Here's the thing about this topic. You can read articles on this platform like "10 Bona Fide Benefits Of Being Single" and "10 Words That'll Make You Totally Rethink The Word 'Single'" and know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that I think singleness is all kinds of wonderful. That's just why I decided to write this piece too. No matter how much your favorite rom-com, love song, friend, auntie or church mother may try to make you think that, as the late and great Luther Vandross and Gregory Hines used to put it, there's nothing better than love, when you do finally meet that special someone and make the mutual decision to become exclusive, as amazing as all of that may be, there is a bit of transitioning that must take place.
For the record, today, I'm not referring to people who are going from "single" to "committed" in the way that tax records reflect (marriage); I'm going to touch on how you can more smoothly alter your lifestyle when you've been kicking it up, making life ONLY about you and now that you've got a boo thang, you need to compromise a bit. If that's exactly where you are in this season, here's how to make adjusting easier.
Embrace That There Are “Levels to Commitment”
Before we get deeper into the details, let's first discuss the fact that when it comes to romantic relationships (and even love yet we'll have to get into love at another time), there are definitely levels to this thing. For instance, deciding to only have one sex partner is a level. Deciding to be exclusive is a level. Deciding to work towards seeing if you should live together or get married is a level. And all of these dynamics require a different kind of adjustment.
That's why, the first thing I recommend is that you and your partner talk about what type of commitment you're about to get yourselves into. Because believe you me, the expectations that come with deciding that they are going to be the only person you have sex with (with nothing else really changing) vs. pondering marriage with them within the next 12 months, those are on two totally different levels of a relationship — especially when it comes to making adjustments to your lifestyle.
Don’t Sacrifice Friends (Who Support Your Transition)
A huge red flag (that I honestly see in both men and women) is dating someone who expects you to get rid of or spend significantly less time with your friends. Matter of fact, while it really is "to each their own", I'm not big on folks who think that people in exclusive relationships shouldn't have opposite sex friends (check out "Unpopular Opinion: Men And Women CAN Really Be 'Just Friends'" and "The Word 'Platonic' Is Sacred. Literally.").
Listen, some of the best people in my life are men — some are single, some are married. The ones who are in a relationship, I make sure their wives have met me and can reach me by phone/email. It's all good. And because of that, those men have benefitted my world in insurmountable ways; in part, because they are men and they see things from a different perspective than I do. So, if I ever do get to a point and place where I end up jumping a broom, I don't expect to give up my male friends nor do I expect my husband to give up his female friends. The only caveat is disrespect. Yet hey, if you've got people in your life who would disrespect your partner, they've probably been low-key disrespecting you for a minute now — whether you've chosen to acknowledge it or not.
Anyway, my main point here is if your social circle is able to remain the same, that can make going from single to a commitment so much easier because your partner will literally feel like surplus in your life rather than the direct result of a billion sacrifices that you will now have to make.
Feel Fine with Maintaining Certain Boundaries
Some people freak out at the mere thought of being in a relationship because they believe that they have to release virtually all personal boundaries when it comes to that particular special someone. The hell you say. Something that I try and make a habit of doing, every time the topic of boundaries comes up, is to remind people that a boundary is a limit — it's a way of conveying how far someone should be allowed to go. And yes, that definitely should apply to an exclusive dating situation. Realistic expectations are a boundary. Deal-breakers are a boundary. Wanting them to respect your other priorities is a boundary. Your money is a boundary. Again, going from a single situation to a committed relationship doesn't mean that you don't set limits with the person you are seeing. It basically just means that the limits you have with them may be more flexible than the ones you have with others.
Give Each Other Space to Miss Each Other
A pretty telling sign of a new relationship is you want to be around that person — a lot. That's totally understandable. Everything is fresh (which makes it intriguing). Plus, you're learning so much about them and what makes them tick (and vice versa). However, once you decide to take things to another level, it's OK — advisable even — that you step back a little bit. While initially that might sound a little odd, there is some real truth to the saying that absence makes the heart grow fonder. You know what else it does? It helps you to keep some balance when it comes to the other things in your life that are also important.
Back in the day, I had a particular boyfriend who I actually really enjoyed spending time with. However, when we went from close friends to more-than-friends, sometimes he annoyed me because, while he wasn't a jealous kind of guy, he was kinda on the needy side. While I thought we should check in daily, for him that meant several times a day, along with us being together, most of the weekend, every single weekend. And while some of you may be like, "Yeah so. What's wrong with that?", remember that this article is about how to shift from single to committed, so I'm here to say that choosing to make someone extra special in your life doesn't mean that they have to consume all of it. Weekends with your girls. Sometimes only texting because you need to catch-up with others on the phone. Making plans that don't always include each other. None of these are a sign of something going wrong within the relationship. In fact, it's pretty healthy to be OK with missing your partner sometimes. This brings me to my next point.
Refuse to Be Suffocated
A few years ago, I wrote an article for the platform entitled, "6 Signs You're A Love Addict". And real talk, a sign that someone is one is if they think that love (or building something in hopes that it will lead to love) equates damn near suffocating the one they are with. What are some clear indications of that? You and/or your partner constantly needing to know where the other is (these dating folks that track each other on their phones are something else to me, chile). You and/or your partner texting nonstop to the point that it's distracting y'all from other responsibilities. You and/or your partner not knowing how to have free time apart. You and/or your partner trying to low-key control each other's lives. You and/or your partner emotionally manipulating each other to get more time together or attention from the other.
If any of this is going on, while on the surface it might seem romantic, it's actually not. Nothing grows if it's not given air and space to do just that and someone who suffocates their partner actually comes off as needy and/or distrusting and/or jealous. Going from single to committed shouldn't make you feel like you can't breathe. If you do, something is up. And off. Way off.
Plan “You Time”
Y'all, I can't tell you how many times I've had a married person say to me in a session that they've lost sight of who they are. In part, because so much of them has become wrapped up in being a spouse and/or a parent. It really is unfortunate how many people think it's a beautiful sentiment that "two halves make a whole" because the reality should be that a whole person and a whole person come together to make a whole relationship.
Whole means complete and being complete is super healthy. And you know what? A huge part of what comes with being whole is being intentional about spending some quality "you time". Do some self-love journaling. Turn your phone off sometimes. Go on a solo road trip. Start a new hobby (then commit to partaking in it on a consistent basis). Take out a weekend to finish a book. Devote time to the side-gig you've been wanting to get off of the ground. Go hiking or for a bike ride. Make a standing pampering appointment. Schedule your own movie night. Sleep in.
I promise you that it's quite evident, the couples who have self-love vs. the ones who use their relationship to compensate for the self-love that they lack. And one of the main things that couples behind Door #1 do is they set aside time for only themselves. When you and yours do this, the time together is so much more fulfilling. It truly is.
Don’t Act Married…Until You’re Married
I say it (fairly) often because I absolutely believe it to be true — a lot of people get divorced because they date like they are married rather than like they are single. Which they are (single, that is). Because you know what? Something else that I say is you technically stop being single when your taxes reflect that you are something different. Until that time, why act like a wife until you are one (check out "7 Things That Make Marriage Different From Seriously Dating")?
Just like I said at the top of this article that there are levels of a commitment, it's important to keep in mind that marriage isn't just about putting on a white dress and throwing a big party — it should signify that your relationship overall, yes, went to another level. For that to be the case, there have to be some other benefits and "bonuses" that come with saying "I do" — ones that are different from simply dating another person.
While those standards may differ from relationship to relationship, as this all comes to a close, the main thing to keep in mind is going from single to committed isn't very stressful at all if you remember that you are indeed still single — just with some extra privileges and activities that didn't transpire prior to "going official". Get that down pat and the transition will be smoother than you may have initially thought that it could be. Guaranteed.
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