The love journey is such a magnificent one. Even failure after failure, all it takes is one success. So they say. After my first couple of dating experiences, I remember asking my mother how I would know when I met the right guy. And she answered: when you know, you just know. Now…if anyone else is like me, your thoughts are, “What in the world does that even mean?”

Since my most recent dating experience, I’ve spent a few months doing a lot of things, to include reflecting on my choices and redefining my beliefs on love. And I’ve come to a conclusion: You will never know.

Now I know that isn’t a very comforting reality, but unfortunately I don’t believe you will never be completely sure about someone. You can believe it and keep a positive perspective concerning your relationship if all signs are a go, but you can’t truly know how time, circumstances, or tragedy will change or even reveal people.

The only thing you can be sure of is your intuition, discernment, and what you gather about a person’s foundation: their values, morals and character. All of that has to give you enough security to trust and wholeheartedly believe that they are who they say they are and that come what may, they will remain.

Nonetheless, the good news is that there are some things to help us figure out whether or not there is a good chance of being “meant to be”:

1. Growth is optimal and encouraged.

2. You feel the freedom to be yourself.

3. You are at peace in your relationship.

4. You are supportive of one another’s goals.

5. Your conflict resolution methods are functional.

6. Both of you maintain your sense of individuality.

7. You can’t imagine growing through life without them.

6. They exhibit a great level of patience in all situations.

7. You feel comfortable enough to be vulnerable (again).

8. You trust them with your heart and feel completely secure.

9. You never feel manipulated or unaware of their true feelings.

10. Honest communication is valued and sustained through all circumstances.

11. They respect you and take an interest in the things that are important to you.

12. Their love, care, appreciation for you has been consistent in action and behavior.

13. You truly love them for who they are right now and not who they have the potential to be.

Because let’s face it: what are you going to do when that “feeling” isn’t there anymore? All those butterflies you feel. The excitement, the high. The giddy feelings. They are AMAZING! But time will pass and they will take a back seat at some point. And it may be instinct to run or go into panic mode. Which is precisely why “feelings” are not what keep relationships in tact. Love is not a feeling. It is a choice; a decision we make. When we choose to love someone, that decision has to stand even when the “feeling” isn’t there, and until it returns.

Your dating life is proof of your practice. Are you in and out of relationships often? Or do you give your all and exhaust all options before mutually agreeing to move on? Bottom line: Are you practicing divorce or true commitment? Dating and relationships nowadays have become jokes. People are notorious for practicing for divorce. Quick to be “on to the next” for petty things. Things that are not deal breakers, but more so tests.

This is why time is so important. It takes time to heal from past relationships, time to rid yourself of the baggage acquired from those relationships, time to forgive yourself (and in some situations the other person), time to get to know yourself again and redefine your standards, and it takes time to get to know someone else.

We owe it to ourselves to do these things before making a serious commitment because when we do, a human heart is involved. Two actually. To damage either because we failed to properly prepare and take care of our issues, or to avoid lust and infatuation to cloud our judgement, is irresponsible and careless.

Commitment, time, trust, patience, honest and open communication, and unconditional love are vital. Those things sustain a relationship when those feelings take a quick hiatus. The feelings will come and go. But you have to choose to love. And when you make that decision, you don’t get to renege just because things get tough.

So let’s take the time necessary to ensure you have the best relationship possible with the best person for YOU.