After dating Alena for almost two years, and living with her for a year, we got to know each other in all seasons.  After a while – like most couples – we were thinking about our future together.  I was thinking about whether she was the one to marry.  For couples who are considering a long-term commitment, here are some ways to tell if you’ve found the one:

- He or she has all the qualities that you must have in a partner, and their negative qualities are ones you can live with.  Nobody’s perfect.  Everyone has good qualities and some flaws.  Think through what you must have in a partner, and what you’re flexible with.  If you and your partner are a match with the important things that make a relationship work – such as lifestyle, values, and long term goals – then that person is likely a keeper.  With Alena, it took me years to find someone who is attractive, healthy, open minded, loyal, generous, and looking for a relationship and family, and I knew it would be difficult for me to find someone like her again.  She is a bit messier than me, but I can live with it because her great qualities far outweigh that minor issue.

- You can be yourself around him/her.  If you’re constantly walking on eggshells and have to be someone you’re not around your partner, you should think twice about whether you should stay in the relationship.  Even if you have differences, a good partner respects and accepts who you are, and doesn’t try to control or criticize you for being you. With Alena, she likes the real me, with all my goofy jokes and flaws.  She's not as extroverted as I am, but has never said that I couldn’t hang out with my friends.  And knowing that she enjoys art and fitness, I’ve never stopped her from doing the things she loves.  People rarely change – they are who they are – so if you’re not comfortable with their true self or can’t be yourself with them, it’s time to move on.

- You become a better version of yourself.  When I was single, I felt complete as a person.  I led a healthy lifestyle, dressed well, was smart about finances, and had a solid career.  I was happy and didn’t need a partner to complete me, but being with Alena, I was a better version of myself than I would have been on my own.  With Alena, I ate healthier, drank less (it was great to find someone who didn’t drink much either), dressed better, and spent less money ($7,000/year less to be exact at bars and restaurants since we were cooking more at home).  With a family on our minds, I was more motivated than ever to advance in my career and land a promotion. If you’re in a relationship where you’re feeling disrespected, less confident, and less secure, it’s time to get out, because good partners build each other up, and don’t tear each other down. 

Takeaway

- Take your time.  All new couples should take the time to get to know their partner.  Most people are typically in their best behavior when you meet them for the first time and in the first few dates, but eventually their true side comes out.  All the quirky, “cute” habits from the first few dates (like being clumsy, messy, goofy, etc.) will either become traits that you grow to love, come to accept, or get annoyed with.  All couples are different, but we recommend that couples should be together for at least one year to see each other in all seasons and moods, each other’s best and worst behavior, and how they treat other people, especially your close friends and family.
 


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All of this is so true! I would also add that you should not only be together for 1 year, but also live together for 1 year (if that is not against your values). Living together really makes you see how much you can tolerate the other person's quirks (or messiness =P ).

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