I’ve always been the type of person who believes  love conquers all. My sometimes-blind optimism has caused me a lot of pain and grief, and although my wisdom has forced me to make adjustments, I’m still very much the hopeless romantic. But being a hopeless romantic won’t save you from heartache.

Many people feel that dating is tough, and it will be if you’re attempting to date someone who’s unavailable. You’ve got to pay attention to who it is you’re interested in to see if they’re worth it, and if they believe that you are.

My definition of availability goes well beyond marital status or one’s financial position in life. What I’m referring to is the mindset, expectations and desires of the person you’re looking to lock down. There are certain characteristics, actions and behaviors that those who are ready for commitment possess. Here’s a top six:

1. They Make Their Intentions Known Up Front

Someone who’s ready to settle down dates with purpose. They state their intentions from jump, and let you know that you may or may not be part of their plan. Someone ready for a long-term, committed relationship is confident enough to let you know what they desire, and will provide you with the opportunity to speak up on whether you want and can provide the same. In fact, their honesty and directness gives you the opportunity to leave if you want different things, without any hard feelings.

On the contrary, an individual who isn’t sure of what they want will try to keep you in limbo. They will use vague language and answer questions indirectly when it comes to where you two stand. While they may express feelings for you, they won’t go too deep into where and how they imagine you in their life. Usually, the one who isn’t ready fosters a relationship based on confusion, manipulative emotions and chaos. There’s a huge difference between someone figuring out what role they wish for you to play in their life and playing with someone’s emotions. One lends itself to growth and evolution, while the other is self-serving.

2. They Are Realistic About Their Expectations

Individuals who are honest about their intentions are usually realistic when it comes to not just what they expect out of a mate but also what certain situations will yield. They do not go into any state of affairs thinking they can change someone, and they rarely involve themselves in overly difficult relationships.

That being said, people ready for serious relationships realize there’s no such thing as a perfect circumstance. Instead, they focus on the character of a person and how they deal with the unavoidable challenges life will bring. The one who’s ready for you is prepared to weather life’s storms and welcomes the idea of having someone to overcome obstacles with.

3. Their Actions Match Their Words

When a person is truly ready for a relationship with you, their actions match their words. The patterns and behaviors displayed at the beginning of the courtship remain as consistent as possible, aside from the natural demise of the “honeymoon” phase. Granted, you may not get several text messages filled with kissy face emojis throughout the day like you used to, but you certainly shouldn’t feel like you’re on a checklist. Those who truly want you go out of their way to relate to you on a different level, and they make sure you know it.

4. They Inform You of Major Changes Happening in Their Life

When someone is serious about being with you, they keep you updated on major happenings in their life. They do this not so much to “check in,” but to ensure you’re aware of what’s going on so you don’t feel neglected. Yes, some folks will make excuses for their absence, but their false aura will reveal itself in due time. Usually, someone who does not see you in their future will not inform you of such changes because they’ve already concluded there’s no reason to.

5. They Are Vulnerable With You

What separates a romantic partner from others is closeness. Long-lasting relationships cannot be established without opening up. What do you know about their upbringing? What about their struggles, passions and fears? People who are ready for relationships know and value the importance of vulnerability. They realize that being open is the ultimate sign of trust, and is the breeding ground for closeness and authentic connections. They’ve worked very hard to establish a relationship with their intuition, so they’re able to set aside fear of being open more easily than others.

6. They Can Live Without You

Yes, we’ve been taught that the one you’re meant to be with will be “madly in love” with you and/or “can’t live without you.” The truth is, you should want the one you want to be with to be able to live without you.

One of the worst things one can do for their love life is get with someone who “needs” them. You want to add to someone’s life, not be necessary. Let’s take moving in, for example. It’s better to move in with someone because you wish to take your relationship to the next level than to do so because you can’t afford the rent on your own. Wanting someone versus needing them lets you know you’re valued, not a necessary evil.

Knowing whether you’re ready for a relationship is part of the battle, but relationships are great when both people are ready. You should never force someone to be with you or allow your decisions to advance to the next level be guided by fear, loneliness or necessity. If you have your eye on someone, make sure they’re ready for the same type of commitment and are worth the investment. Pay attention to their words, their actions and how they act when they aren’t obligated to anyone. The way a person behaves when they have no obligations is very telling.

Love with another can be beautiful, but you must first be able to confidently be beautifully in love with yourself. So if you’re ready, great. If not, then get to work!

Shantell E. Jamison is a senior editor for EBONY.com. Her book, Drive Yourself in the Right Direction, is available on Amazon. Follow her on Facebook, Twitter @Shantell_em and Instagram @Shantell_em. Visit her website for more info.