Most relationships go through a “gray” trial period where both partners are unsure if they’re on the same page with feelings and the status of the relationship. This period is as exciting as it is emotionally tumultuous.
You’re discovering the other person and maybe even falling in love, but also keeping your guard up.
Questions arise such as whether to use the “boyfriend” and “girlfriend” titles, who is going to take down his or her online dating profile first and when to start showing routine signs of coupledom, such as holding hands or using pet names in public.
There is a certain point, however, where you can let your guard down and know that the relationship is real and there’s no sign it’s going to end. This is the point where you can begin feeling far more relaxed and secure.
You’ve reached solid ground, and while many things in the world remain gray and uncertain, you generally know where you and your partner stand. In other words, it's getting serious.
There are some blatant signs that a relationship is getting serious: You might have a discussion about making the relationship exclusive, discuss moving in with each other and of course, there’s no greater sign than when a ring makes an appearance.
Aside from the formal discussions, game-changing decisions and Kodak moments, there are some subtler ways of knowing if things are going from gray to golden.
1. Public Displays of Affection
Never underestimate public displays of affection. This goes beyond making out or the occasional butt pinch in public. A relationship is starting to get serious when you and your partner proudly display each other as significant others in the public eye.
You have no problem mentioning each other in tweets, posting photos together in Instagram pictures or including each other in Facebook status updates.
For those who aren’t social-media-friendly, there are other ways of letting the world know you’re together, such as introducing each other as "girlfriend or boyfriend" and allowing your relationship to be in the limelight. Of course, holding hands or kissing in public never hurts.
2. Giving a Damn
You know it’s going somewhere when your boyfriend or girlfriend takes the time and effort to go that extra mile to make you happy.
This doesn’t just mean buying you that necklace you’ve been purposefully ogling over online whenever he's in the room (though it certainly doesn’t exclude that!).
When you care about each other, small gestures happen frequently, to the point that you take care of each other as if you’re taking care of yourselves.
Picking up dinner or buying two movie tickets shows that you’re willing to make sure you both are provided for. Simply asking how your partner's day went (even if you start going into autopilot at the hour-long mark) becomes a way to support each other and show that you care.
One of the most important signs of a strong couple is trust. No relationship is without its ups and downs or worries, but for the most part, when your partner says he or she loves you and you’re the only one, you shouldn’t hear a voice in the back of your mind asking, “Really?”
You also should not have to look over your shoulder at every turn to make sure your significant other isn’t checking someone else out or texting an ex.
Instead, you should feel confident that his or her phone and email is free of sketchy messages from unknown “friends,” and you have nothing to worry about when you leave him or her alone on a Saturday night.
Your role isn’t that of a private investigator; rather, it should someone who feels secure in his or her relationship. Likewise, you shouldn't find yourself deleting texts, telling lies or leading a double life with your partner.
A strong relationship is open and honest, during both the ups and downs.
4. Part of Your World
It’s important that you and your partner have a private world that only the two of you share. It's a place that’s intimate, where you have inside jokes and references that only you both will understand.
It’s also important that each of you spend a sufficient amount of time apart, however. Remembering that you’re not only in a relationship, but also an individual with your own interests, actually strengthens your relationship and increases all that you can bring to it.
In addition to the time you and your partner spend privately together is the time you spend including your partner in your world.
Introducing your boyfriend or girlfriend to family and friends, inviting him or her to the family barbeque or work event and sharing your interests and hobbies, takes the relationship into full gear.
Each of you is multi-faceted, with parts of you dedicated to your relationship, other parts your own goals and interests and also to the other people in your lives. Incorporating your relationship into all of these facets makes it full-bodied, rather than stuck at point A or B.
5. Being With Him or Her is Like Coming Home
As Maya Angelou wisely stated, “I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”
This saying is even truer in a relationship where emotions and feelings are one of the main points of connection between you. Being with your partner should be like coming home: It’s safe, comfortable and relaxed.
You sleep better at night knowing he or she is there. There is basically no one you would rather spend your time with, and whenever the two of you are together, the situation is 100 times better.
If your partner is your world and your home, you know it's serious.
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