The ideal way to have a healthy relationship is to have things run smoothly from the very beginning. It doesn’t mean some problems don’t occur at a later stage (some always do), it only means that the relationship has a good foundation before they do. I do know people, however, who after a bad start ended up in long term relationships. Does it mean that a bad start can lead to a good love story?
First of all, just looking at the statistics, it’s more of an exception than a rule. Think about all your girlfriends who were complaining about their relationships in the beginning. The complaints could refer to anything: lack of commitment from the guy’s side, too much of it, the guy’s jealousy issues, him not being entirely over his ex, his bad temperament, just sex no talk, bad sex, his unhealthy attachment to his mom… The list would never end. Most of such relationships end in no time after a bit of back and forth. The point is that because in the beginning of the relationship people tend to be at their best behavior issues get worse not better with time. If something is truly irritating you in the first few months when you still have a horde of butterflies in your stomach, it’ll drive you crazy a year down the line.
This is why you should be unapologetic about things that are important to you, given that you want something serious that will last and enhance your happiness. This is, however, not always the case. Is your goal to be in a relationship because you’ve never been in one? Sometimes experience is worth the trouble! If you don’t know what is bad, you won’t know what’s good either. Perhaps having children is more important to you than anything else and you’re willing to settle because of it? Be honest with yourself about such issues. If for whatever reason you decide that a relationship is worth going for, you need to be able to accept whatever it is that constituted the bad start.
Just remember that believing that you may “change him” is lying to yourself. If you’re a devoted Catholic and you start dating an atheist who gets angry every time you mention the Church, where do you think this is going? At the same time you may still end up having a valuable lesson out of this experience in whom you should and shouldn’t date. What you are willing to accept or settle on is up to you, but be aware that long term big incompatibilities mean big problems.
Compatibility is one thing and good chemistry (not attraction) another. Some relationships are difficult from the start because of the lack of the latter. You and your partner just keep missing each other. You have misunderstandings, you don’t communicate well, you fight. You want different things and one of you has to be constantly compromising. In short, you’re not really having the honeymoon period as you should. Perhaps you’ve ignored the deal breakers or things looked perfect during your online conversations but when you met him in real life something was just off.
Such situations are much easier to deal with, if one of you will be honest and just say something like: “You’re really nice but it’s just not working like it should” or just “I think something’s off and I don’t think more dates will change it”.
It’s much more challenging if both of you really want that relationship to work out or if attraction between you is very strong. It’s simply easier to leave someone who treats you badly. If they’re nice and do all the right things (even if half-heartedly), it may feel like moving one means you’re being too fussy.
What’s important to remember is that in most cases such relationships end somewhere further (but not too far) down the line, anyway. The tears and drama could have been avoided on date three, but hey, (hopefully) you’re not a divorcee and/or a mother yet!
Some of “bad start” relationships don’t end up early, though.
I know this one guy who was so committed to a girl, he chased her half around the world. Eventually after years of her half-hearted dating him and insisting on an open relationship, she did marry him and told people “What I was supposed to do? He loves me so much!”.
I know another girl who caught her now husband cheating on her in the very beginning of the relationship. Eventually regular phone checks, epic scenes and fights exhausted him so much that he stopped pursuing other female interests.
The danger of such situations is of course the implications it can have on the future. Won’t the girl in the first story leave the guy, if she meets someone who she, herself, “loves so much”? Will the husband in story no. 2 never cheat again? And even if they don’t, won’t the other partner always live in fear they could?
Another couple I know used to have intense fights since very early days of their relationship. They would usually end up breaking up and then dating other people for a bit. By the time they got married they broke up at least 10 times. They seemed fine for a while and even had a baby. Not even two years after their son was born the wife discovered that her husband was having an affair, but… wait for it… she wasn’t innocent either as by that time she was already pregnant with another man!
Success is relative. All fairy tales finish the moment people get married, but real life carries on. Don’t push for marriage if things are not right. Getting married is just a part of a love journey.
I’m not sure whether there’s a remedy for relationships that started with someone being disrespectful, unfaithful or abusive (other than a break-up for good, of course). Going forward with is a bit like buying a rotten apple in a shop, hoping it will unrot with time. Common sense would say, you should have enough self-respect to move on. Why to waste your time with someone who doesn’t appreciate you, if someone else could love most of your little quirks? Do you want to be their second best?
Having said that, there’s a difference between a slow start and a bad start. That you’re not saying “I love you” on date two, shouldn’t worry you. As long as the ship is sailing in the right direction, it’s all good. Just to give one example, for people who were single for a bit, some things may take longer than they would take serial monogamists.
At the same time I do think that it’s important to have continuity. If a guy sees you once goes quiet and pitches again after three months, perhaps it’s not the best sign.
To sum up, bad beginnings can lead to good things but very rarely these things are good long term relationships. If your goal is the latter, you should try to look for things that work and not try to desperately fix what’s broken.
What do you think, Dear Rinser: Can a bad start lead to a good relationship? Do you have any examples? What’s your take on the matter?