So you’ve found a certain someone who is attractive and fun to be around. The more time you spend together, the less you want to be apart. Could this be the one? The stage between dating and being in a committed relationship is full of excitement and anxiety. You’re both navigating new waters without a clearly defined destination. Are you just hanging out and having fun, or are you on your way to a lifetime together? Here are the stages your new relationship may go through and some things to keep in mind along the way.

In the Beginning, It’s All About You

Perhaps the single most defining aspect of a casual dating relationship is that you make choices based on what’s best for you personally, not necessarily how it affects the other person. For example, if you get offered your dream job but it requires relocation to another state, you don’t hesitate to accept it. At this stage of dating, all options are on the table, and you don’t define yourself in terms of the person you’re dating. Dating someone can be fun and stressful at the same time because you’re trying to balance getting to know someone without making yourself too vulnerable. Trying to figure out if you’re both on the same page regarding where the relationship is heading can be nerve-racking, especially if you suspect you’re more emotionally invested than the other person.

It Goes From General to Specific

How do you know if you’re progressing from casual to serious dating? Take a clue from the way you talk to each other. When people are falling in love, their conversation moves from the general to the specific. Showing interest in stories from your childhood, asking about your goals and dreams, and complimenting you on your great sense of humor are all indications that your partner values you as a whole person, not just a friendly companion.

At this stage of a relationship, the two of you may find yourselves beginning to discuss the future. Theoretical discussions about taste in engagement rings, thoughts about the ideal number of children, and the perfect honeymoon are good indications that you’re both envisioning the possibility of a true commitment to each other. At this stage of the relationship, it’s common for couples to begin using words like “boyfriend” or “girlfriend” to describe each other.

It Gets Defined in Words

For many couples, the transition from serious dating to a committed relationship is defined by “the talk.” This can be an anxiety-producing conversation if you’re not entirely confident in where you stand with the other person, but it’s important to define the relationship. How and when you have the discussion depends entirely on your unique circumstances, so don’t force it but let it evolve when the time is right. Of course, the conversation may not turn out the way you’d hoped. If that’s the case, at least you’ve been honest, and now you can make an informed decision on whether you want to stay or move on. On the other hand, if it turns out you and your partner are in sync, you’ll likely feel a great sense of relief, elation, and intimacy. Now is the time to take down all the barriers that may have been protecting you from rejection. Unlike back when you were just dating, all your decisions now are based on what’s best for you as a couple.

It’s Time to Talk About ForeverOnce you’ve both clearly expressed that yours is a committed relationship, you’ll likely begin to consider marriage seriously. Before you take that giant leap, take the time to ask each other 25 important questions that will help define your expectations for the future. Understanding each other’s viewpoints on money and household chores, among other aspects of sharing a life, will go a long way in preventing future conflict. A new relationship represents opportunity. Pay attention to the signs along the way, and you’ll soon know whether this one is built to last.