Dr. Meagan Stanley
Q: How do I know if I’m ready for a serious relationship?
Updated: Apr 17, 2020
8 things to explore and consider before starting your next serious relationship.
We are continuing on with relationship month and I wanted to tackle a question I hear about a lot—how do I know if I’m ready for a relationship? I often find people can be worried or anxious about this after getting out a “toxic” relationship, especially in situations where they have may be harboring regret for choosing that particular partner and/or for staying too long in the relationship. In this situation, I think the underlying fear here is of repeating past mistakes. You may also be asking yourself this question if you’ve been single for some time and the idea of jumping into a new relationship feels daunting and overwhelming.
In both situations, I really applaud people that pause and ask themselves if they are ready to start over again with someone new. It shows restraint and self-reflection, however, it also can be debilitating if you don't trust yourself. If you find yourself grappling with this idea, I suggest you reflect on the following things:
8 signs you’re ready for a relationship
1. You know you’re okay on your own
2. You’ve learned what you’re comfortable with and what you’re not comfortable with
3. You know how to communicate your needs and desires to others
4. You’re able to admit when you’re wrong and apologize
5. You’ve found acceptance for your flaws and continue to look for areas in which you want to grow
6. You’re not looking to fill a void or looking for a relationship to give you purpose
7. You don’t rely on external validation to feel beautiful or whole
8. You believe a relationship is necessary to teach you more about yourself and the world
Trust me - I know this is a very exhaustive list and I’m certainly not saying that you need to have mastered every item before heading into your next relationship. Focusing on the last item - “You believe a relationship is necessary to teach you more about yourself and the world” - sometimes we need to have relationships in order to grow these areas. I know that sounds frustrating; it can feel the same as an interviewer at a job telling you that you don’t have enough experience when that job would give you that experience. You must be patient with where you are and not judge yourself for where you need to go.
Let me expand on a few items here.
You know you’re okay on your own
Very practically speaking, if you just got out of a serious relationship and/or you’ve never really had time when you’re single, this item can be incredibly important to focus on. Knowing you’re okay on your own means that you come into new relationships with far less desperation. You will want a relationship, but you don’t necessary need it to get by. When you know this about yourself, you can enter the dating scene with more confidence and self-assurance, which is very attractive to potential partners.
You’ve learned what you’re comfortable with and what you’re not comfortable with
This may be something you develop inside and outside of a relationship. Learning to trust your instincts when something feels wrong is an important skill to cultivate. Sometimes our fear system may find threats in something not harmful, or on the other hand, we may be accustomed to being exposed to things that aren’t healthy for us. A lot of times, but not always, this can be a result of our upbringing and early childhood experiences. Challenging this programming can be extremely difficult, but it’s key to be aware of as we head into our next relationship.
The next step is articulating those needs and desires, but I’ll have to keep communication and setting limits for another post!
You’re able to admit when you’re wrong and apologize
Being in a good relationship means knowing when you have to check your ego at the door. Part of what makes relationships so challenging at times is that you must make sure you are taking care of yourself as well as your partner. If you are unable to admit when you’re wrong and repair the rupture, not only will the relationship not progress, but you miss an incredible opportunity to evolve as a person. Remember, if your desire is to win, be right, or maintain the status quo, you’re letting your ego run the show.
You’ve found acceptance for your flaws and continue look for areas you want to grow
If we have not examined ourselves thoroughly, we may look to someone else to tell us that we are enough or okay. No one in this world is perfect and learning to accept areas of imperfection can be a lifelong journey. It is important to commit yourself to this process of self-discovery and acceptance, instead of taking a shortcut by relying on external cues for assurance (re: Items 6 and 7). In addition, remembering that we all can improve and be better to ourselves and our partners is fundamental for healthy functioning and happy relationships.
You’re not looking to fill a void or looking for a relationship to give you purpose
Very simply, a relationship will not fix the parts of your life that you haven’t accepted, you’re unhappy with, or you think you’d like to be different or improved. Within our society, there is often a belief that everything can get better and be “fixed” once you find a romantic partner. Although a companion can and should enhance your life, your problems will not magically be resolved and you will not learn to like yourself more, be happier, or be at peace solely because you are in a relationship. The work that is necessary to find fulfillment and purpose in your life continues to be necessary whether or not you are in a partnership.
Remember, these items are meant to help you reflect but should not be taken as hard and fast rules. Life is unpredictable and may present you with a relationship before ANY of these items are addressed. It just means the relationship has presented itself to you that time in order to help you learn. Good luck in your journey and I’ll see you here next time.
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