So you’ve been with your significant other for a few months already, and you’re past the flirty fun stage and into the seriously getting to know each other stage. Many people have difficulty progressing from sweethearts to committed companions, so while it’s great to be cute and hang out, things seem to melt once they start getting serious. Adapting into someone’s life and letting them into yours can be difficult. So how do you get to that point of becoming one another’s constant ally, confidant, care-giver and friend? Here are four characteristics I’ve noticed in long term relationships. They may seem basic, but a deeper understanding of each reveals why they are helpful.

1. Communication. This is my favorite word when it comes to relationships. Being able to talk to your partner on a complex level makes all of these other characteristics possible. You and your S.O. should be able to understand each other on some pretty fundamental levels. This is mainly achievable from long, deep conversation. You should be aware of each other’s struggles and opinions in order to support and interact better. This is probably where you two will discover whether you are truly compatible.

2. Understanding. This, is imperative to any relationship, perhaps even the most necessary requirement. So, what does the word “relationship” mean to her? What does it mean to him? If she sees “a potential marriage partner,” and he sees “someone to show off to my friends and make love to,” things probably won’t work out. Learn each other’s expectations and quirks and habits, and you know how to treat each other.

3. Balanced. A relationship is only as stable as each of the people are individually. Relationships with too much dependency, especially emotional and mental dependency, run a huge risk of becoming very rocky when difficult situations arise. You both ought to be ready to pick up each other’s slack should the need be, and have the ability to fend for yourself. It’s dangerous for both of you to have your entire life riding on the relationship.

4. Not conforming to ideals. It doesn’t matter how long it took your best friend to kiss her boyfriend or how many times a week your brother calls his girl, every relationship is unique. Don’t try to match what you’ve seen someone else do, work out what’s best for you. Also, don’t let your friends pressure you unfairly, or assume you need to follow some sort of schedule or plan.