Someone (Oprah maybe?) once told me that the story of a relationship is written almost entirely during the first few interactions. Right off the bat you set patterns for how you relate, how you love and fight each other. From a psychological standpoint, I guess it’s pretty difficult to break out of those patterns once they’ve been laid down. When I think about the inception of my friendships and past romantic relationships, it really stands to reason. People I’ve met in bars will forever be drinking buddies. Friends I met in college will always want to break out an acoustic guitar and chain smoke. And the people I’ve loved at first sight will always be loved, no matter how nuts they may have turned out to be (specifically this one friend that I adore even though he’s a little on the self-destructive side. He’ll always be a delight in my eyes.)
In the same way, when you start your relationship off on an adversarial foot, it’s probably going to be a fight all the way along. However it happens, your brain/heart seems to remember and it will never let you forget. Early in my twenties I dated a guy (I’m a total masochist, by the way, obviously) who introduced himself by saying, “You look like a real piece of work.” He was right, but what an ass. Stupid me, I was charmed. We fought that day and every day during our tortured two-month “relationship.” We’d set the pattern and certainly followed through with it, to the bitter end.
These days I pay much closer attention to those first few interactions. It’s almost like looking right into the future of a relationship. Being in tune with those clues will save you a lot of heartache, trust me.
(The title of this post is a blatant rip-off of one of my favorite books on architecture, A Pattern Language by Christopher Alexander. If you're into that sort of thing, I highly recommend it.)