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Laughing man and woman sitting together as they each wonder whether their casual relationship has the potential for something serious.


Are you and your crush ready for a real relationship? Check this list before you level-up.

Andy Phillips   |   Fri, 11 Aug 2023

Here’s a dating dilemma for you: how do you know if your relationship is ready to transition from “casual” to “committed”?

It’s a complicated question, especially given the instant-gratification / hookup culture cultivated by many dating apps. When you're in the habit of swiping right on repeat, you may not be attuned to signs of love and longevity.

Don’t stress. While there’s no fool-proof science to knowing when you should take the next step, being in touch with your emotions, learning to read the romantic room, and assessing core compatibility can help you determine whether your relationship status is due for an upgrade.

Understand your own feelings

The first step in knowing if you’re ready to go from dating to duo is to reflect on your own emotions. Here are some questions you can ask yourself to gauge how you really feel about your potential partner.

Am I able to recognize the difference between infatuation and genuine affection right now? The early days of dating are intoxicating, and the endorphin-adrenaline cocktail it crafts can be as misleading as it is magical. Clarity only comes with time. If your fling is fairly new, it might be best to hold steady before you go steady. When the initial whirlwind has settled, you can be more objective about your feelings.

Am I constantly thinking about my potential partner, and, more importantly, do they deserve the headspace? “Attractive and appealing” is one thing; “good for you” is another. If your casual crush doesn’t tick both boxes, they’re not worth the daydream, let alone the real deal. If they do, it might be worth taking a leap of faith.

Am I maintaining my sense of self? Am I seeking a relationship for the right reasons? “I don’t want to be alone” is rarely a good reason to pursue a relationship. Maintaining independence and self-awareness is critical even when deeply involved with someone, so make sure you’re full of self-love before seeking it externally.

Assess whether the feeling is mutual

Once you’re sure that you’re ready for a serious relationship, it’s time to assess whether your potential partner is on the same page. The easiest way to do that, of course, is to ask directly. But if it feels too premature for a candid convo, be on the lookout for green flags like the ones below.

You’re equally curious about each other. Take stock of your communication habits. Do your conversations involve a healthy give-and-take, and do they suggest that you're equally curious about each other? If you’re having two-way discussions that have progressed beyond surface-level small talk, chances are good that you’ve both caught true feelings.

You spend quality time with each other beyond “official” dates. When you both find excuses to hang casually (like suggesting breakfast after a night out or accompanying each other on errands), you could be creeping into “commitment” territory.

You’ve glimpsed each other’s inner circles. Don’t underestimate the importance of a good group hang. If you’ve invited each other to go out with friends, green flags are soaring. Think about it: do you really invite a random fling into the sanctuary of your inner circle? Probably not.

Consider compatibility, not just chemistry

Initial attraction only evolves into genuine attachment if chemistry is matched by compatibility. But how do you know if the initial spark is a sign of something more? Here are a few clues.

You both feel compelled to share your time, interests, and space. Making room in your routine for another person can be tricky, but if you find yourselves willingly seeking ways to accommodate schedules and share activities, your connection may transcend pure chemistry.

You’ve handled early challenges and disagreements with grace. Let’s face it: the honeymoon period of any relationship doesn’t last long. Disagreements and challenges are part of life, and how you face your first round of roadblocks says a lot about your long-term odds. If you can do so with grace, respect, and a sense of “we” versus “me,” you’re establishing a good foundation for something real.

You share values and visions for the future. While you may not be discussing a shared future yet, it’s telling if you share similar values and long-term goals. Marriage, kids, careers, finances, religion, politics, etc. ... discussing your perspectives on these issues tend to be make-or-break moments, so if you’re in sync on the important stuff, it suggests real compatibility.

Examine the external

Another important component to analyze in a romantic do-we-or-don’t-we scenario is life outside of your relationship. Think about how external factors will affect your twosome and vice versa. For example:

Outside of romance, do you feel content and stable in your life? Are you on a career path that’s fulfilling? Do you feel in control financially? What about your physical and mental health? Now think about how a serious relationship will affect those issues (and vice versa). Will love bring balance to or overwhelm your situation? If you lean toward the latter, it might not be the right time to level-up.

What do your friends and family think of your relationship dynamic? When it comes to relationships, relying on outside opinions is often questionable, but your friends and family have a bird’s eye view of your relationship dynamic that can be revealing. Ultimately only you can decide if your potential partner is a good fit, but don't outright ignore your loved ones' perspectives. We’re not always great at recognizing our own reality.

Where do you stand in terms of previous relationship baggage? Are there any ghosts haunting you ... or skeletons in your closet? As much as it’s possible, make peace with old pain, relinquish old resentment, and forgive yourself for past mistakes before you embark on something new.

The stages between “casual” and “committed” can be a confusing time, but at the end of day, remember that your focus should be your personal happiness … and that your primary barometer should be whether a relationship enhances – not detracts – from your well being. Trust your gut, listen to your heart, and above all else, take care of yourself.


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