We’re encouraged to look for soulmates and at least try to get serious with others.
“Single” is still kind of a dirty word in our society.
The fact that everyone around you might be getting together, or your parents wish you would find someone, are not good reasons to enmesh yourself in a serious relationship.
Not everyone is ready for a serious relationship. And there’s nothing wrong with that. It’s better to be single than stuck in a bad relationship.
Before you decide that you need a serious S.O., here are some things to consider:
1. Do you even want a serious relationship?
We all desire to connect to other people. Humans are social animals, after all.
However, wanting connections doesn’t necessarily mean that you are ready for a serious relationship.
I love my connections with family and friends. I also enjoy dating. There are people I like spending time with more than others. But none of this means I want a serious relationship.
Because I don’t.
If you find yourself happy being single, there’s no reason to end that because those around you say you need to “grow up” and find a serious relationship.
2. You feel incomplete without someone.
This one is tricky. Perhaps you want a serious relationship. But before you dive in, you need to figure out the why behind this desire.
Do you feel incomplete without someone? Do you feel like you need another half to be whole?
This might be an indication that you aren’t actually ready for a serious relationship. Before you can be a good partner, you need to be comfortable with yourself.
Part of being ready for a serious relationship is knowing that you can hold up your end of the bargain as a whole person. If you require another person, you probably need to get a handle on yourself before you take things to the next level.
3. You feel like your potential S.O. just needs someone.
I’m not in the business of “saving” others. And you shouldn’t be, either.
In many cases, you might look at a potential S.O. and decide that s/he is perfect — except for one little thing.
Or maybe you see great potential, as long as the other person chooses the right partner (you) to mold and shape him/her.
Whenever you go into a serious relationship with the idea that you are going to help the other person become different or better or whatever, that’s a serious red flag.
If you go around seeing others as people to save, you aren’t ready for a serious relationship. Yes, you should want to help other people and be there for them. But at the same time, you shouldn’t view your relationship as a way to change someone or “save” them.
Any serious relationship should be a partnership of equals. You and your S.O. should be at the same point in life, and ready to progress toward the same goals together.
4. You try to fit yourself to what someone else wants.
Back when I was younger, I tried to project a certain image. Even though I didn’t fit what I was told a woman should be, I tried to be that thing. Well, sort of.
I wanted to “prove” that I could be a good housekeeper, and that having a couple of kids would be just fine, even though I was a little unorthodox. I tried to force myself into a gender role that wasn’t really me.
This resulted in a couple of relationships that didn’t really work out. After all, I was trying to be someone I wasn’t. I wanted to project an image of someone my S.O. liked, rather than looking for someone who liked me for me.
Yes, we all grow and change as people. It’s a good thing. But you should be changing for you, and making progress with your own life.
If you are changing because you want to be more attractive to someone, that’s a problem.
There’s a difference between compromising (which we all have to do in all of our relationships, romantic or not), and changing to fit someone else’s ideal.
Really think about how you behave in a relationship. If your relationship becomes about how you can adopt your S.O.’s opinions and hobbies wholesale, that’s a pretty good sign you aren’t ready for a serious relationship.
Instead, work on figuring out who you are, and what you like about yourself. Once you are comfortable enough with who you are that you don’t feel like you need to subordinate that to make someone else happy, you’re on the right track.
5. You don’t know what you really want.
This isn’t just about what you want in a relationship. It’s also about what you want out of life.
Do you have an idea of who you are and what you want?
One of the reasons my marriage finally died after a little more than a decade was because my ex and I got married before we really knew what we wanted from life.
By the time we realized that some of the things we wanted didn’t really mesh, we were a few years in. Looking back, I know that I, at age 21, was not ready for a serious relationship — especially not one as serious as marriage.
There are people who do just fine at serious relationships at that age. It’s not really about age (although a few more years and perspective can help). It’s more about where you are in life, and whether or not you actually know what you want.
A little time for exploration doesn’t hurt. It would have helped me out. By the time I got married at 21, I had already had two relationships that had lasted more than a year. (The time from meeting my ex to our marriage was slightly less than three months.)
I had no idea what it meant to be in a serious relationship. I had no idea what I wanted. In fact, at age 36, I spent an entire year exploring my life and what I wanted.
Everyone should take a little time to explore themselves periodically. But it really helps to do it before you get into a serious relationship. If you know what you want out of life, it makes it easier to find someone to take that journey with you.
Bottom line: know thyself.
How do you know if you’re ready for a serious relationship?
The bottom line is you should know yourself. Intimately.
Once you really know yourself and are happy with that person, it makes sense to decide if you’re ready for a serious relationship.
However, even if you know yourself, you might still find you’re not ready to get serious. In fact, I know that I don’t want a serious relationship right now.
I am happy with myself. I am mostly happy with my life. I like the dynamic I have with my son. A serious relationship changes all of that. I like dating, but I’m not interested in taking it the next level with anyone.
Don’t start a serious relationship just because you feel like you “should” or because it’s “the next step.”
Only do it when you know yourself, and you actually want it.