When dating someone new, the feelings you experience as you get to know each other can be incredibly exciting. And once you're out of the "honeymoon phase," the next stage of your relationship can be just as rewarding—the time to build a deeper bond grounded in trust and genuine love.
But even when genuine love is there, it's understandable to have some worries about the future. Is this person "the one"? Have I found the "right" partner? While they can be a little unnerving, questions like these are perfectly normal, especially if you've already experienced a loss of a previous relationship.
Here are five key markers that can help you decide if you're with your lifelong match.
1. You share the same or complementary values. Two people don't have to look at the world in the exact same way or hold the exact same beliefs in order to have a healthy relationship together. But their basic values—the concepts and things that reflect what matters most to an individual—at least need to be compatible in order for a relationship to work long-term.
One of the most obvious examples of how values dictate whether you've found the right partner is the value of raising a family. If two partners disagree about whether to have children, they likely aren't a good fit. Other values that often need to be aligned between two people include where to live, how to handle finances, and beliefs about privacy and physical health.
Above all, couples should understand that their relationship—as well as themselves as individuals—is a fluid work in progress. Who you are when you first got together and who you will become 10 years down the line will look incredibly different.
Values are highly personal and can change over time. How you communicate along the way and stay aligned with these life changes is critical for lifelong success. It's good to talk early and often to your partner about your values to make sure they are compatible and that both of your needs are being heard and honored.
2. You handle conflict respectfully and constructively. Conflict in a relationship isn't necessarily a sign that your relationship is in trouble—instead, the way you approach conflict is an important sign as to whether your relationship will stand the test of time.
Couples who enjoy long-term, healthy relationships are able to have issues, even major ones, without resorting to name-calling, put-downs, insults, and excessive criticism. They apologize when necessary and find ways to resolve an issue, reconnect, and move on.
If you feel safe, listened to, respected, and loved in your relationship—in and after an argument—you've probably found a good match.
3. You accept them for who they are—and vice versa. If you're with the right person, you don't have to change who you are in order for them to love you—and you don't demand your partner to change who they are either.
This doesn't mean neither one of you will ever change or that you'll never do things the other person doesn't like. But when you're with the right person, your relationship feels like a container that naturally inspires you both to learn and grow. This helps you become more authentic versions of yourselves as time goes on.
4. You look forward to sharing and spending time with them. Committing to a serious long-term relationship with someone—whether that's through marriage or some other arrangement—means you're going to spend a lot of time together. If your partner is right for you, this is something you'll look forward to and actively invite into your life. You may notice, for instance, that you want to share things with them about your day, make an effort to spend quality time together, be physically and emotionally intimate with each other, and talk to them first when something important happens.
However, you'll still be able to enjoy your own independence and pursue your own interests when you're with the right person. Healthy long-term relationships are co-created by two individuals, rather than two people who become so enmeshed in the relationship that they lose their own sense of self.
5. You can envision a life with them. When you can see your partner as a true teammate—a person by your side who will support you and help you negotiate the ups and downs of life—you can feel more confident that you've found the right one. Far different from a "fling" or a "crush," the right person for you is someone who holds your interest but has actual staying power, too. If it's easy to imagine what it would be like growing old together, chances are you've found someone with whom this is truly possible.
If you check off the boxes above and still have a hard time deciding to move forward, get married, or take the next step, a relationship expert can provide clarity about your fears and uncertainties.
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