You know that one couple that seems to have love and marriage all blissfully figured out? As we (and the experts) all know, unlocking the secret to having a strong and healthy relationship involves more than just passion—it takes hard work, including knowing if you're personally ready to tie the knot.
Of course, there's also the pressing question: How can you tell if your partner is The One? According to Margaret Paul, PhD, a couples therapist, there's one telltale sign that can reveal whether you should marry the person you're dating. The best-selling author tells MindBodyGreen that before you and your significant other take that next big step in your relationship, "you need to make sure that you accept them exactly as they are. … You need to be able to fully love the lovable aspects of them and fully accept the wounded aspects of them—the aspects you don't like."
All too often, people believe that the other person can and will change once they're officially hitched, says Paul. It's an issue she constantly sees when coaching married couples, and most of them admit that they were struggling with the problem before they said, "I do."
Paul explains that convincing yourself that he or she might solve an anger issue, improve their personal hygiene, stop drinking excessively, or be more sexually available after marriage (to name just a few examples) "is unloving to yourself and to your partner." If your partner is willing to change for the better, it's likely that they've already begun the process of therapy and personal growth before you met them. In other words, "change always has to come from within," says Paul.
The relationship expert also stresses that we should avoid falling into the mindset that we can inspire our partner to change if we simply shower them with enough love and understanding. "It's not about you," she explains. "Love them or leave them, but let go of expecting change. That's the only way to have a happy, fulfilling relationship."
Up next: the three types of love we all need, and how to find them.