one might encounter are also excellent signs it is time to get out of a relationship:

Do not stay with someone who abuses you verbally, physically or sexually. Do not stay with someone who attempts to control you or puts you down. Do not stay with someone who requires that you compromise your values or strong commitments in order to be with him or her.

In general, do not continue to date someone whom you sense is not right for you, even if you very much want him/her to be right for you. If your mind says he or she is not good for you but your heart says that he or she is the 'one', then listen to your mind. If your mind says he or she is right, but your heart doesn't beat for him or her, listen to your heart. Both head and heart provide vital information as to what works for you and what doesn't. If either your heart or your head doesn't approve of your dating partner, then move on and work to find a new partner that both important parts of you desire.

Recognize That Your Relationship Will Change Over Time

Successful dating often gives way to the formation of long term relationships. Long term relationships may be born from dating relationships, but they tend to behave in very different ways from dating. At the risk of over-generalizing, dating relationships are more often urgent, intense and passionate whereas long term relationships are more often calm, comfortable and familiar. Long term relationships come with a number of responsibilities and being dependent on each other in ways that dating relationships, which are more temporary and carefree, avoid. Not everyone expects that these sorts of transformations will occur, however, and not everyone is willing to accept them. Some people will choose to leave relationships that start to feel familiar, while others will deepen their attachments. You and your partner can avoid some of the pitfalls that relationships can fall into by learning to communicate well with each other, by educating yourselves about common ways relationships change over time, and common relationship problems that can occur, and by doing what you can to not take your relationship for granted.


Reader Comments
Discuss this issue below or in our forums.

Dating and beyond. - JR - Aug 3rd 2012

Lots of very sensible comment and advice.  Two points to note -

First, however sensible, systematic, etc. one's dating strategy may be, in terms of a long-term relationship, you will Always Get It Wrong to some extent, at least at the level of dating, when things proceed into long term relationships.  The first day of the honeymoon (whatever form that takes) will always be accompanied by surprises "pleasant or unpleasant as the case may be" (to quote Oscar Wilde).  People cannot remain on their very best behavior forever.

Secondly - point the First may not matter that much.  True, those surprises are productive of many break-ups and divorces.  That is Life.  Nobody should force themselves to put up with an intolerably uncomfortable or abusive relationship.  On the other hand - if one has made good use of even half of the good counsel given in this thread (or just been plain sensible) - it should not be surprising that a couple who are broadly compatible, and who are friends, can maintain a happy, stable relationship in spite of those "surprises", however unpleasant they may seem when they arise.  The excitment of the "dating environment" as such cannot endure; friendship, commitment and even passion (albeit with a small "p") can.  Indeed, they are they are the only possible basis for an enduring relationship.  For those on the Far Side of the "Passion (with a capital "P") Barrier, I would only say - with "post-dating" relationships, be realistic but, at the same time, be quick to recognise the joys of the connection, and slow to throw them away unconsidered.  And, in the end, it is worth all the effort ...

Yours from the Calm Sea of Mid-Life,


thanks - - Oct 20th 2011

thank you. this was good to read.

Very useful resource for personal growth - arthur - Jan 28th 2009

I have recentrly finished dating with a girl. She used to be a model, but as she has reached her 30´s, now has to give a very strong "turn" on her life. As the relationship moved on, I realized that she was not the person for me, even though the outside was very beautiful, in the part of values she is really a galaxy away from mines.

Honestly I ended a little bit hurt, but as I kept reading these articles, I found out what I did wrong "only listen the heart but not the mind". Now I fell better because what happened to me was a very richful experience and now I have got rid of that social estigma about beautiful women and I do appreciate even more what is in the inside and I fell very confident that I will find the right person for me.

Finding comfort - Yashica - Jan 5th 2007
I have been dating for a few months, doing a lot of internet chatting due to my hectic schedule, and recently was found by someone that I really enjoy their company, among other things. He is gracious, sat by my side recently while I had a sinus infection, and makes me dinner. Both of us seek the familiarity and are drawn closer. I am very grateful for this relationship, although young and new, I do hope we continue on a healthy path. This article is very reflective of my experiences.

- kara - Nov 13th 2006
I also found this article helpful. I recently ended a year-long relationship that had its good times and bad, but always in the end, left me feeling alone and unsatisfied. I thought the problem was me not feeling emotions, but now I'm starting to grasp the idea that it was just my brain telling me "This is not what you want or deserve". Only looking back on the relationship can I truly see all the signs of an unhealthy relationship--I only hope I use this knowledge and apply it to future relationships.

Back to single school - Palshikar - Oct 9th 2006
These articles really help me stay focused, I refer to them periodically. I am working on becoming date savvy after six years in a relationship that was functional but not enjoyable. I am used to deflecting flirtatious behaviors and still am not comfortable reciprocating them, but can identify them. Listening to my heart and my mind has become very important, and feeling confident in making a decisions without logically/outwardly justifying my reasons to someone else is sometimes what it takes to find the right person. Now, I am searching for that special partner to share my life with, while balancing my family responsibilities of parenting, caring for my parents, going to school, and being a small business owner all while in my twenties. My situation is not so unique. I am intersted in seeing more artilces about single parents getting back into the dating scene, balancing/separating responsibilities of family, as well as articles on bi-cultural relationships. Thanks for having this information available.

Thank you - Deeders - Sep 6th 2006
Well, I've been in the dating pool, on and off, for 17 years and I feel like a dork saying this, but thank you for this article. Though pretty much everything in here is obvious and I knew it, intellectually, already, I sometimes questioned myself as dating situations went south. I hate the idea of dating being a numbers game, but I know that it is true. Having seen friends and family find lasting relationships on the first or second try, I sometimes became frustrated and wondered if I was being too picky. Then, as the divorces begin to roll in, I realized that many of these people rushed in to "play house" and had no real idea of who or what they were committing to. I feel vindicated for being so picky. There is no such thing as "too picky." I won't settle for anyone who I can't ultimately be happy with. I'm well aware that there will be rough patches and lulls in the excitement of the relationship, but real intimacy takes work. If the work continuously outweighs the enjoyment, though, I know enough to say my bittersweet goodbyes. I don't need supermodel. I don't require a rocket scientist or a mogul. I just want a man who is kind, funny, smart, gainfully employed, and attractive, and attracted, to me. That's not too much to ask and I'll be happy all by myself until I find him.

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