Casual dating means there are “no strings attached” and you get to date as many people as you want without any kind of commitment. But what if the other person is actually marriage material?
Dating casually can be a fun and great way to meet potential suitors, but you don’t want to do it forever.
Studies show that casual dating can have negative consequences, like depression, low self-esteem, and physical dangers (such as contracting STIs).
In contrast, being happily married is linked to better physical health and mental well-being and living a longer life.
At some point, you might want to couple up, especially if you dream of starting a family someday.
But before you take yourself off the market and commit to an exclusive relationship, it’s worth figuring out if they could be “the one.” Trust me: It will save a lot of future heartaches.
How do you know if the person you’re dating would make a good life partner? And how can you make sure that the perfect match doesn’t slip through your fingers?
Here are 9 tell-tale signs your casual dating partner could be marriage material.
1. You’re crazy about each other.
Your romance started as a weekly booty call. Or maybe they were one of three people you were dating. But somewhere along the line, it turned into daily text messages and spending all of your free time together.
In other words, it’s no longer casual. Things escalated because you can’t get enough of each other.
You skip work meetings to walk them to the subway. They take a cab from across town at rush hour for a few minutes of hand-holding. You sleep with the t-shirt they left at your house because it smells like them.
Everything you do together — even taking out the trash — is beyond fun.
While being head-over-heels at the start of your relationship isn’t totally essential for a healthy marriage, it certainly helps.
2. You aren’t toying with each other.
No one is playing games and you already feel like you can trust each other. There are no stories that don’t add up or mysterious disappearances. They’re where they said they’d be, when they said they’d be there.
You aren’t interested in messing with each other’s feelings because you don’t want to risk losing someone you like so much.
You may have already told each other you aren’t dating other people — and you meant it.
If your gut is saying you don’t want to date anyone else because it doesn’t compare to what you guys have, they could definitely be marriage material.
3. You want to get to know each other.
You’re way beyond small talk. You want to know everything about them and vice versa — their favorite song, what they think about global warming, and how many freckles they have on their body.
You also talk about the hard stuff, like messed-up families and mental health. And when you share, they listen properly and don’t use it against you later.
You’re keen to meet each other’s friends and family — maybe you already have — because it’s a way to learn more about one another and see if your lives could fit together.
Research says the happiest couples take the time to understand each other. If this is already happening in your relationship, it’s an excellent sign.
4. You prioritize each other’s happiness.
When you’re casually dating, you’re not too invested in the other person’s well-being. So, if you find yourself going out of your way to make each other happy, it could be something serious.
Maybe you’ve been taking a detour on your way home from work to pick up their favorite cookies. Or scrubbing your apartment because you know they’re a clean freak.
If you upset each other, you find out why and don’t do it again.
If you’re already considering each other’s needs and well-being, then you truly care about each other, which puts you on the path to a happy future together.
5. You can make decisions together.
You don’t have to agree on everything. In fact, it’s probably better if you don’t.
But if you’re going to settle down with them, you need to be able to resolve your differences in a way that feels productive.
Think about the decisions you’ve made together, like which takeout place to order from or which sexual position to try next.
How did it go? Were you both part of the decision-making process? Were you respectful of each other’s viewpoints?
Could you talk without criticism, contempt, defensiveness, and stonewalling (the four known predictors of divorce)?
If you were able to communicate effectively and reach a joint decision, it may be a match made in heaven.
6. You bring out the best in each other.
It’s a wise move to marry someone who makes you feel like the best possible version of yourself. Look for someone who accepts you and your quirks, and loves you all the more for them.
You might have noticed that, since they came into your life, you’ve dropped bad habits and are evolving as a person and partner. If you’re helping each other learn, grow, and thrive, you’re with a winner.
7. You tick most of each other’s boxes.
They may be a wonderful person, but are they right for you? As a therapist, I advise single clients to make a prioritized list of specific qualities and values they want in a partner.
Perhaps, you learned from previous relationships that strong conversational skills are a must. You may know that you need someone who’s funny, loves to travel, puts family first, or shares your religion.
And it’s OK if they don’t tick everything on your wish list. As long as the most important items are covered, you can move forward optimistically.
8. You have similar plans for the future.
One of the toughest problems couples face is not being on the same page about life plans. You must be aligned on the big things, like the age you want kids, or whether you want kids at all.
No matter how much you click, if your life goals and timelines don’t fit, then you’re in trouble. If your vision for the future is similar or highly flexible, then you’re on the right track.
9. You’re both ready to give it a shot.
Commitment is part and parcel of a long-term relationship. If you’re going to make it down the aisle, you have to both want to take the relationship to the next level, which, for most people, means being exclusive.
To broach the commitment conversation, try this:
“It’s been amazing dating you the past few months. I want to keep dating you, and I don’t want to date anyone else. I’d really like for our relationship to be exclusive, and to see where it goes. Is that something you want, too?”
If you’ve been dating for long enough and one of you won’t commit (or does so reluctantly), the other person might not be marriage material.
Now that you know exactly how to determine if your casual relationship is marriage material, you don’t have to worry about the right person passing you by — or moving forward with the wrong match and regretting it later.
If you’re still unsure, don’t sweat it. Try working on the parts of your relationship that are iffy. Or, consider pre-marital counseling, where you can share your concerns with an expert.
Though you can’t guarantee a lifelong future with someone, if you’re seeing these nine signs in your fledgling romance, you’re off to the best possible start.
Talia Litman, MFT, is a New York-based marriage and family therapist who works with motivated couples and individuals to transform their relationships and sex lives. Email Talia to learn more and follow her on Instagram.