You've met a new love interest online. There's been some great banter back and forth over emails and phone calls and you've had several great dates. You seem to have a lot of fun together, you talk easily and there's lots of sexual chemistry. You can't wait to catch-up again and you think about them all the time. But how do you know that you're actually an item?
Depending on your level of relationship experience, it can be a little awkward...that stage of a relationship when you take it from "that person I've been seeing" to "my girlfriend/boyfriend".
To make things a little easier, here are five key signs that you've taken it to the next level:
1. You both don't date anyone else
Once you stop dating other singles and focus only on your new partner, then you're in a relationship. It's uncomplicated and simple. You want to spend all your time with them and nobody else. You have now cleared you decks and you want to make them a priority.
2. You're both sexually exclusive
When you decide to sleep with your new partner exclusively, then you've taken it to the next level. There's a commitment now to only share this special experience with your new partner, and it separates your relationship from all others.
3. You introduce them to your family/ friends
When you meet each other's friends and family, it's no longer casual. These people are your inner circle. You trust them the most and they've seen you at your best and worst. Introducing your new partner to them is a sign that things are becoming serious.
4. You make future plans together
It feels exciting and natural to think about the future with your new partner. It comes easily to start to plan ahead with them and lock in dates and upcoming events that you want to share together. There's a commitment to doing this that signals long-term.
5. You trust them
You've definitely moved things to the next level when you feel you can trust them and you can totally be yourself. This allows you to tell them all your secrets, you can rely on them to follow through with their promises, and you can be open and honest with them and you know they'll listen and not judge you.
So if most or all of these signs apply to your situation, then you are probably well into the official boyfriend/girlfriend stage. If you're still unsure - it's quite simple, just ask them about it and open up the dialogue.
John Aiken, RSVP dating and relationship expert, as seen on Ch 9's series Married At First Sight, and the ABC doco Making Couples Happy. He is also the author of the book Making Couples Happy: How science can help get relationships back on track (www.johnaiken.com.au)