Navigating the dating world is difficult. So when you get the chance to commit to someone you genuinely like, you won’t want to let that go.
But how do you know if you’ve actually found the right person, or you’re just settling?
With so many dating apps, it can be easy to fall into the trap of the “paradox of choice,” where you reject someone amazing out of concern there’s someone else out there who’s even more perfect.
“The paradox of choice causes a lot of people to play the field early on,” relationship psychologist Claire Stott, who is a data analyst at dating app Badoo, told Business Insider. “But I think over a bit of time of dating, and experiencing a lot of different people, you really learn to realise what’s good and what’s not.”
If you need a bit of a helping hand, there are certain topics you should broach with your partner before you decide to stick with them long term. Settling down is a big commitment, and you don’t want to do it with someone who’s wrong for you, or who ends up breaking your heart. Or even worse, with someone who’s right for you, but the timing is off, so you both get hurt.
1. Firstly, ask them what they’re looking for.
“You don’t need to ask if they want to go out with you straight away,” said Stott. “But you can say ‘Are you in the market for looking for something?’ or ‘What are you looking for?’ And this gives you an indicator of whether they’re looking for something a bit more than something lighthearted.”
They might be honest and tell you they’re not looking for anything serious — and that’s fine. But they might also say they are willing to settle for the right person, which gives you the indication you’re not wasting your time. It’s rather that than finding out later on that you were one of seven other people they were hanging out with.
2. Are they content with life?
It sounds quite deep for the start of a relationship, when everything is supposed to be fun and carefree. But Stott said it’s a good idea to find out if someone is happy with where they are in their life.
“Because being fairly content is a sign you are at least mentally ready to meet someone and have a relationship with another person,” she said. “And a lot of that comes from, it sounds really cheesy, but loving yourself before you can love someone else. And if you’re meeting someone who’s really upset with their life… it can be a bit of a warning sign they aren’t quite ready to open up their life to a relationship.”
You don’t have to be quite so direct about it. You can ask questions like “Are you happy in your job?” or “Do you feel at home in the city you live in?”
“You can ask these questions which signal whether that person is in a good place and whether you think they might be ready for a relationship,” Stott said.
3. Do they have any major future plans?
Nobody wants to be in the position of falling for someone, then learning they plan to move half way across the world… indefinitely.
Any major life-changing events, like moving to work abroad, or travelling, will likely impact your relationship. So it’s handy to know about someone’s plans early on.
“You don’t want to be shocked a few weeks down the line, that they’re moving to Australia, and you didn’t ask them,” Stott said. “It’s good to have an idea of what people’s immediate future plans are, like if they have got this burning desire to do something and they are pursuing it, it’s best to know that early on.”
4. What is their average Sunday like?
The way you spend your Sundays can be quite telling. Some people waste away the hours nursing a hangover, whereas others are more “get up and go” types.
“It sounds quite random but you can really get an idea of the person they are,” said Stott, who recommends asking this question early on. “Quite often it’s that proactive versus hungover personality. And although it seems unimportant, it does say a lot about the person… You kind of get a flavour of what that person’s about.”
5. How do they handle stressful situations?
“The way someone deals with things that go wrong in their life can be a real indicator of how compatible you might be with them,” Stott said. “And there isn’t a right or wrong way they might be.”
For instance, some people retreat into themselves and need coaxing out by someone who is more in touch with their feelings. If two emotional hermits start dating, it might not be a totally healthy relationship that blossoms.
If you go through something stressful, see how the other person reacts. It doesn’t have to be anything big, but it can be a good gauge for how much help they will be during the tougher things life throws at you. If they are dismissive or don’t seem to care about your troubles, it could be a sign they’re afraid of intimacy, or can’t communicate very well.
“It is hard in the early days because usually everything is rosy and you’re both being your best selves,” said Stott. “But just keep it on the backburner to see if there are any indicators that they might not be compatible with you.”
6. Do they have the same values as you?
People all have their certain deal breakers. For example, some will not tolerate drug use. Others are intent on not having children. Although it’s hard to get into the big topics at the start of the relationship, you should find out if they have any values that are the total opposite of your own.
“There’s no use screwing yourself over in the long run basically,” said Stott. “People don’t broach it in the right way, [or] they think maybe I’ll change, and they don’t. Then it just becomes an issue later. There are some certain deal breakers that should be brought up early.”
7. What are their friends and family like?
People aren’t always a mirror image of their friends and family, but in general, you can tell a lot about a person from who they choose to hang out with, and where they came from.
“If you meet someone’s friends and you think they’re the worst people you’ve ever met, it might be a bit of a red flag of what you’re missing of the person,” Stott said. “Is there a side to them I haven’t quite seen yet?”
The same goes for them meeting your friends. While you’re wearing the rose-tinted glasses during the honeymoon period, it can be tempting to dismiss things that would bother you further down the line. Your friends won’t be so easily fooled.