Sometime between when the advent of Tinder necessitated a whole new casual relationship category (“Netflix and chill”) and Pinterest made it easy to stealth-plan a wedding as you waited for a ring, a new relationship phase emerged. “Pre-engaged” is a handy moniker to describe relationships that have moved past the vague “we’re dating” stage, but aren’t quite to the shopping-for-the-ring realm. If you’ve been with your boo for a good chunk of time, you might find this term liberating. Even if you never utter it aloud, just thinking about where you are in your relationship can help calm feelings of uncertainty or marriage-pressure-induced anxiety.

Find out if you’re actually pre-engaged, learn how to enjoy this step, and when you’ll know it’s time to move the relationship forward.

Are we pre-engaged?

This can be a nebulous term, so here are some questions you can ask about your relationship to determine if you’re past just dating.

  • Do you and your partner live together, or spend most of our time together? While a lot of couples have valid reservations about cohabitation before marriage, if you are open to it, having passed this step could signal you’re pre-engaged. (If you’re wondering if now is the time, take this quiz to find out!)
  • Do we work hard to communicate? This is something that takes lots of time in relationships. Whether you’re a new couple, pre-engaged, or happily married, you’ll likely always have room for improvement. However, if you feel generally satisfied with communication in your relationship, you’re probably past the dating phase.
  • Have you talked about marriage and future plans? Probably the biggest indicator that you’re in it for the long haul with your boyfriend or girlfriend is your willingness to plan for the future with them. If you both have a shared and open understanding that marriage is in your future — just not right now — you are most definitely pre-engaged.

So, what should I expect from the pre-engaged stage?

This part is totes up to you. If marriage is imminent, this could be the perfect time to get really open about both of your finances before you set financial goals, like purchasing a home. If you know you’ll want to host a wedding, this financial digging will also help you figure out a future wedding budget. The WeddingWire Cost Guide is a good first step to learning how much wedding venues and related services cost in your area.

Above all, don’t prematurely rush your relationship out of pre-engaged territory. In a lot of ways, it’s a perfectly comfortable, happy place to be — as long as it’s working for both of you. This pit stop between dating and lifelong partnership can be a no-pressure time to build your relationship. Spending quality time with your future in-laws, learning how to disagree in productive ways, or even exploring couples counseling might be things you add to the pre-engaged bucket list.

How will we know we’ve outgrown being pre-engaged?

When one or both of you are ready to make things marriage-certificate official, there will be telltale signs galore. Beyond your friends and fam constantly asking when you’ll tie the knot, spending holidays together, joint pet adoption, and only speaking in “we” terms are just a few of the clues it’s time to plan for a proposal.