If you're dating someone that you really connect with, it's only natural to be on the lookout for the signs it's time to take your relationship to the next level. Whether that means becoming exclusive, moving in together, or even getting engaged, it's equal parts exciting and scary to think about taking a leap of faith and making the relationship even more serious. While you should definitely take time to evaluate whether your partner is a good match for you, it's also important to make sure you are in the right place to move forward — because taking the next step in your relationship will always require you to be more open and vulnerable.
"The signs that the relationship is developing (and we all feel it in our gut) asks us to be more vulnerable and increase our level of intimacy," Denny Jones, Dating Coach at School of Attraction, Australia's largest dating coaching service for men, tells Bustle. "It asks us to look in the mirror and address our own issues. This can often make us feel anxious, as the results of this investigation may not always be what we want to hear."
If you truly feel you're in a good, healthy place emotionally, then don't hesitate to get even more serious and deepen your relationship with your partner. Here are eight signs that your relationship is healthy, happy, and ready for that next step — whatever that may be.
You Support Each Other
There's nothing more comforting than knowing you're with someone who supports you in all your endeavors, through the good times and the bad. If you think of your partner as your rock, that's a super positive sign for the future.
"Asking your partner how they are doing sometimes without even sharing your own personal issues allows you to be completely available to them," Hershenson says. "Listening to others' problems and lending an ear is a good way to 'get out of your head' and let your partner know you are fully present to listen to them."
You Both Take Accountability
One of the number one red flags in a relationship? A partner who never admits when they're wrong and refuses to take accountability for their actions.
"If you or your partner say or do something wrong, apologize," Hershenson says. "If you or your partner is upset with the other person, talk it out without getting defensive. Acknowledge what your part was (even if it was simply upsetting them) and discuss what you could do differently in the future." If you're both able to do these things without hesitation, you can confidently take the next step in your relationship.
You're Satisfied With The Level Of Intimacy
You can work through intimacy issues with your partner, but don't move forward in a relationship if you're not happy with the current level of intimacy — whether that's in the bedroom or outside of it — because it won't magically get better just because you got engaged or moved in together.
"[A good sign is if] you physically touch other, whether it's a kiss hello or goodbye, snuggling on the couch or holding hands," Hershenson says. "Even non-sexual touching builds connection between partners."
You're Both Independent
In any relationship, both partners should have a level of independence and a life separate from their partner, even if it's just a hobby that's all your own.
"[In a healthy relationship] you are able to have autonomy without over stressing, meaning you are able to engage in independent activities with friends, self-care and other commitments without over stressing or yearning to be with your S.O.," Lisa Bahar, LMFT, LPCC, tells Bustle.
You Share Similar Values
In the early stages of a relationship, it's easy to get distracted by the fun, excitement, and physical chemistry you have with your partner. But in order to move forward into a more serious relationship, it's crucial to evaluate whether or not your values align with your partner's when it comes to the important stuff.
"[Consider taking the next step if] you share similar values and priorities in life — if you both don't want children or don't want to get married, for example — [because] it decreases any misunderstandings or assumptions," Bahar says.
You Communicate About Money
Money is a sensitive subject, but being able to talk to your partner about finances is key if you want to take the next step in your relationship and intertwine your lives (and your bank accounts).
"[You're ready for the next step] when you both share similar financial communication, and there are clear understandings between both of you about how/who will pay for what," Bahar says.
You Feel Safe In The Relationship
Sometimes, knowing you're ready for the next step in a relationship is just a feeling you have, even if you can't explain it. "When you start feeling really safe with the person — like you fully can be yourself and they still love and accept you — it's usually a sign you're ready for the next step in the relationship," Dr. Wyatt Fisher, Colorado-based licensed psychologist, tells Bustle.
Whether you've been dating for a few weeks or a few years, there's always room to grow in a relationship. If you've been feeling like you want something more out of your partnership, don't be afraid to talk to your partner about taking the next step forward together.