Hookup Or Happily Ever After? 10 Signs You've Finally Found A Keeper

I'd always been the type of person who knew exactly what she wanted, and I wouldn't settle for anything less. No matter how long it took or how single I was, I had big dreams. I didn't want anyone or anything to distract me from that.

Because of my independence, I accepted the fact that I may be alone for quite some time. I had always thought I'd just be one of those girls who wouldn't get married until her early 30s. Needless to say, I was not looking.

But that all changed (as it usually does). Plans never go our way, especially when it comes to love.

There's an incredible amount of pressure these days when it comes to our romantic relationships. "Why am I single? I'm missing out on my baby years. When is it going to be my turn to get married?"

Whatever it may sound like in your head, know that you are not alone. It's normal as young adults (and especially as women) to go through this intense mental conversation. It's also normal to want a sincere, deep and genuine connection with a good man. They're out there, and I promise they're everywhere.

If you would like some guidelines to simply see where you may be at in your relationship, here are mine. I can honestly say I think I'll be off the market for good, and here are 10 reasons why:

1. He encourages my dreams.

This is a really important one. Some people I know won't enter into relationships because they are afraid of the time commitment. They believe their attention will go elsewhere, and they will forget about everything they want to do for their own lives.

While it's true that you're now creating a partnership with another person, it's not true that you should forget about your dreams and desires. On the contrary, my boyfriend encourages me to keep pursuing and creating, and he absolutely accepts the fact that there are times when I work like a crazy person. He supports all of it.

At the end of the day, he knows that when I am fulfilled, our relationship is. There's a difference between your man communicating that he misses you and demanding that you focus on him. Simply put, he should be an encourager, not a whiner.

2. He listens so well.

I say, "so well" because he doesn't half listen to me and half do something else. He fully listens with his heart.

He maintains eye contact with me whenever I vent or flail my arms in the air (like I do whenever I'm telling a really good story). He also does this when I'm bawling my eyes out because I'm hurt about something.

He has empathy for me. My dear friend once said, "Listening is the highest form of love." I believe this to be true.

3. He is consistently loving.

Everything about him is consistent. He wakes up at the same time, brushes his teeth and hair and does the same exact routine every day. I love this about him because he helps keep me grounded.

Although he is willing to go anywhere and do anything with me, he's a resting space I come back to. Because of this quality, he is also very consistent in his loving. He loves me every single day, no matter what is happening in our lives.

Do disagreements come up? For sure. Have we gone through some hard times? Oh yeah.

But what never changes is his adoration and love for me. This is the most amazing quality in a man. If you have this, hold onto him forever.

4. He apologizes, even when I'm the one in the wrong.

I try really hard to make sure I don't take this for granted. As human beings, we crave being right. We want to right the wrongs so badly (at least I do, anyway) that sometimes, it can get in the way of our relationships.

Have you ever heard the phrase, "Pick and choose your battles?" He most certainly does. (Wisely, might I add.)

He is always so quick to apologize because he doesn't want tension in the air. He can't have the problem lay dormant and build up. He wants to discuss it and work through it, no matter how long it may take.

This inspires me to own up to my mistakes faster and more gently because I would never purposely want to hurt him. As my wise grandfather once told me, "It's not that you fight. It's how you fight."

5. He is so patient with me.

Alright ladies, you know we are high-maintenance. We can be hard to handle.

I wish I had the patience he does. I continue to develop it every day, but it just comes so naturally to him. I feel that he is extra careful and patient with me because he never wants to force or push anything on me that I don't feel right about.

I admire this about him. He also believes everything will simply work out, and he tends to go with the flow. I am so not this person. In addition, when I am in a crazy frenzy and emotions are running high, he just sits back and waits with a tenderness that makes me want to calm down.

If you are Type A like I am, you should be with a patient partner. You will never regret it.

6. He is instinctively protective.

This doesn't mean he is crazy, psycho or overprotective. It just means that whenever we go to a new place — or any place, for that matter — he always assures my safety. It's almost like he scouts the place to make sure he knows where the exits are, and he is aware of our surroundings.

Even when I go somewhere without him, he always asks if I've made it safely. I'm not even 5 feet tall, so I really appreciate this one. It can seem like a big world out there when you're as small as I am.

7. He makes me laugh (even at the smallest things).

You know that one person in your life with whom you can laugh at the stupid, funny things that no one else would really find funny? Well, that's basically us. As an ambitious, hard-working person, I tend to "be in my head" a lot.

He knows just what to do to help me relax and enjoy our moments. I'll give you a high-five if you can find someone who makes you giddy. He makes you laugh at the un-laughable, and makes you feel light, almost like you're floating through life.

8. He excels in emergency-like situations.

I am blessed to have many gifts and talents. I am good at many things. But I am not the person to call in an emergency situation.

An example of such a situation would be this: My car breaks down on the side of the road. I hit a pot hole and immediately pop my tire. Not to mention, all this is in the dead of winter.

He knows what the next steps in these situations are, and he approaches them in a logical way. I remember a time when my transmission slammed into lower gear while I was driving. I couldn't get my car to go above 25 miles an hour. So of course, I called him panicking.

"Oh my gosh, I almost died. What if someone had hit me?" To my memory, he said, "But you didn't get hit. The good thing, sweetheart, is that you're safe. Now, I want you to do the following."

He's also helped me with stupid sh*t like how to fill my windshield wiper fluid, and he's walked me through every step over the phone. I guess I could just say he's been there for me in every situation.

9. He loves other people.

I'd say this is why I fell in love with him the most. He truly is so kind and generous toward other people. Every person I've ever introduced him to has always followed up with, "He's a keeper. Hang onto this one." He is so good with people.

I've seen him diffuse extremely heated situations, make others laugh easily and smile in the face of unbelievable adversity. Someone once told me, "You can tell a character of a man by how he tips his waitress, treats animals and acts when his back is up against the wall." I'd like to add that it's also important to note how he treats people (both in your presence and out of it).

10. He is my best friend.

I remember a date we were on once very vividly. It was such a lovely time. Frequently, it seems that when we go out, all I do is end up tearing up. I tell him how much I am grateful for him, and I love him so much because I get to sit right across from him and see all that he is.

Well, I was having one of "these moments," and I'll never forget what he told me. He said, "Hailey, I'll always be your friend first. No matter what you feel you need to do, I'm just so lucky to be able to experience life with you."

I knew in that moment that no matter the capacity, this man would be in my life forever. If you don't like the person you are with as a friend first, then it might be harder to respect him or her.

I am so grateful for him. As cliched as it sounds, he is and will always be my best friend.

I hope you always know that whether you are in a relationship or not, you are completely worthy of this love. You are worthy of any love. It's a kind of love where people see you and think, "I want what this person has."

You deserve to have complete happiness, joy and fulfillment in your life. If you never forget that, I doubt your SO will ever forget it either.