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Have You Met Your Forever Partner?

          When you were younger, you certainly knew when it was time you’d find and marry the man of your dreams. But reality has gotten a little murkier since then. People fall in and out of love all the time, and being head over heels one day doesn’t have to mean you’ll be filing joint taxes any time soon. So when are you supposed to start listening for wedding bells? You’ve found someone who makes you happy, and your feelings didn’t fizzle when the butterflies wore off, but you know there’s more to it than that. How do you know when to take your relationship in stride, and when to take it to the aisle? Here are ten clues you might be ready.

Over the singles scene
You remember dating. You remember flirting. And it was mostly a good time. But now, the concept of putting on something cute and turning heads at the club doesn’t sound hot. It sounds sweaty and exhausting. Why would you want to? You know no one on the floor can compare to what you’ve already found.

Daydreaming
Scenes of a future together – shared bank accounts, kids and pets, mornings sharing the paper – aren’t so terrifying anymore; they’re actually kind of nice. You even daydream about growing old together. When you walk past an elderly couple holding hands, you’re not even tempted to smirk. In fact you feel…could that be envy?

Looking for long-term potential
You can’t understand why your friends hook up with people they’d never work out with in the long term. When you were seventeen it may have been okay to go out with a guy who’s only in town for the summer or with someone who wants a family when you don’t, but you’re not a kid anymore. It seems pointless to be in a relationship without at least the possibility of a future, and it’s become a must that you and your partner agree on the big issues.

love fever
There comes a point in a woman’s life when her hormones tell her that she’ll never be complete without a bundle of joy. When you not only want to take home every baby you see, but you fantasize about raising one of your own with your special someone, you might be ready to share nursery duty sometime soon.

Playing house
When you consider both of your tastes and your mutual habits when you choose an apartment, arrange furniture and make style choices, you’re planning for a home and a life together. It’s called nesting, and it can occur with couples who cohabitate as well as in those who simply spend a lot of time together. Either way, if you start co-owning stereo equipment or picking out drapes together, you’re practicing for a future for two.

Making them a factor
You consider your significant other when making important decisions, especially those that have long-term impact. You want their input on your new neighborhood, wonder how they’ll fit into a different work schedule or career, and you wouldn’t consider planning a distant trip with friends without talking to him first, even if that trip is planned a year in advance.

The term “WE”
In conversation, the two of you have grown comfortable entrusting your identities to a single pronoun. The concept of an “I” is rarely used, as your plans, tastes and actions are so often aligned. You don’t even blink anymore when your names appear together on wedding invitations and emails, and you’ve become accustomed to the way your friends string your names together in conversation.

Apart together
The idea of separate vacations doesn’t appeal to you. When you are apart, you’re constantly thinking about what he’s missing or what he would say, do, prefer or decide. And when you’re reunited, you start thinking of ways to make sure you stay that way.

Bridal curiosity
There used to be a lot of silly girls in dresses lining the shelves at the newsstand. Lately, you find yourself curious about what’s inside all those bridal magazines – and not in a starry-eyed little girl sort of way. Funny thing is, it’s not the wedding that’s so exciting so much as what comes after.

You just know
Sometimes it doesn’t take a lot of clues to know it’s time. When you don’t want to picture your life without your partner; when you realize they’re part of what makes you who you are; and you know that for all your combined flaws there’s nothing out there that compares to what you have together, the doubts you may once have had become unimportant. When taking that giant leap seems like the natural next step, you just know you’re ready.

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