By Jillian Kramer for BRIDES.
Photo: Courtesy of CNP Montrose
If you think there's no sign short of a diamond ring that can point to whether you're headed for marriage or not, think again. Our experts are here to share eight ways you can tell if your relationship will last a lifetime.
1. Your partner isn't afraid to challenge you.
Constantly butting heads could mean you're headed for a breakup. But if your partner is willing to kindly voice his or her views in order to challenge you to change yours, psychotherapist and relationship expert Rhonda Richards-Smith says you could be headed for marriage. "If your partner is comfortable enough with you to lovingly call you out privately when they feel you are wrong," says Richards-Smith, "chances are you are in the right relationship."
2. You're one another's biggest cheerleaders.
When you're headed for marriage, says licensed marriage and family therapist Marissa Nelson, you're committed to bringing out the best in your partner. "You encourage one another's individual growth and give support to the pursuit of each other's dreams and career aspirations," she says. "If one of you succeeds, you both win, and that level of strength over time can be a telling sign that engagement is on the horizon."
3. You're vulnerable with each other.
Nelson says that the couples who stay together are the ones who can let loose with one another -- doing things like wearing no makeup, without pretense. "Your partner sees you at your worst and best, and loves you unconditionally, flaws and all," she says. "You take good care of one another and look out for your partner's wellbeing with thoughtfulness, kindness, and compassion. It's one the main qualities that let people know this person is the right one for them."
4. You really care about whether your partner's family likes you.
When you married a person, you also marry his or her family. So, "when things are getting serious in a relationship, you tend to place more weight in what your partner's family thinks of you," says Lori Salkin, matchmaker and dating coach. "I have noticed time and time again that right before couples get engaged, they spend more time with each other's families -- and their nerves run high as they hope for their approval or have to respond to disapproval or questions."
5. You trust one another enough to allow some personal space.
Says Richards-Smith, "There's nothing worse than feeling smothered or obligated to track your partner's every move." By allowing your partner time to his or herself to enjoy his or her own hobbies or friends, you're setting yourself up for a successful marriage. "If you are both able to trust one another enough to have your own time, space, and friends, chances are you're on the right track," Richards-Smith explains.
6. You've got each other's back.
"Lean on Me" was a musical hit in part because its lyrics ring true. "Knowing your partner is there for you is vital to knowing that this relationship is for the long haul," says Nelson. "If partners are always responsive through the ups and downs, and feel comfort that this person will go to bat for them no matter what, people feel safe enough to call that person their partner for life."
7. You know your partner's not perfect, but think he or she is perfect for you.
"Having realistic expectations is very important to be able to get through that last mile and get engaged," says Salkin. Rather than wonder if there is someone better, people who are headed for marriage focus on all the ways their partner is right for them. "There will always be someone more attractive, successful, and so on," she shares. "But what's important is to realize that you are not perfect and this other person may not be either -- but together, you are perfect for each other."
8. You make life decisions together.
Until you tie the knot, you're free to make your own decisions. But couples who include one another in the big ones are almost surely headed for marriage, Nelson says. "These partners plan for the future and think about making life decisions with the unit in mind," she says. "They may devise a plan to pay down student loans and financial debt together, purchase a car in each other's name, or buy a house together. They may have children or begin planning for that next phase in life. You know this relationship is forever because the couple is deeply committed in creating a future of which they can both be proud."