Is it too soon to get engaged? Turns out, successful relationship timelines often have less to do with how long it’s been since you swiped right, and more to do with how much you lovebirds have been through since getting together. According to Rebecca Hendrix, a licensed marriage and family therapist in New York, there are seven relationship benchmarks you and bae should hit before making your commitment legal, whether you’re a summer fling turned serious or have been coupled up since high school.
1. HAVE A BIG FIGHT
Even if you and your sweetie “never fight”, at some point you will, says Hendrix. “All couples disagree, hurt each other unintentionally and get annoyed with each other at some moment during their relationship.” When arguments do occur, you and your partner might have different fighting styles—he might want to disengage until you can both calm down, while you may prefer to duke it out right that effing moment to feel heard. “Before your merge, know you have a way of handling conflict that works for both of you,” Hendrix says.
2) TAKE ON A LIFE CHALLENGE.
A marriage will be chock full of challenges. “One element of successful relationships is knowing that your partner has your back and is there for you,” Hendrix says. To be confident that you and your partner know how to be supportive when a storm hits, make sure you can point to at least one challenge (big or small) the two of you have weathered together. If you had a family crisis or had to take on a gruelling work project and your partner was suddenly MIA, that’s not a good sign. “Make sure you are with someone who can see the importance of connecting with you,” says Hendrix. “Especially when life is a spinning top and things get tough.”
3) MEET THE FAMILY.
This is about more than just having dinner with the parents—it’s important to get real about what your partner’s family dynamics look like and how you’ll fit into them. “If you are fine seeing your family only on major holidays and he or she would like to spend every Friday night having dinner at his or her parent’s house, then you will have a problem if these expectations aren’t managed,” says Hendrix. Talk about how you’ll coordinate quality time with all the in-laws.
4) SAY THOSE THREE LITTLE WORDS: “LET’S BUDGET TOGETHER.”
Fights about money are one of the biggest threats to a relationship, says Hendrix. “Know your own relationship with money—why you love it, hate it, are scared of it, or hoard it. How you view money will determine what you do with it, which will probably be different than your partner,” she says. The fact that you constantly save while he blows cash (or vice versa) might not be a big deal now, but as you merge more and more of your finances, it will be. Before you get engaged, make some financial decisions together, whether that’s splitting rent or splurging on a big vacation.
5) TALK ABOUT YOUR SEX LIFE.
No matter how hot and heavy it is now, your sex life will inevitably ebb and flow over the course of your relationship. “Make sure you both can talk about your sex life, make an effort to know each other’s body and discuss what you might do if things get stale,” says Hendrix. Make sure that maintaining your connection in the bedroom is of equal importance to you both.
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6) LIVE TOGETHER.
Even if you don’t currently share a lease or want to wait until you’re married to move in, you should still spend some serious time in each other’s spaces, says Hendrix. Before taking that next step, “make sure you have a way of dealing with each person’s slightly different take on messy vs. clean,” she says.
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7) ACT LIKE YOU’RE ALREADY MARRIED.
To really confirm you’re compatible for the long haul, immerse yourselves in each other’s lives as completely as you will when married, says Hendrix. “If you both love to travel, book a week in Machu Picchu to make sure you travel well together and that you like to see the tops of mountains as much as he or she does. If you love going to concerts, take your partner along to see how he or she fares.” Most importantly, determine how important it is for you to do these types of things together, she adds. If you want to spend the next 10 years traveling with your bestie, make sure bae is cool staying at home.
This article originally appeared on Women’s Health.
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