So, once you’ve worked your way through the dating whirlwind, what’s next?
It’s easy to forget about this stage when you’re first dating, and assume that once you’ve got your man, the rest will fall into place naturally.
And to a point, that’s true: if he’s the right one, you should find this next stage relatively easy.
But, beware. Sometimes, this is the point at which past insecurities come out, things kept buried after a breakup and not really dealt with.
It’s also the point at which things start to get exciting. You’re really getting to know each other, both in the bedroom and elsewhere, and starting to put down foundations for a possible future relationship.
Remember, though, that at this stage, it’s still ‘possible’. Even if you’re not interested in seeing other people, and you think he’s not either, you just don’t know enough yet to be sure that this is going to turn into something long-term.
You might have a strong feeling that it will – and that instinct is often right, but it isn’t always. Allow yourself to enjoy the ride but don’t forget there are plenty of other rides out there if you decide this one’s not fun anymore.
Assuming you do want to stay on, there are a few things you can do to make sure you keep those insecurities at bay and remain your fabulous, attractive, sexy self.
1) Love yourself
Cliché? Sure. But if you don’t do it, you can’t expect anyone else to.
We all have a need to love and be loved. Developing our capacity to love ourselves serves as a training ground for loving other people.
If you can’t love yourself, you don’t believe that you are worthy of others’ love. And if you don’t believe you’re worthy of others’ love, you’ll struggle to build a healthy relationship.
Are you perhaps now thinking that you’re still just dating, and it’s way too soon to be thinking about love?
This isn’t about being in love, it’s about laying the foundations for love a little further down the line.
It’s about making sure that you’re loveable and demonstrating to your guy that you’re worthy of his continuing interest.
Think back to your very first forays into the world of relationships as a teen. Maybe you were nervous and unsure of yourself. You were probably still figuring out your identity and your place in the world.
While some lucky people manage to successfully forge a long-lasting relationship in their early years, most of us just haven’t learned to love ourselves enough at that young age to be able to do it.
As we grow, we learn to love ourselves. Or at least, that’s the theory.
But it can be difficult to do, even for the most confident. We’re socialized to think that loving ourselves is arrogant and unappealing, but in fact, it’s the opposite. Show your man you love and care about yourself, and you’ll be giving him a road-map to loving you.
Loving yourself can be really hard, because, like everyone else, you’re not perfect. Acknowledge that you have faults, and that everyone does.
Work on changing these, but don’t beat yourself about them. Accept yourself and others will too.
2) Stay interesting and interested
In those early days of dating, you might have spent time trying to think up new and ever-more interesting things to do together.
When the initial few dates are over and you’re thinking it might be going somewhere, take care not to slip into doing the same-old, same-old every time you meet.
Doing the same things all the time that leads to complacency.
If you do can avoid that complacency trap, this stage is the most exciting part of getting to know someone.
The early dates are over, you’re starting to develop a real connection and be comfortable in each other’s company, but there’s still so much to learn and do together.
In other words: don’t just watch movies and eat pizza every time you see each other. Keep his interest by staying interesting.
Suggest new things to do together. Find places to go neither of you have ever been. Start getting out of your comfort zone together.
Keeping it interesting isn’t just about what you do on dates. It’s about what happens when you stay up late talking about your hopes and dreams.
What have you both always wanted to do? Look for the common ground and find the places you connect and intersect.
Talk about things you love doing, and the things he loves that you want to know more about.
If you’ve always wanted to go skiing, and you know he’s been, ask him about that. Ask him about the things you know he’s passionate about, and wait to see his eyes light up when he tells you about them.
Give him the chance to ask you about what you love to do. There’s nothing sexier than passion.
This is a great time to start making a few plans together, however small. You’re getting past the stage of just working date-to-date. It’s time to keep things interesting by giving yourselves something to look forward to.
3) Don’t be nice
Being nice sounds like a no-brainer, right? But spend too much time trying to be nice and you risk being the opposite.
In those early days where you’re spending a lot of emotional energy getting to know someone, you can end up feeling a bit wrung out and all over the place.
You feel like you’re constantly thinking about how to react and what impression you’re giving.
You’re trying to be nice and make a good impression, but you end up putting him off because you’re overthinking everything and it shows (if you think it doesn’t, you’re wrong).
Stop doing this. By trying to be nice all the time, you’re not being yourself. No-one is constantly nice and undemanding.
Sometimes, everyone is a bit ratty after a hard day of work, or a bit upset about a family argument, or whatever. It’s OK to not be totally OK all of the time.
This doesn’t mean you should be deliberately treating him mean, either. Both being excessively nice and overly mean are game-playing.
Neither of them will help you build those all-important relationship foundations that you should be building right now.
The big problem with being nice is that it means you’re constantly trying to live up to an image of the person you think he wants you to be.
Whether or not that’s who you really are. And that is totally counter-productive, because it means you’re building those foundations on shaky ground. Stop being nice, focus on being real.
Maybe he’s putting up a ‘nice’ front just as much as you are. Guys get nervous too and anxious to make a good impression.
If he never seems down or grumpy in the slightest, you’re not getting all of him yet. Encourage him to relax with you so you can get to know him properly.
4) Cook and eat together
The way to a man’s heart is through his stomach? Quite possibly. It’s definitely true that eating together can be hot.
It’s also a great way to explore your likes and dislikes, to be creative and to make time to focus just on each other.
Food brings people together in all kinds of contexts – dating included.
Cooking for your man is a fantastic way to impress him. Find out what he loves to eat and make something that will really treat his taste-buds.
You’ll keep him interested not only because you’ve made him some delicious food but because you’ve shown him that you’ve taken the time to find something he’ll really love. Then, sit back and wait for him to return the favor.
Cooking together can also be a great way to get to know each other. It’s a chance for you to spend time playing around with food, your likes and dislikes and seeing how well you work together.
If you’re not wannabe chefs, going out to eat is just as much fun as cooking. At this stage of the game, it doesn’t all have to be about extravagance and impressing each other.
This is the time to take him to your favorite backstreet café or noodle bar. Take him to the places you’ve known and loved over the years. He’ll get to know more about you and you’ll both get to eat well in the process.
5) Laugh together
When you picture your perfect future with your man, what do you see? Chances are, laughter features pretty highly. And there’s a good reason for that.
Shared laughter is an important part of any budding relationship. It’s a vital part of creating memories, helping you create a bond that can stand the test of time.
Being able to laugh together demonstrates to your guy that you have things in common. A shared sense of humor is pretty close to the top of most people’s relationship to-do lists, after all.
Laughter helps you build your foundations. Every long-term relationship will go through hard times at some point.
If this becomes a longstanding thing, when it’s your turn to hit a tough period, you’ll have brilliant memories to look back on of the nights you stayed up until 3am laughing together.
If you find you’re not laughing enough, what can you do? Don’t panic – this doesn’t mean you’re not right for each other.
It just means that you haven’t got totally into the groove yet. If you’re not laughing much, it might be because you’re still stuck in anxious first-date mode.
Now is the time to move past that and let yourself go a little. Laughing together means you’re able to let your guard down with each other.
If you’re finding that hard to do, work on your confidence. Being confident means you don’t care that your mascara is running down your face because you’ve been laughing so hard for so long.
If you feel like you’re not laughing together much, just get out and do things together as much as possible. Overcome challenges together. Learn things together. The laughter should follow.
6) Don’t play games
You’ve probably heard, or read, a load of advice on the dating ‘game’. Advice like, don’t text back straight away, chat to other guys to make him jealous, treat him mean to keep him on his toes.
These rules are, their advocates say, designed to keep a man interested. Exactly what you want to do, right?
Yes, but you’re keeping him interested on false pretenses. If you have to resort to pretending you don’t like someone much to get them to like you, you’re building a relationship on very shaky ground.
You might get what you want right now, but you’re not going to keep getting it once the whole house of cards falls down in a few months’ time.
By playing games, you’re not showing him who you really are. You’re not giving him the best of yourself.
Imagine this: perhaps he’d fall in love with the real you if you just gave him the chance to get to know her. But if she’s hidden under all the games, maybe he’ll just not bother and move on. Gaming can be totally counter-productive.
There’s also the fact that he’ll probably know exactly what you’re doing. Most emotionally intelligent adults can guess when they’re being gamed, and most don’t like it.
You probably wouldn’t be impressed if you figured out that he was taking his dating style straight from some book or online forum, so why do it to him?
Top tip: Not playing games doesn’t mean it’s not OK to keep your distance a little. That’s just what emotionally healthy people do.
By resisting any urges you have to jump feet first into a full-on relationship you’re giving it the best chance of success, as you’re letting the relationship take its natural course without the pressure of expectation.
7) Be spontaneous
Spontaneity is a vital part of being able to have fun and enjoy life. Of course, making plans is fun too, but if you feel you can’t ever just decide to wake up in the morning and go and do something completely unplanned, you’re missing out.
Being spontaneous with your new man is a chance to show him what you’re made of. There’s plenty of time later for the habits and routines that inevitably develop in a long-standing partnership.
And there’s nothing wrong with habits and routines, but we all need a break from them. Routine is associated with work and obligation, spontaneity with fun and freedom. Be the person your guy associates with fun.
Being spontaneous doesn’t have to mean that you end up having wild drunken adventures every weekend (though of course, it can if that’s your bag).
It can just mean that you head out for a morning coffee and rather than just going straight home after, you hit the shops for a few hours and then take in a movie.
Or maybe it’ll mean that on Wednesday, you suggest heading away for a night at the weekend. You came up with the idea, so he gets to choose where to go.
Spontaneity means you both get to take an equal role in making plans, as you do it as you go along. Doing this can be a great bonding experience.
If you find it difficult to be spontaneous, try planning spontaneity. Sounds crazy? It doesn’t have to be.
Decide that every Saturday, you’ll meet up and just wander around the city looking for fun things to do. That’s a plan, but it’s a very loose one and will allow you to have all kinds of adventures together.
8) Take the lead sometimes
Lots of women are conditioned to think that they should fall in line and do what he wants to do most of the time.
Even women who are generally pretty strong and independent, with good careers and a great group of girlfriends behind them can end up doing this without even knowing what’s happening.
Girls are brought up to be nice to everyone and put themselves last. But actually, any guy worth his salt doesn’t want a meek and mild girl who’ll always do what he wants and never have an opinion. If that is what he wants, run a mile, he’s not a keeper.
If you’re already a natural lead taker – and lots of women are – great. Keep doing it. If you’re not, then make a choice to be the one who makes the decisions sometimes.
You choose and book the restaurant, rather than waiting for him to suggest something. He’ll love seeing you as the confident, independent woman you are.
This isn’t just about the here-and-now, it’s that foundation-building thing again. Take your turn at taking the lead now, and then if you last the distance, you’ll naturally share the decision making when it really matters.
Things like, choosing where to live or what to call your kids, for example.
If you find it hard to take the lead, look for areas where you can do it better than him. We all have our strengths and weaknesses, right?
So, if every restaurant you go to is terrible, you start picking them. If his taste in movies is awful, you choose. Get this right now, and you’ll be laying the foundations for a proper partnership of give- and-take later on.
9) Get to know his friends
Getting to know his friends can be tough, but it’s important to do it. Your guy will want you to get on with his friends.
He’ll value their opinion on you, which makes meeting them a little scary, but if you can win them over, you’ll win lots of points with him.
And it’s not just about him sizing you up. Meeting his friends is a chance for you to find out more about your guy.
If he’s reluctant for you to meet them, maybe he’s hiding something about himself, or his lifestyle.
You can tell a lot about someone from their friends, so if all his friends live at home with their parents and spend their lives playing computer games, maybe he’s not the go-getting personality he’s made himself out to be.
Keep your first meeting casual and informal. Suggest you all head out for some drinks together for a couple of hours. That way, you can get to know each other without too much pressure – and you’ll know that if it’s really terrible, it’ll be easy enough to make your excuses and leave.
Getting to know his friends is a vital part of making your lives work together as a partnership.
If everything goes well, these people will become your friends, and your friends will become his friends.
A good first meeting with his friends can set wheels in motion for years of fun together.
Find out who is very closest friends are. These are the people whose opinion will matter the most to him.
Spend some time chatting just with them, and maybe offer to buy a round of drinks. This isn’t about being fake, but just about showing that you’re interested in them and their conversation.
10) Be seductive
This is the perfect stage for being super-seductive. At this point, your sex life should be getting pretty hot.
You’re past any initial awkwardness, you’re getting to know each other but there’s still a hell of a lot for you to explore. This is a great time to make the most of your lust.
Remember that flirting isn’t just something you do in the first couple of dates. If you want your relationship to work out long-term, keep on flirting.
Remember that all the flirting you did in those heady early dates isn’t going to be enough to carry you through forever.
Flirting in a relationship, however new, isn’t quite the same as flirting in order to try and get someone’s attention.
You’ve got their attention already – flirting at this stage is about keeping them interested and keeping your sex life hotting up.
Flirting is about being playful and confident. It’s about showing you care about them and want them to find you attractive.
It’s about communicating, building a language of love and seduction between you. It’s about having shared jokes and dirty secrets.
Don’t be afraid to go all out and dress up to the nines for a big night out, or cook a three-course candlelit dinner at home.
Don’t worry about being cheesy (unless you go totally over the top). Most guys will love the attention you’re lavishing on them and will want more, and more.
Flirting and seduction doesn’t have to be complicated. Give them a squeeze on the way past, make a filthy joke or send them a sext. As you get closer, your flirting can get braver. There’s no need to hold back at this stage.
This is an excerpt from Hack Spirit’s latest eBook on 30 Dating Secrets to Landing (and Keeping) Your Perfect Man. Told from a male perspective, this guide gives you clues to the male psyche, helping you navigate the courtship dance in a more informed way. Check it out here.
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