If love is famously blind, how is one supposed to actually know with certainty that they've found The One? Love is a powerful emotion that can give us a rosy outlook, send us on a whirlwind of daydreams, and strengthen a bond with someone new, but it can also lead to committing without truly getting to know someone. We've all had our rose-colored glasses crushed at some point in our lives—whether from a middle-school boyfriend, a long-distance sweetheart, or a failed marriage—and with enough bumps in the road, it can become hard to trust our own instincts when love gets involved.
If you've felt the butterflies of a budding relationship, the fireworks of a summer romance, and the comforting nature of a stable relationship, but you still doubt whether or not your love interest is destined to be The One, there are science-backed signs to watch out for. "The answer lies in doing a thorough assessment of your needs in a relationship and whether they’re being (or have the potential to be) met," say Joanne Davila, PhD, and Kaycee Lashman, co-authors of The Thinking Girl's Guide to the Right Guy. As it turns out, love alone (while necessary) is not enough to make a relationship work.
Are you excited about someone new or getting ready to walk down the aisle? Keep these signs in mind to know if your relationship has the potential for greatness, or if it's heading toward disaster. Ahead, Davila and Lashman break down the nine questions that can determine if you've found The One.
Do we know each other's best and worst traits?
"Do you really know each other? We need to know the traits that make us who we are, influence how we act, and affect the way we try to get our needs met in relationships. For this to happen, both people need to be authentic and genuine. When you’re familiar with each other, you’re a lot less likely to wake up one day and wonder Who is this person I’m in a relationship with? And you won’t be surprised by the way they brush their teeth."
Are we interested in each other's lives and excited to share them?
"If the answer is no, it’s a signal that you likely don’t want the same things in life, and that means you two may not be compatible. If you love going out to the latest hot spots and they hate doing so, that’s a sign of disinterest. If they're highly involved in politics and just thinking about them makes your eyes glaze over, that’s a sign of disinterest. If the last thing you want to do is hear how each other’s day went, that’s a big sign of disinterest. If he or she is the one, they’ll look forward to hearing about your day and sharing in the activities that are important to you."
Do we help and support each other in good times and bad?
"Relationships are much more successful when partners can celebrate the good things that happen to each other and be there to comfort each other in the stressful times. Both emotional and practical support are important. Sometimes we need a shoulder to cry on. Sometimes we need someone to help us with the dishes or pick up the dry cleaning. Whatever you need, it’s important to be with someone who can provide it, and it’s important to be willing to return the favor."
Are we attracted to each other and comfortable being sexually intimate?
"This is about liking each other’s physical appearance just as it is, and about wanting to be sexual with each other and feeling comfortable telling each other about your interests and needs. If you don’t like your partner’s height, weight, nose, fill in the blank, he or she might not be the one. The same goes for not being sexually compatible. This is a critical aspect of a healthy relationship. If the sex isn’t working for you, this might not be the relationship for you."
Are we attuned to each other's feelings, and do we consider each other's needs?
"This is about caring about how each other feels. It’s about really listening to your partner expressing and needing, with an ear toward understanding them better. And it’s about taking each other’s feelings and needs into consideration when making decisions about things, big or little. For instance, if you know your partner has to get up early for an important work meeting, don’t schedule a late dinner the night before. It’s really important to try to take each other's perspective, to understand and empathize with each other, and to make decisions and solve problems together in a way that shows you care."
Do we trust in each other's availability, consistency, and commitment?
"Knowing that a partner is going to be there for us and that they won’t break our trust in them is critical to a good relationship. You both need to know what would be considered a betrayal—this could be different for different people—and then you need to commit to not doing it. If you can’t trust in each other in these ways, and you find yourself being anxious, suspicious, or jealous, there will never be a solid foundation to your relationship."
Can we accept each other for exactly who we are?
"More specifically, can you accept each other for who you are without trying to change each other—make someone into something they’re not, that they don’t want to be, or that they can’t be? One of the most common complaints that couples bring to therapy is the desire for a partner to change. If your partner agrees that change is needed and is willing to work on it, great. However, trying to change a partner will not work if the partner does not want to change. Attempts to change someone are experienced as criticism, and that hurts people and relationships. So if you don’t want what each other has to offer—meaning you don’t want the person just as they are—then you shouldn’t be together."
Can we forgive each other for mistakes we've acknowledged?
"Everybody makes mistakes. It’s inevitable that partners will disappoint each other at some point in their relationship. What’s important is how they handle it and whether we can forgive them. Not being able to forgive a partner will lead to further relationship problems. However, we should only forgive in situations where the person acknowledges what they’ve done, recognizes its impact on you, provides a genuine apology, and commits to behaving differently in the future. If that doesn’t happen, that person is not The One. And if your partner can’t forgive you after you’ve made the appropriate apology, then they’re definitely not The One."
Do we keep each other safe?
"Being able to keep each other safe—emotionally, physically, and practically—is at the heart of feeling secure in a relationship. A sense of security is one of the most important aspects of a healthy relationship, and it cannot exist when a partner doesn’t feel safe. If your partner is not making choices that allow you to feel safe—for instance, insisting on driving after drinking too much, not fixing the broken lock on the apartment door, being critical and degrading—then they are definitely not The One."
Is it too early in your relationship to answer these questions? Here's how to tell if your short fling will last.