I know that the best-kept secret in the universe is the inner workings of a guy's mind, but trust me – they're not that complex.
There are a few tells to be mindful of when they start to lean into more vulnerability and intimacy. Your relationship will benefit from this, so it's important to keep your eyes open for these telltale signs of deepening affection.
Firstly, the most evident – and easy to spot: he prioritizes you in his schedule.
Okay, so we're long passed the friend zone here
You are now his top priority and it's time to pay attention.
I don't just mean that he tells you to meet him at the town's skate park in the evening.
He will probably pair this development with an increased attentiveness to your wishes.
While he may not whip out the L-word just yet, it is certainly on the horizon. More still, it will be evident in his actions. He will know what you want or ask if he is unsure.
For whatever reason, he knows he can come to you with a question.
While it may seem less romantic, spontaneity has to be forged out of being comfortable enough to ask questions. To put himself out there, risk embarrassment.
This sets the tone of the relationship and also ensures that you can follow suit. He establishes a few boundaries and respects yours while ensuring that you can be honest with each other. Push each other out of your comfort zones.
This is the nadir of all great relationships; the part when all the relationship experts agree that you've struck gold with the person you've started dating.
He takes you to meet his friends and parents
I know it's straight out of a clichéd rom-com, but that's always the way! The second they know you exist and ask for you, you're in.
Particularly if he makes the first move, if he's the first to suggest meeting the parents, it demonstrates his intent. He is committed to you, and also proud of you – he wants to show you off!
Building from this, if he offers to go on a vacation with you, or proposes a day out – something outside of the bounds of the ordinary date night – that's also a great sign. If he's getting serious he will spend his money and his time on you.
This isn't just a materialistic gesture – no relationship should be sustained on money and gifts alone – but they are a great sign of knowing one another and of trusting each other enough to know that they can expect the same in return.
It's also wonderful for the self-esteem to get a 'just cause' gift. It means that he isn't following all protocol, only showing affection when he 'should' on birthdays or special events. This means he's paying attention and that he just genuinely likes you.
It shows he isn't afraid of intimacy
While he may not have his dream job already, if he's settled in his life, that's one of the main signs he's ready to settle in his romantic life too.
It is also important that he is good with money and ensuring equality in your relationship after being out of the honeymoon phase. You have to push into awkward conversations and logistical questions.
If you are comfortable with each other, you can ask about money queries, and his plans for the future, you can ask about where you're headed. Babies, marriage – moving in – if they're questions he's raising – unprompted, or ready to discuss – these are all signs of a healthy relationship.
No one wants to feel like they're directing the relationship like a stage
This is an undeniable sign that your partner wants to commit to you.
You have to ask about careers, question decisions, assert your influence here and there when appropriate. If you're at the stage when he feels he can be honest giving you advice, or knows when to support you or when you need perspective, that's great.
No relationship should exist on compliments and just agreeing with each other. If he's serious about you, he cares enough to redirect your course or give you his honest opinion.
If the people who know us best can't tell us what, then who can, after all? This extends beyond just wanting to call you his girlfriend: it's talking about getting pets or moving in.
Furthermore, he's serious if he knows you well and pays attention to your goals. I'm talking about more than just sending you a funny meme during work; I'm talking surprising you for lunch during a busy week. I'm talking about offering to walk your baby sister to school when her family is in chaos mode.
Going the extra mile isn't a burden if you truly care about your partner.
Another marker to tick off is if he takes up your interest and invites you to join his. This can just be offering to watch your basketball game or inviting you to meet his friends at the pub or on Sunday league. It can even be buying a ticket to the sports event of the year where you met his friends last year.
You can take up new hobbies and expand both of your horizons. When you both still want to spend more time together even after a few months, it's one of the top signs of being serious.
Intimacy isn't just sexual; it's emotional. You also want to be able to have deep chats on the kitchen floor and sex up against any available surface.
Satisfaction can come from lots of places when it's the real deal
Ultimately, even if you don't see your partner cropping up all of these sections, don't overthink it. We tend to know when a relationship feels right and when it doesn't.
Everyone has to work for a relationship; it's never easy. But, with the right person, being careful and considerate with each other will become second nature.
You'll know it when it comes.