Many of us want the kind of love only a romantic partnership can provide. And with all the different ways you can meet someone today, finding a partner you like isn’t too difficult, depending on how open you are to the possibilities. But just because you may want a relationship, doesn’t always mean you’re fully ready for one.
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“Relationships are part of the foundation that creates a happy and healthy life,” Stephanie Lee, relationship therapist and founder of Successfully Me, tells AwesomenessTV. “Although it’s a natural desire, we aren’t always prepared for it when comes.”
Like anything major in life, being in a serious relationship for the first time requires some preparation. After all, when you’re fully prepared, you’re better able to overcome any challenges that might come your way.
So how do you know if you’re actually ready to get serious? Here are some ways to tell, according to experts.
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1. You have a happy and healthy head space.
How do you really feel about yourself? According to relationship expert Kate Hooper, people who tend to be great in relationships often attract positive partners because they’re positive people themselves.
“You will never enter a relationship with your best foot forward if you aren’t balanced emotionally,” Hooper tells AwesomenessTV. “How you feel about yourself will directly impact how you feel about a partner. So confidence in yourself, including your wants and needs for your future, is a great foundation for a healthy relationship.”
In short, it all starts with you.
2. Your reason for wanting a relationship doesn’t stem from FOMO or jealousy.
Why do you want to be in a relationship? The reality is, everyone has their own reasons. But if yours have anything to do with the fact that all your friends are posting #relationshipgoals-worthy photos on Instagram while you’re still single, relationship coach Lesli Doares says you want a relationship for the wrong reasons.
“It can be frustrating to be the third wheel or feel like something’s wrong with you if all your friends are pairing up,” Doares tells AwesomenessTV. “But that is the wrong reason to get involved with someone. It can set you up for ‘sliding’ behaviors instead of ‘deciding’ ones.”
That means you’re more likely to get into a relationship with just anyone rather than waiting for someone who’s truly a better match for you. You’re also more likely to stay in a sucky relationship because it’s easier than breaking up.
But when you’re really ready for a relationship, you want one because you have a partner who compliments your life and makes you happy. Not one you’re with out of desperation.
3. You have a healthy and grounded view on relationships.
Do you recognize that relationships (and your potential partner) aren’t supposed to be picture-perfect all the time? We all have our expectations going into a relationship. But if you’re entering a relationship with an idea that it’s “supposed” to be a certain way and you won’t accept anything less, you’re just setting yourself up for a huge letdown that you might not be prepared for.
“It’s easy to think of a relationship as all hearts and flowers, but there will be times you may have to deal with disappointment,” Doares says. “Being able to deal with the feelings disappointment evokes is important. The goal is not to have those feelings, but to be able to manage them in a healthy way.”
When you don’t believe relationships are supposed to be perfect, you’re better able to overcome any challenges that come your way.
4. You’re not focused on what you’ll get out of it.
I had a friend in college who liked having a boyfriend because she hardly ever had to pay for food. While that can be an added bonus, that should never be an expectation.
“I think the one great way of knowing that you’re ready to be in a relationship is when your focus is on what you want to give, rather than what you want to get,” licensed psychologist Dr. Tanisha M. Ranger tells AwesomenessTV.
“Relationships have no place for selfishness. When a person’s thoughts about getting into a relationship are focused on what they want to give to a partner and share with a partner, that is a good indicator that they will be ready to care for someone.”
5. You have the time and energy to invest in someone.
When you’re in college, there’s a lot of juggling involved. Between school, work, internships, and organizations you’re in, making time for a relationship can be difficult.
“Relationships take a lot of time and energy in order to be successful,” dating expert James Anderson tells AwesomenessTV. “If you feel like you have time to dedicate every week toward growing your relationship, you are in a good place. If you’re not ending every day worn out, even better. You don’t want to set yourself up for failure by starting a relationship that you can’t spend time enjoying or improving.”
If being in a relationship isn’t a priority to you, you’re probably not ready for one. Nobody wants to emotionally invest in someone who’s always going to be “too busy.”
6. The thought of deleting your dating apps doesn’t make you itchy.
Are you really ready to date just one person? Even if the thought of marriage is far from your mind, it’s still important to stay faithful to your partner, especially if you’ve agreed to be exclusive. That means you know you won’t be tempted to text your ex or even respond to someone who says you’re cute and wants to get to know you.
“When you open one door, remember you have to close others,” relationship coach Cindi Sandone-Braff tells AwesomenessTV. “You can’t keep looking at dating apps, texting other people who are after you, and hanging out with other potential partners. You have to be ready to let go of the hook-up mentality, which is about fun and games, and be ready for the hard work involved in maintaining a real relationship.”
So if you know you can dedicate your energy to just one person and you’re not going to be jumping at the chance to go with the next best thing, you’re probably ready for a relationship.
7. You’re doing it for yourself.
“People get into relationships for many reasons, whether it’s because they want to hook up, they’re feeling lonely, or feeling pressure from friends and family,” says dating coach Jonathan Bennett. “Look at why you want a relationship. If it’s due to outside pressure, then perhaps you don’t truly want one. But if you look inside yourself and know that you’re doing it for yourself, then the time is right.”
According to Lee, the worst thing you can do is try to “find purpose” or find out who you are through a relationship with someone else.
“You’re truly ready for a serious relationship when you’re sure of who you are and what you stand for,” she says. “By knowing this and being comfortable with yourself, you are less likely to allow yourself to engage in a relationship that doesn’t serve you in a positive or healthy way.”
When you’re in your early 20s, it may seem like being in a relationship is easy. When you’ve never been in one, of course you’re going to do all you can to make it happen. But don’t ever think a relationship is the key that will unlock your happiness.
Often times, when you’re not really ready for a relationship, you’re going to be in one that only makes you miserable. But when you’re truly ready for a relationship, you’ll be in it for the right reasons, and you’re much more likely to be happy.