1. There is a healthy enough distance between your romantic relationship and your other friendships, but they can jive together and hold their own when they inevitably overlap. It’s not about loving every person your person is friends with or whether or not they’re best friends with all of your friends; it’s about whether or not you can make it work or make a compromise.
2. You are able to spend time apart to pursue outside friendships and goals, and you are happy to do so. You don’t feel the compelling need to be sustained by one another all the time, and you realize that this lack of constant necessity does not equate to not being happy when you are together.
3. You tease each other. You can laugh and make fun of each other in ways other people can’t. This comes from both a sense of security as well as the understanding that you don’t have to be walking on eggshells with them all the time. You know when it’s time to let loose, and you are comfortable enough with them to let them see.
4. You can appreciate that a cute stranger walking down the street is cute, but not in a wanting to have sex with them kind of way. You understand that human attraction and desire does not cease when you commit yourself to someone, but that you also are consciously making the choice not to act on that.
5. Despite the cliché of it, you really are most fulfilled by seeing them happy. You want to do whatever you can to facilitate that, whether it’s sending them a funny picture or hearing them talk through something that’s on their mind at 2 a.m.
6. You finally understand the appeal of going out for a really nice meal together — not just the theory of being some place nice, but of having that experience with them. The kind of person you want to be with is the kind that makes you do stuff like that.
7. They make you rethink your priorities. Even if it was previously off the table, monogamy seems inevitable, and parenthood is a serious possibility.
8. You seriously start to re-evaluate what you value. You realize that there is something about this person that means more to you than other silly things that once took precedence, and you start adjusting your lifestyle accordingly.
9. You make a tiny, unconscious effort in looking better when you know you’re going to see them. It’s not that appearances have much to do with love, but they do have something to do with attraction, and the gesture of wanting to look great for your lover is not unhealthy, as long as it’s not the basis on which your relationship thrives. (And yes, the love of your life will still love you in sweatpants.)
10. If they tell you you’re wrong about something, your anger subsides a lot faster in the effort to work something out. All of a sudden, the egotistical need to be correct and win every situation is not nearly as important as making amends and talking it out.
11. You accept your friends’ and loved ones’ opinions about them and the relationship as great feedback and important advice, but at the end of the day, you realize that the only person who can really decide is you, and that there are many successful couples (be it in history, literature, practice) that are together despite others’ disapproval.
12. You want to consult them when it comes to things about your future — your job, moving, whatever — because you honestly value their opinion (and because you want to share that future with them).
13. You take it slow. You know there’s no rush to the finish line. What’s more: happily ever after won’t start after a certain point. You’re living it now, and you don’t need to take the next step forward unless you know you’re ready.
14. Little things they love that you could care less about still make you smile, because they make you think of them. You might not ever understand why they love those things, but you accept them as just a few small facets that make up this person.
15. You start doing those quintessential “in love” things, because they’re common for a reason. The love songs on the radio start to sound familiar and personal. Trite quotes hold that much more meaning. The holiday season seems even more magical. You want to hold their hand and lay on their chest. These things are small, but they’re not unimportant.
16. The concept of growing with them — which once might have seemed so abstract — doesn’t seem so strange, or even all that difficult. You know that you’ll both evolve at your own pace and develop into new people as time goes on, but you’ll do so with the knowledge that they will, too, and each new person complements the other.
17. Ultimately, as we said, there is just a sense of “knowing” that doesn’t require reason. It will feel like you’ve known it all along, or that you can’t remember a point at which you didn’t really know, deep down, that they’re it for you.