Relationships are hard to come by and even harder to make work in the long term. For some people they are a mystery too obscure to solve. In the service of those who want to walk the road to long-term intimacy, we’ve detailed the steps that will help you navigate those fraught first four weeks. Maybe the relationship isn’t right and is destined for nowhere, but you also may have found a keeper, and your actions aren’t lining up with your intentions.

1. Boundaries are Important.

If you are too strict with your likes, dislikes, will/won’t dos, you may be missing out on new experiences that could grow your personal edges or expand your worldview.

It’s okay if you’re still figuring out what your boundaries are, just like it’s okay to discover and enforce them mid-date. What you’re comfortable with and looking for in a partner will fluctuate based on your lifestyle, support system, ambitions, and the chemistry between the two of you. While it’s cool to be more flexible, it’s important to make sure your date is being respectful of your boundaries. How do you set healthy boundaries? According to the dating experts at Meet Mindful, speak up for what you need and what you’re not comfortable with, but be careful of being too rigid.

2. Awkward Moments are Always Welcomed

Between taking an elbow to the trachea on a first hug, falling asleep at the dinner table, getting locked out of your apartment at the end of a date, forgetting your date’s name, and literally lighting a table on fire, we’ve experienced every first-date nightmare you can imagine. Maybe you can relate: When you first start dating, you’re a ball of nerves because you’re so afraid of feeling slightly uncomfortable or not having anything to say. But it’s part of the deal, and once you accept that, you’ll start to have so much more fun.

3. Call It off Early if it’s Not What you Want

Whether your date is looking for something more casual or is ready to settle down, it’s always better to call it off earlier rather than further down the dating line when it has become clear you two are looking for different things out of a partnership. I’ve even left a first date early because of it, and while it was awkward, since we didn’t have the same expectations or feelings, it saved both of us some trouble.

4. Be as bold or as soft-spoken as you feel.

Have you ever been told to be yourself, but not too much? First of all, what does that even mean? If we conceal our personalities or keep certain habits at bay to suit a situation, we aren’t doing ourselves any favors since those things tend to reveal themselves sooner or later. Plus, wouldn’t you rather be adored for who you are, rather than the person you’re presenting? So, you may as well let them know who you are from the get-go.

5. Don’t Stick to One Location form Dates

If you’ve been in the dating game for a while, try not to choose the same bar every time. It’s easy to do, yes. Out of sheer convenience, it’s a no-brainer to just pick your favorite neighborhood dive bars to meet your dates at since they’ve been tried and true meeting spots (and you could probably get home quickly if you weren’t feeling it.) Although, that might have led to some awkward run-ins. Once for example, two potential suitors turned out to be friends, and even worse than the same-bar issue, they found out that this writer saved their contact info as some interpretation of a literary classic, which I did with everyone I dated until this unfortunate turn of events. A Light in August, Alexander Pushkin, Ichabod Crane, Dylan Thomas, and Benji (another Faulkner reference, of course) are just a few literary-inspired contacts saved in my phone.

                                

6. Who Paid on The First Date Doesn’t Say Much.

Whether or not the other person pays on a first date has never been indicative of what kind of person they are. For example, some of the dates I’ve been on who paid were great first dates but never followed up again, while those whom we went Dutch with ended up treating us on a later occasion. There’s also that one time a guy said he forgot his wallet really did just forget his wallet. However, a nice gesture would be to at least pay for the first round if you were the one who planned the date.

7. Make sure you can laugh together.

You don’t need to have an identical sense of humor, nor do you both need to be comedians. But if you aren’t smiling and laughing together after a few weeks of dating and getting to know one another, take note. This isn’t important to everyone, but finding the humor in the weird, bizarre, even upsetting things that happen to us, and the things we observe in daily life that may seem banal or commonplace to others, is what makes us human. And if you can do this together, that’s indicative of a special connection.

8. Don’t over-spend at the early stage

Dating a few people at once isn’t for everyone. Sometimes, you just happen to be seeing a couple of people at once, or are actively trying to put yourself out there and meet as many people as possible and that’s fine, too. Take from the experts at eHarmony, “Look for someone you’re compatible with, someone who’ll be willing to put in the difficult effort of joining two adult lives in a meaningful way. And it takes time; you won’t find all that out on a first date, no matter how enchanting.”

9. Learn about what they value

No matter how fun and sweet someone is, it’s difficult to build a life with someone who doesn’t value the same things you do.

If your values aren’t in line, think about how that may play out later on. People have wonderful, meaningful experiences with people who were raised differently or felt differently about important issues. But if your core values aren’t in line (for example, maybe you want to be a parent someday and your date is adamant of living life kid-free), eventually you’ll have to reconcile these differences—if that’s even possible. No matter how fun and sweet someone is, it’s difficult to build a life with someone who doesn’t value the same things you do.