Start as you mean to go on.
This may sound like something your mother said, but it's also sound advice that can serve you well as you begin a relationship. Two of the most common pitfalls are revealing too much about your past and a premature leap to "I love you."
The Perils of Too Much Information: Talking About the Past
As Voltaire quipped: "The secret of being a bore... is to tell everything." And no one wants a boring lover.
Keep your partner's interest -- intellectual and sexual -- by keeping aspects of your past to yourself. It will help to keep them intrigued, wondering and wanting.
This doesn't mean you should keep deep dark secrets from them -- the fact that your house burned down when you were eight or that your sister died of cancer -- but there's a difference between being informed about essential aspects of each other's personal history -- which helps others understand the factors that moulded your psyche and enables true intimacy -- and disclosing the tedious minutiae of our lives, in particular, details about past lovers.
Because this is the second thing about full disclosure. Not only does it make you boring, as Voltaire so astutely observed, but telling all can also be dangerous if your partner is prone to jealousy (wrought by insecurity and/or their propensity to indiscretions).
Stories about past lovers, some of which invariably cast you in a negative light, can be regurgitated and used against you. You behaved in such and such a way in the past and you will again. If your partner is vulnerable, it can fuel his or her fear of abandonment or betrayal.
Remember these stories are about your past self, a self that has been replaced (one would hope) by a more enlightened version. These stories were the building blocks for a new structure. You. Live in the now.
When your partner says "I love you" too early in the relationship (for you, obviously, but also by any objective standard), it's often because he or she is feeling insecure themselves or in the relationship, or more likely both.
He or she tells you he loves you (whether he does or not) because he wants to hear the same from you, then the relationship will shift into something more certain and comfortable. But if you don't oblige with the return "I love you," it not only gives you the upper-hand, it also ramps up the tension for the other person, making him/her feel even more insecure, which can play out in some very unsavory ways.
But that's no excuse to lie.
Wait. You'll know when the love is real. And knowing has everything to do with intimacy.
For many, implicit in the "I love you" is the assumption of intimacy, followed by an inevitable trajectory to cohabitating or marriage. But the fact is, intimacy does not automatically accompany the declaration of love or agreement to share space.
Our universal need for closeness -- for someone who understands us -- takes time, shared experiences, and meaningful communication.
Barbara Sibbald (www.barbarasibbald.com) is a two-time novelist, editor at a leading health journal, and an award-winning freelance journalist. The above is an excerpt from The Book of Love: Guidance in Affairs of the Heart, a novel (General Store Publishing House), now available in e-book format (Kindle, Kobo and Nook).