This is such a common question and concern for people I see in my practice. People who are single and who may be wanting to heal from past negative relationships should be reflecting on this so that they can learn and grow and look at their patterns in terms of picking a partner.
The most important thing to be aware of is the first phase of relationship, which is called Limerence.
Limerence is that feeling of overwhelming infatuation that occurs when you first start dating someone that you feel a spark with. It is also known as the honeymoon phase. We often call this feeling “having chemistry” with someone, which makes literal sense: at this phase of love, there are tons of love chemicals coursing through your body. There’s a rush of oxytocin, also known as the “love hormone” or the “cuddle chemical.” There’s an elevation of dopamine, which controls the brain’s reward and pleasure centers. And there’s an increase in serotonin, which is thought to regulate happiness, anxiety, and mood.
This is a beautiful phase. You might find that you are unable to think about anything but your partner and want to be with them constantly. Everything reminds you of them. Amazingly, this phase can last anywhere from six months to two years. Sometimes it can last even longer!
In a Swiss study out of Zurich University, researchers were able to show that individuals with increased oxytocin levels are more likely to have higher trust levels. They gave one group of their study subjects oxytocin nasal spray and the other a saline spray, then presented both groups with a financial investment opportunity that was quite shady. The oxytocin group was much more likely to give in to the bad deal than the saline group. This shows that when you have higher levels of oxytocin—which you do when you are falling in love—then you are less likely to notice risk and more likely to make poor decisions.
That being said, this is a beautiful time. Falling in love is one of the most extraordinary things in life, yet it is important that you have your eyes open in this phase, so to speak, and that you do not jump too quickly into getting married or moving in together. Have your friends and family meet this new person, ask them for their opinion and thoughts on the person you are now seeing. If the person you are dating is being open and transparent then they will also be inviting you to meet their friends and family-which is a good sign.
Who should you trust?
In a new relationship, how can you know who to trust? Luckily Dr. John Gottman has done research on trustworthiness, and found the following five criteria to help separate those who are trustworthy from the shysters. (These five criteria are from the book What Makes Love Last.) These things take time to be seen and observed so this is another reason to take your time when getting to know a new partner.
1. Honesty. Do not trust someone who lies to you. Don’t come up with excuses for why they lied, or talk yourself out of your doubts. Also notice if they lie to others, this is a bad sign.
2. Transparency. Make sure they are an open book, and that they invite you to meet their family and friends. If they are not willing to meet your friends and family or if they try to isolate you this is a bad sign.
3. Accountability. Do they keep their promises and follow through on their commitments?
4. Ethical Actions. If you are detecting immoral actions or if you are uncomfortable with their morals, then move on.
5. Proof of Alliance. If they can demonstrate that they have your back, even in small ways, then that is a good sign. Do they take your best interests to heart instead of acting only out of self-interest?
Awareness is key. Have your eyes open in early phases of dating (but enjoy this time too- it is meant to be fun and enjoyable as long as the person you are with is safe!) I hope this has helped you gain a better sense of how to look out for red flags and determine if you are dating someone trustworthy.