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How to make the first move

Do you remember the first date you ever had with your partner? Maybe you’d been friends for ages and finally built up the courage to ask them out, maybe you had friends in common – one of which said “hey, I think I know someone you would really hit it off with” or maybe you matched on Tinder and wanted to screen them on neutral ground to assess if they were the type of person you could Netflix and chill with.

Apart from the hyper-confident few who can enter any space oozing charisma and take or leave your heart, mind and body on a whim – most of us mere mortals are nervous on first dates. The thought of making ourselves vulnerable and being rejected can bring us to the point where anything less than complete humiliation could be seen as a win.

Thanks to our evolved brains wanting us to get as much action as possible meet the right person so we can procreate and have little people who in turn will grow up to do the same, during first dates we’re flooded with happy chemicals like dopamine and norepinephrine, which help us push through the awkward silences and perhaps even boldly make the first move.

If you’re currently in a long-term relationship, it means you made it successfully through the first date… one thing led to another and now this person is your significant other. Your person. The one you love and who loves you.

Isn’t it strange that many months and years later, as that first date progressed steadily but surely into a long term committed relationship, we can often find ourselves back in the very same scenario – trying to figure out how we can make the first move?

You’re in a stalemate

Relationships are HARD. I mean really hard. Especially when things are not going well and you’re struggling to find ways to break the cycle <see episode 1 Is your relationship stuck>.

You love your partner. But you often find that you aren’t on the same page on an issue (or many issues), which can cause an underlying tension in the day-to-day of your relationship. This tension, if left unchecked, starts to manifest in ways that could start to cause multiple fights or become toxic, resulting in stress in all parts of your life for both of you.

Of course, you want to break the cycle, release the tension and make a change for the better. But taking that first step and figuring out where to start is perhaps hardest of all. You’re at a point where making that first move seems almost impossible.

So, just like our first date scenario where there is a stalemate between two potential new partners on who will be vulnerable enough to put themselves out there, we find ourselves in a Mexican standoff with our long-term partner, wondering who will make the first move in order to heal the relationship so it can move forward.

In both scenarios we fear that our advances might end in rejection and that perhaps the best way forward is to make no move at all. That is, you remain friends/acquaintances (first date scenario) or you let the tension continue unabated (long-term relationship).

The uncomfortable truth, of course, is that if no one makes the first move the relationship will be dead in the water.

In the long-term relationship scenario we don’t have those chemicals of attraction to give us the courage to make the first move. To make things worse, we’ll often take an us vs them mentality into conversations in the fear we may “lose points” in the ongoing war, be taken advantage of or even hurt again.

But our bodies do have some tricks up their sleeves in terms of love chemicals that nurture companionship, mainly oxytocin (most effective in women) and vasopressin (most effective in men).

And, while we’re providing some tips below on how to hack these natural reactions to our advantage, they won’t occur until one person pulls the trigger and makes the first move.

The good news is, the chances of your advances being rejected or you ending up in another battle will be reduced and hopefully this will give you the confidence (or at least a nudge forward) to make the first move.

The pen is mightier than the sword

Through hard work and finding alignment, Kim and I are now able to hash most things out verbally and in a timely manner, not letting issues bubble away under the surface. If there is an elephant in the room we name it.

But it wasn’t always like this. Years ago, I often found a perfectly rehearsed monologue would fall apart after only a few words and I would get straight on the defensive as things spiralled out of control.

To prevent this and effectively communicate my feelings, I would write to Kim on a card. It would contain how I was feeling, validate her feelings and, of course, say how much I loved her. Plus, women (at least, in my experience) love getting cards. Matching them with flowers also works as a level up. But flowers alone without the card will provide diminishing returns.

Writing a card or a love note to your man will work for a lot of guys too and give them the time and space to think about what you’re saying, without feeling like they’re being put on the spot.

If you feel a card isn’t the best way to connect with your partner, think about what they like to do to have fun and plan a date on their terms.

For me, it might be playing a game of tennis and a pub lunch or watching the footy together with some sausage rolls. And that’s because, to me, sharing competitive play or watching a sport (I get pretty intense watching the West Coast Eagles) with Kim floods me with good feelings, opens me up and makes me more receptive to discussing ‘us’ later that day or the next (perhaps not during a rally or with five minutes to go in the game).

If you’re not quite ready to write a card or plan a date, start with something small for a week. Try this, a kiss (a peck on the lips is fine) and a hug when either of you leave the house each day. Tell them simply to have a great day. Then try the same in the evening.

In all scenarios it’s important to be EVA (empathetic, vulnerable and accountable). Simply put, this means:
• Putting yourself in the other person’s shoes by imagining how they’re feeling and how things may affect them (empathy)
• Opening yourself up to your feelings and disarming your defences so you’re more accessible to your partner (vulnerability)
• Taking responsibility for yourself and your actions so you’re showing that you will share the load (accountability)

Best of all, when you start making the first move in your relationship, your partner will recognize this effort and will be more likely to do the same thing in return.

Check out other posts:

To learn more about Kim & Rog's story and what inspired them to start their podcast.