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What is a normal functioning relationship like in the early stages?

(68 Posts)
giroux Thu 12-Nov-15 23:00:51

My marriage ended three years ago (badly of course) and during this period I have slowly started dating and have met (through various means) 4 men in the three years.

Two were lovely, but of course they are not the ones i went for...the two men i got involved with were both depressed, super smart, intelligent, artistic, alcohol abusers.

Both were totally fucked up, emotionally unavailable and came out waving tons of red flags but i chose to ignore these because the 'rush' i got from being with them was so good. The intensity that this kind of unhealthy man gives me is addictive and in both cases they were often phoning/texting/emailing up to 50 times a day for the first month or so (clearly not normal right?).

Sexually things were addictive but I'm not even sure why as both had ED problems linked to their depression/ alcohol abuse and smoking .

Both were middle class and extremely successful in their chosen fields, which i found attractive (probably due to my low self esteem...) Actually, they are both titans in what they do, but absolute losers in every other facet of their lives.

This is the pattern of romance for my entire life. Why do i do this?

Why can't i manage to enjoy the normal stages of a normal relationship. Right now i am talking to two lovely blokes online, the fact that they don't contact me constantly is disconcerting for me. Once or twice a day makes me feel unwanted but i think that this is more normal (is it?).

The fact that they are not obsessed with meeting me TODAY and spending every second with me feels like they don't give a shit. So, i guess what i'm asking is, is this what the start of normal relationships are like?

I want to have healthy relationships, i don't want to be alone and i don't want the dark moods that result from these unhealthy relationships to tip over into my children's lives.

I am happy and successful and have good relationships in all other areas of my life and i function very well as a single person, i just can't seem to resist dark, twisty men.

Help! All advice on rehabbing myself so that i can have a normal relationship one day would be appreciated!

Seeyounearertime Thu 12-Nov-15 23:12:11

I don't think there is a 'Normal' relationship, just what works and what doesn't and that can change for everyone.

When me and my GF met we messaged on FB, maybe 2-3 times a day.
We went on a few dates at a pub, ate at restaurants, went to the movies. Etc.
We txted a fair amount between dates but never more than maybe 5 a day or something similar. She had her life, I had mine.
Eventually, after maybe 10 dates, we got to a point where we decided we were together and exclusive. I then met her kids, started going to each others houses. She'd sometimes stay at mine, I'd sometimes stay at hers. For a long while we only saw each other 2 times a week due to work stuff and me living in another town.
After a while we discussed kids, decided to go for it. She got pregnant, we moved in together. Etc etc.

Whether that's normal I don't know, it worked for us though.
4 years, 2 house moves, 1 child later and we've never had an argument or cross word. Out of all the people on the planet she (and my DD obviously) is the person I would choose to spend my time with out of everyone.

TooSassy Thu 12-Nov-15 23:36:37

Everyone's version of normal is different.

I'd run a mile from someone who texted me even close to 10 times a day in the early stages forget 50!!!
Here's the reality, IME people who are stable. Have a balanced life. Friends, job etc will NOT be contacting loads in the beginning. Because guess what, they have a fairly busy life already.
I met a guy last week for drinks. Weve been in touch 3 times since then (with a bit of back and forth off the back of those). It feels comfortable, unforced and entirely natural.
If he texted me every day at this stage, I would run a mile!

SpongeBobJudgeyPants Thu 12-Nov-15 23:46:33

Some people just get addicted to the rush of infatuation. There's a name for it, and it usually wears off after about 3 months. I used to go out with total mind-bending emotionally unavailable men, and when they had exhibited their latest act of f**wittery would say, 'but he's so intelligent'! I am over that now grin. I have a nice normal DP, who is not perfect, but not into mind-games and such. As others have said, a much more relaxed approach to texting is more normal in the beginning. Have you thought about exploring why you need the more 'dramatic' relationships, perhaps through counselling? From what you have said, your life is otherwise fulfilling, so not compensating for that.

giroux Thu 12-Nov-15 23:46:58

Ok, thanks Seeyou and TooSassy.

That is helpful.

I think my first serious relationship as a teenager was so intense/unhealthy that i've never known what is normal is. As a result, i view the excessive attention that intense, crazy men give me as being normal. Whereas in fact, it is madness.

Also, i have no boundaries so throughout my relationships even if i tell a man/my bf/DH that i am busy, i view their continuing excess contact as a sign of 'how much' they like me.

God, this is pathetic.

Keep it coming people! i need to know how wrong my behavior/realtionship patterns are so that i can change. I don't want to keep doing the same things!

giroux Thu 12-Nov-15 23:48:25

Hmm SpongeBob, interesting. I'm happy to hear that you are 'cured'.

My parents were very successful and charismatic but TOTALLY unavailable and absent. I'm pretty sure that has something to do with it ;)

ouryve Thu 12-Nov-15 23:49:22

There is no normal, ut a good relationship shouldn't make you uncomfortable in any way. If anything, the early stages are supposed to be fun, so if it' not, re-evaluate and RUN!

magiccatlitter Thu 12-Nov-15 23:58:07

The super hot intensity is not normal from what I learned in therapy. Beginnings should be more like what you have with regular friends... well except that you fancy each other.

The counselor called the OTT behaviours "love bombing" as dysfunctional people have to be OTT the get their victims hooked.

If you look at the relationships you have with friends and family, you love and care about them but you all have your own lives but also have regular contact.

I have to retrain myself to see the OTT love bombing as abnormal and to reject those who try to do it so I reckon at first, normal healthy people are going to appear pretty boring at first.

TheMarxistMinx Fri 13-Nov-15 00:07:57

I agree how can there be a normal, no two people are alike and any combination of two people even less so.

I would think normal is sporadic contact in the early days. But I don't go in for this idea of morning and night texts..it's overly intrusive and alludes to am intimacy that is not real.

I would expect contact to increase be that texts or phone or in person as a relationship became more established.

I usually panic and start to evaluate at 3 months...that's the point of do or die for me.

I'm a bit suspicious if a man is too gushing with praise and romantic notions. I prefer grounded rational people who are honest and constant.

Thestressofit Fri 13-Nov-15 00:13:36

Anything intense cannot remain intense it is too exhausing.
Texting that much is really too much plus to me it's a way of keeping tabs on someone.

You need some time single.

BackforGood Fri 13-Nov-15 00:20:22

What TooSassy said.
If someone was that overpowering, I'd run a mile!
I would only want to start to build a relationship with someone who has a stable life - things they do, things they are involved in, interest or hobbies, friends, a solid relationship with family, etc. If they were contacting 50 times a day I'd just tell them to stop contacting me at all! shock

giroux Fri 13-Nov-15 00:25:39

Ok, thank you everyone.

This is helpful. As all of my relationships have been like this I literally had no idea that it was this abnormal (pre-text my bf's and I just phoned each other all the time, went to the same lectures and lived together...)

obviously i knew something was amiss otherwise I would not have posted this, but i literally did not know that 50 x a day was so way off the mark.

magiccatlitter - i think i too am going to have to retrain myself. And learn that normal isn't necessarily boring.

venusinscorpio Fri 13-Nov-15 00:31:25

OP I totally know where you're coming from. So much so that I've sworn myself off relationships for a while.

BertieBotts Fri 13-Nov-15 00:39:29

No, it is useful to know what's normal in terms of what is a healthy boundaried situation. It's true that there's no "textbook" way that a relationship should progress and there are lots of ways it can be right. It's more feelings or absence of creepy behaviours than any particular set of "right things"

You want green flags - I'm sure we had a thread or several about spotting them in the past - do an advanced search with green flags in the title, and exclude the car insurance topic grin

You could also look at the Freedom Programme, (best to do in person but you can do it online, you have to pay now) and Baggage Reclaim (free blog).

I really have to sleep, but if I have time tomorrow, I'll look up a list of red flags and explain how it's different in a healthy relationship, or where a reasonable boundary lies because contrasting is usually the easiest way to see the differences.

BertieBotts Fri 13-Nov-15 00:41:54

Not comprehensive but here are three older ones to peruse smile

www.mumsnet.com/Talk/relationships/1625514-Can-we-have-a-characteristics-of-good-partners-thread

www.mumsnet.com/Talk/relationships/2373401-Green-flags-What-should-I-be-looking-for-in-a-man

www.mumsnet.com/Talk/relationships/2126757-I-can-spot-a-Red-Flag-now-but-what-about-a-Green-Flag

giroux Fri 13-Nov-15 00:52:47

Thanks Bertie.

These threads will be helpful, i'll look now. I have read much of this stuff over the years (been on MN since 2004) and should be doing better than i am with relationships!

I thought that after the demise of my marriage that I'd learned a lesson and would be healthier/wiser.

As it looks like that is not the case I realize that I have to take steps and work on this!

Inexperiencedchick Fri 13-Nov-15 01:50:12

What about a 10pm call per day, every day, at the very early stage of relationship.
I found it a bit intense...

Were my instincts right?

ThisIsStillFolkGirl Fri 13-Nov-15 06:01:12

I am similar.

I don't like 'love bombing', I know that's wrong, but Iif someone isn't in contact with me, I assume they're not interested.

I can't tell the difference between a healthy distance and apathy.

The idea of only texting someone every few days... I can't inagine. What's the difference between that and 'not really interested'?

I've decided to stay single too!

ObsidianBlackbirdMcNight Fri 13-Nov-15 06:12:21

I'm possibly not the person to ask because I'm avoidant in style and break out in a cold sweat at the thought that a man might make emotional demands on me but here's my take...
Relationships should be a complement to your life. If you are looking for a man to be your hobby, your passion, your time filler and your source of self esteem then you are doing it wrong. Find other things to meet those needs that are more stable, then a relationship can enhance them but the risk of emotional trauma if the relationship ends is much less.
Be very wary of men projecting things on to you. One of the main issues I see in relationships is when two emotionally vulnerable people attempt to get their emotional needs met by
Someone and project all kinds of stuff onto the other Which doesn't often bear any resemblance to reality. Don't assume that because someone makes you feel good that they are a good person. Don't assume that because someone wants to see you all the time that they love you. Question yourself and their motivation. Are yoy meeting a need for them? Do they really know you? Is their behaviour proportionate to the strength of connection between you?
Keep people at arms length emotionally for a good while u til you can be sure of them.

TheMarxistMinx Fri 13-Nov-15 07:59:48

Obsidian, I think being circumspect of anyone pushing for too much emotion too early is normal. I'm not avoidant in the sense I avoid commitment or getting to know someone. At a certain point one realises that you will have to make yourself a bit vulnerable. Plus I think it is part of the human condition to have needs and seek connections with others to meet those needs. However not anyone not everyone will be that person which is why building self esteem, friendships and a busy life is a must. We can get validation, respect, and support from more than just one person.

giroux Fri 13-Nov-15 12:30:44

Obsidian, wow. That was so helpful. Thank you.

If i had applied your rationale to every relationship i've had, i don't think I'd have had a relationship with any of those men - which i think would have been much better for me.

I want to copy and paste your post and laminate it and keep it with me forever to stop me getting into bad relationships!

pocketsaviour Fri 13-Nov-15 12:39:09

Op, have you ever looked into doing the Freedom Programme? Many people think it's only for those who've been in violent relationships, but it can be useful for a tone who has problems with choosing unsuitable partners, and especially in setting boundaries.

I also think you might benefit from skilled therapy. You obviously realise that many of your behaviour patterns are rooted in your upbringing. A skilled therapist can help you unpack that and choose which behaviours are hurting you, and how to change them.

Gabilan Fri 13-Nov-15 13:19:11

"My parents were very successful and charismatic but TOTALLY unavailable and absent. I'm pretty sure that has something to do with it ;)"

I agree with pocketsaviour - if this is the case then therapy would probably help you since whatever is going on is very deep-seated.

" i view their continuing excess contact as a sign of 'how much' they like me."

But how much do you like them?

Personally, I err on the side of being a bit distant and so find frequent contact very off putting and worrying, especially in the early days. If someone sent me 50 texts in one day I'd think they were unhinged and want nothing to do with them. At that stage, I'm still trying to work out if I even like someone so if after the first few dates I'm being bombarded I think "arggh, go away, I don't know if I like you yet, this is too much". I'm not saying I'm some relationship guru, as my track record shows I'm really not, but maybe that gives you an alternative perspective?

I just think in the first few months you really are trying to work out if it has the potential to be serious or not rather than being serious. And if it is serious, you don't need repeated texts to prove it. Off course if it's long distance or you're just not seeing each one day you might send that many texts just as part of a conversation but needy lovebombing? Bleurgh.

You can take your time to work out if you even like them. It doesn't have to be all about them desperately wanting you and as you say, it's probably because your parents never bothered to show that interest.

ObsidianBlackbirdMcNight Fri 13-Nov-15 14:12:46

grin
I don't think I'm a great model, I have just blown off a first date with a guy because he sent me 2 messages saying how much he was looking forward to meeting me apropos of nothing and it made me feel weird!

TooSassy Fri 13-Nov-15 16:06:27

Lol Obsidian. That's funny

I guess what I take from this thread is there really is no normal. But I totally think that early on, there shouldn't be lots of contact. If you have a balanced life with hobbies, friends, family, work, downtime etc. texting someone you don't know much simply shouldn't be given that much time/ headspace.

That time and headspace comes naturally when you spend more time together....

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