As hard as it can be to actually meet someone, it’s even harder trying to figure out if the guy you’re inviting for coffee is going to be worth a trip down relationship lane. “Best behaviour syndrome” is what I call the early period of time where people are (subconsciously) joyfully revelling in the fact that you know NOTHING bad about them yet, and they’re happy to be seen for all their better qualities. It’s actually a great time in relationships, because we feel all shinny and new and appreciated for our qualities rather than judged for our idiosyncrasies, so it’s no wonder this is the time most relationships start! It’s the honeymoon period, flush with perfect imperfections and oxytocin, the brains natural way of making us feel warm and fuzzy and somewhat forgetful. It’s also the time when all the red flags go either unnoticed or ignored, making it the WORST time to get into a relationship! A committed one anyway, because this moment is so far from reality you might as well be dating a Martian.
So why do we actually go through this, if it’s not conducive to judging for real whether or not the person who’s got you all giddy is truly someone who will KEEP you giddy? Biologically speaking, this would be the time when we’re picking a strong mate, rather than a lasting mate. The animal in us is taking over, driving us to pick someone whose genes speak to us rather than their ability to maintain a patient attitude when sitting in traffic or dealing with your weird relatives. In many ways, we’re not built to get into relationships that last decades, and the part of us that wants that is actually more culturally driven. But being the social creatures that we are, we WANT to fit in and do what everyone else is expected to do…be in relationships that last to our dying days. Heck, I’m married and I want to keep this (amazing!) man forever!
So how do we pick someone for the long run? Basically, ignore the animal that you are. I know, sounds weird, but that’s the part that’s making you want to commit within a couple of weeks. If you put that aside and make an effort to use your logical mind first, you’ll find out a lot more about the person sitting across from you over that coffee. My rule of thumb is three months gives you enough time to let the initial “shine” wear off, and figure out just how messy (or anally neat) they are, how they treat people they know or don’t know, and will they still be thoughtful enough to bring flowers after 11 weeks. Another important question that should take a full three months to answer is, am I still attracted to this person?! Sure there was an initial rush, but if after three months of JUST hanging out (and holding hands and cuddling if you want to!) you don’t feel like jumping their bones, then the fact is that person just ultimately wasn’t relationship material. Good thing you found out BEFORE getting into a relationship, right?