(For the purpose of this writing "relationship" relates to any relationship between two or more people whether it be romantic, D/s dynamic, friendship, mentoring, or otherwise.)
Over the years I've been in this lifestyle I've noticed the trend of new folk jumping into relationships with the first person that seems moderately interesting. I get it. You're brand new, still thinking that part of you might just be screwed up some how, and then this other person shows up. They tell you how awesome you are, how awesome they are, and you figure you're lucky to find someone like that so quickly, so why not?
Personally I view a good relationship a lot like an airplane, trust me it will make more sense in a minute.
Once the new and shiny part wears off, what is going to keep you going? Certainly not how the plane looks or how many people tell you that the plane is an awesome one. What keeps you in the air is research, planning, physics, some chemistry, and a whole lot of regular maintenance. Also along that note, you'rehopefully not going to board a plane whose pilot hasn't even done a flight simulator, much less ever fly anything. There is also the issue of baggage, check it or carry on? In a relationship a lot of the same things apply.
ResearchYou want to research who you're going to be spending time with. Ask them questions, have them ask you questions (you can learn a lot about someone based on what they want to know about you), ask their friends questions, and ask anyone else who might be able to give you information. Granted this may seem a little extreme for vanilla dating, but we're not on a vanilla site.
PlanningWhat are you hoping to get from this person? What are you hoping to give this person? If you have some kind of idea as to what your "end goal" might be, it makes it a whole lot easier to sit and think about whether or not this other person might really work into your overall plan. Figure out how important your plan is. How important is getting married? Children? Or are you just looking for a little bit of casual fun? Have this stuff figured out so when the plan starts to change, which it will, you can be somewhat ready for it.
PhysicsHow physical and in what sense do you want to be involved with this person? Set these boundaries early and check them often. Make sure that if lines get crossed you let the other person know. Even if you've decided that it is ok that the boundary has now been moved, you need to let them know that it was crossed and then what the new boundary is. Don't move faster than you are really comfortable with! If they keep pushing and you aren't comfortable, run away, fast.
ChemistryWhat kind of attraction do you have to this other person? Is it purely physical? Is it because of the company they keep? Is it something much deeper? You don't have to be madly in love with someone right off the bat, but seriously ask yourself why you are attracted to them and then figure out if your answer is ok with you. If you start off with a purely physical attraction, there isn't anything wrong with it, but at least then you can keep an eye on whether that changes or not after a few conversations. As my mom always put it: "If they're in an accident tomorrow and suddenly unable to move/don't look the same/etc, how are you going to feel about them?" This isn't something you ask yourself right away, but it is a good check for later on as the relationship progresses.
MaintenanceAll relationships require maintenance. Whether it is a weekly time to sit and chit chat, or a constant openness, maintenance is required. The old saying goes "If it isn't broke, don't fix it" and though that is true, you need to figure out a way of making sure that it isn't broken in the first place. Don't wait for an argument to see that something needs fixing, but don't pester them so often that it causes an issue either. Everyone has their own balance that needs to be met for things like that, something that you learn with time, so don't rush it.
PilotThe idea of the pilot refers to the other person, regardless of age, gender, orientation, role, or any other defining attributes. When you get on an airplane, you know that the pilot is a competent one because they have been hired by the airline as a pilot. You trust that the airline has their own best interests in mind as well as yours when hiring a pilot that will keep their planes and passengers safe. When finding that fellow person in a relationship, you don't get a company guarantee that they are safe. The bar/club/group/etc that you found them at doesn't give you that guarantee either.
Date at your own risk.
The best way to ensure that you're getting the type of partner you're told they are, is to do the research. This keeps you both safe (given that they research you as well).
BaggageEveryone has a past. Whether it is good, bad, or neutral, it will always be there affecting your future. How you handle that stuff in a relationship can definitely help or hinder a relationship greatly. Do you open it all up right at the get go and risk not being allowed on the plane or do you check it and hope that it doesn't get brought up later?
Both scenarios have there plus sides: one means that you find out someone's issues right away, the other means that you don't have to let someone know all your issues right away; but both end up being double edged swords. Finding out all of someone's issues right away can be scary, even more so if you're having to tell all of your issues. Will you be accepted or shunned?
If you hide away your problems until that day that they all come crashing down, what kind of effect will that have on your relationship? Suddenly trust comes into question along with a whole host of other things on top of "how do we fix this?"
Just like with the maintenance issue, a balance must be figured out. Don't hide what you've been through, it is part of who you are, but don't let it all flood forward like a ruptured dam. Everyone needs time to process information, and hopefully once one person has aired their dirty laundry, the other will do the same putting everyone back on a relatively even playing field. Again, everyone has issues, but not everyone can handle everyone else's issues; it takes time, patience, understanding, and a judgement free environment.
(Thanks to Lillytin for the extra point of comparison).
At the end of the day you are responsible for you. Plenty of people take their chance with the first person to catch their eye and it may work out fine. If this is something you've done, think about how it worked for you and use that knowledge to help yourself in the future. No matter what your dating style, I hope that some of you will think of airplanes and hopefully get better relationships from it.
Ignixia is an international kink and alternative sexuality educator. The following blog entries range from educational information and resources from her classes to daily musings had on things occurring in the world.