This Valentine’s Day will be my first with my partner. I’m super stoked about this new relationship, but I’m also nervous. While falling in love is fun and exciting, filled with butterflies in your stomach and anxious waiting for responses to text messages, it can also come with some downsides.
I’m talking about health risks.
Some recent studies have shown we are more likely to maintain a healthy lifestyle when single than when we are in relationships—a major switch that has only occurred in the past decade or so.
It makes sense. When you’re in a relationship (especially a new one) you’re probably going out to eat more often, skipping your normal health routines for dates with your new boo, getting less sleep, etc.
But as much as you want a lasting relationship, you shouldn’t sacrifice your health in the process.
Watch for these five pitfalls so you can continue to meet your own needs while you enjoy your newfound romance:
It can be tempting to retreat inside of your love bubble when you’ve just started a new relationship—but be careful about isolating yourself too much. Human beings thrive on connection, and even though you might feel great with all of that serotonin and oxytocin flooding your brain, eventually you have to come up for air and hang out with other friends.
According to some studies, a new romantic relationship is likely to replace some of your existing friendships. While this may be unavoidable, remember that your other relationships still need your time and attention in order to thrive.
Some psychologists recommend using the “once-a-week rule” for new relationships—try limiting your hangouts to once per week for the first few months. You can still see your new partner regularly, but reserve some days just for your friends to stay connected to your support network.
The average U.S. couple spends 5.5 days a year just deciding what to eat—and in many cases, they are also deciding where in addition to what.
Since 90 percent of people in the U.S. prefer to eat out rather than cook at home, that adds up to a lot of time and money spent on restaurant meals—one couple spent upwards of $30,000 in a year. And studies show that, outside of financial strains, frequent eating out increases your risks for things like weight gain and high cholesterol.
Instead of always going out to eat, try developing a ritual of cooking with your partner. It can be a great way to learn better communication skills and discover new things about the person you love. Look for healthy recipes and fun new foods to try. Who knows? You might even stumble across some effective aphrodisiacs.
Being sleep deprived can affect your personal health in ways you might never suspect, from weight gain to a weakened immune system.
And, according to numerous studies, sleep and quality of sleep also have a direct impact on your romantic relationship. Being sleep deprived can make you less attractive (hello, beauty sleep), diminish your sense of humor and create more relationship conflicts because of grumpy moods and inhibited decision-making capabilities.
It can be tempting to stay out late or spend every night with your new person, but your body needs routine. Keep your sleep schedule in mind when making plans, and try to reserve late nights for the weekend.
As a single person, you might have developed some sort of routine that included exercising and eating well (got to look and feel good for all of those date potentials!), but as you begin a relationship, it’s easy to let those habits fall by the wayside.
“I have worked with couples who unconsciously attune to the patterns of their partner, eating, sleeping, recreation, and so on, and consciously choose to ignore their own individual need out of fear of missing connection with their partner,” Boulder, Colorado-based psychotherapist Diane Renz said.
You want to be with your S.O., so you shirk the gym for the bar, your meditation for their companionship.
It’s fine for a little while, but, in the long run, you need those things to feel happy and healthy.
The stressful side effects of love can cause new daters to hide who they truly are, or even change their behavior to suit the other person, according to psychologist Sal Raichbach of Florida-based Ambrosia Treatment Center.
“For example, a non-drinker may feel pressured to drink if their date drinks,” Raichbach said. “Or, start drinking to suppress any anxious feelings they may have before meeting up with them.
“This need to impress can be strong and can apply towards anything from altering menu choices and physical appearances to lying about enjoying or not liking certain activities, et cetera.”
Even though we want our love interests to reciprocate our feelings, it shouldn’t come at the cost of sacrificing our own morals and values.
Being your most authentic self can stave off feelings of depression and anxiety—and make sure that your special person loves you for who are. According to a study in the Journal of Counseling Psychology, “the more a person acted authentically, the more likely he or she was to be happy and experience subjective and psychological well-being.”
Elaine is a writer with articles in multiple publications, including VentureBeat and MindBodyGreen. She writes about everything from from tech to business practices to lifestyle. Elaine’s skills include shower singing, burning her tongue on Pop-Tarts and quoting “The Emperor’s New Groove.” She is based out of Salt Lake City where she lives with her two cats, Weasley and Omen.