In case you’re here to find a magic checklist for how to know if he’s the one, whomever he, she, or they are, I feel obligated to share with you what I’ve told my mother before: I’m not sure if I believe in “the one.” Because when it comes to falling in love, I have to assume there is probably more than one person in this 7.7 billion population with whom you’d be fine and dandy sharing a life. Then again, that feels like the exact thing a rom-com protagonist would write before Mark Ruffalo sweeps her off her feet, and forever changes her stance on soul mates.
Still, sometimes it’s nice and confidence-affirming to have guidelines that provide a sense of whether our partner may make for a forever kind of relationship or if sex hormones are more likely just making us confused. And since I don’t have all the answers, I turned to a relationship pro, who recommends focusing on self-love first and then examining how the person makes you feel later. After all, your partner is a reflection of you.
“You know you’ve made a good choice of partner when you can fully be yourself in their company,” says relationship expert and author Susan Winter. “Knowing that you’re okay being who you are is a clear indicator that you’re with the right partner. So many times, we get sidetracked by wondering, ‘What do they want? What are they looking for?’ that we forget to check in with how we feel about ourselves in their presence.”
Still looking for that checklist? Below find 9 expert-sanctioned signs that you’ve found your person.
1. Your partner values and appreciates you
Does your partner recognize you and your contributions to the relationship? Because Winter says this is a key trait of a winner, and it’s certainly a quality to prioritize in a partner. Consider it another form of self-love: If you love yourself, it’s in your best interest to find a partner who supports that vibe and makes you feel adequately loved.
2. Your feelings and thoughts are important to your mate
Is your S.O. actually, you know, listening to you? Whether the thought in question is as simple as what you want for dinner or as complicated as your views on the Kardashians (or the 2020 election candidates (not all of us are shallow)), Winter says this a key point for measuring someone’s respect for you. If your S.O. can’t even muster a “how are you?” text and then respond appropriately, it may be cause for concern.
3. Your partner wants you to be happy and strives to be a positive contribution to your life
Again, self-love makes for real love, folks. Pay attention to how your partner is impacting your life: Do they strive to make you smile, or is the situation more akin to that of an emotional vampire?
After all, you want to be with someone who brightens your world like sunlight, not someone who weighs you down like toxic, nuclear waste. More solar power, less nuclear power.
4. Your partner is supportive of your hopes, dreams, and ambitions
Find someone who loves you for who you are, but also helps you become the person you want to be, Winter says. The partner who doesn’t support your personal evolution may not be a good match.
This point immediately brings my mind to Mad Men for evidence, because Don Draper squashed the dreams of not one but two wives, with his lack of support of Betty’s return to modeling and disapproval of Megan’s acting career. Big shocker that both of those marriages ended in divorce (although the boozing and cheating probably didn’t help either).
5. Your partner is a positive influence
Although we’re fascinated with couples who torture each other—see: Ross and Rachel, Sid and Nancy—that is not the relationship archetype you’d be wise to emulate. Like, at any age, but especially if you’re looking to get serious with someone. The goal, rather, is to be with someone who makes you better. “This means that their lifestyle and attitude is conducive to your growth, stability, and happiness,” Winter says.
6. You feel safe and secure with your partner
We all get a little jealous sometimes, but Winter suggests that the right person is someone with whom you can mostly feel at peace. Sure, some mild second-guessing might be what you’re doing now while going through this very list, but it’s a good sign if your first assumption when your S.O. picks up their phone is not that their texting an affair.
7. You don’t feel like you’re walking on eggshells through your partner’s various moods
When you’ve moved past the honeymoon phase and stop faking constant happiness and a chill response to all things, real feelings and moods come out. Winter says it’s a good sign if you feel comfortable coexisting through all of them.
There’s a really cute moment in Juno when J.K. Simmons explains the right person is someone who will love you for who you are. “Good mood, bad mood, ugly, pretty, handsome, what have you—the right person is still going to think the sun shines out your ass,” he says, with a Shakespearean eloquence. They are words to live by. Granted, if you feel like you’re walking on eggshells because your partner has serious rage issues, obviously there’s a bigger issue at play.
8. You feel that they’re in your life for all the right reasons
The right reasons are that they’re with you for who you are, not for any fringe benefits such as money or opportunity, Winter says.
9. When issues arise, you both find your way to conflict resolution
Look, every couple fights. Every couple. Even John Legend and Chrissy Teigen (I assume—they have to fight, right? Bueller?)
The couples who tell you they don’t fight are liars, not past the honeymoon phase, or are gearing up for a really extravagant divorce. Still, I think we’d all agree that constantly fighting is not something we strive for.
“Having a partner who’s ‘willing and able’ is half the battle,” Winter says. “You will have challenges, issues and disagreements. This is normal. The question to ask yourself is, ‘How important is it to my mate to address our issues, and find a method toward improvement?'” Pro tip: Communication and teamwork are generally the way to go, while throwing vases and diving into angry sex sessions may not be so effective.
But wait! I really love my S.O., but they don’t check every item!
So what if your partner doesn’t satisfy every single item on the checklist? This isn’t an exact science, just some guidelines to strive for. “No individual or two people combined are perfect,” Winter says. “All relationships will have their problems. If yours falls short in one of these points, it doesn’t necessarily mean you’ve chosen the wrong mate. What’s more important is your partner’s willingness to work with you in addressing issues of conflict.”
And if it doesn’t work out, I’m sure there’s someone else out there who could be “the one” for you. There are about 7.7 billion other fish in the sea, right?
If you and your partner are in a rough patch, here’s the skinny on whether ultimatums work in a relationship. And if it just needs a mini-makeover, here’s how to get exactly what you want from your partnership.
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