Your relationship with your significant other is special: the things you enjoy about one another, the places where the connection is natural, and the areas you have to work at understanding one another are unique. Still, there are common signs that may help you decide if your relationship is ready to get a little bit deeper.
Whether you are thinking about becoming exclusive with one another or are considering engagement, those “next steps” can look different from one relationship to the next. Although it can be tempting to compare your relationship and its timeline to someone else’s, we recommend seeking support from a relationship counselor to guide you in the process of making joint decisions and help your conversations about the future to be fun and constructive.
What is a relationship counselor?
A relationship counselor is someone who works with you as a couple to help you achieve a healthy relationship. Your counselor can help you build communication, resolve conflicts, and process questions and challenges that you encounter as your relationship progresses.
First and foremost, do you both want the same thing?
- It is essential that both parties in the relationship are working together towards the same goal. Although it might not feel as if you are at the same stages at the same time, nothing is more important than communicating with one another about the present and the future.
Speaking of the future, can you see one with this person?
- Especially if the relationship is beginning to get serious, you should be able to picture your significant other being in your life long-term. Sharing a mutual vision for a future that includes each other will help you in the move from a casual couple to a more serious relationship status.
If you answered yes to both of these questions, then you can move from thinking about the future to taking a look at how things are working in the present. Of course, not every these question will apply to every relationship— so take them with a grain of salt!
In your current relationship, do you:
- Trust one another? Vulnerability, honesty, and trust are pivotal to make any relationship work, especially a romantic one. This trust builds confidence that will help make a lasting future.
- Support one another? A relationship is not simply being present in one another‘s lives. It is also about fully and intentionally supporting one another through the good times and the bad. Do you have this sort of support system?
- Both take responsibility for your faults? If you were wrong in your actions or during an argument, it is important, to be honest, and hold yourself accountable. Working through the problems that occur in a relationship starts with being humble enough to take responsibility for them. Are you and your partner able to admit when you’re wrong, and both apologize and forgive readily?
- Have an intimacy you are both satisfied with? The key word here is “both”. It does not have to be perfect and it does not have to be amazing all the time. However, to move forward, you have to have a consistent and solid sense of intimacy within the relationship. “Intimacy” does not just mean sex. Are you able to share on a deeper level, or are your conversations more casual?
- Have an independent life apart from your partner? Although it is important to share a life together, you have to have a level of independence from your partner. It is a wonderful sign of a healthy relationship to engage in something that is completely your own, helping you keep autonomy, tend to self-care, and be proud of your own identity.
- Share similar values or visions? At some point in your relationship, you are going to have to get onto a deeper level with your partner. Diving into this deeper level, you will clearly see your significant other‘s life, heart, and values. Even though there will inevitably be areas where you disagree, it is important that you understand one another’s priorities and values. For example, maybe one of you does not want children and the other one does. This is important to know before you get into a serious commitment for the future.
- Talk about money? Especially since it can be taboo to talk about finances in a more casual relationship, you have to have a discussion about money if you want to take the next step in a serious direction with your partner. Understanding each other’s needs, desires, and habits in this area will help eliminate stress and surprises down the road
It’s important to remember that whether it has been a couple of weeks or a couple of decades, there is always room to grow in your relationship. If you feel like you and your partner have plateaued but still want to move forward, a relationship counselor can definitely help.
If you would like a session with a counselor, you can contact the Arkansas Relationship Counseling Center to book your appointment with your loved one.