Listen, there’s no definitive formula that’s like, This + That = Congrats, you’ve found The One. The good news, though: There are some signs that could indicate you’re with the person you’re supposed to be with forever. And if marriage is something you want, these signs could mean that you’ve officially found your spouse (cue happy tears).
So, if that’s the case, take a look at these signs experts say could mean you’re with the person you’re going to marry—or at least be with for the long haul. These will *absolutely* help you gauge long-term compatibility, but just remember that your partner doesn’t necessarily need to check off all of these boxes. What works for you and your S.O. won’t necessarily work for another couple, but they should check off what’s most important to you.
1. They’re juuuust different enough from you.
“You don’t want to marry your carbon copy. It’s boring,” says Rori Sassoon, co-owner of matchmaking agency Platinum Poire, a frequent Real Housewives of New York dating expert, and author of The Art of the Date. She adds, “You want to be able to admire and learn from the person that you’re with so you could be the best version of yourself.” Obviously, this doesn’t mean you have nothing in common—we’ll get to the important similarities in just a sec—but it means you get the fun of discovery while knowing you’re still compatible.
Having different love languages, for example, is normal—and can also be a key aspect of your dynamic. “Let’s say physical touch is your number one love language, but your spouse’s is acts of service,” says Sasson. “Can we respect that we know what makes that person tick? You want to be able to please your partner while making sure they’re taking care of you too. Love languages allow you to have your cake and eat it too, so to speak.”
This could mean:
- They’re your go-to person whenever you have a story to share. You’ve got your own thing going on—and so do they—but you can both come together and discuss it. You appreciate their POV, even if they’re not an expert, and you have valuable insights for each other. Stuff you’d tell parents and friends is all on the table here, too.
- You always have lots to talk about. It constantly feels like discovery: a new passion you didn’t know about, a story from their past, a perspective that they decided to share. You both know you handle situations differently, but that’s the fun of doing things together.
2. They practice or are open to boundaries.
Even if they don’t know therapy-speak, boundaries can be the healthiest aspect of a relationship. Whether that’s giving you space when you need it, knowing when an apology is necessary, asking permission when they’re not sure how you feel, respecting your differences, or telling you their own boundaries, it speaks to the love they have for you—and themselves.
It can be so sexy to have an ongoing dialogue about each person’s needs and preferences, especially since they can be evolving constantly. “People always say: Communication is lubrication. It’s so sexy if you’re able to talk to that person: you had a great day, you had a bad day, you want to have sex tonight, you don’t want to have sex,” says Sassoon. There’s no need for games or guesswork: They honor what you want and need, and vice versa.
This could mean:
- They respect your non-negotiables. They understand that you have other commitments like, say, a weekly Thirsty Thursday with your pals or dinner at your parents every Sunday. But most importantly, they don’t “try to put these boundaries down, talk you out of them, or interrupt them,” says therapist and behavior coach Mari Verano.
- They ask you about your boundaries regularly. They want to know what you’re comfortable with and whether they’re meeting those needs. Again, they might not realize they’re asking about boundaries, per se, but they do know they want you to be comfortable and empowered.
3. Your core values align.
“Having a conversation about values, such as family, spirituality, personal growth, and health is crucial to make sure you and your significant other are on the same page for the long-term,” says Kara Lissy, LCSW and psychotherapist. You don’t have to agree on everything down to your favorite popcorn topper, but if any deep values are out of line, you may need to reconsider whether the relationship has the potential to last into the future, adds Lissy.
This includes some subjects that might surprise you. “I’ve seen a lot of couples go through problems with where they want to live—suburbs versus the city—because that’s something you’re not thinking about when you’re dating,” says Sassoon. “And it’s also a matter of money, right? It’s definitely a conversation that needs to be had throughout the stages of dating.”
One of the things Sassoon says is helpful before marriage is counseling to determine some of these big-picture issues like: Who’s the breadwinner(s)? How will the finances be broken up? Do you want children? “[My business partner explained to me,] ‘If we’re able to get that off the table and agree, this is what we want, these are our lifelong goals, then you don’t need to save the person from potentially having a divorce or breakup.'”
This could mean:
- You both want at least some the same things. You know you both want kids—or not. You’ve agreed that you should each get 45 minutes to go to the gym every day, or you plan to buy a home in the future. You know you’re on the same page with things that matter most because you’ve discussed them. And if you disagree, you have ways to navigate that difference together as partners.
- They work hard, but you’re top priority. If you ask them to go to an event that’s important to you, they’re not afraid to step out of the office to accompany you, just as you would do for them. You, and your relationship, rank at the very top of their priority list. And they respect and value what you value, even when it’s different.
4. You can have healthy conflicts.
Disagreements and conflicts are not only to be expected in any long-term relationship, they can be proof that you’re in a healthy relationship if you both handle things maturely. “It’s a healthy sign that communication is intact and both counterparts are expressing their feelings appropriately,” explains Lissy. Red flags would be repeated arguments about the same thing, resentment, or contempt—although Lissy adds that you shouldn’t worry too much if any of these sound familiar. “Couples therapy is a great tool for resolving these issues.”
Dr. Poppel explains that healthy conflict includes “not wearing your partner’s sh*t…just because your partner is angry, upset etc., doesn’t mean you have to match their emotions. Let your partner speak words to what is bothering them, ask them what they need from you to help them, and don’t react to their problem/concerns. Be in charge of your emotional management and learn when and why you react a certain way.” If they do this, it’s a rlly great sign.
This could mean:
- They’re receptive to feedback. You don’t want to change who they are as a person, but when something they did bothered you, they listen and make an effort to be better. And you do the same.
- You can do things like travel together without fighting all the time. You can do tedious, mundane, everyday things with your S.O. without a ton of fighting. That’s not to say there isn’t stress—you might still get annoyed with each other when your 18-hour flight is delayed overnight at the airport, but you both know it’s not the end of the world and will try to resolve it as a team.
5. They appreciate you.
A sense of gratitude and admiration is an important—and kinda underrated—aspect of a relationship. “Both people feel like the lucky one, as if they’ve won the love lottery,” explains Sassoon. “It’s not like: look at the package, they’re beautiful or successful. You both bring something great to the table and you both walk around feeling so proud to be with that person. You’re just as proud to have them on your arm as they are. There’s clearly no agenda—it’s very pure.”
This could mean:
- They always brag about you. If you get a promotion at work or even just win concert tickets, they can’t resist telling everyone you hang out with before you even think to mention it. Because they’re your biggest fan (arguably next to your mom).
- They don’t try to change you. They know you’re messier, that you always need a pet cat, that you can’t cook to save your life, and all of that is just fine. No one’s perfect, but you both accept who the other person is.
- They’re not constantly waiting for you to “improve.” Similarly, they don’t put any kind of ultimatum around what they perceive as your imperfections. Dr. Valerie Poppel, clinical sexologist and co-founder of the Swann Center, puts it bluntly: “Don’t expect anything from your partner,” adding that it “removes a level of stress and ungratefulness from your relationship.”
6. You both have a healthy level of independence.
You don’t want to be codependent to the point where you lose your autonomy. If you or your partner needs to rely on the other to take care of all their needs, this isn’t good. “In any partnership, there should be mutual support and care-taking,” says Lissy, but if that mutual support starts becoming unbalanced, and someone is constantly relying on the other for all their self-esteem needs or to keep them calm, that could mean trouble down the line. What happens on the day that you can’t be there for them? “A self-assured partner is confident with themselves and can take of their own emotional needs,” Lissy explains.
This is also rlly important to keep that “spark” alive, so you both find each other attractive. “When you come together, you truly have value to add to that person’s life. When you’re codependent on someone, it can become a drag. You become so unsexy to your spouse. Who wants to sit at a dinner table and have nothing to share?” says Sassoon.
This could mean:
- You feel comfortable planning things six months—or a year—into the future. You’re not worried you’ll have to cancel plane tickets or say you won’t be needing a plus-one after all—you feel confident in your relationship. And you genuinely want to coordinate plans so you can spend more time together because you’re not so intertwined that there’s nothing left to do or talk about.
- They care about your friends. If one of them is having a bad day, they suggest you go spend time with them. If they haven’t heard someone’s name in a while, they ask about it. They don’t try to isolate you from your friends and instead make sure you get to spend enough time with them, even when it means you won’t see each other for a bit.
- They feel comfortable as your plus-one. Work drinks that you already know will be stiff and awkward? No problem. Best friend’s birthday dinner where you’ll probably be too busy to actually hang out? Sounds great! They’re supportive and happy to be around you, and they can find people to chat with while you’re running around.
7. You have good sexual chemistry.
If your partner is great on paper, but you lack a sexual spark or chemistry, it’s prob not gonna work. You don’t want to feel guilty for the lack of sexual chemistry, and you don’t want your partner to feel guilty about the lack of chemistry either — especially if you’re spending the rest of your lives together! “Sexual chemistry and good sex are essential if you are with the one,” says David Bennet, certified counselor and relationship expert.
But! It’s also crucial to note that this shouldn’t be the only factor in your relationship. “When you have incredible, intense, insane, mindblowing sexual chemistry, we become blind,” says Sassoon, adding, “But here’s the catch: you have to identify the difference between true love and an outstanding orgasm.” Adds Poppel, “I see that time and time again in our practice, couples had great sexual attraction in the beginning with hot and heavy sex [but] as time and experiences interplay in their relationship, they begin to fray—because they never took the time to understand their partner’s values, attitude, and beliefs.”
This could mean:
- They tell you, out of the blue, that you look hot. And it’s on the day you didn’t dry your hair or put on makeup or even change out of your sweatpants. Like, they find the essence of you sexy.
- Even though it’s been years, you still can’t wait to jump their bones after a long absence. Sure, you already live together, and you know sex is def on the table once you return from your work trip or vacay, but if you find yourself raring to go and getting antsy in the baggage claim because you can’t wait to reunite with your boo, you know it’s for real.
- You feel safe experimenting sexually or bringing up potentially awkward sex convos, like discussing your kinks. You know they won’t judge you and vice versa. It feels really open and wonderful.
8. They handle stress effectively.
I mean…these past couple years have prob shown you what your partner is like during a tough time—but it’s worth seeing how they handle themselves when life gets tough, regardless of the context. “I always feel that when couples experience a mini-crisis together, you truly see how a person really is. Think about the pandemic. Do they shut down? Do they communicate? Do they withdraw? Are they MIA? In life there’s gonna be sh*t that happens,” says Sassoon. “I’ve said time and time again, if your relationship withstood 2020, then you’re unbreakable.”
This could mean:
- You survived a long-distance relationship. It was hard and scary, but you love each other so much that you were able to make the necessary sacrifices to make it through with a singular goal in mind: living in the same place and being together when it was all over.
- You can cry in front of them without feeling embarrassed (and vice versa). You can be vulnerable with each other when you’re worried, scared, angry, or just need to let out all those emotions. They know when to worry and when you’re just caught up in a scene of a movie. And they know to encourage you to take care of yourself.
9. They can actively change.
Rather, they continue to work on themselves as they change—because it’s pretty much guaranteed they won’t stay the same as when you met them. “Your partner’s attitudes, values, and beliefs will change with life experiences, time, and energy, much [like] tides. It’s much easier to go from relationship to relationship than deciding to stay present and work on your current [one],” says Poppel. But one the true intimacies in a relationship comes from navigating that evolution. As therapists like to say: You actually have several relationships throughout your life—and hopefully you get to have them with the same person.
This could mean:
- They’re dedicated to their personal growth—while also supporting yours. “Any long-term healthy relationship requires the ability to grow and change together. Anyone who is worth marrying will not be threatened by your dedication to your personal goals—they will see this as a strength,” says Verano.
- They make sacrifices for you—and you’re happy to do the same. They’ll move cities to live with you if you get a new job or finish grad school. You’re happy to make the next move for one of their opportunities. When they go in a new direction, you’re right there, and vice versa.
10. They treat you with kindness and generosity.
This might feel like a no-brainer, but it’s super-important as a fundamental aspect of your relationship. John Gottman, a v famous relationship expert, found in his research that kindness and generosity were the two major traits that determined if a relationship would last. “If your partner has these traits and treats you accordingly, this person may be the one,” says Bennet.
This could mean:
- Even after years together they still do little chivalrous things for you. Like open doors for you, or carry you to your doorstep when your feet hurt after wearing tight shoes all day and you just can’t bear to walk one more block. Your happiness matters to them.
- They plan activities that they know you’ll enjoy. They don’t depend on you to be in charge of everything, and they remember that you said you wanted to go to that new restaurant or museum exhibit.
- They let you know they’re thinking of you. Whether they send you the link to a cool article you’ll like or they just text you out of the blue, you’re on their mind in a positive way.
11. You’re open with each other and honest.
“One way I can tell a person is ultimately unhappy in their relationship is if they feel the need to hide a lot from their partners, including little things.” says Bennet. If you find yourself needing to hide or justify silly things like the fact that you bought a splurge item to treat yourself after a particularly rough week, that’s not great. If you guys can be open and honest about things, and you don’t feel the need to hide anything from your boo, that’s a good sign.
This could mean:
- They’re close with your family, and they’ve made sure you’ve gotten to know theirs. They’ll call your family members without any hesitation, if you’re close to them. It just makes sense that you’d go to their nephew’s birthday party. You trust them with your family and they trusts you with theirs.
- Your other relationships with family and friends become even better and more stable. “Healthy partners support our other connections and often encourage us to reach out to friends, prioritize them, and make time for the aspects of our life outside of the relationship that bring us joy,” says clinical psychologist Rebekah Montgomery, PhD.
- They let you vent without freaking out. Sometimes when something frustrates you, you just need to go over it again. They don’t get annoyed at this. You don’t feel like you have to edit down just how much your friend’s passive aggressive comment really got to you when talking to them. You know they’re not going to think you’re petty or judge you if you’re upset.
12. They feel like home.
If you can be completely yourself and not have to worry about anxiety, take note of that. It’s not a feeling of butterflies, but an increased feeling of comfort as you grow in the relationship, explains Ingrid Sthare, founder of Relationship Coaching and Coupling. “Butterflies are for the first initial dates and that’s great, but it should grow to a feeling of ease. Like swimming downstream. If it feels like an upstream swim, you’re not on the right track.”
This could mean:
- This person sparks light in times of darkness for you. “Regardless of what is going on in the world for you, you feel secure emotionally, physically, and mentally with a sense of ‘all is well with the world,'” says licensed psychotherapist Markesha Miller.
- You feel no shame talking about how happy you are around friends. This isn’t a relationship you’re constantly troubleshooting with the group text or over brunch. When you talk about this person, you’re talking about some great thing they did recently, or how nice your weekend away was. You’re in love, and you’re so damn happy about it!
- When you think about marrying them, the best part isn’t the wedding, it’s the idea of spending your lives together. The wedding is fun, but you really can’t wait for the two weeks right after when you’ll get uninterrupted honeymoon time. And, you know, every day after.