As relationships evolve, there are certain relationship milestones that you and your partner will encounter. These markers signal the start of new chapters in your lives together.
These significant occasions will bring you closer and add layers of depth to your relationship.
A lot of expectant parents have read the book What to Expect When You’re Expecting. It has become a kind of Bible for parents about to bring a newborn into the world.
It’s useful because it delineates the process of pregnancy, childbirth, and beyond. Being prepared takes the guesswork out of it, and provides much-needed insight for becoming a parent.
Becoming a couple and building a strong partnership goes through its own process. Wouldn’t it be nice to know what to expect in this life stage, too?
Let’s take a look at some of the milestones couples can expect to experience in their journey together.
1. From “Just Dating” to Exclusivity
Dating is a numbers game. Sometimes, it takes a while to find what you’re looking for. It’s not unlike going shopping and trying on multiple outfits before finding the one that fits just right.
In the store of life, it can be challenging to find the perfect fit, but once you do, it’s very fulfilling.
After you’ve been going out for a while, you might discover that the person you’re seeing is pretty much everything you’ve ever wanted in a partner. You share the same goals, you’re compatible, and you love being with each other.
It’s at this point that you might decide to become exclusive and work on building your relationship. This relationship milestone is a great start, and worthy of recognition.
Having a tough time finding the right person? Check out 6 Proven Ways to Succeed with Online Dating.
2. Saying “I Love You!”
Who says it first? This is a semi-scary relationship milestone because in order to tell your love interest that you love them, you’re gambling with your heart.
What if you utter those three little words and your love interest just stands there and replies, “That’s nice”? Ouch.
When you start to realize that your feelings have turned to love, you might experience some vulnerability. Declaring your love comes with a great deal of risk. But great things usually do.
This milestone, if both parties feel the same, sets the tone for many milestones to come. It’s definitely worth celebrating your newfound closeness.
3. Making Love
This can be a momentous relationship milestone. It can come before or after saying “I love you” for the first time. Either way, by the time you arrive at this point, something amazing is happening in the relationship.
You’re starting to feel a special bond. You’ve both let down your guard, and there’s a feeling of connectedness between you.
If you’ve decided to wait until you’ve gotten to know each other better before reaching this relationship milestone, it makes the lovemaking all the more exhilarating.
Having sex with a new partner can be unnerving, exciting, and definitely unforgettable.
After all, it’s the first time. Maybe not the first time, but the first time with a new person, right? So, yes, this is definitely worthy of remembering.
NOTE: If you’ve been single for a while, have been through a difficult breakup, or have experienced the loss of a loved one, this milestone is critical because it means opening yourself up again.
There may be a lot of hesitation and uncertainty, but eventually, when you’re both ready, things will fall into place, and it won’t feel so awkward anymore.
“Your heart will be at war with your body at first. But then it will slowly remember the beauty of love, intimacy, and the physical experience we are here to have. AND IT WILL SURRENDER TO IT.” – Christina Rasmussen
4. Meeting Friends and Family
This is a really critical relationship milestone. Receiving the Stamp of Approval from friends and family basically seals the deal.
Even though you may have fallen hard for your person, it always feels better if your family and friends think they are just as great as you think they are.
It makes things easier for your relationship in the long run. There are going to be many events during your life together, some of them with friends and family. You want to make sure everyone gets along, if possible.
“Relationships do not occur in vacuums…the truth is that our romantic connections are embedded within our broader social lives. Thus, our romantic relationships occur in and around our broader social networks and relationships with family and friends…” – Erica B. Slotter
Getting along with your partner’s good friends and close family members is critical to the success of the relationship.
Maybe Aunt Marsh isn’t very nice, but remember, all these people were there long before you were, so smile and be polite. The reunion won’t last forever.
5. Having Your First Fight
It’s going to happen. No matter how in love you are, disturbances are going to take place.
As you become more at ease with each other, guards will drop, and the baggage that you’ve both been carrying will, at some point or another, spill out.
This is obviously not cause for celebration, but you know what is? Talking it out, getting to the root of the problem, fixing it, and then moving forward.
All couples have disagreements. It’s how you manage them that is important. Each time you are able to get through an argument and become stronger for it, you’ve improved your relationship overall.
If you make it through your first fight, go ahead, have a nice dinner somewhere and talk about how much closer you feel.
6. Taking Your First Trip Together
Taking your first vacation together is certainly significant. Spending all that time away from home and all its comforts will give you a glimpse into the state of the relationship.
How well do you travel together? How flexible are you? Are you both able to compromise?
In order to travel together, you must work in tandem to come up with a trip you can both enjoy.
Your true personalities will no doubt surface at some point during the planning and the actual trip as unexpected things pop up.
“Travel pulls us from our routines and our comfort zones, so you’ll get to know a different side of a person. You’ll see how they react to lost luggage or evil mosquitoes. And they’ll see you when you’re hangry…” – Hannah Howard
How you both handle things is a great indicator of each of your personalities. So, if you have an amazing time on your trip and get along splendidly, you made it through another relationship milestone!
7. Getting Engaged
You’ve dated for an appropriate amount of time — enough to know that your love interest has kept your attention, and that you want more. Lots more. It’s a solid relationship, and you believe this is The One.
After much thought, you decide that becoming engaged is the next logical step. This milestone is important because it will be the stepping stone for many more significant chapters in your life.
Getting engaged says you’re ready to take your relationship to the next level. You don’t just want to date or shack up, you want to plan a future together.
If you have gotten this far, it is definitely worth celebrating. Getting here may not have been easy, but you made it to the point where your heart and mind are saying, “This is the person I want to share my life with.”
8. Getting Married
Getting engaged is big, but getting married clinches the deal. Tying the knot says that you both want to fully commit to each other and that you’re both willing to have each other’s backs.
Taking this final step is not “just a formality,” as I often hear from people; it is saying that you’re both all in, for better or for worse.
When you get married, you’re not just saying, “Yeah, I’m going to be with you forever!” You’re actually proving it by taking the necessary step, and sharing it with your friends and family.
However, getting married doesn’t always have to be a big affair in front of many loved ones.
Some couples like it short, sweet, and private. That’s fine. You’re still stating that you’re all in, and shutting the door on everyone else.
9. Buying a Home
Consider this relationship milestone a boulder not a pebble! When you, as a couple, decide to buy a home together, you’re in the thick of it.
You may or may not be married, but you are assuming that you will be in the relationship for the long haul.
Buying a home is a huge commitment — one that requires both parties to work in unison to consider mortgage payments, taxes, decorating ideas, and more. You will have to be completely in sync to make your home a cozy nest.
Closing escrow, which essentially means that the sale is final, definitely merits celebrating.
Creating a home together requires sacrifice, effort, and lots of love. When you can pull this off, it’s time to have a housewarming party!
10. Sharing a Terrible Secret
You know that you are both deeply committed when you tell each other your worst secrets. I’m not talking about saying, “I killed a man a couple of years back in a brawl. They still don’t know it was me.” (Yikes!)
I’m talking about things — embarrassing or painful things — that you have never shared with anyone else. If you can open up to each other and divulge your BIG secret(s), that’s a sign of deep intimacy and trust.
“[I]t may take some time for you to reveal your potentially shameful personal secrets to a partner. Eventually, though, when you feel comfortable enough, those long-buried truths will likely come out — and you and your partner should become that much closer.” – Susan Krauss Whitbourne
By the time you share your secret(s), you’ve built up a lot of trust in each other. That’s one way to keep your relationship expanding on many different levels, and it is definitely worth celebrating.
11. Having Your First Baby
This relationship milestone is one of the biggest life changers of all. No one is fully ready for this one. You may have the nursery all set up, and might have read What to Expect When You’re Expecting thoroughly (see above), but no one is ready.
Having a baby will test you, the relationship, and everything else you can imagine. But it is also an opportunity to bond with your partner even more, believe it or not.
You will have to come together often to make important decisions about your baby. In the process, your love for each other will grow as you share the most priceless thing in your lives.
When your baby comes into being, it will require the stamina of an Olympic athlete, and the patience of Job. It’s a big task, but it can be done. During this time, make sure that you set aside time for each other.
You might be tempted to put romance on the back burner, but it is important to keep that love flame alive. Two happy parents produce happier children. Don’t skip date nights!
Raising a baby can be exhausting, but it can also one of the most amazing events in your lives. And imagine all the photo ops for Facebook and Instagram!
Still nervous? Read our 50 Top Parenting Tricks and Hacks That Will Make Life Easier And More Fun.
12. Dropping off Your Little Tyke on the First Day of School
What parent doesn’t shed a tear as they drop their beloved child off on their first day of Kindergarten? Their baby is no longer a baby. Kindergarten starts it all. It’s the beginning of the educational journey.
But for you, as a couple, it’s a chance to have more time to yourselves. You can both celebrate this momentous event — maybe have brunch after dropping off your little one.
Celebrate how far you’ve come; recount some of the cute things you’ve experienced, and talk about some of the things you’re looking forward to.
Think of it this way: with all the extra time you have, you can plan more romantic rendezvous for you and your honey, not to mention share prideful moments as your little person learns to count to 100.
Take lots of pictures, and enjoy this big and sentimental relationship milestone.
13. Puberty! Yikes!
At some point, without even realizing it, your child becomes a tween, and then a teenager. You seriously start to wonder who they are.
“Where’s my little princess?” you might ask. “What happened to the boy who used to cuddle with me at night?”
Yes, you will have a stranger in your house.
This phase lasts quite a while. It’s probably one of the most difficult relationship milestones. There’s major attitude, smart-mouthing, disregard for orders, hateful words, and more.
As a couple, you might find yourselves disagreeing on how certain things should be handled. But this is the time to come together; to be strong, and to build a united front.
Lean on each other for support, and build each other up when discouragement sets in. This is another bonding experience that can solidify your relationship.
During this phase, I highly recommend the book by Michael J. Bradley, Yes, Your Teen is Crazy!: Loving Your Kid Without Losing Your Mind.
When my son turned into a “stranger,” I read this book carefully. The highlighter was my friend.
This book is excellently written and extremely helpful. It will give you hope and normalize what you’re experiencing. You will feel better about yourself and your unruly teen.
For you as a couple, it can guide you along so that you’re more adept at handling the difficult situations that might come your way.
This too shall pass. Hang in there! I don’t know if this is necessarily a relationship milestone to celebrate, but it is a milestone. What you’ll be celebrating is the day they turn human again.
Times will be rough, but it will feel so good when it ends. In an episode of Grey’s Anatomy, Ellen Pompeo says, “Why do I keep hitting myself with a hammer? Because it feels so good when it stops!” And it will stop!
14. Getting a Promotion
Somewhere in between raising your teen, teaching them how to drive, and surviving it all with a tasty dinner after their high school graduation, you and/or your partner may be offered a promotion.
You may have worked hard in your chosen careers and are now being recognized by being offered a wonderful opportunity.
This might mean more money, a title change, or both, and possibly the ability to afford things you weren’t able to before. It will also mean more responsibility.
Remember to be responsible with the time you do have. Use your new benefits to come closer together, to plan trips, and to have more romantic times together.
This is a wonderful relationship milestone. It is saying, “You’ve done an excellent job, and we recognize it.” This is a time to congratulate each other and celebrate your achievements.
If both of you are working hard, but only one of you gets promoted, don’t allow jealousy to set in. Be happy for your partner. What’s good for one of you will be good for both of you. After all, you are a team.
Celebrate your promotion(s), but keep the date nights and the communication going.
Read 7 Habits of Successful Working Parents to strike the best work-family balance you can.
15. Feeling the Empty Nest
One day, after all is said and done, your little one will have turned into an adult right before your very eyes. They will be packing up for college, getting married, or simply moving out.
This will be a bittersweet relationship milestone. As much as you want your child to be independent, you are going to miss their presence.
Here is something to think about: If your relationship was neglected during the child-rearing years, there may be some consequences resulting from that neglect.
Once your child is gone, so is the distraction. It will be just you and your partner, “alone again, naturally,” as the Gilbert O’Sullivan song says. The good news is, this is a great time to rediscover each other.
This milestone can be an opportunity to expand as a couple, to take time to date, travel, and enjoy friends. The sadness will dim, don’t worry. Everything will fall into place, and new routines will be created.
NOTE: In some cases, son or daughter may return home because they discover how hard it is out in the REAL WORLD. So, celebrate and enjoy your time without them while you can.
The Bottom Line
The above relationship milestones aren’t the only ones. You may have celebrated milestones that aren’t even on this list, but that were very special to you nonetheless.
Whatever markers your relationship experiences, they are markers to be acknowledged. After all, you’re building a life together.
All the shared experiences that lead up to that 60+ year anniversary are worth celebrating, are they not?
Even More Relationship Advice
We often hear people talk about the importance of living in the present and the different ways it will benefit us. It all sounds wonderful, especially the lower levels of stress and anxiety, but how exactly can we live in the moment when our mind is constantly worrying about the past or plans for the future?
In this article, we’ll discuss some of the benefits of living in the moment you may not be aware of. Then, we’ll look at some of the obstacles and why we worry. Finally, and most importantly, I’ll show you how to live in the moment and stop worrying using some simple practices that you can easily incorporate into your busy schedule.
The result: a happier and more fulfilling life.
Table of Contents
The Importance of Living in the Moment
“The secret of health for both mind and body is not to mourn for the past, worry about the future, or anticipate troubles, but to live in the present moment wisely and earnestly.” -Buddha
While it can be difficult to live in the moment, it has innumerable benefits.
Here are just a few that will enhance your life tremendously:
By reducing stress and anxiety, you avoid many of the associated health consequences, such as high blood pressure, heart disease, and obesity. Studies have shown that being present can also improve psychological well-being.
Improve Your Relationships
Have you ever been with someone who is physically present, but mentally s/he’s a million miles away?
Being with unavailable people is a struggle, and building relationships with them extremely difficult.
How about being with someone who is fully present? We enjoy being with her/him because we can make a much deeper connection.
By living in the moment, you can be that person other people enjoy being with, and you make relationships much easier.
You have greater control over your mind, body, and emotions. Imagine how much better your life would be if it weren’t at the mercy of a racing mind and unpredictable emotions. You would certainly be more at peace, and much happier.
Why Do We Worry?
Before we answer this question, it’s important to distinguish between worry and concern.
When we are concerned about something, we are more likely dealing with a real problem with realistic solutions. Then, once we do whatever we can to address the problem, we’re willing to live with the outcome.
Worrying, on the other hand, involves unrealistic thinking. We may worry about a problem that doesn’t really exist, or dwell on all the bad things that can happen as a result. Then, we feel unable to deal with the outcome. Either way, we have difficulty dealing with uncertainty, which is a normal part of life.
Certainly, some of our problems may not have desirable outcomes, such as a serious health issue. Some problems may be beyond our control, such as civil unrest or economic downturn. In such cases, it can be hard to avoid worrying, but not impossible.
3 Steps to Start to Live in the Moment
Step 1: Overcome Worrying
In order to overcome worrying, we need to do two things:
Calm Your Mind
When you calm your mind, you are able to see more clearly.
The reason some problems seem so daunting is that our mind is racing so fast that we cannot see things as they truly are. Then, we make up a bunch of possible scenarios in our mind, most of which are unlikely to come true.
In addition to seeing more clearly, a calm mind will help us think more realistically. Unrealistic thinking is fueled by confusion and uncontrolled emotions. Calming your mind will reduce confusion and calm your emotions, allowing you to live in the present.
Focus on Solutions Instead of Problems
Some people tend to be more solution-oriented, and others more problem-oriented. Some of the factors that may determine this are gender, upbringing, and education.
People with more education tend to be problem-solvers. That is what their years of education train them to do. In addition, their jobs probably reinforce this way of thinking.
If you’re not problem-solving oriented, don’t worry. You can train yourself to worry less. We’ll discuss that soon.
Step 2: Identify Obstacles to Living in the Moment
In today’s busy world, it can be a challenge to live in the moment. The reasons revolve around how our mind works, as well as outside influences.
Many busy people have a racing mind that never seems to slow down. Their mind gets so agitated from too much sensory stimulation.
You see, anything that stimulates any of our five senses will trigger a thought, and that thought leads to another, and then another, and so on.
If you have a busy life, all your activities will overstimulate your mind and make it seemingly impossible to slow it down.
Unpleasant Situations and a Troublesome Past
None of us want to be in unpleasant situations, or remember those of the past. They can bring up painful emotions, which we don’t want to feel.
So how do most people cope with painful emotions?
By doing whatever we can to avoid them, we can take our mind to another place and time where things are more pleasant.
In other words, we avoid living in the present moment.
Some people resort to things that stimulate sensory pleasure, such as food, alcohol, or sex. Others will consume substances that dull their mind and keep them from thinking about unpleasant or stressful situations.
A Wandering Mind
From the moment we are born (likely sooner) until the time we die, our body and mind are active performing some function. Therefore, it’s natural for our mind to have some level of activity, whether conscious or unconscious.
Generally, a wandering mind is unproductive. One thought starts an endless chain of thoughts, and this process can go on until we need our mind to perform a specific function or get distracted with something else.
Now, there are times when a wandering mind can be productive, such as when creating works of art, or trying to find creative solutions to problems. In such cases, we need our mind to explore different possibilities.
Most of us are not fully aware of how our environment and social norms influence our thinking and behavior. People and institutions are constantly competing for our attention. The media draws our attention to the past, and advertising usually to the future.
Many people around us who dwell on the past or future try to draw us to their way of thinking. Even the whole concept of the American dream is geared toward the future. It tells us that if we acquire things like a good career, family, and house, then we’ll be happy.
Step 3: Practice Mindfulness
So how can we live in the moment in a world that is constantly trying to draw our attention to the past and future?
Before we get into concrete actions you can take, it’s important to understand what mindfulness is. You’ve probably heard the term before, but may not fully understand what it means.
The concept of mindfulness is actually quite simple. To be mindful is to live in the moment.
When you are mindful, your attention is focused on what is happening in the present moment, and you are fully in touch with reality.
You are aware of what is happening in your body, mind, emotions, and the world around you. This is different than thinking about these things. To develop greater understanding, you don’t have to think about them so much, but rather just observe them.
This may be counterintuitive to many people, especially intellectuals, because they’re so used to using logic to develop greater understanding. With mindfulness, we calm our mind and emotions so we can see clearer. Then, much of our understanding will come from simple observation. When we develop mindfulness, we literally expand our awareness.
To develop mindfulness, we need to train ourselves to observe things more objectively, that is, without our emotions or preconceived ideas influencing our views.
If you’re ready to live a better life, read on for some simple mindfulness practices that you can incorporate into your daily routine to help you live in the moment.
You don’t have to do all of them, but rather choose the ones that appeal to you and suit your lifestyle.
Mindfulness meditation is the mainstay of developing mindfulness and living in the moment. To practice mindfulness meditation, all you really have to do is sit quietly and follow your breathing. When your mind wanders off, just bring it back to your breath.
Notice how your lungs expand with each in-breath and contract with each out-breath. Let your breathing become relaxed and natural.
You don’t have to do it perfectly. The idea is to start spending time away from the constant sensory stimulation of all your activities, and just allow it to settle down naturally. Start with about 5 to 10 minutes per day and work your way up to about 20 minutes or longer.
This practice is highly effective, and can have both short-term and long-term benefits.
If you want to learn more about mindfulness meditation, take a look at this article:
While this may sound the same as mindfulness meditation, all you’re really doing is taking short breaks occasionally (10 to 15 seconds) to observe your breathing. Stop whatever you’re doing, and take a few mindful breaths, then resume your activity. That’s it.
You can do mindful breathing at any time of the day during your busy schedule. What it does is interrupt the acceleration of your mind. It is like taking your foot off the accelerator while driving. It’s a nice refreshing break you can take without anyone noticing.
Here’re some breathing exercises you can try to learn: 5 Breathing Exercises for Anxiety (Simple and Calm Anxiety Quickly)
Walking is an activity that you perform several times throughout the day. We often think we’re being productive by texting or calling someone while walking. But are we really?
Instead of getting on your cell phone or letting your mind wander off, why not use your walking to train yourself to live in the moment and focus on the task at hand?
Mindful walking is similar to mindful breathing, but instead of focusing on your breath, focus on your walking. Pay attention to each footstep. Also, notice the different motions of your arms, legs, and torso. When your mind wanders off, just bring your attention back to your walking.
You can even make a meditation out of walking. That is, go walking for a few minutes outside. Start by slowing down your pace. If you slow down your body, your mind will follow.
In addition to paying attention to your walking, notice the trees, sunshine, and critters. A mindful walk is enjoyable and can really help your mind settle down.
You can discover more benefits of walking in nature here.
Eating is an activity that most of us perform mindlessly. The reason is that it doesn’t require your attention to perform. Therefore, many of us try to multitask while we eat. We may talk on the phone, text, watch TV, or even hold a meeting.
The problem with not eating mindfully is that we don’t eat what our body and mind need to perform at an optimal level. We may eat unhealthy foods, or too much. This can lead to various health problems, especially as we get older.
Mindful eating has many health benefits, such as reduced food cravings, better digestion, and even weight loss.
So how do you eat mindfully? Start by slowing down, and avoid the temptation to distract yourself with another activity. Here are 3 different aspects of eating where you can practice mindfulness:
- Eating itself: Focus your attention on choosing a portion of food to insert into your mouth. Notice the smell, flavor, and texture as you chew it; then finally swallow it. As with following your breath during meditation, pay close attention to every aspect of eating.
- Choice of foods: Although you’ve already chosen your food before you have begun eating, you can still take the opportunity to contemplate your choices. Think about the nutrients your body needs to sustain itself.
- Contemplating the sources: Most of us don’t think about all the work it takes to provide us with the food we eat. While you’re eating, consider all the work by the farmer, shipping company, and the grocery store. These are real people who worked hard to provide you with the food necessary for your survival.
You can find more tips about mindful eating here: 7 Simple Steps to Mindful Eating
Choose an activity that you perform regularly, such as washing dishes. Focus all your attention on this activity, and resist the temptation to let your mind wander,. When it does, just bring your attention back to washing dishes.
Notice some of the specific movements or sensations of washing dishes, such as how the soapy water feels on your hands, the circular motion of scrubbing the dish, or the rinsing. You’d be surprised at how such a mundane activity can truly expand your awareness.
You can choose any activity you like, such as ironing, folding clothes, mowing the lawn, or showering. Over time, you will begin doing all these activities with greater mindfulness.
Practicing mindfulness is like regularly putting small amounts of change in a jar. They will all add up over time, and this will add up to greater peace and happiness, as well as get you closer to achieving your goals.
Remember, you don’t have to do the mindfulness practices perfectly to get the benefits. All you have to do is keep bringing your mind back to the present moment when it wanders off.
Practicing mindfulness may be a bit challenging in the beginning, but I can assure you it will get easier.
The benefits of living in the moment are well within your reach, no matter how much your mind is racing. If you stick with these mindfulness practices, you too will learn how to live in the moment and stop worrying. When you do, a whole new world will open up for you. This is what Zen master Thich Nhat Hanh calls the ultimate reality.