When things get serious how to go from “single” to “in a relationship”

When things get serious how to go from “single” to “in a relationship”

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In This Article

As if finding love through boundless dating apps wasn’t mystifying enough, determining when it’s time for you and your S.O. to update your statuses to “In a Relationship” is a completely different conundrum. Even if sparks are flying on every date and you have incredible chemistry between the sheets, it isn’t necessarily a guarantee that you’re headed past the “just seeing each other” stage.

Whether you’re looking to play the field or you’re ready to get serious about finding “the one,” it helps to know the point of casual dating and how to tell when it’s becoming long-term. As with any relationship—romantic or otherwise—keep in mind that you should always communicate your expectations to avoid being blindsided. Desires for monogamy can vary from person to person. So how do you know if your partner wants to keep it casual or if you’re heading toward a serious relationship? It can start with setting boundaries (and whether that includes other people).

Read on to learn what it means to be casually dating, and when it’s time to make it official.

Casual Dating

When you can’t get someone off your mind, it can be especially hard if you don’t know what they want. Is it turning into something more, or do they just think you’re friends with benefits? At the beginning of a relationship, it’s important to discuss your intentions. That doesn’t mean you’ll have all the answers from the start—some relationships start casually, and not everyone needs the same amount of time to make it official. If your partner hints at a future where you’re exclusive, they’re likely open to the possibility of a relationship. On the other hand, they might keep a guarded schedule and prioritize their time with other people.

One problem with friends with benefits is that people seldom talk about their expectations or feelings.

According to a report from the Pew Research Center, about 50 percent of all single people aren’t interested in a serious relationship. Another 10 percent are strictly looking for casual dates. If you’re hoping to get serious with your casual partner, those odds may not be encouraging…but like all matters of the heart, the best way to know what they want comes down to communication. “One problem with friends with benefits is that people [seldom] talk about their expectations or feelings,” says expert Paul Joannides, Psy.D. “They don’t talk with each other about their relationship, which is still a relationship of sorts, even if it’s not filled with ‘I love you’s.'”

For many people, the beauty of casual dating is that it doesn’t have to be exclusive. If you’ve just left a serious relationship, you may not be ready to settle down anytime soon. You might also still be finding yourself—so if one person can’t meet all your needs right now, it’s okay to focus on you while exploring what you want from a partner.

Dating Exclusively

The halfway point between casual dating and serious relationships is often a gray area of “dating exclusively.” This is a great time to feel out whether your partner is right for you. You may not be committed to the long haul yet, but you’re both ready to agree that you won’t see other people for the time being.

Good relationships start with good decisions and evaluating your beliefs before you start a relationship is the most important thing you can do.

When you’ve decided to be exclusive, you might treat each other as serious partners without the weight of a full-on relationship. Take time to get to know your partner and understand their values, romantic desires, and interests to ensure they align with yours. It’s also a time for exploring what life would be like together—go on dates, try new things, and be vulnerable with your thoughts or concerns. “Good relationships start with good decisions and evaluating your beliefs about relationships and love before you start a relationship is the most important thing you can do. You must be sure that your expectations are realistic in order to have a happy and functional long-term relationship,” says licensed clinical psychologist Seth Meyers, Psy.D. In this stage of dating, it’s important to decide whether this person highlights your best self or if you’re seeing red flags. “The purpose of a romantic union is to provide support and bring out the best in each other so that each individual has the nourishment and strength to go out in the world and reach [their] life goals.”

In a Relationship

Once you’ve found the right person, a committed relationship can grow. Sometimes one partner might have different views than the other, so be sure to communicate your feelings. This is a time for setting boundaries and discussing your future. The decision to make it official can be exciting, but it’s important to set yourselves up for success: Be sure you both expect the same things in terms of commitment, and you’re not bringing past burdens to your new S.O.

“Think now about the relationship dynamics that typically evolve over the course of the months or years with your own partners,” says expert Susan Krauss Whitbourne, Ph.D. “Do you have trouble communicating your feelings? Do you tend to get involved in petty arguments? Does it bother you when your partner pays attention to other people?” Issues from previous relationships may carry over, so be honest when evaluating yourself. If you’ve experienced patterns of problems with your exes, it’s possible—even likely—that they could happen again. Take time to communicate any worries to your partner so you both know what is and isn’t acceptable in your future.

When to Break Things Off

Breaking up is never easy, but it’s safe to say that ghosting is harmful to both people. If you’re unhappy with your casual partner, express your feelings while being careful to respect the other person. Another sign that it’s time to reconsider your relationship is if you’re emotionally cheating. It might feel awkward to break up with someone you’re not dating, but it’s best to communicate clearly about where you stand. On the flip side, if your casual partner seems like their mind is somewhere else, it may be a sign that they’re not planning to make things serious. It’s still a good idea to have a conversation to let them know when you don’t want to see each other anymore.

Whether you’re ready to commit or you decide it’s best to be on your own, casual dating has its benefits (even if the relationship ends). Dating different people is a great way to learn what you want in romance—and even learn more about yourself. So when you’ve met someone you like, regardless of future intentions, be open to exploring. Those laid-back relationships might even be the key to discovering your dream partner.

Emotional Pisces wants your unconditional love and support.

Pisces is the last sign of the zodiac, and it can sometimes be hard a difficult sign to understand. As a water sign, Pisces is prone to traveling and going with the flow, just as water would do in a river. Symbolized by two fish, the sign represents a deep connection to the spiritual world. One fish looks to the heavens, while the other is earthbound. As you might guess, a relationship with Pisces is an incredible treat, but there are certain things a Pisces needs from a relationship to take it (and their partner) seriously. Both the Pisces man and woman tend to be creative, compassionate, generous, friendly, and in touch with their emotions.

Out of all the signs in the zodiac, Pisces craves love, romance, and deep connection more than any other. “Pisces needs a lot of reassurance, romance, and attention, and will give the same in return,” astrologer Suzie Kerr Wright told Bustle. And if you’ve ever wondered if Pisces is loyal, the answer is yes — they care deeply about finding their soul mate, so they’re less likely to date casually or hook up just for fun. For Pisces, dating can go from zero to 60 pretty quickly; they won’t make much of an effort with dating unless they see that a genuine relationship full of passion and intimacy is on the line.

Here’s what Pisces needs to see in a relationship before they’re ready to see it through long-term.

1. Pisces needs the freedom to be themselves.

People born under this sign are highly creative, and they want to follow their desires almost instinctively. Although they aim to please their partners, their passions sometimes take precedence above all else.

Trying to control Pisces into doing something other than what they believe is their innate talent or inherent nature will not work. It will only cause a wedge in the relationship, and Pisces may ultimately leave in search of someone they believe to be more compatible.

2. Pisces needs unconditional kindness, and to know you support their dreams.

If you’re dating a Pisces, you know this one already: They’re often quiet, and they’re not quick to let other people into their hearts. But that doesn’t mean they don’t care about their loved ones, or that they aren’t opinionated. It’s the opposite. Pisces are extremely loyal, and they’ll do anything it takes to achieve the life they dream about — including their love life.

They’re also very empathetic and can be guarded about who they allow to get close to them. “Because Pisces absorb absolutely everything, they cannot (and will not) tolerate any form of meanness,” astrologer Aliza Kelly wrote in Cosmopolitan. “So avoid being overly critical of your Pisces, and if you need to express frustrations, be sure to use a calm voice and gentle language — otherwise, this sensitive siren may head for smoother water faster than you can throw down an anchor.”

Pisces is also a steadfast dreamer who often has their head in the clouds. They love to create and often work in the arts, including the fields of writing, painting, photography, dance, or theater. Supporting your Pisces partner in all of their creative endeavors is a one-way ticket to their heart.

3. Pisces’ partner should understand their emotions.

Pisces can be hard to understand sometimes because although they’re very emotional, they don’t always let that show. They’re introspective but won’t wear their heart on their sleeve unless they’re around people they trust deeply. “Pisces is always in the midst of a spiritual awakening,” wrote Kelly. “Of course, that doesn’t mean this sea creature will always tell you how they’re feeling. Pisces are emotional sponges, but they’re not necessarily the best at ‘wringing out’ their internal experiences.”

This means that if you’re dating a Pisces, you should pay attention to the subtle clues that hint at how they’re feeling. Do they clam up when they’re sad? Do they insist on being alone when they’re upset? Pay attention to their quirks. “The more time you spend with your Pisces babe, the more you’ll learn to understand these subtle shifts in energy. But even in a healthy, long-term bond, there may be aspects to your Pisces love that are still shrouded in mystery. And that’s totally fine,” wrote Kelly.

The effort is worth it because if you’re willing to spend a little time asking your Pisces partner what they’re feeling, they’ll feel seen and heard by you. Once they get there, Pisces can make extremely loyal lovers.

4. Physical intimacy with Pisces should be meaningful.

Pisces looks for people who are attracted not only to their bodies, but also to their minds and spirits. Pisces prides itself on being intelligent and connected to more than just the physical world, and they want a partner who shares that curiosity.

That means physical intimacy isn’t just physical — ideally, they’d like a mind-body experience that surprises, delights, and indulges them. “Pisces are known for their vivid imaginations, so the more inventive you are with your romantic sentiments, the more Pisces will find themselves head over heels,” wrote Kelly. From dirty talk to cuddling, Pisces wants it all.

5. Pisces needs their partner to support and trust their intuition.

Pisces trusts what they feel, and they often don’t budge. You can’t convince Pisces to stop feeling the way they’re feeling, since this is what guides their decisions. They find deeper meaning in self-reflection.

Although you might think your Pisces partner is mysterious, know that they’re sensitive, loving, curious, and gentle. They’re empathetic, caring, and giving. Once you earn their trust, they’ll be your ride-or-die for the long haul.

Additional reporting by Hannah Orenstein.

This article was originally published on 02.27.16

When things get serious how to go from “single” to “in a relationship”

If things seem to be going well with someone you just started dating, you might begin to wonder if they’re truly interested in a long-term relationship. It’s common to speculate, and search for signs they’re as happy and interested in commitment as you are. But even though it may be awkward, it’s almost always better to skip all that and simply ask.

“You don’t want to fall for a person who doesn’t share your goals,” Jonathan Bennett, relationship and dating expert at Double Trust Dating, tells Bustle. “Knowing the truth quickly will allow you to find and date different people who want a long-term relationship.” There are, however, a few early signs and signals to watch out for that may mean this person is thinking long-term — even if you haven’t had that chat yet.

Once you notice these signs, it should give you the confidence to talk about the future. “If you think the person is interested in commitment and you have that same goal, I would advise working to move the relationship in a more committed direction,” Bennett says. “Be intentional about having important conversations, like defining the relationship and establishing some degree of exclusivity.” That way, you can both be on the same page — no speculation required. Here, a few ways to tell if someone might be interested in a long-term relationship, according to experts.

They’ve Had Long-Term Relationships In The Past

If your new love interest seems like they might be interested in something long-term, you very well may be right — especially if they have a history of commitment.

“Past behavior is the biggest predictor of future behavior,” Bennett says. “If the person you’re dating has typically pursued long-lasting relationships, it’s a very good sign [they] will want to get into another one.”

When things get serious how to go from “single” to “in a relationship”

by Sonya Rhodes, PhD and Susan Schneider, coauthors of “The Alpha Woman Meets Her Match: How Strong Women Can Find Love and Happiness Without Settling.”

In some ways, online dating and social media have leveled the playing field: Women can take charge of their dating and sex lives in ways they haven’t before. We can initiate dates or group hangouts just as easily as men do. The dating world revolves around making the right proactive choices — and this means that if you’re ready for a monogamous relationship, you have to be clear about your goals, both to yourself and prospective partners.

Consider this advice:

1. Finding a partner is a project and requires time and energy. If what you want is a long-term relationship, approach it with your goals in mind. The right mindset is key: Start out by knowing that you are in control of the process.

2. If you’re looking online, do your profile with a friend — this will help you lighten up. Don’t boast or be self-deprecating. Be funny, short and concise, and don’t sound too cutesy. A photo that shows you actively pursuing an interest is good because it offers information without being wordy.

3. Scan profiles selectively. Pick out three or four guys and signal your interest. When you contact someone, refer to a remark he/she made in their profile. If someone shows an interest in your profile, remember that you are not obligated to respond unless you want to. You be the judge.

4. With several prospects, start an email exchange. But limit your emails to no more than two or three before suggesting a face-to-face meeting. Anyone who wants to prolong emailing is not interested in a relationship. He/she likes the anonymity of email flirting. Avoid this person — he could be married, in another relationship or just a creep.

4. Arrange a coffee or drink at a convenient location. Talk about things you like to do, your job, college stories or recent experiences. (Be on time — showing up is at least 50% of success!)

5. Pay attention to whether there is a good balance in the conversation. Does he dominate? Do you? Are you finding common interests? Avoid talking about your or his problems. Do not give advice even if he is begging for it; this is a bad way to start. Stay upbeat.

6. On first dates, make sure you have other plans afterward and keep them, regardless of how things are going. If you’re underwhelmed with this person, you will have a good escape route. If you are having a great time and don’t want to leave, stick to your previous plan. If you are interested, say so explicitly upon leaving. (This may sound too forward, but there is nothing wrong about being clear.)

7. Offer to split the check. Nowadays, single, college-educated women under the age of 30 are often making more money than men, so don’t stand on ceremony waiting for him to pay.

8. Wait to see if he initiates an email or text. If he doesn’t, cross him off your list. He’s not interested or available. Start over.

9. If he emails or texts (or makes the extra effort to make a phone call!), respond, but move along and suggest meeting again. This should be a real date with a fixed time and place. If he wants to keep it spontaneous, with something like “Let’s try for Tuesday,” don’t bother putting it on your calendar. It’s just not likely to happen.

10. After you’ve met, beware of texts that arrive at odd times and are friendly but unaccompanied by a suggestion of a date. These are false positives because they suggest more intimacy than is real. Don’t be taken in. Most likely, he’s bored and is just playing with his phone. Respond only if you have seen him in person within the last week.

Postscript: If you start seeing someone on a fairly regular basis (at least once a week), realize that you are only beginning a relationship. Go slowly. Get to know him. See whether he is consistent, reliable and respectful. If you are sleeping exclusively with him and are beginning to take him seriously, consider discussing whether he is interested in having a monogamous relationship. If he balks, start over! The two of you don’t share the same goals.

November 3, 2016 By Kate

When things get serious how to go from “single” to “in a relationship”You start dating a girl, you like her, and you wonder if she’s in it for the long haul. How can you tell if she’s committed to you or not? You watch for the signs of not wanting to commit and then – when you feel the signs are there -you ask her about it so that you can know for sure.

I have spent a lot of time in relationships where my partner didn’t want to commit, and I kept my eyes shut, pretending that they were just warming up to me and would eventually decide that I was the perfect one for them. I wish I hadn’t done that!

When you see these signs of not being committed, you need to pay attention. If not, you could end up wasting months or years with the wrong woman and then regret it later on as you say things like, “It was so clear that she wasn’t into me for the long-term!”

I want you to keep in mind, though, that even if you recognize signs of not being committed, she may still be someone who wants to be with you for the long run. She may just be scared of commitment, which doesn’t mean that she doesn’t like or love you. So, you should really talk to her about your concerns and ask her to be honest so that you are not just guessing how she feels, but you know how she feels.

Four Big Signs That She Doesn’t Want To Commit

1. When Things Get Serious She’s Out Of There!

When anything important gets brought up, she changes the subject or gets out of the conversation altogether. This can include future plans, meeting your parents, or talking about how you really feel about her. All of these things could potentially cause your relationship to go to the next level, and a woman who is scared to commit will not want to broach these topics at all.

2. Her History Speaks For Itself

If she has a ton of short-lived relationships, and she is a pretty decent person, then she very well could be scared of commitment. She has probably left her past relationships when they became too serious and scary for her.

Often commitment-phobes will say their exes were crazy and wanted too much out of them, such as marriage or children. The chances that all of their exes were psychotic people and were trying to get her to marry them quickly are very slim. So if she talks about almost all of her exes as too clingy or needy, then the problem may not be them.

3. She Gets Upset When Her Freedom Seems To Be Dwindling

A woman who is scared of commitment wants her space and freedom – even if she is in a relationship.

If you notice that she gets really upset at the thought of not being able to do what she wants to do, when she wants to do it, then she is probably scared of what commitment will do to her life.

Look for signs of wanting a lot of time apart and not even considering staying over too often or moving in. Also, if she wants to go out with her single friends all the time, and doesn’t want you to come, that’s a huge sign that she still feels like she fits in with those girls and may not be taking your relationship too seriously.

A woman who is in a committed relationship may want to go out with her friends once in a while, but she won’t choose them over you the majority of the time and she definitely won’t act like a single girl.

4. She Is Unfaithful

If she doesn’t want to be committed, her mindset will allow her to do what she wants to do, including other people. She doesn’t see herself as ‘tied down’ so she doesn’t act like it! (The ironic thing is that these people will also play mind games with you when they get caught because they don’t want to lose you. Mostly because you have the upper hand over them.)

This doesn’t have to be about sex. I’ve been out with women in a relationship who will easily kiss and rub against guys without a second thought. It’s obvious their relationship is not an obstacle standing in their way of flirting with other guys, which means that they are not that committed to the relationship.

How To Make Her Commit

When things get serious how to go from “single” to “in a relationship”

If they don’t want to commit to you, then you cannot make them commit. You cannot tie them down in some way and keep them prisoner. It just won’t work.

I have seen people of all ages act in ridiculous ways trying to make their partner commit to them. Women trying to get pregnant and men doing anything just to please their woman, and it never works!

If you are going to change someone’s mind and make them commit to you, then you have to be someone worth committing to. You have to be someone that they can see themselves with for the rest of their lives.

That is why playing games will not get them to commit to you! They don’t want a desperate person who acts insanely to win their love.

Instead, be a guy that has all the traits of someone who she can see herself spending her life with.

  • Be fun
  • Be lovable
  • Be intelligent
  • Be supportive and understanding
  • Be honest
  • Be compassionate
  • Be a guy with goals and dreams

And, don’t put up with crap like cheating. If you let her do it to you, she will continue to do it to you.

Moreover, don’t stay in a relationship with a woman who requires you to change. If she doesn’t want to commit to you for the man that you are, she’s not right for you. Trust me, a woman who likes you for you will feel amazing.

In short, be someone that will enrich her life, but don’t try to force her to stay. If you are a good guy that would enrich her life, she should come to see that you are someone that she wants to spend their life with. And if she doesn’t, then you may have to move on and find someone who will commit to you.

When things get serious how to go from “single” to “in a relationship”

Unsplash | Design by Julie Bang

Not to point out the obvious, but every relationship shifts and develops over time. The way we relate to our parents, our friends, and, yes, our romantic partners, moves through distinct stages as bonds are formed and tested. Why is it, then, that the stages of a romantic relationship seem more difficult to decipher? While it’s true that every relationship cycles through different phases, what exactly they entail and how long they last differ from couple to couple.

When is it best for couples to start getting serious? Does the honeymoon phase really exist? Does falling out of the honeymoon phase mean falling out of love? To help provide some clarity, we asked two dating experts, Bela Gandhi and Nora DeKeyser, for their takes on the most common stages of a romantic relationship. Surprisingly, both women had similar ideas for what partners can expect as a relationship goes from casual dates to seriously coupled.

Meet the Expert

  • Bela Gandhi is the founder and director of Smart Dating Academy and a weekly media correspondent as the dating and relationship expert on The Steve Harvey Show.
  • Nora DeKeyser is a professional matchmaker and relationship coach and has helped over 20,000 singles.

Below are the five stages of a relationship nearly every couple experiences, according to two dating experts.

The Awkward Stage

While some chance encounters result in instant chemistry, there’s typically an initial awkwardness to slough off before the first date—and even during it. Testing the tepid waters of “do they like me, do they like me not” can be the toughest part. Saddling up the courage to even approach the other person, drafting up clever texts—while exciting, the very first steps of a potential relationship include the biggest challenges of all.

The first date can be difficult, too, and something that DeKeyser says is an inevitable first stage in dating: “Both parties are nervous, overthinking, and worried it is going to be ‘another’ wasted date with someone they don’t connect with.” It may not turn out exactly as you expected, but DeKeyser says, “Always go on a second or third date because most people don’t represent themselves fully in the first few dates. After this stage, things get less awkward and you can finally start feeling comfortable around the other person.” The biggest key to success is open communication.

The Attraction Stage

If you’ve made it past the initial awkwardness, couples enter one of the most exciting periods: the attraction stage of a relationship also called the honeymoon phase. This is a golden period where, as Gandhi puts it, “You’re lit up like a chandelier around this person.” You recognize all of your partner’s good qualities and “want them to fall deeply and madly in love with you.” The honeymoon phase is just that: a phase.

But how do you know when you’re transitioning out of the honeymoon phase versus falling out of love? “Everyone will fall out of the honeymoon phase,” DeKeyser says. “But not everyone will fall out of love. The honeymoon phase will fade with time—but love should grow with time. Honeymoon is a quick feeling of excitement, sexual arousal, nuance, and slightly obsessive ‘lust’—which can be addicting at first. Love is a feeling of stability, partnership, deep intimacy and trust, and shared values.”

Gandhi elaborates on the difference between the two, stating, “Falling out of love will probably mean that even though you truly care for and love your partner, you realize that they are not right for you emotionally, mentally, and spiritually.” Although moving on from the initial attraction phase may mean fading sparks, Gandhi says, “You trade 24-7 lust for a safe, comfortable attachment—and it’s worth its weight in gold.”

The Uncertainty Stage

The act of falling in love is effortless, automatic even. Moving on from falling in love to contemplating long-term exclusivity, however, is a scary, albeit exhilarating, step to take. This is where the uncertainty stage of a relationship sets in. You may doubt the veracity of your love for this person; you may even question if your values and lifestyles are compatible.

“The biggest key to success is open communication,” DeKeyser says. “Before moving into more serious stages, ask your partner exactly what they want out of a relationship. What do they value, how do they want to live their life, how do they want the relationship to be in the future? Both parties have to choose to work at the relationship, and you choose to work at the relationship as an effect of the wonderful feelings you experienced throughout the stages of love.”

This is also the stage where the most challenges crop up as you start to view your relationship with a critical lens. According to DeKeyser, “Challenges actually bring couples who manage them correctly closer together because it teaches the two of you that you can get through the tough times together and trust each other through communication.”

So how can you differentiate between challenges and a relationship that’s a no-go? “The way to spot if this is an unhealthy relationship is if you feel alone,” DeKeyser says. “Can you not tell your partner about how you feel? Why? Is it you not being open enough, or is your partner someone who wouldn’t want to work on the hard stuff? Think about why this challenge isn’t being openly discussed and then fix the source of the problem.”

The Intimacy Stage

If you and your partner have decided to get serious, you’ve landed at the intimacy stage of a relationship. While the word may conjure an association with physical intimacy, this stage focuses on vulnerability. It’s incredibly tough to be vulnerable with another person and to reveal—openly and unequivocally—parts of yourself that aren’t ideal.

“This is the part of dating that is true and raw,” DeKeyser explains. “This is when you are getting to know your partner in their true self—you are seeing their insecurities; you are vulnerable with each other. You are realizing that what you have is deeper than ‘fun, exciting, and sexy.’ It is a bond and trust that keeps you together.”

It’s after relating to each other on a completely open level that couples can move on to the final stage of commitment in a relationship: the partnership stage.

The Partnership Stage

What partnership means to a couple is wide and varying. It could mean moving in together, getting engaged, or simply deciding to enter a long-term, exclusive relationship. DeKeyser explains, “This is the stage where you realize you two are best friends and lovers. You are partners to each other in life—you can spend hours, days, weeks, months side by side with this person, and you only better each other and feel as though you are one unit.”

Every couple is unique—there isn’t an exact time stamp you can put on reaching the partnership stage of a relationship. Gandhi says, “If this person makes your relationship easy, you are compatible, and you like to be together, it sounds like a good foundation to get serious.” She warns, however, that “if you are unhappy more than you are happy in your relationship, it is probably unhealthy. Every relationship takes work, but the work shouldn’t be hard—a good relationship should be easy overall.” If your foundation is healthy, then there’s no limit to the happiness you can experience in your partnership.

You’ll save yourself heartbreak down the line.

It may be hard to believe, but there are more effective ways of assessing the potential of a new relationship than blindly trusting Hinge’s “Most Compatible” match. I know, I know, shocking. But the truth is that getting to know your potential partner — beyond the small talk and social media stalking – requires more than an algorithm. Specifically, there are certain questions to ask when starting a relationship that can help both you and your partner see your connection more clearly. Not only that, but the answers to these questions can give you valuable insight into what your future might look like if you stay together.

According to experts, long-term relationship success often comes down to communicating your expectations — and addressing any areas where you are not completely aligned. “Knowing what you and your partner’s expectations are when it comes to your relationship status, sex, intimacy, and future is the difference between making it and breaking it in a relationship,” relationship coaches Diana and Todd Mitchem told Bustle. “When you are in a relationship, you should never assume that your partner wants exactly the same things that you do.”

There’s a simple way to ensure that this convo doesn’t feel like a never-ending interview: Keep things open-ended. “Open-ended questions allow the other person to express their true, authentic self, “ Courtney Tracy, LCSW, PsyD, therapist and relationship expert, told Women’s Health. “It’s a good way to get a sense of who the person really is,” she added.

Even if it does lead to the occasional awkward moment or disagreement, these discussions are worth any temporary tension. Getting these important questions out of the way early on can save you a lot of heartache down the road. For example, imagine you just moved in with your partner and they casually mention that you’ll need to cover all of the bills for the next month. They miscalculated and overspent their paycheck – it’s actually a bad habit they have. You’re shocked, having assumed they were a saver like you. It’s something you never even thought to ask.

If that sounds like a legitimate nightmare to you (same), the following 23 questions to ask when dating may be helpful in assessing your current status with your partner and your potential future — together or apart.

If you had to name your greatest motivation in life, what would it be?

Family? Money? Adventure?

How much alone time do you need?

And what are the signs that you’d like some space to recharge?

How often are you open with your feelings?

Honest communication is the foundation of a healthy relationship.

What’s your sense of humor like?

Do you make a lot of dad jokes?

What’s your zodiac sign?

Are we astrologically compatible?

How often do you like to have sex?

Do we have similar sex drives?

Do you have any siblings?

And does your birth order reflect your personality?

How do you prefer to communicate?

Texting? FaceTime? DMs?

What’s your love language?

Mine is acts of service, closely followed by giving gifts.

What’s your dream job?

Do you plan on chasing it, or is it just fun to think about?

What were you like in high school?

Did you prefer tests or papers? Were you a crammer or a planner?

What object can’t you live without?

Go ahead, pick three items you’d take with you on a deserted island.

Regardless of your actual age, do you consider yourself an adult?

Adulting is hard. I’m in my twenties and still feel like a teenager.

What piece of advice would you give your younger self?

Probably not to get that haircut. You know the one.

Do you ever act out of spite?

How two people work through conflict is very important.

How frequently do you bathe or shower?

Hygiene! Is! A! Must!

How do you communicate when you’re upset?

Everybody has different impulses when it comes to communicating negative feelings.

Are you close with your parents?

There’s no right or wrong answer, but the way you talk about the people in you life can be revealing.

What’s your personality type?

Do you know your Myers-Briggs personality type? What about if you’re an introvert or an extrovert?

How do you like to spend your money?

Do you stick to a strict budget, or do you spend as freely as you can?

What does your ideal work-life balance look like?

Finding a balance between energy and rest is important.

Are you a morning person?

I am not a morning person, so you better brew up a pot of coffee.

Where do you see yourself in five years?

. And am I in your vision of the future?

Dr. Courtney Tracy, doctor of psychology and licensed clinical social worker

Editor’s Note: This story has been updated by Elite Daily’s staff.

This article was originally published on 02.13.15

When things get serious how to go from “single” to “in a relationship”

Not to brag or anything, but we Sagittarians are notorious in astrology for having the most attractive personalities of all the zodiac signs.

We’re a double whammy — fire signs ruled by Jupiter. That means big emotion, constant surprises and a lot of passion.

So skip the drinks, because loving a Sagittarius is intoxicating enough on its own.

Whether you’re a Sagittarius yourself or just riding the roller coaster that is dating one, these truths probably sound eerily familiar to you.

Here are 7 brutal truths you should know about dating and loving a Sagittarius, the fiery half-human, half horse centaur known as the archer among the zodiac signs in astrology.

1. We’re inconsistent.

We know we told you last week we were taking up coding to learn more about computers. This week, we want to learn everything about growing our own succulent garden on the fire escape.

We’re more than okay with not being just one thing so if you love a Sagittarius, you’re getting a lot of different people wrapped up into one — lucky you!

2. We’re always joking.

We will never, ever let a joke die. We still have bits with friends from middle school that we just can’t let go.

We will latch on to a shared joke until you get so sick of it you’ll never want us to mention “pickles” or “technicalities” again.

Love our quirky sense of humor? Will you love it at 2 am when we won’t stop telling you about the hilarious moment on our favorite comedy podcast? Consider this very deeply before you get involved with a Sag.

3. We’re very inflexible.

We’re so sorry about that, but we don’t want to make plans with you at 5:45 pm for a 6 pm dinner when we’re about to get off work and all we want to do is go home and watch TV.

We value our alone time and we plan on it like we’re in a relationship with ourselves. (Which we are.)

Sagittarians are very independent so don’t expect us to adjust our own schedule to fit yours.

And don’t mistake this trait for being introverted – we love plans, we just love when you make them 24 hours in advance.

4. We get into the deep philosophical stuff right away.

What are your most secret aspirations in life? What recurring dreams do you have? What are your top three darkest fears and why?

These questions are all fair game on a first date with a Sag: we’re extremely philosophical.

Don’t make fun of our mantras or the fact that we credit meditation with curing our anxiety. We’re obsessed with introspection and the deeper questions of the universe.

If that intimidates you, you’re not ready to love a Sagittarius.

5. We’re a little bit reckless.

Yes, we can be reckless with our emotions and we don’t always think things through, which tends to bite us in the ass.

What can we say?! We live for the experience!

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But hey, this means we always have a great story to tell and you’ll never be bored.

6. And if you don’t love us, we move on fast.

We can drop people like a sack of wet, stinky laundry. We don’t ever want to feel like we’re in a relationship with someone who doesn’t want to hear what we have to say or tries to tell us what to think.

Sagittarians have a fiercely strong sense of right and wrong and if you can’t agree with us or at the least, empathize with us, we shut down.

7. But, no matter what, we’re pretty optimistic.

Deep down, Sags are free spirits and our number one piece of advice is always “Follow your heart.”

When you fall in love with us, be prepared for a constant stream of aggressive sunshine. It might annoy you, but we tend to find the good in everything.

Even in our fights, we’ll be frustratingly trying to flip things positive. It’s just how we are. We’re reckless and flighty and we’ll fight tooth-and-nail for our happiness — and yours!

Jorge’s relationship advice is based on experience and observation. Let his trial and error be your success (hopefully).

What is a “Serious” Relationship?

If you’re dating someone who you really like, it’s normal to eventually come to that point where you ask yourself: “What are we?”

This can be an awkward moment between you and your partner, especially if you both want something different from the relationship. Do you want something casual? Or are you looking for something serious?

When is a relationship “serious,” though? Where do you draw the line? Well, obviously everyone has a different definition of what this means. The idea of a serious relationship will also vary widely across cultural lines. In modern Western culture, such as the kind you will find in Europe and the US, a “serious” relationship usually has these traits:

  • The relationship is long-term. The people in the relationship are not expected to part ways suddenly or easily, or at least not without some discussion.
  • It is monogamous. Often by the time the relationship is considered serious, both members of the couple have stopped seeing other people romantically. In the case of people in an open or polyamorous relationship, monogamy doesn’t always factor in.
  • Both partners can see a future together. In a serious relationship, people usually can see themselves with their partner a year, two years, five years, or more years down the line.
  • The couple lives together or is planning to live together. Making a household together is a major factor in the modern concept of a serious relationship.
  • The end goal is probably marriage. This isn’t always true. Some people are content with being unmarried forever, but most people see marriage as the natural end for a serious relationship.
  • The couple may intend to have children together. For many people, the point of “getting serious” is to settle down and start building a life that can produce children. In fact, this is so common that some people who don’t want to have children may have trouble getting into long-term relationships or marriages.

In short a serious relationship for most people has to do with the future more than just being in the present. It is about commitment to the idea that you will stay with this one person for awhile and attempt to make a life with them–usually, but not always, with the intention to make a family someday.

When things get serious how to go from “single” to “in a relationship”

A serious relationship often means weathering life’s storms together.

The Main Difference Between Dating and Being in a Relationship

So how do you know when you’re in a relationship or “just dating.” Well, the difference between dating and being in a relationship comes down to the level of commitment between the two people.

If you’re just dating or “talking” to someone, usually:

  • You are not entirely monogamous. You might be seeing other people besides this person, and they may be seeing others, too. Even if you are only seeing each other, it might just be incidental. Neither of you has agreed to exclusively date the other.
  • The focus is on getting to know the other person, not making a life with them. You don’t really know the other person yet, so all your efforts with them center around having fun in the moment and learning about each other.
  • You don’t live together. Unless you happen to be room mates who decided to get romantic, you typically don’t live with someone who you’re just casually dating.
  • You don’t call the other person your “girlfriend” or “boyfriend.” If you don’t have titles for each other, then you’re probably not past the dating phase.
  • You haven’t made long-term plans with the person. If you avoid making plans with them even a few months in the future, then you’re probably not in a relationship.
  • There’s no expectation that you will spend time together. If you see each other whenever you want, but there’s no expectation ahead of time that you should see each other X days per week, or that you should call X times per day, then you are probably not in a relationship.

On the other hand, you’re probably in a relationship if:

  • You refer to your partner as your “boyfriend” / “girlfriend.”
  • You and your partner make plans together for the future. This means there’s some sort of commitment between you.
  • You expect to see your partner frequently. This is especially relevant if you’ve taken steps to see them more often, such as moving in with them.
  • If your partner were to move out of your city, you would move with them. Again, this is a sign of commitment to the other person.
  • You have gotten to know your partner reasonably well and they are well-established in your life.
  • You are talking to each other about marriage.
  • You would have to “break up” before you stopped talking to each other. In other words, there is something between you that would need to formally be addressed if you were to stop hanging out. In a dating situation, this isn’t necessarily the case, and people just randomly stop talking sometimes.

Every situation is unique, of course, but these are the basic differences between dating and being in a relationship for most people.