So, you are in a relationship, and things seem to be going well. You enjoy each other’s company and feel like shiny happy people when the two of you are together. Then one day, one of you gets the itch. I’m not referring to the seven year itch, that’s another topic altogether. Here, I’m talking about the itch that comes when one of you starts considering taking your relationship to the next level.
Surely, you’ve noticed that relationships happen in stages. You meet, you date, you become “a thing,” you stop seeing other people, and, if all goes well, you eventually move in together, marry, and maybe have a family, a dog, and a white-picket-fence.
When you’re in a relationship with someone you love, each of these stages bring exciting new adventures and plenty of joy. Still, it can be tricky to know if and when you’re ready to take your relationship to the next level.
Are you wrestling with how to know if you’re ready to move in together or get married (or some other big life change)? Here are 3 ways to test your readiness for romantic growth.
3 Things to Consider Before Taking Your Relationship To the Next Level
Determine if You Love Your Partner or Love The Idea of Your Partner
Do you remember that scene in “Say Anything” where Diane finally comes back to Lloyd after being apart? Even though he is completely in love with her, he hesitates and asks, “Are you here because you need someone or because you need me?”
If you’re thinking about taking your relationship to the next level, you need to ask yourself the same question.
Ask yourself truthfully if you just like the idea of being in a relationship, or if you are really smitten with your partner. Is this the kind of person you envisioned yourself moving to the next level with? Why or why not?
Not answering these questions honestly will lead to problems once the excitement of being at “the next step” wears off, so they’re important to consider before any big step.
Own Your Place In Life
Ask yourself if you want a more serious commitment right now or if you are taking your relationship to the next level because you feel like it’s what is expected of you at this stage in your life.
Remember that timing is a big factor to determine whether a relationship is right for you. If it isn’t the right time, it’s possible that it wasn’t meant to be – even if you truly care about your partner.
Don’t give up on your dreams and goals to force a partnership to work or to meet societal expectations. Doing so will only end up hurting you in the long run.
Read Between The Lines
In art, there is a concept called “white space,” which basically refers to the part of the image that the artist didn’t intentionally draw. White space occurs in relationships too. It’s what happens when you aren’t with your partner.
When you’re thinking about taking your relationship to the next level, take some time to consider your white space.
Do you think of him? Do you miss him, or, does he fail to cross your mind? How you feel when you aren’t together can be just as informative as how you feel when you are cuddling cozily.
Get Help with Taking Your Relationship to the Next Level
However you answered these questions, know that some anxiety is to be expected whenever you are considering making a big change in your life.
Whether it be moving in with someone, getting married, or simply declaring that you are in a relationship, these events represent major milestones in your life. It’s perfectly normal to feel a bit jittery before you meet his parents, for example. However, if your gut is telling you that something is wrong, listen to that feeling! Your intuition will never steer you astray.
Having trouble distinguishing between normal anxiety and a gut feeling that taking your relationship to the next level isn’t the right choice for you? Try this exercise:
Close your eyes. Take a deep breath, and breathe into your belly. Keep breathing until your belly feels full and settled.
Now, think of a time in your life when you challenged yourself to do something new and scary, but also rewarding. Notice how that feels in your belly. That’s what a little bit of anxiety about something new feels like.
Next, imagine a time in your life when you needed to get out of a situation because it was no longer good for you. Remember how it felt when you figured that out. That’s how it feels when your gut talks to you.
Finally, think of your current relationship. Which feeling do you have in your stomach now?
Use this exercise to help you make decisions about taking your relationship to the next level. But if you’re still struggling to make a decision confidently, you may also want to consider talking about the situation with a couples therapist or individual therapist.