When you ask yourself, "Am I ready for a serious relationship?" what you are usually questioning is whether you have all the resources you need to be able to reciprocally care for someone, and whether the person you have met also has theirs. You can fool yourself into thinking you are ready for a serious relationship when you are actually seeking validation or companionship. These relationships usually do not last very long. That's why it's good to approach a serious relationship with some caution and lots of time for introspection.
When you are ready for a serious relationship, your perspective on dating shifts. You know that connection is important, but so is being in the same place. You suddenly understand, more than ever, that so much of whether a relationship works or not comes down to timing. You also understand that previous, perhaps short-lived, relationships were preparing you for something long term. Although you might have been casually dating, you suddenly realize that you are prepared to be there for someone long term and that you are prepared to allow someone to also be there for you. Everyone is different, but when you are ready, it might feel something like this:
1. You Know There Is Room In Your Life For Another Person
When you're not in a position for a serious relationship, it can feel like it's because there is just too much of you that you have to deal with already. Taking care of yourself is its own relationship, and when you are still figuring out how to achieve balance in your life, it has to be the main one. Sure, lovers can come and go during this time, but you likely will not be able to fully commit. Even if you do, these relationships will feel like you are overextending yourself. When you are ready for a serious relationship, you know that you can take care of yourself and also be there for another person in a meaningful way.
You understand that a relationship is not an excuse to give up on yourself. You also don't think that you need a relationship in order to validate yourself; maybe you did seek validation in your relationships earlier in your life, but now, you understand that the best validation comes from within. You know that when you meet the right person, they will enhance your life and the sense of self you have cultivated in the time before you knew each other. You will also understand that your relationship couldn't have happened sooner, because any earlier and the timing wouldn't have been right.
2. You Know What You Have To Offer A Relationship And What It's Worth
When you are finally ready for a serious relationship, you are not looking for someone who will tend to you and improve your life with their selfless care. You know that every relationship involves reciprocal care, and you will be confident that you can provide that reciprocity. You and your future partner have the emotional tools you need to lift one another up.
And while you understand the positive assets you are bringing to a relationship, you also know that you are flawed. You don't necessarily have to love your flaws, but you are aware that they exist — and that whomever you partner with will have flaws of their own. Even if you aren't able to love your own flaws completely, you will be able to understand that your partner's flaws are important. Your flaws are what test your love and prove it to be strong.
You also aren't holding your future partner to some unattainable standard. You know there is no such thing as having a boyfriend/girlfriend/partner “of your dreams.” Whoever you end up with will be very real — and you will want them that way.
3. You Are Less Tolerant Of Bullsh*t
When you're finally ready for a serious relationship, you will know what you aren't looking for. That means you are able to identify red flags early on — sometimes within the first few message exchanges. Do they want you to send pictures before they even know what you do for a living? Move along. Do you feel like you are chasing after someone who didn't text or call after your first date? You have better things to do.
Because you are clearer about what you want, dating becomes both easier and more frustrating. If you are online dating, there are probably weeks where you feel bogged down by the sheer number of people who are looking for one-night stands or shallow hookups. While you might have been more forgiving before, you feel impatient with bad manners or childish behavior now.
When you do meet someone, it will probably be unexpected: a one-off date with someone you didn't think that much of from pictures, or a friend you've known for years. It will happen when you stop looking, and you might not even notice when, at first, your feelings for them stick. Then, you look up, days or years after you've met, and you'll understand that the right person was there for you all along.
4. You Mostly Stop Having Sex On The First Date
When you are ready for a serious relationship, sex on the first date doesn't hold quite the same appeal. Sure, you might still go for it now and again, if you find that the physical chemistry between you two is sizzling. When you meet the person you are supposed to be with, you might end up having sex right away — but you will also know you like them. The time of having sex just for sex's sake, whether or not you wanted to spend time with the person, is over.
You know that sex before friendship can be like leaping to a level of intimacy that will crumble without an underlying relationship to hold it up. You might find yourself proceeding more slowly with the people you are dating, waiting until the second date to initiate touch. You know that a relationship takes time to ripen, and you aren't in any rush.
5. You Start Looking For A Familiar Soul Instead Of Experimenting With Your Identity
When you are dating casually, you view your different partners as an interesting experiment. When you aren't looking for someone to be with long term, you realize how many different ways there are to connect with someone. Even if you don't have anything in common, you can still be drawn to someone for their mystery or strangeness. When you are ready for a serious relationship, though, you start looking to recognize yourself in the other person.
This means that the conversations you have will probably be deeper and more engaged. You will be looking for an emotional connection — one that lasts. It's this second part that makes finding one tricky. Even though you can feel deeply attached to someone for a few hours, days, or weeks, not every bond builds into one that can last for years.
Perhaps, before you were ready for a serious relationship, you were afraid of finding that attachment. You knew that being emotionally connected made it more possible to be heartbroken. When you can really be with someone, though, you understand that the risks are worth the rewards. You aren't afraid about what you might lose, because you know you have everything to gain.
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