Picking a life partner is a big decision. Many of my relationship clients get picky and nervous when they start wondering if they’ve found “the one,” because finding a soulmate is an important lifelong decision and they feel it is supposed to be hard.
Finding your soulmate isn’t actually hard, though. Any person can get married to a wonderful partner in less than two years if they know how to do it and put in the effort.
This might come as a surprise to singles who have been unsuccessful with lasting romance, but the truth is that everyone can find a wonderful partner.
Falling in love isn’t hard. Learning to work and integrate with another person is a bit more challenging, but it also is doable. What gets people stuck, beyond actually being open to a committed relationship and putting in the work, is the fear of getting what they want. Committing to a person sounds scary, and many people make it hard because they think finding a soulmate is magical and like finding a needle in a haystack.
It isn’t hard. So embrace the possibility that your current partner might be “the one,” and use this checklist as a way to move past the fear and build the life you deserve. Here’s how you know if you’ve found the right person and are ready for the next step.
There are two keys for a good relationship: commitment and working together as one. You need both, especially the working together part.
So the first thing you should look for is how well you plan and solve problems with your partner. Can you resolve differences of opinion and co-create together? Do you handle life together as a unit, or are you still largely working as two separate people with separate lives and decision-making systems?
You don’t have to make every decision together with your partner. That’s not possible because we only have 24 hours in a day and working together takes time. But you should be really good about coming together with your partner when it matters.
The commitment part also matters, of course, so the second sign you’re ready for that lifelong partnership is when there is genuine commitment.
Genuine commitment is when you can’t walk away.
I’m not saying you won’t walk away temporarily if they cheat or go crazy, or that this other person is definitely your lifelong romantic partner. I’m talking about when you’ve adopted your partner as part of the family and you can’t imagine cutting them out of your life completely.
Is this person going to stick around in some capacity? If the answer is yes, you have commitment.
Every relationship has tough moments, so having that commitment to work with your partner through the good and the bad—like you do with family—is a crucial component of a lasting relationship. You need that basic commitment before you’re ready for the deeper commitment of a lifelong romantic partnership.
Now this is a tricky one. Other people don’t self-actualize you; that comes from within, and nobody can do it for you. But your partner can make you feel safe and comfortable enough that you fully express your authentic self, and they can work with you so your drives, your style, your interests and your creativity are not limited or repressed.
For me, I use the playfulness test: Am I acting playful and goofy around the other person? If I’m not playful around them, I’m putting on a persona or hiding some part of myself. That’s a sign I’m not my best, most authentic self—and my relationship with the other person still needs work.
Being authentic when you are around your partner is a great sign that you are ready for the next step in your relationship.
Good relationships are about two people coming together as one, not two people acting as two. If you internalize this idea and act on it, everything else falls into place remarkably fast.
So the fourth sign you’ve found your soulmate is when you start thinking in terms of the “we,” not the “me and my partner.”
It is a subtle shift, but an important one. Of course you’re still you and your partner is still them, but the walls between you and your significant other are starting to crumble, and you’re frequently viewing your partner in terms of yourself—an expanded self that includes you and your partner together.
There are many ways you can tell if this shift is happening. One little way you can tell is if you and your partner are deciding together where to eat out. It isn’t about just what you crave, it isn’t about just what they want. Nor is it a compromise. Instead, the decision flows from a harmony where the right move is the one that truly makes sense for both of you.
Many of my clients get tripped up by the logistics of their relationship. They build a long list of requirements for the right match, and as a result nobody fits the bill.
Logistical details do matter, but only to a point. Throw out the long checklist that includes the height of your partner, political affiliation, what type of job they have, the personality traits they must exhibit, and even seemingly important criteria like sexual compatibility (that can be learned). These are nice qualities, details that certainly play a role in your relationship. But they aren’t the biggies that will make your relationship succeed or fail.
Check for the deal-breakers instead, details like whether you have the same view on children and childcare, whether your professional lives will keep you apart (one partner tied deeply to Shanghai, for instance, and the other stuck in San Francisco), and strong spiritual beliefs.
Focus only on the logistics that definitively rule out a person or would make your relationship hugely challenging. If there are none, move on to the other signs.
The sixth sign that you’ve found your soulmate and are ready to take the next step in your relationship is if you have worked through all the major challenges in your relationship today.
Having major outstanding issues that are avoided or causing underlying tension in the relationship is not so much a red flag that you’ve found the wrong person as it is a sign you should slow down and spend more time on the relationship first.
Every now and then I see a couple that doubles down and gets married (or has kids) as a workaround for unresolved relationship problems, and that almost never ends well. If there are big issues you still must address, you probably have not figured out how to fully work together yet or could have incompatible logistics that just haven’t quite come to the surface.
So stay committed and work on your relationship if there are major issues outstanding, but hold off a little longer on the big commitment until you are sure these issues can be resolved. And if there are no problems and you’ve been dating for some time, view that as a very positive sign that you’re with the right person. Dating is all about testing these fundamentals, and you and your partner have passed a major test!
I’ve saved the gotcha for last. The final major sign that you’re ready for that bigger commitment is when both you and your partner are getting serious for the right reason, namely love.
This sounds simple and obvious enough, but it actually is a trick question because most of us get into relationships for the WRONG reasons. We feel affection for our partner, of course, but really what drives us is something else: not wanting to live alone, validation, the social status of marriage, someone taking care of us, wanting kids, the desire for more money or sex, or other non-love reasons.
These are all transactional reasons, not the stuff that good relationships are built on. You won’t get through the hard times that all relationships face if you or your partner’s primary motivation is transactional; these reasons don’t create a foundation that can withstand time and evolving needs. Only love does that.
So before you pull the trigger and take the next step, be sure you’re doing it for the right reason. If you’re not, slow it down and reexamine your motives. Maybe you are scratching the wrong itch and don’t actually want a life partner? Or maybe your partner is not ready? Figure out why the two of you are in the relationship and make sure you have the right foundation before getting serious.
There are few decisions in life that are more important than picking a life partner. Don’t let this paralyze you or keep you from having a lasting relationship, though. It is a big decision, but it need not be a hard one.
Remember, people have been partnering for thousands of years. We have been doing it long before there was online dating and the choice in partner we have today. Most of the real work that makes your relationship good happens after you commit, so don’t overthink this and place too much emphasis on the choosing part. Instead, look for these seven signs and then confidently move forward.
And if you’re still unsure, reach out to us at Kowalke Relationship Coaching. We can help you cut through the confusion and figure out if you’ve found your soulmate. We also can help you make sure that relationship lasts.