The 8-week relationship rule
At first, her habit of finishing your sentences seemed endearing… but now, eight weeks later, you find yourself more irritated than charmed. During the first month of long phone calls and romantic evenings, you were able to overlook the fact that he has no curiosity about your history or interests. Perhaps you told yourself, Hey, it could evolve over time. But now that a couple of months have passed, you’re realizing that it’s time to make a decision to either move forward by trying to overlook the irritations and bridge the gaps — or cut your losses and move on.
When those endearing “quirks” become seriously annoying...
Sometimes, daters overlook what they perceive to be mere petty annoyances at the beginning of a new romance because they enjoy many other aspects of being with someone and want to give the relationship a chance. “What I usually start to find annoying are things that are just part of someone’s natural personality,” says 33-year-old Jason Myer, an operations supervisor from St. Louis, MO. “I knew it was something I didn’t like from day one. But everything else about the person was awesome, so I tried to look past it. As I experience it more and more, it becomes like nails on the chalkboard to me. The newness has worn off, and there is not enough about the person to make me overlook it.”
Such was the case with an attractive woman Myer met through a mutual friend. “Eventually, we exchanged numbers and had some good all-night-long, laughing phone calls,” Myer says. “When we started to go out, everything was awesome. There were a few little annoying quirks she had, but everything was so much fun when we were together that I was able to look past it. She would always show up about 10 to 15 minutes late… eh, no problem; you’re pretty and fun to be around, so I don’t need to see the beginning of the movie. She would playfully wait for me to not be paying attention, and then drink or eat my food. Ha-ha! You got me again. You’re cool, so I will cook some more food,” Myer says, recalling the ways he justified her behavior to himself. Eventually, however, his patience began to wear thin: “Around the two- month mark, though, these ‘quirks’ became annoyances. I was ready 30 minutes before you showed up, why can’t you be on time?”
Marking the end of a relationship’s “probationary period”
But often, the issues that divide a new couple run much deeper than these surface-level annoyances. “Many relationships end at this point because it’s the critical window for people to open up to one another and truly express themselves,” says Ryan Melsom, a 35-year-old writer and communications specialist from Vancouver, BC. “In an ideal relationship, you want to be sure that the person you’re with is someone looking to grow, and so if he or she hasn’t truly opened up in this amount of time, it sends all sorts of warning signals. Think of it like a probationary period at a new job.”
Lesli Doares, therapist and author of Blueprint for a Lasting Marriage: How to Create Your Happily Ever After With More Intention, Less Work, agrees that the career metaphor is a helpful way of looking at dating and managing the stay-or-go decision: “Going out and meeting people is akin to sending out your resume. Going on a couple of dates is like the interview. The early stages of a relationship are comparable to an internship.” Doares sees the two-month mark as “the time when people are letting out more information about themselves and seeing how good of a fit they are for the long term. More [information] is being exchanged about beliefs, values, past relationships, friends, hobbies, and life goals. Deal-breakers for moving the relationship to a deeper level begin to surface.”
Watch for signs that one of you is pulling away emotionally
Sometimes an argument over a decisive issue brings the romance to an abrupt end, but often, a dwindling of interest by one or both parties marks the end of this “probationary period” in a fledgling relationship. “At the two-month mark when my interest starts to fade, I usually start to pull away first,” Myer says. “I become too busy at work to get together or talk on the phone. I schedule a guy’s night out, so I can’t go out with you on Friday. As we start to spend less and less time together, one of us will end things. It won’t always be me that calls off the relationship first, but usually by that time, I’ve given up — so I don’t care that [the other person is] ending it.”
Assessing your romantic future together
If you find yourself either feeling lukewarm (due to a loss of interest) or conflicted because of certain differences between you and your date, ask yourself the following questions to assess whether or not the relationship’s really worth the time you’re investing in it:
1. What’s your inner voice telling you to do? When feeling confusion over a relationship, it’s easy to get into the habit of asking for advice from friends, but only you can know what’s really best for yourself. But don’t mistake the voice of fear (“You’ll never meet anyone else,” “You’re too picky!”) for your true feelings. It may sound simplistic, but take the time to consider these questions: “What do I want? Do I really want to be with this person? Do I trust this person? Am I genuinely excited to share time with him/her?”
2. Stop and look at this person’s actions alone; are they sincere? Just stop for a minute and think about the time you’ve spent together as if you were watching a silent movie. Has this person shown up in your life with integrity and authenticity? Has this person done what he or she agreed to do? A person’s words and actions must match up if trust is to be established.
3. How did the two of you handle your first argument? Did you resolve your differences in a way that was respectful to both partners as well as the relationship?
4. Do you both seek the same things out of life? No matter how strong your attraction might be to each other, if one of you wants the Park Avenue lifestyle and the other wants to live off the grid, there’s bound to be a lot of conflict ahead in your relationship.
5. Can you see yourself staying with this person a month, a year, or 10 years into the future? Maybe a month from now you wouldn’t feel so great if you broke off things today, but in a year, you might be grateful that you did. Or conversely, maybe you can envision the two of you growing closer over time, even if you’re not certain how committed you are to the relationship at the moment. But putting yourself in that scenario mentally should help give you a “gut check” on how to proceed.