That crucial first kiss: Eight milestones that can make or break a relationship

Couple kissing
  • Milestones in relationships are simply lovely, and the stuff of lifelong memories
  • So pay close attention to them, especially those that involve coping with a stressful situation
  • Do problems draw you together, or drive you apart?

Get them right? You will be happy together. Get them wrong and you are in for a long bumpy ride. CHRIS HART, a counselling psychotherapist explains important relationship milestones.

 Every relationship feels unique. And each is of course. But those highly personal differences conceal a common pattern of milestone events that mark your progress together.

Some milestones are simply lovely, and the stuff of lifelong memories. Others are hugely important, and will eventually wreck the relationship if they’re not successfully negotiated.

 1.     The crucial first kiss

If it went well, every couple remembers their first kiss with romantic joy, and feels the outcome was inevitable. But countless promising relationships fail at that hurdle.

Many couples part right after their first kiss. It just didn’t feel right, so the relationship ended.

That’s because kissing’s real purpose - well below your conscious awareness - is to check out chemicals on your lips and skin that tell your bodies whether your genes and immune system are compatible.

You’re completely unaware that’s going on. You just feel a huge liking - or disgust - for your partner.

 And simply adore their smell and taste if you match chemically. You also learn a few other things besides! Like the way a man kisses a woman helps her decide whether he understands the subtleties of social life - and has the confidence to be a good lover. 

So don’t put off the moment! Especially until after your wedding, as some extremists argue you should.

Because it you don’t find your partner’s kisses irresistible, chances are you’ll never be really happy together. So that’s something you should find out as soon as possible, a few days into your relationship.

 2.     Other early firsts that count

Other early milestones include the moment you first realise something’s happening between you. The first time he introduces you as ‘my girlfriend,’ or you say ‘I love you’ to one another.

 Your first sleep over. Your first trip together.

They’re all important because they show how the relationship’s developing. And how things will go in the future.

So pay close attention to them, especially those that involve coping with a stressful situation. Like the tensions of travelling together tell you a lot about how you’ll deal with bigger issues in the future.

Do problems draw you together, or drive you apart? Likewise the first time you have a fight. Do you problem solve, or get spiteful?

 3.     The commitment talk

Especially important in those early days is ‘the commitment talk.’ Because couples who avoid it inevitably get into trouble later.

It usually happens a few weeks into the relationship, and marks the transition from simply going out to becoming an item.

It defines the relationship as serious, committed and monogamous - and what that means: what’s OK, and what’s not, with friends, work colleagues - and exes!

What’s especially important about this talk is that it makes sure you’re both on the same page.

Fudge this conversation, and you could discover later that one of you is hearing wedding bells, while the other thinks it’s all for fun.

 4.     Meeting the in-laws

Somewhere in the middle of all this you’ll meet each other’s parents formally, and start talking about getting married. 

 EXPECT your in-laws to hate you on sight! It’s not personal, you’re taking away their child. In fact be wary if they seem to like you a lot. It’s all a front and the tensions will come later...

BE sure of yourselves as a couple before you meet them. Get on the same page over any likely issues.

YOU probably will have to stand up to them, politely on all sorts of issues. Be sure you can. Together.

MAKE it 100 per cent clear you support your fiancé(e) in all things.

They will love you once the grandchildren come!

Meeting the in-laws is a particularly important moment, because if two years pass without a proposal, the chance that you’ll ever marry start to seriously decline. Most men propose after 18 months. So if he’s not popped the question by then, you need to talk about it.

 5.     The babies

What could possibly go wrong?

Actually, that’s the wrong mind-set. Marriage continues to be a series of milestones. And problems to be solved.

Like having children. It’s all too easy to lose sight of your marriage when your whole life revolves around 3 am feeds. And parenting changes you.

 Having children changes you. You’ll discover a side to your personality you never knew existed.

New anxieties, obsessive-compulsive traits, controlling behaviour. And of course you’re tired all the time...

  • DON’T put the children ahead of your spouse.
  • DON’T be a controlling mother if you want your husband to be involved with a new baby.
  • DO support each other, physically and emotionally.
  • GET on the same page with all aspects of parenting.
  • ENFORCE a bedtime for the kids as soon as possible so that you get some time to yourselves.
  • RESTART your sex life as soon as you can - and expect it to have changed.

 6.     Betrayal

A majority of marriages have to deal with some sort of cheating. Betrayal never happens in a vacuum, so rather than talking about blame, try to understand, together, how this happened.

Once you see how you both contributed to the situation, you can grow and become stronger together.

Is it possible to really heal a marriage after the hurt of cheating? Yes it is. In fact most couples heal.

 And those that really get to understand why things went wrong, end up much happier than before.

Many do fail though. Especially those who see the problem in terms of blame. It’s very hard to go on after an affair if there’s no forgiveness.

 It is possible to cheat-proof your marriage/relationship, but only if you start with the right attitudes.

Like cheating isn’t really about morals. Or the strength of your beliefs. Or promises. Cheating’s really a risk management issue.

There are high risk behaviours. Like secretiveness, heavy drinking, and lots of single friends.

And behaviours that protect the marriage. Like openness and honesty - and having a really great sex life together!

ItSo if you discourage the bad behaviours and encourage good ones, then your marriage is much safer. And couples who are really happy together rarely cheat. So make sure you are, and you’ll have no need to worry.

 7.     When the economic balance changes 

 Sooner or later one of you will lose their job. And how you handle it may determine the course of the relationship, especially when the person had no choice in the matter.

  1. ASSUME that you’re going to lose a job at some point in your career
  2. DISCUSS and make a PLAN with your spouse how to cope when that happens
  3. LIVE simply and save like crazy at all times, so you have a war chest for when it happens
  4. KEEP your savings liquid - no property loans until you can afford to lose your job!
  5. TREAT every job as a 2-year project, and network constantly so that getting your next one has already started 
  6. TELL your spouse the moment you think you might be in the firing line, that way, they are prepared psychologically

 8.     When the babes leave the nest

 Your children will leave home. You’ll retire. YOU may lose your sense of purpose when the children leave.

YOU know it’s going to happen, so don’t bury your head in the sand.

HELP them become independent, and PLAN for their departure.

YOU’LL find you’ll have a much more fulfilling relationship with your children once they’re standing on their own two feet.

PLAN for what you’ll do when they’ve gone. Not just a holiday or two, but new work and activities - all those things you were too busy for when they were around.

LOOK FORWARD with your spouse to lots more exciting sex now you have the house to yourselves!