How to know if you are ready for a serious relationship

15 February,2024 09:23 AM IST |  Mumbai  |  Aakanksha Ahire

Deciding whether to keep things casual with your partner or slide into a serious relationship can be tough. On Valentine’s Day 2024, relationship experts tell our readers how they can know if they are ready for a serious relationship or not

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Matters of the heart are never easy. This is especially the case when one has to decide whether to sign up for a serious relationship and promise a lifelong commitment to someone they dearly love or to tread on the path of casual relationships. Many of us often find ourselves in this dilemma. On Valentine's Day 2024, Mid-day Online conversed with relationship pundits who helped us navigate through this rocky path.

"Many young adults today are opting for casual dating and situationships. This is mostly due to the fear of commitment," says Rhea Joseph, psychiatric social worker and couple therapist, Cadabams Hospital.

Casual dating enables one to enjoy the perks of companionship while also not having to mix personal life with dating life. However, deciding to commit to a person in the hope of spending your life together requires much serious thought.

Niyatii Shah, relationship expert, intimacy coach, founder and president of Averti Education and Council of sex educators for Social Change says, "Determining readiness for a serious relationship involves recognising various signs that indicate emotional and personal preparedness."

Both, Joseph and Shah dive into the complexities of having to choose between a serious and casual relationship.

Why many young individuals are opting for casual dating?

According to Joseph, the fear of commitment, emotional attachment and being unsure of whether they want a fixed partner or not often causes people to opt for casual dating. Such individuals often are unwilling to take on responsibilities that come with a serious relationship. Some also fear that their Insecurities from the past relationship or feelings of inadequacy might just ruin the next relationship they choose to enter.

Shah lists down other common reasons behind going for casual dating:

Priotising personal growth: Some folks are focused on becoming the best version of themselves. They have personal goals and priorities, and that often leads them to choose casual dating instead of something serious. Further, if you're really into your job and working hard to build your career, casual dating might be more appealing. It offers flexibility for those with demanding professional lives.

Wanting freedom: Some people value their freedom. They like casual connections because there is less pressure and no need for a big commitment.

Exploring new experiences: Nowadays, it's common to want to explore different kinds of relationships. Casual dating allows people to meet lots of different folks and see what they like.

Online connections: With dating apps and social media, casual interactions have become normal. It's easier for people to engage in less serious relationships online.

Feeling Pressured: Some people feel pressured by society's expectations, especially around things like getting married. They might choose casual dating because it's not as serious.

Trouble expressing feelings: Some people find it hard to talk about their feelings. Casual dating, with less emotional intensity, might feel more comfortable for them.

Should you jump into a serious relationship after a break-up?

Shah opines, "It is not wise at all to jump into a serious relationship after or when going through a breakup. The serious relationship you had must have impacted every aspect of your life. When one is in a committed relationship, one starts making plans together, and their future becomes this shared vision. Family and friends get involved, there's emotional investment, and one finds comfort in being dependent on each other. It's like building this cosy safe space together. So, when a breakup happens, it's not just a relationship ending, it's like a little earthquake shaking up one's entire life. This leads to one finding comfort elsewhere."

Joseph adds, "Individuals are vulnerable post break up and they want to cope with the situation by replacing with another person. They are not in the mental state to initiate and nurture a new relationship. There are also chances for them to get into a relationship with abusive partners or to be with the wrong matches."

Both the experts recommend taking time to heal instead of moving onto the next relationship and complicating things even further.

What signs indicate you are not ready for a serious relationship?

Joseph states, "Being ready for a serious relationship involves emotional maturity, clear communication skills, and a sense of self-awareness. Some common signs that tell you you are ready to leap include a willingness to compromise, handle conflicts constructively, and have realistic expectations."

Here are some signs, according to Shah, that indicate you are ready for a serious relationship.

Emotional stability: It's crucial to feel secure in yourself emotionally. If you can handle the ups and downs of life without relying solely on a relationship for stability, that's a good sign.

Clear priorities: Knowing what matters most in your life, like career goals, personal growth, and values, suggests you're ready for a serious relationship. This clarity helps you align with a potential partner.

Communication skills: Being able to talk effectively is key to a healthy relationship. Expressing your feelings, actively listening, and handling conflicts positively show that you're ready.

Independence: Feeling comfortable and happy on your own indicates readiness. You're not seeking a relationship to fill a gap; instead, you want it to add value to your life.

Learning from past relationships: If you've learned from past relationships and can identify things to adjust, you're in a good position for a serious commitment.

Capacity for compromise: Being willing to compromise without giving up your core values shows maturity and readiness for the give-and-take in serious relationships.

Stable self-esteem: Having healthy self-esteem sets a secure foundation for a relationship. When you value and respect yourself, it's more likely to attract and sustain a healthy connection.

Ready to be vulnerable: Serious relationships need openness. If you can share your thoughts, express your needs, and understand your partner's feelings, it shows you're ready.

Long-term vision: Being open to a future and the idea of a long-term commitment is a big sign that you're ready for a serious relationship.

Genuine interest in your partner: If you genuinely enjoy getting to know others and care about their well-being, it's a positive sign that you're ready to invest time and effort into a meaningful relationship.

How to know if you want a casual or serious relationship?

Joseph states, that when deciding on what kind of relationship you want, it is of utmost importance to weigh in your options. Think about the pros and cons of each kind of relationship. Understand how your decision to go ahead with either a casual relationship or a serious relationship can change your life.

Here are some factors Shah recommends considering when deciding whether to opt for a casual or serious union:

Know yourself: Take time to understand what you want and what's important to you in a relationship. Think about your own goals and feelings.

Talk about it: Have an open and honest conversation with your potential partner. Make sure you both understand each other's expectations.

Consider timing: Think about where you are in life. Ask yourself, do you have the time and emotional energy for a serious commitment right now?

Check compatibility: See if you and your potential partner share similar long-term goals, values, and lifestyles. Being compatible is key to a successful relationship.

Reflect on your feelings: Pay attention to your emotions. If you're looking for a deep, long-term connection, a serious relationship might be right. If you want more flexibility, a casual relationship could be a better fit.

Get advice: Talk to friends or mentors who know you well. They might offer helpful insights and perspectives.

Be realistic: Be honest with yourself about how much you can commit emotionally. Consider what you can realistically give to a relationship right now.

How can wrong dating decisions have a negative effect?

Rushing into a relationship only to fill a void in life can hurt your as well as the other person's emotions. If you don't take time to close the chapter on your previous relationship, it can be hard to fully move on and be ready for a new partner.

There's a risk of comparing your new relationship to the old one. This can create unrealistic expectations and make it tough for a healthy connection to grow.

Further, if the new relationship moves too fast, there's a chance of unintentionally hurting your new partner or yourself because of lingering emotions from the past.

Instead of giving yourself the time needed to heal and take care of yourself, diving into a new relationship right away might delay the emotional recovery that comes after a breakup.

How must those not ready for anything serious ensure they don't hurt someone they are involved with?

Giving mixed signals to someone who holds feelings for you can lead to them going through emotional turmoil. If you are uncertain about having a serious relationship with someone you are seeing or have plans to date them, Joseph says it is essential to have clear communication.

"Communicate what you are looking for and what you can provide to the partner. Do not give mixed signals - that sometimes you are serious about the relationship and sometimes consider it to be casual. If the other partner expresses an interest to change it to a serious relationship, express your unwillingness and terminate the relationship, instead of providing hope."

Shah jots down a list of things you must not do if you plan on keeping things casual:

Don't give false hope: Avoid making promises or statements that may imply a future commitment if you're not ready for one. Be honest about your intentions.

Don't withhold communication: Ignoring messages or creating distance without explanation can be hurtful. Keep open lines of communication, and if you need space, communicate it respectfully.

Don't avoid defining the relationship: If the other person seeks clarity about the nature of your connection, don't dodge the conversation. Be honest about your current stance on relationships.

Don't engage in intimacy without communication: Make sure you're on the same page regarding the level of emotional involvement before engaging in intimate activities.

Don't dismiss their feelings: If the other person expresses their emotions or desires for a more serious commitment, be empathetic and respectful. Dismissing their feelings can lead to emotional hurt.

Don't use them as a placeholder: Don't keep someone around simply for companionship or attention if you know you're not ready for a serious relationship. It's not fair to either party.

Don't delay breaking up: If you realise the relationship is causing more harm due to your lack of readiness, don't delay ending it. Continuing when you're not ready can lead to prolonged emotional distress for both individuals.

If you find yourself not ready for either a serious or casual relationship but still crave a sense of belonging and attention, there are healthy ways to cope with these feelings.

Focus on building strong connections with friends and family; these relationships can provide a sense of belonging and support without the romantic commitment.

Engage in activities and hobbies that bring you joy and allow you to meet new people casually. Explore social groups, clubs, or communities where you can connect with others on shared interests.

Additionally, practice self-love and self-care to boost your confidence and reduce the need for external validation. Remember, it's okay to prioritise personal growth and fulfilment while navigating your emotional needs without rushing into a relationship.

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