You’ve been dating for a while, you feel like things are going in the right direction, but how can you tell if this is forever? How can you know you’re ready to take things beyond surface level?
We turned to our resident sex and relationship experts for the lowdown. And what we got were three, dare we say, ‘deep’ questions that we need to consider asking ourselves before taking that next step.
We talk a lot about honesty. About building trust, deeper connections and emotional intimacy with a partner, through honesty and openness. But what we don’t discuss quite as often is the importance of being honest with ourselves. Because if we’re considering whether to deepen our relationship with a partner, we’re contemplating giving more of ourselves to them. And if this is the case, it stands to reason that we must give ourselves all the information available to make the decision.
By asking the question in this way, we’re opening up the possibility of striking a painful chord. After all, this isn’t ‘What don’t I know?’, this is ‘What am I pretending I don’t know?’ It forces us to look deeper and more introspectively. It encourages us to question our beliefs about the relationship we’re in and perhaps look at things from a different perspective.
Turn detective and open yourself up to new experiences and conversations. Now’s the time to really get things out in the open, after all. Before you make the stakes higher. Dare yourself to try something new together – to push yourselves outside your comfort zones. Start a conversation about your fears for the future and get vulnerable with one another.
Next, ask yourself, how sexually compatible are you with your partner? Are both you and your partner happy with the physical side of your relationship? It’s amazing how often couples ignore small warning signs that are starting to crop up, assuming they will improve or change over time. The hard truth is that when these things are there from the start, they must be worked through rather than brushed under the carpet.
And importantly, make time to unplug from social media and the internet to really give one another some quality time and attention. If your partner is not prepared to do this even at this stage, it could be a telling sign.
The feeling of being ready to seek a more meaningful connection with your partner and the knowledge that they also want to take the next step with you is a wonderful one. To love and to feel loved in this way can be extremely fulfilling and offers hope and excitement for the future.
But with great power comes great responsibility, as they say. By deepening your relationship with your partner, you will be promising to love and respect them. And you’ll be committing to doing the work that is required to make your relationship stronger and to build and sustain a healthy relationship in the long term.
Whether marriage is on the cards or not – and this is definitely something that is worth discussing up front – doesn’t much matter. This is about forging a long-lasting and happy relationship that keeps you both satisfied. One that you both know will support you through the difficult times.
If you choose to deepen your commitment to one another, not only will you have a right to expect more from your partner in terms of showing you they love and respect you. But in turn, you will need to make sure you do the same for them. There are plenty of ways you can say I love you. Get in the habit of openly and generously expressing your love to your partner and learn each other’s love languages to make sure your message and those feelings of genuine connection are getting through.
As you get used to the idea of opening up more and becoming more intimate with your partner, it may feel like a strange and vulnerable place to be. But through practice and with gentle encouragement it can create strong connections and feel like a wonderful place to get to.
If you continue to feel uncomfortable about sharing your feelings and opening up in this way with your partner, perhaps sex and relationship therapy or counselling could help you to explore why that is. Or if you prefer a method that’s a little less face-to-face, have a look at what the Blueheart app could do for you.
Of course, no one is telling you that you have to deepen your relationship. After all, a casual relationship might be exactly what you need right now. But if you do see a future with your current partner and feel like they might be 'the one’, it’s important that you begin to show them they mean more to you than a fling.
Put yourself in your partner’s shoes.
If you continue with light-hearted messages, playfully arranging dates and sending mixed signals all over the place, what are they supposed to think? We all like to know where we stand.
If your partner is unclear about your thoughts and feelings on the relationship, as time goes on they may begin to assume that you’re not perhaps as serious as they are. And they might decide to cut their losses and find someone who is ready for that next step.
Of course, that’s a worst-case scenario.
But the point stands. Being in a healthy, long-term relationship that is equally fulfilling for both parties requires input, and let’s face it, work, on both sides. It requires honesty, it requires emotional and physical intimacy, and it means making damn sure your partner knows how you feel.
Because there will be tough times, there will be difficult situations and there will be thing that you’ll face together that will shake you to the core. But if you can be certain of your love for one another, you’re halfway there when it comes to tackling things head on as a team.
The problems creep in when those lines of communication fail, when our partner doesn’t show us how they feel and we become unsure about the relationship and ourselves. Feelings of loneliness can creep in and ultimately our mental health and general wellbeing can suffer.
And once that connection is lost it can be incredibly hard to find a way back.
For some people, the relationship will naturally deepen, for others it requires a conversation and agreement that you only want to be with one another.
But if you feel that something needs to be said, make sure you pick a time that your partner will be giving you their full attention. Plan a fun date night, just the two of you, doing something romantic or fun and open up to your partner about how you’ve been feeling. Ask them if they can see a future with you – no big questions at the moment - but at least a desire to spend more time together and see how things go.
Talk to them about any boundaries you would like to put in place. Don’t read them a list of rules, but if you know you would feel uncomfortable about certain behaviors it’s best to mention them up front.
And if you’re a bit further along, why not consider the idea of pre-marital therapy. It’s something that so often gets overlooked but can support you to work through all the things that may crop up and trip you up in the future. In fact, this kind of therapy doesn’t have to be marriage specific, if you’re not planning a wedding. Simply talking through a number of key topics in the presence of a trained therapist can be a really cathartic experience. And might help you get to know one another on a much deeper level than you did before.