During a recent conversation with an acquaintance, the topic turned to how she had met her husband. “I can’t explain it,” she said. “I just woke up one morning and decided I wanted to be married.” So a friend set her up. She and her date hit it off.
And suddenly after decades of near-misses and not-quite-rights and heartbreak and angst, it all worked out. Just. Like. That.
I’ve often wondered how and why love strikes quickly for some people. In a perfect world, we’re ready. We’ve gotten over our exes, grieved all our old childhood wounds and made a mental list of what we have to give a partner.
It’s common to think about relationship readiness as being in a certain place in your life: You’ve finished your education, moved to a new city, lost 10 pounds or found your bearings again post-breakup.
Yet research shows it’s more about a mindset. That’s in addition to being committed to making the search for love a priority by putting in time to read the profiles, send the emails, and plan the dates.
Here are some signs your head and heart are in the right place:
1. You have room in your life for a relationship.
Yes, we’re all busy, busy with over-scheduled and satisfying lives, complete with family, friends, faith, work, workouts and weekend projects that require five trips to Home Depot. But you’ll gladly rearrange your day planner to spend time with someone who makes your heart flutter.
You’re flexible. You don’t find a time slot over the next couple weeks. You find the time every couple of days. You get creative. You make it work.
2. You want a relationship but don’t need one.
Okay, this isn’t completely true. (We’re human. Of course, we need relationships!) But there’s a grain of truth in not waiting to live your life until you meet a romantic partner. In other words, you still travel, buy a home, invest in an expensive set of knives, attend summer concerts and keep ticking off items on your bucket list, no matter who else is along for the ride.
You’re an independent, high-functioning person. You want to share your life with another self-actualized person in a healthy way. You’re not a vacuum waiting for another person to (ugh!) complete you.
3. You’re not scared to be alone.
This is a footnote to the point above, but worth mentioning separately. It’s more than learning to go on trips or events solo. It’s about learning to enjoy your own company, so you’re totally fine when your new sweetie needs space or has to focus on work or family for a while without you.
You don’t fall apart or send passive-aggressive texts when your weekend ends earlier than you’d like. You deal.
4. You’re excited about the process.
This is a big one. If you’re resignedly sighing to your friends, “Well, I guess I have to do online dating,” you’re not exactly radiating contagious enthusiasm.
You’re ready for a real relationship when you’re curious about the person you’re corresponding with. You look forward to receiving their emails. You don’t think texting the answer to “How is your day?” is a chore.
5. You’ve ditched your narrow list of requirements.
When you see the photo of a match with a warm smile pop up on your screen, you don’t count her out because she lives more than 10 minutes away. Or you don’t lamely text, “Lemme know the next time you’re in my area.” You go meet her.
The same goes for being open-minded about your physical and age requirements. You know you’re ready for a relationship when your reaction is “Wow! He seems really interesting. That’s okay if he’s five years older than what I usually go for. I should at least have one drink with him.”
6. You’re hopeful.
You’re not sure when or how love will show up. You just have a patient confidence that it will someday. You’re less vested in what the person looks like or the kind of job or lifestyle they have. You just want to be with someone who makes you feel good and whose company you enjoy, and you’re prepared to make the effort to make it happen.