Relationships change over time. It’s a normal consequence of getting to know someone better, and it’s usually a good sign of long-term security. However, if you’re used to the early stages of a relationship, it can be easy to mistake this stage of a relationship as a fizzling relationship losing its spark and passion.
You know your relationship is heading towards something long-term after you’ve checked off a number of roadblocks, including gaining friends’ approval, successfully meeting the parents, and falling into a regular schedule of checking in and emotional sharing. You know your relationship is officially a long-term one when you notice these five changes.
1. You start showing your less glamorous side
When you become comfortable enough with your partner to no longer feel the need to impress them, your relationship dynamic changes significantly. Their arrival is no longer a source of anxiety or a challenge to prepare yourself to meet a certain set of expectations; instead, their arrival is a non-event, a smooth transition that doesn’t require dressing up or altering your normal behavior. If you can feel comfortable answering the door for your partner in your pajamas with unbrushed hair, you can feel comfortable sharing your more intimate thoughts and feelings with them.
Not having to present an idealized image of yourself means you and your partner can connect on a more honest level. Once you drop the pretense of impressing your partner, you can connect more honestly and your relationship has a greater chance of long-term success.
2. You start spending time with their family
Meeting the parents and spending dinner with them is a time-honored tradition in early relationships. However, in early relationships, time with your partner’s family is typically reserved for holidays and introduction dinners. Once you start seeing your partner’s parents on a regular basis, or for events more notable than a family dinner/meet and greet, that’s when you know you’re in it for the long haul. If you’re going shopping with your partner’s mom, going to the movies with your partner’s siblings or planning a family roadtrip in which you’re invited, you’ve been welcomed into the family.
3. You start doing nothing together
Early relationships are often filled with adventures, outings and dates. The two of you will find new and exciting ways to occupy your time and enjoy each other’s company to the fullest. But this activity-laden time is unsustainable, and the truest test of a long term relationship comes down to the ability to do nothing together. After all, once the honeymoon phase is over, you’re going to see periods of time when you have nothing to do. Even the most determined couple will eventually run out of new activities to try, and if you’re desperate to find ways to fill your time, it might suggest you can’t be bored together. Science suggests happy couples are those who are most comfortable doing nothing together. If your relationship has reached the point where you regularly spend low-key evenings with your partner, you’ve reached a long-term goal.
4. You manage each other’s days
Another sign that your relationship has become long-term is when your schedules become officially intertwined. You start thinking of your day in terms of both of your needs, goals and tasks. You plan dinner based on when your partner will be home from work, or schedule lunch when you both have time to grab it. You know to start checking your phone at certain points in the day when your partner has free time. You can answer invites automatically from memory, without checking in to see if your partner had something planned that day, because you tell each other all your plans. When you fall into the routine of memorizing and keeping track of each other’s schedules, you start living in sync.
5. Your finances become genuinely intertwined
Once you start a life together, you’re typically going to have to start thinking about finances. A sure sign of a long-term relationship is one in which both of your incomes contribute to your collective well-being, whether that’s shared bills, easier access to each others’ cash or going ahead and combining bank accounts for a genuine unfettered shared financial life. Good signs that your relationship is on a long-term track include coming to an understanding and acceptance about the state of each others’ finances, learning how to work around difficulties and thinking of your income as meant to benefit your shared needs.
It takes time for a relationship to transform from a short-term passionate affair to a long-term romance. Once you begin living a shared life together, you know that you’re in something serious and possibly permanent.
Lauren is a 24-year old from the Washington metropolitan area who loves to write about the struggles and experiences of being a 20-something, as well as heartbreak, love and everything in between.
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