I’m single, and in all likelihood will stay that way for awhile. My goals are far too aggressive for 2017, and fitting a relationship in is a mission not even Tom Cruise would accept. That doesn’t mean I don’t know a thing or two about relationships though. I’ve spent years with some of the greatest women to ever grace the earth with their footsteps … and, some women who dirtied the dirt with theirs. Ultimately, I’ve learned a lot, and I feel obliged to pass on my experience.
After my last relationship ended, I felt a bit lost. I thought I did everything right, so I went looking for answers. I called exes and asked for a brutal recap as to how we went wrong. That only got me so far. I then looked in the mirror, and found the answers behind door number 2. Through those conversations and the soul searching, I learned both people in a relationship need to hunger for the same things, and that a spade is always most certainly a spade. What do I mean by that? Well, if success is in your lexicon then it must be in your mate’s. If you get a feeling like perhaps this person is lying to you, best believe you’re being lied to.
These are 2 empirical truths, but my case study was small. All I had to go on were my relationships.
So, I expanded my studies, and took the time to watch people again. At one point, I was an avid people watcher, but had since lost my taste for it. Now, sitting in Las Vegas (mostly at The Linq) I observe couples. To top that off, I talked to friends about their relationships, and I decided that this blog was woefully needed.
So, without anyone asking, but so many needing it, I give you my definitive guide to the 8 steps in a relationship that most everyone should take (I say most everyone because there are exceptions to every rule, even if I have yet to find any for this one).
Step One: Go Out
Aren’t first dates adventurous? In the age of swiping and sex, often times we never know who is going to show up at the restaurant or movie. Will it be a 50-year old dude who pretended to be a 25-year old woman? How Photoshopped were his pics? How good was she with angles? Who wrote their bio?
It’s like a murder mystery with less blood (you hope). The first problem I’m noticing amongst friends in 2017 is that they’re skipping the going out stage. New dating goes; Tinder, Netflix & Knock Boots, then one person seems to always try and build a relationship out of that one night.
The first mistake is you’re missing out on two very important aspects of human interaction. When you go out, there’s an unpredictability to the night, and you get to see the spontaneity of the person you’re interested in. The second thing you’re missing is the pleasure of delaying pleasure (more on that later).
Gone are the days of her dad and the baseball bat, guys. It’s up to those on the date to call it a night at the right time.
Of course, if you’re just out for sex then this doesn’t apply to you. In fact, none of this does. No judgments; sometimes that’s all you need, but if that’s you, just skip the rest of the blog, and come back when you catch some feels.
Step Two: Stay In
After a few nights on the town, and once that butterfly feeling has left, it’s time to stay in. Perhaps you cook and entertain one night, then the other person along for the dating ride does it the next time. This is where you get to introduce the person you’re seeing to a snapshot of your life. Perhaps you are a master chef. Maybe you like gaming. Show that person who you are at home because who we are in our bubble is surely who we truly are.
This step is critical, because you’ll both know whether you genuinely like the person, or if you just want to light a match and jump out the window. If you have mutual interests, they’ll really shine. If you two were faking mutual interest in step one, it’ll be extremely obvious now.
I highly recommend having the Define Cheating conversation at this stage. To some, cheating is intercourse, and to others it’s simply flirting. You need to define this early on. It’s so critical that you do. For me, cheating is doing anything you wouldn’t tell your partner about. Think of it as an issue of intent. If a woman goes out of her way to be around someone and touch the line, they’re probably going to cross it at some point. It’s that cut and dry. I know, prude right?
EDIT: I would also have the comfort conversation at this point. Some people are very accepting of friendships with the opposite sex, others will need reassurance when their survival instincts kick in, and then there are those people who just can’t handle their partner having relationships with the opposite sex. No one way is correct, but your relationship will fail if you’re not on the same page. Ask these questions:
What would you do if I felt uncomfortable, and asked to see your phone?
Do you consider it important to introduce me to, and involve me in your ongoing friendships with the same and opposite sex so that I am familiar with the people in your life?
How separate do you like to keep work activities and your partner?
Again, there is no universally right or wrong answer here, but there is a huge problem if you both can’t agree on this issue; it’s another relationship killer.
I speak from experience here. These conversations should be honest and easy. If anything feels forced, or if either of you get defensive—part as friends. I know that can be easier said than done (I’ve been there) but it’s remarkable how many relationships break up over competing ideologies on the above points. So far I have seen a failure rate at 100% amongst myself and the people I’ve spoken to about these subjects.
Step Three: Bow Chicka
You’re probably onto date 5 - 9 at this point. I know, what the fuck, Jay? 9 dates and no sex? How dare you suggest something so asinine and old fashioned. But, it’s sensical. Just give me a chance to explain.
At this point you’ve probably made out a few times, and you know you want more. In fact, a perfectly painful rule at this stage is that you both should have been pushed to your breaking point, craving each other but one of you had the good sense to pump the brakes a bit. Once that’s happened for both of you, there’s a clear sign that you not only want to ride each other into the sunset, but that you also respect each other enough to give this thing time to be real.
Let’s face it, even though we may not want to admit this to ourselves, waiting to have sex is critical for a few very valid reasons.
First, delaying pleasure makes us tune into a person more. So, in those critical first dates you’re actually getting to know the person on a deeper level without the sex. We’re wired to lose some interest after the bedroom tango, and even though we’ll talk about how to curb that lack of enthusiasm later on, it’s a real psychological phenomenon.
Second, I hate to go here, but 27% of North Americans have incurable STDs or STIs, and over half have NEVER BEEN TESTED. Let that marinate for a moment or two. This means you have a 1 in 4 or higher chance of catching something that you have to live with forever. Those are some pretty horrible odds. Spending a longer time between meeting and having sex will give you a better chance of the other person having guilt and revealing their secret, or that person genuinely caring about you, and going to get tested first. #checkyoself #beforeuwreckyoself
Third, you’re less likely to be sexually incompatible because of a higher level of comfort with the other person. This means you’re less likely to flub, or guys … flubber. Oh, and on that note, if you really like this person you’re getting to know, don’t let the first time be an alcohol fueled romp. Nothing kills it faster than parts that don’t work.
Sex is important. Attraction, and the ability to give your partner a release (whether that comes in the form of an orgasm, or just a fun romp) are so critical to monogamy, and a healthy relationship. Don’t underestimate this point. If you’re incompatible in the bedroom THERE WILL BE problems later. It’s just a matter of time.
You may be asking, how do you know when the sex is good for both of you? There are some early indicators. First, you’ll feel animalistic urges as you move through the first two steps of dating. There’s quite literally electricity in the air, as sexual attraction kicks up energy in our bodies that pulses through us. Pleasure delaying should be hard, and when you finally get to stage three, you should feel compelled to want it again (both of you). Actions speak volumes, and if one of you are putting off sex that is a huge red flag.
Now, there are those times when the first bump and grind doesn’t go as planned. To err is human. Address the problems, and try again, because practice makes perfect. But ultimately if after the first five attempts, you both can’t agree that the sex is as good as the initial sparks, then, as I said above, part as friends. You’ll spare each other heartache and awkward moments later.
Step Four: Friends
Okay, so you’ve gone out a few times, witnessed the spontaneous and electric side of that special person’s personality, you’ve stayed in and really gotten to know each other. To top it off, sex was good.
Now, for the big moment; you get to introduce him or her to your friends. No matter how ridiculous your crew is, they’ll be able to tell you after one meeting if you are good together.
Friends pick up on some cues that you’re not thinking of. After the meeting, solicit honest feedback. I know it can be hard, but if your friends notice issues, there’s a real chance those issues exist. You must deal with them head on.
EDIT: Later though, be careful about the advice you take from those same friends. As your relationship continues, there are nuances that only you and your partner understand. A broad strokes conversation when you’re frustrated will only lead to bad advice. Honestly, if someone isn’t in the bedroom with you, doesn’t hold hands with you, and doesn’t experience what it’s like to truly be with you, their advice is invalid, because they’re using their personal experience to guide you. That’s bullshit, and flawed.
If you really need to talk to someone, chances are your partner does as well, so go see a professional. There’s no shame in doing so. I know getting shrinked seems like something to be ashamed of, but it really isn’t. Get over your ego and pride. It’s just going to build walls (not bridges).
So why is the advice sound in the beginning but not as the relationship develops? Well, in the beginning you’re blinded by chemical attraction, those sparks, and frankly, getting off. You miss things about each other, or ignore them because you’re riding a high. As you continue down the rabbit hole though, only you and your partner truly know the whole story. This is why your opinions are all that matter later on. A shrink is impartial, and won’t offer advice based on their experience, but instead based on real human sciences.
Step Five: I Believe it was Called, Going Steady
In step five, it’s time to get serious. This is where you both declare you are exclusive to each other, you respect each other’s personalities, you want to continue to see each other naked, and most importantly, you want to wake up regularly together.
At some stage in the going steady process you should start having conversations about the future, moving in together, and what your goals are for years down the road.
This is also where you get to learn what your partner is truly made of. Just like at work, everything in life requires effort if it’s to last; even love. If you put in the work, and your partner does the same, chances are you will last.
EDIT: Critical note. It is not the man’s job to plan, and surprise. It’s up to both of you to make the other feel special. I’ve seen too many men (myself included at times) bend over backwards to make their woman feel special, only to leave a relationship 2 years down the road with the realization that their partner did nearly nothing for them. The worst part is most can only recognize this in hindsight.
Now, I’m not saying every day has to be filled with adventure, and every night has to play out like a sex scene in The 100 (God bless that show), but there must be a genuine effort to be happy. Don’t forget about dates, celebrate the little things, and communicate with 100% honesty. That last point is so important. If there’s still uncomfortable conversations at this stage, it is likely a sign of trouble. Deal with it, and talk. That’s how couples stay together.
Step Six: Family
I’ve jumped the gun on this step a few times, and it was a WMD dropped on my relationship.
Ladies, once you’re at a place where you can wake up without makeup and throw your retainer at him, you know you’re ready for his family.
Guys, when you can admit you tear up at that scene with the Fresh Prince and his dad, and you can also admit that you don’t actually know everything, you’re ready for her family.
Keep it casual, and don’t rip your family out of their routine. The best thing I ever did in a relationship is have a BBQ and we invited over both immediate families. What a difference maker. Everyone got along and that made our relationship stress free during the holidays, and when splitting time.
The point of meeting the family is to see how the other jives with the people that matter most to you. If they don’t, figure out why quickly, and try to deal with it. You do not want to let something like that grow like a rabid bacteria. I’ve never seen a relationship survive family bullshit.
Step Seven: Engagement
Everyone asks the same question, “How do I know when I’m ready?” Well, I think I’ve figured it out. After spending so many days and nights with a person, take some time apart; go on a trip with your friends, or spend solo time with family. Just get away from each other for a week or more. As tempting as it can be, you also need to drop digital contact unless it’s an emergency. Just live your life solo for a bit.
If you feel sick without your partner, and life just becomes so much more difficult mentally, that’s a very good sign. That means your subconscious knows you should never let your partner go.
Less desirable, are the other emotions you might experience. While apart, put yourself into situations where you’ll have to resist temptation. If it’s easy, you’re set. If not, you have to examine those feelings. On the flip-side, if you have this suspicion that you can’t trust your partner out there in the world without you, then those are feelings that must also be examined. Don’t lie to yourself! This is where so many couples make a huge mistake. Lying to yourself likely means you’ll be lying to your partner at some point down the road.
Long lasting relationships are built on trust and communication. Without either of those two elements, you will fail at some point.
So, before he gets down on one knee and she accepts that non-conflict diamond, make sure you have no secrets. Even a small secret is an opening to create a larger problem. NEVER get engaged if you feel the need to lie.
Step Eight: Marriage
The culmination of your efforts comes down to a single act, but not a single day. Weddings are great, and can be fun, but I’m talking about marriage. You know, bills, perhaps kids, mortgages, pets, picking out furniture, and growing old together with all the ups and downs that come with.
Once the wedding day is over just know that you’ll have to repeat steps 1 through 7 again and again. Go out on dates, stay in and pamper, experiment in the bedroom, don’t cut out friends, don’t cut out communication, don’t cut out family, and wow each other like you did when you got engaged.
To get comfortable and stop each of the steps I’ve listed is to lose a piece of you (and YOU are what your partner fell in love with). Imagine a ladder. You built each step, and if you take steps away, there’s no way to climb to new heights together. C’mon now. Get your shit together.
I’d like to give a nod to a couple of relationships that I have seen make this stage seem easy (even though I’m sure it’s not); Jack and Annie, and Ron and Vanessa. Both of these couples I consider to be close friends, and a large part of that is how they make the world a better place through their marriages. We should all be as lucky as these two pairings.
Love is amazing. It releases all the right chemicals, but remember, no relationship is perfect. The end credits don’t roll for us in reality. Be hyper-aware that there will be times when you want to slaughter each other, but at the same time, somehow you’ll still be madly in love.
I’ve dated a lot, and been in some pretty amazing relationships. There’s no better feeling; not a windfall, not a promotion, not a fast car. In fact, love will feel like all of those wrapped into these small moments when you look at your partner and wonder how the world will keep spinning if that smile were ever taken from it.
If you’re honest through every step then you should be okay. Ultimately, it can be hard to not worry about the other person’s feelings, but you have to be a bit unemotional if there’s concerns lingering. Meaning, conversations about concerns should be more logical than emotional. In the long run, it’s best for both of you.
And yes, as I mentioned at the beginning, there are exceptions to every rule, but don’t strive to be the exception. That happens naturally for a select few. This is a more natural course for most.
Be happy, my friends, because, to be in honest to God, soul swapping love is to truly live.