I've never really been one for the idea of love at first sight. Because love is something you do, NOT something you feel. I believe it takes time to build love. While some couples may feel love for each other right away, they haven't actually shown love to each other until they've been together for a while. And for most couples, even just feeling the love can take months or even years. Although every couple is different, these are the milestones most people hit before deciding for certain that their partner is the one. In fact, many of these can be just as meaningful as marriage, because not all couples choose to show their love with a traditional exchange of "I dos."
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One of the first milestones couples often hit is realizing that time and time again, they simply love hanging out together. If you're really going to be in this for the long haul, you have to love being together — whether that's on romantic date nights, during stressful commutes, or on lazy Sundays.
According to researchers, the honeymoon period lasts about two years. Every couple deserves to live it up for those first few years, enjoying plenty of desire and passion along the way. But to know you're really in it to win it, you should still feel love and desire for your partner post-honeymoon phase. It may not be as supercharged as it was in the beginning, but it should still feel fun.
Life with a partner isn't all sunshine and roses. Eventually, someone is inevitably going to face a low period, whether it's due to job loss, losing a family member, depression, or some other challenge. You'll truly know you're on the right track when you support your partner — and see how they support you — during times like these.
Relationships are all about compromise. It's truly a turning point in your relationship when you decide to compromise on something important, whether it's relocating for your partner's job, working overtime to pay the rent while they go back to school, or letting their sister live with you when she breaks up with her boyfriend. But what makes a relationship special is compromising with a good attitude. If you are happy to do what it takes to make your partner happy, and you don't hold any grudges because of it (and vice versa), you'll know you have what it takes to go through life together.
It can be difficult to know what fights mean for your relationship. But in reality, every couple has disagreements, and it's how you handle those disagreements that shapes who you are as a couple. It's important to know how you fight before committing to someone long-term. Successful couples have their disagreements, but fights don't happen every day (too much fighting is a bad sign) and they work through them with kindness and understanding.
Nothing is more heartbreaking than falling head over heels for someone, only to learn that they don't share your vision for the future. Before you commit to a partner, make sure you share common values and goals. This doesn't just mean kids, either — if travel is very important to you, it's absolutely crucial to choose a partner that values having new experiences. Ditto whether your goals include financial independence, living near family, buying a house in the country, or prioritizing your career. If you choose a partner with different values, your entire life will be an uphill battle.
Even if you disagree with your partner, it's important to remember that they are your number one. While this certainly doesn't mean you can't disagree on things, it does mean that you should never belittle or embarrass your partner in front of others. When choosing a long-term partner, make sure your SO is kind and supportive of you in front of other people, even if they disagree with what you're saying or doing. A common scenario in which this issue can rear its ugly head? In front of parents.
They old adage that a good partner brings out the best in you is 100 percent true. If you've noticed that you're more cheerful, more ambitious, more active, more patient, or more of any other positive quality now that you're with your lover, that's a fantastic sign that your relationship is a good fit.
A little jealousy is healthy for any relationship. Jealousy drives passion and desire, but it shouldn't overpower your sense of trust in your significant other. If you sometimes get a little jealous but you KNOW you're just being silly, you might even be able to let your jealousy become a bit of a turn-on. A healthy balance of trust and desire is important for any long-term relationship.
For many people, remaining independent when in love can be extremely difficult. In fact, many people tend to lose themselves during the honeymoon phase of a romance, only to find two years later that they've completely lost touch with themselves. But to remain happy, fulfilled, and interesting, you need to maintain some identity outside of your relationship with your partner. If you've been able to maintain this identity (or, have worked to regain it after realizing it was missing), it's a sign of good things to come in not only your relationship, but your life.
No matter how happy you are in a relationship, it's always possible that your partner may not feel the same way. Healthy couples communicate extremely well. Checking in with each other, asking if your partner is happy in your relationship, and being open about your feelings is something you should do on a regular basis.
Travel can be extremely fun and exciting, but it can also be stressful. Taking a trip with your partner can teach you so many things about each other, such as how you handle stress, whether you're more open or conservative when it comes to new experiences, and how you like to spend your leisure time.
Whether it's because you took a break from your relationship, traveled separately, or maintained a long-distance romance, taking some time apart from each other every now and then is good for your relationship. Only when you spend time apart and then come back together do you know for sure how committed you are to one another. And besides, absence makes the heart grow fonder.
While some people get together very young and stay together for life, most people who meet early in life tend to grow apart. There's a good reason for this: until roughly age 25, your brain is evolving rapidly, not yet fully developed. If you are young (or even if you're older!) and still feel like you have a lot of growing and changing left to do, it's probably not the right time for a long-term relationship. While your partner should grow and evolve along with you, it's important to enter into a long-term relationship when you already know who you are, what you value, and what you are and aren't willing to sacrifice for love.
The final milestone you'll complete before settling into true partnership or married life is expressing your commitment to each other. For many people, this means marriage, but marriage isn't a universal requirement. What's important is that you've both agreed upon sharing your lives with each other and set your expectations on your own terms. This goes back to the milestone where you talked about your vision for the future, and puts it into practice. Verbalizing and demonstrating your commitment to each other is the heart and soul of a long-term partnership — and while it may signal the end of your relationship's youthful period, it's the beginning of the most exciting part of all: your life together.