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The Early Stages of Dating and How to Navigate the Dos and Don’ts

A guaranteed way to reduce appetite? Start a new relationship! The early stages of dating are a minefield. One wrong move and it could be game over.

I remember those early stages of dating well. Sleepless nights, effortless weight loss, constant nervous energy, checking my phone so many times the home key stuck, and stressing my friends out with constant questions and queries.

Yes, those early stages of dating were a joyful time … or not!

In so many ways, those heady days of “do they like me/don’t they” are full of wonderful memories, but I consider this the same as childbirth *not that I have ever had children*. It’s wonderful when you look back on it, but at the time it’s a nightmare.

It might look idyllic and full of sweet nothings. The self-doubt and constant urges to check their social media pages is exhausting! Honeymoon stage or not, I would not pay you to take me back to those early stages of dating, no sir-ee!

Of course, some people love the rush. It’s a little like a chase in many ways; you set your sights, you pursue, you get them, and you enjoy the ups and downs, until you decide to stick with it, or try with someone new. Personally, I can think of nothing worse, but hey, each to their own! [Read: The 20 most cutest, awkward moments in a new relationship]

Early stages of dating do’s

To help you navigate those strange and doubtful waters in the early stages of dating, I’ve put together a list of dos and don’ts. Hopefully, I can help you to get through this confusing time in a healthier way!

#1 Keep yourself busy. It’s easy to suddenly become obsessed with checking their social media page, “accidentally” ending up wherever they’ve tagged themselves into, and talking about them endlessly, but you need to be yourself!

Keep yourself busy with the things you normally do, such as work, study, socializing, hobbies, and exercise. Trust me, they’ll wonder why you’re not chasing them around, and they’re likely to do the chasing instead! [Read: How to recognize normal and toxic signs in a relationship]

#2 Keep your social media page full of positivity. If you’re in those heady early days, the likelihood is that your beau is checking your social media pages just as much as you are checking theirs. In that case, keep it light and positive.

Nobody likes a constant chatter of deep and meaningful quotes, woeful messages of love, and a downright negative feel. It’s exhausting and likely to make them run a mile. Keep it light and positive, and make sure you tag yourself into some fun places with your friends! [Read: Starting a new relationship? Your checklist to a new romance]

#3 Make time for your friends. This is a bit of a do and a don’t, but you should never let your friends slide because of a new relationship. I don’t want to put a negative spin on it, but what happens if it all goes wrong? You need your friends!

If you say you’re going to meet them, do so, and make sure you stick to regular catch ups as you normally would. For instance, if you always meet your friend for Wine Tuesdays, keep going on Tuesdays!

#4 Set your boundaries. The earlier you set your boundaries, the more successful your relationship will be. Do not allow someone to trample all over your life simply because you’re a little infatuated with them in these early stages of dating.

Keep your own interests, but if you won’t stand for something, let it be known. That doesn’t mean sitting down on date number one and giving them a list of things you won’t put up with, but be open and honest about what you will and won’t tolerate. [Read: 12 relationship boundaries all new couples must draw early on]

#5 Have fun! Remember, these early days of your relationship are the things you’ll look back on in years to come with fond memories. Make those memories as fun as possible, and remember to let your personality show. Don’t hold back simply because it’s all new and you’re worried about scaring them off. Be yourself!

Early stages of dating don’ts

#1 Give everything up. Never give up your friends, life, hobbies, and interests simply because you’ve met someone you’re head over heels with from a very early stage. Maintain your own interests and avoid losing yourself in this relationship, whether it progresses or not. Keep your friend commitments and have you time. In addition, let your partner have theirs too. [Read: Are you losing yourself to impress someone you like?]

#2 Semi-stalk them. Seriously, it’s not a good look. In many places it’s actually against the law! Checking their social media is one thing, but going through it with a fine tooth comb and becoming obsessed with who that person might be in that photo is not something you need to be doing with your time. Taking a healthy interest is one thing. Becoming a stalker is something quite different!

#3 Attempt to make their friends your friends. While it might happen over time, remember that at this stage you need to keep space and allow your relationship to grow. Making their friends your new besties will make your partner feel suffocated, like they have nothing of their own in their life at this stage. Back off, and allow them the space they need.

#4 Schedule in dates and activities every single day. In the early stages of dating, you are not actually in a solid relationship. That is something to remember! You’re in the “see how it goes” phase. That means not scheduling in dates and activities, future vacations, and weekends away! Let go of the control. Let things flow how they’re supposed to.

Needy is not a good look. The more you go with the flow, the higher the chance there is of this relationship actually going in the direction you want. [Read: 13 new relationship mistakes new couples make all the time]

#5 Put a label on it. I’ve just mentioned that you’re not in a solid relationship yet, so don’t call your beau anything akin to boyfriend, girlfriend, or any other label. Keep it light. Don’t assign a particular status name to them. You should also avoid getting upset if they do the same to you!

At this point, you need to see what happens. Some people get freaked out and run a mile when someone they’re seeing suddenly starts giving them a title. Hold off until the conversation comes up naturally. [Read: The DTR guide to make the talk super easy]

It’s a confusing time but try and enjoy

I won’t sugarcoat it and pretend that the early stages of dating are all magical and full of unicorn sunbeams. They’re not. They’re confusing, weird, full of doubt, and force you to fly from emotion to emotion at the speed of light.

I’m aware I’m not painting this time in the best of lights, but let’s face it, who actually enjoys this at the time? Other than those people who get a strange rush from it, I mean. When you start dating someone, you want it go somewhere. If you don’t, and it’s purely casual, this early stage probably won’t matter to you that much anyway. [Read: 15 romantic gestures in a new relationship all couples must know]

When it feels confusing and strange, it’s because you’re developing feelings. Go with it, but hold back a little at the same time.

[Read: The stages of a new and budding romance that define your relationship]

The early stages of dating can feel a little like pulling off a Band-Aid on a particularly hairy part of your body. Be yourself, make memories, and never try and change who you are.

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