The moment to settle down used to be when you had a bit of spare money and a decent job. Then when things became more romantic it became all about being deeply in love with someone. But both these criteria are now heavily outdated. These are the six things you need to do to signal you’re ready to settle down and have a chance of a successful long term relationship. The moment to settle down is when you finally realize your partner is deeply imperfect. They have a hundred different flaws, they’re maddening in all sorts of ways and are riddled with psychological neurosis that make them very hard to deal with. However, there is an important additional realization. Everyone is in fact like this. Once you get below the charming outer surface. No one else will be better. We’re a fundamentally flawed species. There’s no such thing as a right person, everyone is wrong in fascinating and enragingly diverse ways. We think love is about being understood for all the secret vulnerable parts of us that others don’t grasp. But however much the other seems to understand us there will always be huge tracks of our psyches that remain utterly incomprehensible to others. No one probably understands and can therefore fully sympathize with anyone else. For a long time it’s easy to pretend one’s normal, even quite easy going. But it’s time to settle down when you’re mature enough to have an active sense of what a liability you are. You’re out of control for regular periods, you lose perspective, you’re anxious all the time. You’re mature when you can be deeply embarrassed about who you are and are prepared to apologize for the fact on a regular basis. Confusingly we speak of love as one thing when it’s in fact two. Being loved and loving. We should settle down when we are finally ready to stop always wanting to be loved and pick up the ropes that far less familiar activity, actually loving someone. The unhelpful feelings that love is all about being loved starts in childhood. To the child it feels as if the parent is simply spontaneously on hand to comfort, entertain, feed, clear up and remain almost always warm and cheerful. Parents don’t reveal to their kids how often they’ve bitten their tongue, fought back the tears, and been too tired to take off their clothes after a day of child care. The relationship is almost entirely nonreciprocal. Parent and child may both love, but each party is on a very different end of the axis, unbeknownst to the child. That’s why in adulthood when we first say we long for love, what we predominately mean is that we want to be loved as we all onced loved by a parent. We want a recreation in adulthood of what it felt like to be ministered to and indulged. We want someone who will understand our needs, bring us what we want, be immensely patient and sympathetic to us, act selflessly and make it all better. This is, naturally a disaster. For a relationship to work we need to move firmly out of the child mode and into the parental one. The romantic person instinctively sees relationships in terms of emotions. But what a couple actually get up to together over a lifetime has much more in common with the workings of a small business. The two people must clean, chauffeur, cook, fix, throw away, hire a budget. None of these activities has any glamour whatsoever within the current arrangement of society. Those obliged to do them are therefore highly likely to feel that something has gone wrong with their lives. That having to involve themselves so closely with them. And yet these tasks are truly romantic in a sense of conducive sustaining of love and are the bedrock of any successful relationship. At the alter new couples should take a mutual vow, “I accept the dignity of the ironing board…” There’s an idea that being loved means that your partner will never try to change you. But they should and must want to change you because you’re deeply imperfect and in need of some severe remolding in all sorts of areas. If you’re not ready for it, it may look like hostility and you may respond defensively. But you’re ready to settle down when you can bear to have things pointed out to you. You should at key points, see them as the theacher and you as the pupil, and vice versa, with neither side losing their tempers. Relationships are meant to be an education towards becoming two better people. Not a process of acceptance for everything one already is. With these dark and sober criteria in mind we can go back into the world of relationships, sure of a brighter, longer and more realistic future.