1. When one of you is forced to eat humble pie.
No one likes to swallow their pride and admit fault, but we’re all wrong on occasion. The thing is, when you care about someone a lot, you’ll manage to do this more easily, so your ability to suck it up and apologize to the person you’re dating is a critical test of relationship strength. Whether you’re proven incorrect after making a gentleman’s bet about how old Justin Bieber is, or you do something royally fucked up, your approach to ‘I’m sorry’ is a reflection of your connection with the person you’re saying it to.
2. When something weird happens during sex.
So many things can go wrong during sex. Condoms break, women queaf, and fingers sometimes slip into unintended orifices. Until you’ve been seeing each other long enough to know the ins and outs of each other’s bodies, it can be seriously intimidating to fool around naked. There’s a reason why sexy play is usually preceded by getting buzzed in the beginning phase of a courtship. Still, every unforeseen sexual mishap is an opportunity to assess your mate on some level.
3. When you’re forced to accept that you’re both living, breathing, pooping humans.
Everybody poops. We all know this about each other, and yet it can be tough to muster the courage to go number two when know your significant other is destined to smell it. Naturally, no one wants their lover associating them with foul smelling waste. So the day you can’t avoid taking a massive, stinky shit in the bathroom right before your boyfriend or girlfriend enters and you’re forced to confront each other’s humanity once and for all, it’s a big smelly deal.
4. When your emotional states are completely misaligned.
No matter how intertwined your lives become, there are bound to be times when it seems like your moods are completely mismatched. Maybe your significant other just aced an exam and he or she is itching to celebrate, but you’re too bummed out from watching a depressing movie about a brilliant woman who develops early onset Alzheimer’s to imagine partying. It doesn’t matter why your emotional states are so disparate, but how you handle the situation. Are you both eager to compromise on some level, or is one person disproportionately accommodating?
5. When silence suddenly strikes.
Your ability to navigate unexpected stretches of silence—no matter how short (the car’s sound system stops working for a few minutes), or long (a hurricane forces you to spend several days together without power or working electronics)—is a solid indicator of long-term compatibility. It’s important to be able to sit quietly with your boyfriend or girlfriend without feeling awkward and fidgety, so pay attention to how comfortable you feel during every shared silence.
6. When one of you is publicly humiliated.
Public embarrassment happens constantly, especially to people who wear high heels, text while walking, and/or tend to misunderstand punch lines. Over time, we all develop coping mechanisms for bouncing back from shame, but the game is always slightly different when you face plant on the quad in front of the person you’re dating. It’s telling to see how supportive someone is as the witness to their partner’s mortification—and how they behave as the humiliated party when their unwanted turn in the spotlight inevitably comes around.
7. When something bad happens to either person.
Bad news sucks, but it sucks a little less when you have someone to vent to. Whatever triggers a person’s distress—a fight with the best friend, bad news from the home front, or a terrible test score—their partner’s reaction is a good sign of how they handle upsetting circumstances in general, and whether or not you’re well positioned to tackle life’s stickier parts as a couple. Tears or no tears, this is a significant relationship test.
8. When you give each other presents.
Exchanging gifts in a relationship can be a super weird experience, especially when a holiday or a birthday occurs in the months right after things start getting serious. No one knows exactly how much to spend, or how sentimental to get. More than the actual presents, your reactions to each other’s gifts matter.
9. When you incorporate each other into your inner circles.
Your romantic partner won’t necessarily get along with everyone you consider close, but their attitude towards these people counts. If someone fails to demonstrate any interest in meeting your best friends, there’s definitely cause for concern. After those first key encounters, it’s also revealing to see how often your partner bothers to ask after your nearest and dearest and/or suggests hanging out with them.
10. When one person’s caught lying.
Not many people tell the truth 100 percent of the time. We rely on white lies to wiggle out of uncomfortable situations, to manipulate others into getting things we want, and to be polite or kind. If you spend enough time with another person, they’re bound to trap you eventually in some kind of fib (you made Varsity soccer as a senior, not a junior) or a giant whopper (your parents aren’t actually divorced but you claim they are just to fit in sometimes). Being called out isn’t fun, but the dynamic between a boyfriend and girlfriend when someone’s caught with their hand in the proverbial cookie jar can be informative.