There comes a time in every relationship when you have to decide whether or not to take the next step. Maybe you’re considering asking the person you’re dating to be exclusive. Maybe you and your partner are thinking about moving in together. Or, perhaps you are discussing engagement and marriage. Regardless of the specific relationship commitment you’re considering, it’s common to question whether or not taking the next step is the right decision. You might be feeling pressure from the person you’re dating, your family or society at large, which makes it difficult to keep a clear head and think about what you really want out of your relationship. The following questions can help you move forward with clarity and confidence.
1. Are you and your partner flexible and compassionate?
For a relationship to last, it’s important to be able to approach your partner with patience, understanding and flexibility. Although you and you partner are likely very close, you are not the same person, and it takes work to truly understand where the other is coming from, especially during periods of strain and stress. Life is unpredictable, and sometimes, it’s necessary to let go of the small stuff and adapt to your partner’s needs in the moment.
2. Do you and your partner have strong conflict resolution skills?
No two people agree with each other 100 percent of the time. When considering a relationship commitment, ask yourself how you and your partner handle disagreements. Do you give each other the silent treatment or yell and criticize? Does one of you just go along with what the other wants, allowing resentment to grow beneath the surface? Or, are you able to have honest, productive conversations with one another? If things do get heated, are you able to apologize, reconnect and heal? Although you may not have encountered a large conflict yet, it’s important to prepare for inevitable road bumps in the future.
3. Are your lifestyles compatible?
Taking the next relationship commitment step can feel exciting and romantic – and it should! However, as you celebrate your feelings, it’s also wise to remember the practical concerns that come with joining your life with another individual. For example, are you just as happy eating together at home as you are going out on dates? Do you work similar hours with similar commutes? Do you enjoy doing the same activities on the weekend? When your interests and schedules differ, are you and your partner comfortable spending time apart? You might find it useful to make a list of particular issues, responsibilities, habits and/or hobbies that are important to you and think about how you are willing to adapt your life to blend with your partner’s.
4. Are you and your partner comfortable being quiet together?
A long-term relationship isn’t all about elaborate dates and romantic gestures. Especially if you are considering moving in together or getting married, ask yourself whether or not you feel content and fulfilled just being with your partner. Do you foster intimacy and connection in the quiet moments? Are you happy doing separate things while sitting in the same room? This doesn’t mean you have to settle for a dull, predictable relationship. Instead, asking yourself these questions can help you feel sure that you experience joy and fulfillment with your partner – the person – and not solely in the adventure.
If you’ve answered “yes” to all of these questions, you are likely ready to make a deeper relationship commitment. If you’re still feeling unsure or even terrified, know that you’re not alone, and there’s no need to plunge ahead if you’re not ready. Take some time to reflect on your own, open an honest conversation with your partner and discuss what you both want for the future. You don’t need to have all of these questions completely figured out, but keeping them in mind can help you nurture a healthy, happy relationship now and in the future.