11 Things You Should Already Have In Your Life Before You Let Someone Else In

by Gigi Engle

When do you know you're ready to settle down with someone and get serious?

Often when we go into relationships, we Gen-Y folk don't have our sh*t together -- actually most of the time, we don't have our sh*t together, but I guess that's what post-grad life is all about.

We're looking for jobs, trying to find apartments and meeting a million new people every day. There's a lot going on, and that's okay. That's being in your 20s.

You know, maybe sometimes we jump into relationships with a reckless abandon because it's easy and that's one fewer thing to think about while we're struggling to pay student loans and living on a diet of Ramen and tap water. But, if we do this, how much time do we actually have to nurture that relationship?

It's important to have a sense of stability in your life and your newfound adult identity before you can let someone join that life.

If you want it to last and be as fulfilling as it can be, your relationship has to be bred in a good environment. Here are 11 things you should have in your life before looking for a serious relationship.

1. When You Know Your Self-Worth

It’s been said many times before, but I’m saying it again because it can’t be reiterated and shoved down your throat enough: You can’t love someone else until you learn to love yourself. Having a man in your life shouldn’t be the thing that makes you happy. You are what should make you happy.

You, in all your fabulous shoes and sparkling personality glory. So many marriages and relationships end — and often badly, bloodily, with scarcely a survivor.

In the end, you really only have yourself. Always love yourself the most — even if it’s just by a little. Rely on yourself. Know what you want and deserve out of life.

Your relationship with yourself is going to be the one that lasts the longest. You’re stuck with you forever. Learn to appreciate the person you are, and all of the beautiful things you have to offer to the world.

And once you do that, if someone comes along who loves you as much as you love yourself, well, in the words of Carrie Bradshaw, “That’s just fabulous.”

2. When You Have Enough (Clean) Towels for Two

Part of becoming an adult means being able to take on certain self-sufficient responsibilities. This includes doing your laundry. If you’re ready to have a (or The) serious relationship, you can bet your life that there are going to be a lot of sleepovers involved.

Nothing is less cute than having to tell your boyfriend that he’s going to need to reuse your scummy towel because you couldn’t be bothered to wash your clothes.

It may be a small thing, but it definitely contains some serious merit. Taking control of even the smallest aspects of your life is a big sign that you’re a grounded individual.

3. When You’ve Found Your Ride-or-Die Friends

Having an established group of friends is essential before you can be ready to give your heart to another person.

I’m not talking about some big group of homies you send the same mass-text to when you’re looking for encouragement on a Tinder date with some rando, I’m talking about your fight-tooth-and-nail, willing-to-take-a-bullet-for, ride-or-die friends.

I’ve had many friendships end, many I thought would last a lifetime — and when I had to say goodbye to them, I was left broken-hearted. But I’m starting to understand who I am now, and I’m beginning to grasp the idea that not everyone is meant to be in your life forever.

Over time, it begins to become clear who are the “lifers.” The ones who are going to stick it out with you until the end.

And when you find those people, and you develop that net of support — that’s when you can let yourself be emotionally open — because you know that no matter what, those few, strong, fantastic people are always going to be on your team.

4. When You’re Done with Drunken Makeouts

Okay, your twenties are about experimentation, $3 wine from T Joe’s and starting your career — whatever that career may be.

It’s completely fine to live your life, go out with your friends and make out with complete strangers in shabby dives. You’re young. If you’re going to be a drunken troll, now is the time to do it. Because these are the years we never have to apologize for.

The only thing you’d ever have to be sorry about is if you didn’t live life to the fullest and didn’t take those chances, let your hair down and be a wild child.

It’s when you’re ready to put those times away, and stop making out with (erm — sleeping with?) strangers that you know you’re ready for something serious. I’m not saying that once you decide you’re ready for monogamy that you have to be an old hag and stay in night after night.

What I mean is that you no longer have the desire to go out, be a hot mess and lip lock with some loser you’ll give a fake number to and run away from at the end of the night.

It’s when you’re ready to find a person to spend that time with, to be there with you and your friends. Or, to just stay in and watch Netflix. It’s when you’re ready to put those stranger-danger hookups to bed that you’ll be ready to share your real bed with someone worth the time.

5. You Have to Be Over the Ex

It’s hard to say when it happens. I mean when it really happens. When you can truly say that you’re finished with your last relationship. It’s easy to say, “Oh, honey, I am DONE.” But do you mean it? When he texts, are you still responding? When he likes your sh*t on Facebook, are you still so about it? It’s okay not to be over it. We’re girls.

Our relationships with men are complicated… to say the least. You know you’re ready to really move on and commit to someone else when you can say, “Hey, I don’t want no scrubs” -- and really mean it. “Ex” is in front of boyfriend for a reason. You may have to tell yourself why over and over and over… but he’s an “ex” for a reason.

When you’re done, and I mean really done (like cake in the oven done), you know you’re ready for the next great thing — intermediate hookups aside, of course.

6. When You Get a Dog… or a Plant

Once you’re able to be responsible enough to care for something other than yourself, you can maybe start to think about taking on the responsibility of caring for someone’s heart and emotional wellbeing.

I’m not responsible enough to have a dog, how on earth am I supposed to be expected to be responsible enough to have a boyfriend? I am, however, the proud mother of a basil plant named Ernest... well, I was until I drowned him by over-watering. Is it possible to kill something because you love it too much?!? RIP, Ernest, RIP.

7. When You Forget the Fairy Tale

Many of us have grown up thinking that we’re going to just suddenly meet the man of our dreams, know instantly that’s he’s the one and be swept off our feet. That’s just not how love works. Every man you meet is going to have flaws. There is no perfect, infallible person out there.

It’s not to say that the right guy isn’t out there because I’m sure he is, but he probably isn’t going to be some handsome prince and your relationship isn’t going to be perfect.

Stop trying to live in a fantasyland and start deciding what real, human qualities you want in a partner. Unless you can bring yourself down to earth, you’re going to end up unsatisfied.

8. When You Finally Have a Separate Piece of Furniture to Store Your Booze

When you’ve finally gotten a bar for your apartment (NOT from Ikea!) — you can start to accept your blossoming maturity.

When you aren’t keeping your Jack Daniel's next to your salt shaker, and when you have purchased special glasses designated for alcoholic beverages (aka you’re no longer drinking vodka out of a mug that says “YOLO”).

Once you can say you’ve gotten your life together to the point you can invite someone over for a proper nightcap — that’s when you can start considering the future of your love life.

9. When You Desire an Equal

Forget Cinderella, think Mulan. You shouldn’t want your relationship to be with some guy who has to come and find you — come and save you.

Li Sheng fought for Mulan and she came fighting right back. I want a man who is willing to go to the ends of the earth for me and whom I’m willing to do the same for — not some asshat who sends his servant to stick a slipper on my lady-foot that’ll probably shatter the second I try to walk.

I am a fighter, not a damsel. We are women and we are strong. You need to come to understand enough about yourself and your personhood to desire an equal, a partner in love and in life.

You’re ready for the right guy to come along only when you’re ready to put the work in, hard, every day. You’re ready when you’re prepared to build a bond out of love and sacrifice.

10. When You Can Rely on Yourself for Money

There is nothing more satisfying than working hard to get what you want — to know that every single thing in your life you won for yourself — there is nothing sweeter than that.

Being handed everything isn’t going to serve you and it certainly isn’t going to make you the strong, independent person you want to be. Before you start looking for Mr. Right, try making yourself Miss Moneybags (or at least Miss Financiallystable).

Work towards your dreams and goals. Get to where you want to be in your career, and as a person. It’s true, sometimes the right person comes along, unexpectedly, and since you’re right for each other, you get the support you need to achieve your goals, regardless of your relationship status. But you shouldn’t expect that to happen.

And you shouldn’t wait around for a daddy with an Amex. Focus on yourself first, before focusing on someone else. If you rely on a man for money — the power structure shifts and you’re no longer the one who completely controls your life.

You should be able to pay your own student loans, your own bills, for your own groceries. You’re ready to invite a guy to come and enrich your life when you know that, without him, you can enrich your own. (See what I did there?)

11. (You Know You’ve Found the One) When You’re Willing to Put His Needs Above Yours

When you’ve found The One, “I” doesn’t exist anymore, only "we." When you’ve found The One, “me” doesn’t hold precedence anymore, only “we.” Not to diminish what I said in #1, it really is necessary to always love yourself the most (even if it’s by only a slight margin).

What I mean to say is that when everything isn’t about you anymore, when you’re willing to consider the needs and wants of this other person above your own, then that is when you can believe that you’ve truly found the person you’re meant to be with.

The key is being able to have enough self-worth, enough clean towels, enough love and enough dignity to know — and insist — that the person you end up with is truly the person you deserve to be with.

That he isn’t someone you’re with because you’re lonely or sad or just plain old sick and tired of being single — but a person who makes you a better you, a person who makes you a better version of the you that you took the precious time to fall in love with in the first place.

Photo via Favim