1. You talk about a specific future that involves each other. Sure, you two have mentioned that you both want kids, one of the things you must know about each other before you get engaged, but have you gone into more detail?
When your boyfriend says to you, “I’d like to have kids a few years after you finish your master’s,” he’s talking about a future with you, and not just some great beyond where he has a theoretical wife with whom he can make babies.
2. You speak in “when”s, not “if”s. If your date starts sentences with, “When we get married,” he’s made up his mind: He wants you to be his wife. You may not get engaged the next day, or even the next year, but if your relationship stays on its current trajectory after a statement like that, your marriage will have that man in it.
3. It’s not weird to talk about your one-day wedding. Similarly, when marriage is a foregone conclusion, you don’t feel funny letting him know that you read Save the Date every day or that you must have peonies at your wedding.
It’s a very good sign if he’s talking about your wedding, too, but don’t worry if he’s not–as long as he’s happy to hear you chat about it, you’re in good shape.
4. You’re each considered a part of the other’s family. Your boyfriend’s whole family is going on vacation. If you’re heading toward marriage, it wouldn’t be so crazy if they invited you to join (though if you’re not invited, it doesn’t mean you’re not going to marry your date–I wasn’t included in Paul’s giant family cruise…seven years into dating him). Or if you’re all going out for your mom’s birthday, there’s no question (in your parents’ mind, yours, or your boyfriend’s) that he’s coming along.
5. Your friends think of him as their friend, and his buddies consider you their buddy, too.
No worries if you each have a pal or two the other can’t stand. For the most part, though, your date should be in with your friends and you should be down with his.
This is crucial because neither of you should have to give up friendships during marriage, and it’s so much easier to maintain those relationships if you each get along with the other’s crew.
6. You can picture yourselves standing together at the altar. A good friend of mine had been dating a guy for about a year-and-a-half when she confessed to me that when she envisioned her wedding day, she couldn't imagine her current boyfriend there.
That was telling. If you can’t get your mind to a ceremony with your man, there’s no way you’ll get your body there. (They broke up, and about two years later, she’s engaged to someone else with whom she was easily able to picture herself exchanging vows!)