Our advice for successful dating

Article 15

What to do when you want to get serious

So you've met someone you really like, and you've finally stopped worrying about whether they like you back. You've spent the past few weeks full of smiles and butterflies and have realised that you want a long-term relationship with this person. But how do you know if the time is right to to have that all important conversation with your partner?

Ideally you should let your relationship evolve at its own pace. Focus on enjoying each day as it happens, rather than on the direction of your relationship or whether your partner sees a long-term future for the two of you.

In practice, not all of us are confident enough to let our relationships to take shape by themselves. Instead we end up asking our partners things like, “where is this going?” which can put them under pressure and on the defensive. (Much like when your boss asks you to “come in for a chat”). Interrogating your partner won't always help to encourage their commitment, but there is a middle ground, where you can allow your relationship to evolve whilst giving it a few gentle nudges in the right direction.

For this to work, you need to notice and respond to your partner's signals. For example if they seem reluctant to introduce you to their family, you should avoid pushing things forward too fast. Their hesitancy may be down to a recent divorce or protectiveness towards their children, so don't take it as a rejection, and don't push for explanations. Be patient, and enjoy the relationship and quality time together that the two of you have.

On the other hand if your partner is keen to introduce you to friends and family, and regularly suggests places to visit together in the future, they likely have a long term view. If you share their enthusiasm and want to move your relationship forward, here are a few ways to do it.

Let them get to know your friends and family

Letting your new partner into your “inner circle” will make them feel accepted and important. It'll also make them more likely to reciprocate. If you have children, be especially sensitive to their feelings when introducing them to your new partner, and don't force the issue just for the sake of your relationship.

Make a nod towards the future

Make a few firm plans together, such as buying concert tickets or booking a weekend away. Your partner should be in on the plan – don't just assume that they'll be delighted to go on holiday with you next year. Wild assumptions can be counter-productive and scare them away.

Be easy company

You want your partner to feel comfortable around you and enjoy every moment in your company. That means being relaxed, companionable and honest. If you're happy in your own skin when you're around them, they'll be more likely to feel the same way.

Handle a crisis with grace

If you come up against one of life's major stumbling blocks such as redundancy, illness or bereavement, demonstrate to your partner that you can provide the support and understanding that they need. And even if it's something that seems trivial to you, like stressing about what to wear to an upcoming family occasion - show that you can empathise with them and take it in your stride. They’ll thank you for it.

Give each other space

Paradoxically, allowing each other more space is a sign of greater closeness. It shows that you trust and respect each other enough not to need constant contact. Maintaining your own interests and friendships will also help to keep your relationship fresh.

Say “I love you” for the first time – because you really mean it

Five or six months into a relationship may seem like a long time to wait before saying “I love you,” but at that stage your partner really knows that you mean it. What's more, a first “I love you” at six months takes your relationship to a new level in a way that it never could on your third date.

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