“When you know, you know." That’s what I’ve been told more times than I can count. Or at least that’s how people typically respond when they hear how quickly my wife, Emily, and I got married.
I’ve written about how I swiftly went from a world-traveling bachelor to a willing husband over the course of just four months. But, when I look back on our relationship, I can see that there were specific actions I took—signals that indicated that I was really ready for a lifelong commitment, not just the idea of it.
I did not, however, "just know.”
Chances are, whomever you end up spending your life with won’t "just know" either. In fact, if you’re serious about wanting to get married, you can learn to spot concrete signs that your S.O. is ready to honor and cherish you all the days of your life—to be the partner you need for the long haul, not just along for the ride.
01. He is willing to make sacrifices.
Putting you first means far more than chivalrous acts like opening your door or helping you put on your coat; it's an essential indicator that shows how he is ready to love you through thick and thin.
Early in our relationship, Emily and I lived about thirty-five minutes apart, but I frequently made an effort to go to her side of town in order to make her life easier. She had a lot of early mornings at that time because of work, and I respected her career. So even though that drive was not exactly convenient, it was important to me to save her the hour-long trip.
Essentially, I put her needs before mine with little sacrifices that were sometimes easy and sometimes more difficult to make, which is exactly what men (and women) must be ready to do in marriage. If your boyfriend only cares about his own schedule and interests, then he’s probably not ready to put in the effort that it takes to be with someone forever, no matter what he says.
02. He actively gives up habits that could hurt the relationship.
Bachelorhood often cultivates habits that are antagonistic toward a fruitful marriage. For nearly a decade, I hadn’t lived in the same place for longer than a year before I met my wife, and I spent the year prior living out of a backpack. It wasn’t until I committed to not traveling half-way around the world again that my then girlfriend knew she could take our relationship seriously. Before I made that choice, our relationship had an expiration date, and marriage wasn’t really on the table. Not that a marriage can’t involve significant traveling, but when you say "I do" the way you spend your time no longer only affects you.
Of course, there may be other habits such as, drinking too much, watching pornography, or simply never cleaning his house, that could affect the well-being of your relationship down the road. When I decided I wanted to commit to my girlfriend seriously, I was able to recognize that I had some of these predispositions that would be harmful to our future life together, and actively sought to change them.
If he hasn’t started to change some of those bad habits, have a serious, yet loving conversation with him about them. Tell him how those habits make you feel and why it’s important to your relationship that they change. His response will tell you a lot.
03. He wants you to be friendly with his friends.
Besides your boyfriend’s family, who may live far away, the closest relationships he has are with his friends. When I realized I was in it for the long haul with Emily I couldn't wait to introduce her to my friends. Not only was I proud to be her boyfriend, I also knew that if we were married, my friends would become her friends and I wanted her to love them as much as I do.
A guy who tries to keep different parts of his life separate, rather than sharing them with you likely isn’t ready to be on your team and share his life with you the way couples in happy marriages do. In fact, he’ll probably be willing to prioritize other relationships in his life over yours when things hit a rough patch, and that’s going to be a real issue if you're considering marriage.
That said, it's worth noting that he could be keeping you from his friends because he knows they aren’t the kind of people he should be bringing around his serious girlfriend. In that case, he could be overthinking it—or maybe hanging out with them is one of those bad habits that needs to go.
Your guy may be excited about dating you and maybe even sees wedding bells in your future, but is he really ready for that kind of commitment? You've invested a lot of your time and energy into this guy already—and I get that. But that's why it’s so important that you pay attention to these signals, so you don't waste any more of your time on a guy who isn't ready to put in the effort now or after the wedding day.