5 Signs You're in a Committed Relationship
There's a reason countless songs have been written about the age-old questions surrounding romantic relationships. People meet, hook up, date and maybe even break up. But it's not usually a straight line from meeting to a committed relationship.
Are you wondering whether you and your partner are in what's considered a committed relationship? Keep reading for everything you need to know, from the definition of a committed relationship to the five most common signs you're in one.
What Is a Committed Relationship?
It's important to note that commitment can look and feel different to different people. For example, you may commit to a monogamous relationship (meaning you're only dating each other), or you may decide that an open relationship (meaning you're both free to also date other people) is a better fit for you.
No matter what structure your partnership takes, there are many ways to be in a committed, healthy relationship. That being said, one thing most committed relationships have in common is that you're saying yes to being with one another for the long run.
"A committed relationship is one in which you and your partner intentionally say yes to a future together, and that yes is preceded by conversations about future hopes, dreams and plans for yourselves and the relationship itself," says Kait Scalisi, a certified sex educator based in New York City.
Scalisi has coached many couples through all of the intimacies and intricacies involved in relationships. She believes an important component of committed relationships is both partners' willingness to acknowledge change, take time to check in with each other, and say yes again and again. "Commitment happens when you see and love one another clearly for who you are right now with the understanding that we all grow, shift and change," she says.
There's often a stage between casual dating and commitment when it may feel unclear whether you're actually in a committed relationship. Below, we'll explore some of the signs to look out for.
Five Signs of a Committed Relationship
While every couple is different and there are no hard-and-fast rules when it comes to defining a relationship, these five signs likely mean you're headed toward committed relationship territory.
1. You Talk About Your Relationship's Hopes and Expectations
Scalisi says commitment involves thinking ahead. "That means being open and honest about what you want for your life and your relationship going forward," she says. "These conversations sometimes explore sticky topics that can make or break the relationship."
These sticky topics can be things like your relationship structure, your desire for children, your career plans, how you want to handle your finances and where you want to live, Scalisi says, adding that the goal isn't to lock anyone in but rather to form a strong foundation of shared expectations and goals.
2. You Make Plans for the Future
By definition, commitment indicates dedication and repetition. There's a reason you wouldn't say you're in a committed relationship after one date—it would feel odd to get out your calendars to start scheduling holidays together right after learning where you each grew up.
Over time, this joint planning begins to happen organically. If you find that you're consistently bringing up plans that your partner avoids committing to (or they avoid discussing the future altogether) you probably aren't in a committed relationship quite yet.
Once it becomes assumed that you'll be spending time together often, that likely means you're moving toward a committed relationship—or at least getting closer to a place where it may make sense to have a conversation about it.
3. You Both Put in Effort
It's not groundbreaking to say that relationships can be difficult. Sometimes that looks like your significant other constantly forgetting to unload the dishwasher, other times it's more trying situations like those involving illness or death.
"[Being in a committed relationship] is about being honest about the trials and tribulations that you'll face and saying yes, this is someone I want to face life with," Scalisi says.
It's about the little things as much as it is the big-deal life events. In most healthy relationships, there is a sense of both partners pulling equal weight with things like doing chores and running errands, as well as supporting one another through tough times and crises.
4. You See a Future Together
The problem with looking for signs of commitment is that sometimes we can get tied up in wondering what the other person is thinking rather than checking in with ourselves. While you may choose to check in with your partner and see how they think your relationship is progressing, it's critical to ask yourself the same questions on a regular basis, especially in a new relationship.
Ask yourself questions like: Is this person still making me happy? Do I feel like we're equally invested in the outcome of this relationship? Do I feel comfortable and safe in this relationship?
Of course, new relationships—even those meant to stand the test of time—can be nerve-racking and anxiety-inducing. If you get into an argument or question your feelings, that's normal. What matters is the repetition of checking in over time and looking for patterns. If you're consistently feeling uncomfortable, anxious or undervalued, it may be time to ask yourself whether this is really someone you want to be in a long-term relationship with.
5. You Know How to Support Each Other
One of the greatest perks of being in a serious relationship with a committed partner is that you gain a constant support system. Of course, we have support from our family and friends, but most of them probably don't know the ins and outs of daily life the way a romantic partner will. It's special to share your life with someone, to know the names of their coworkers and what they had for lunch each day. But it also means showing up for one another.
"In any committed relationship, you'll meet some storms," Scalisi says. "How do you want to be supported? What about your partner? Knowing how to show up for one another in both times of trouble and celebration shows that you've taken the time to really get to know one another and are realistic about the ups and downs you'll face as a couple—you're in this rollercoaster we all live in together."