Every relationship is unique. As much as dating gurus would like you to believe otherwise, there is no particular timeline for the journey of a relationship. That’s why most people in relationships grapple with this question after a certain point – when and how to talk about marriage?
Like it or not, since time immemorial, marriage, and, presumably, “happily ever after” have been seen as the ultimate destinations in a love story. But the M conundrum – marriage – is perhaps the trickiest of the lot.
How to start talking about marriage? Even couples in stable, long-term relationships can lose sleep over this question. In an ideal, romanticized world, the levels of a relationship trajectory follow these stages: Meet-get attracted-date-get into a relationship-get engaged-get married.
Sigh, if only life were ideal! Between the two Ms, meet and marriage, there is a lot that goes on. Differences of opinion, attitude toward commitment, habits, adjustments, compromises, fights, and patch-ups can all pop up during this journey, presenting innumerable challenges to a couple.
But the biggest step in this path, undoubtedly, is when one half of the couple decides it’s time to talk about the future of their relationship, taking it to the next level. Let’s take a look at when to talk about the future in a relationship, and how to do it correctly so you don’t scare your partner away.
When To Talk About Marriage
“My husband and I didn’t face any problems. We had been dating for a while and it was almost a given that we would get married,” says Patty, a marketing executive, describing how she decided to talk about marriage with her boyfriend and received an immediate “yes” in response. Not everyone is as lucky.
When a couple has the same relationship goals, the path can be pretty smooth. The only question that remains then is what would be the apt time to pop the question (to which both of them know the answer). However, in relationships that go through ups and downs, there are certain factors to keep in mind before deciding when to talk about marriage.
While talking about marriage early in a relationship can send the other person scuttling, waiting too long can put this milestone on the backburner. If one of you considers marriage an important life goal, this can lead to a lot of discontentment in the relationship. Getting the timing right is key.
When a guy talks about marriage too soon, it’s bound to send his partner into a worried state of mind, instantly assuming that he is an obsessive creep. If you’re asking yourself something like, “Is it too early to talk about marriage?”, it probably is. We’re here to address the conundrum of when to talk about marriage for you:
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1. First be sure of yourself
Before bringing your partner into the equation, you need to be sure. Marriage is a big commitment, so it’s essential that you are not tentative about your needs. The right time to talk about marriage is when you know for sure that this is the person you want to spend the rest of your life with.
Talk about marriage with your boyfriend or girlfriend when you can say without an iota of doubt that they are the one for you. Keria says, “Within months of dating, I was entertaining thoughts of what it’s like to raise children and build a nest with my partner. That’s when I knew we’d talk about marriage someday.”
“We didn’t wait long to get married after we were engaged. We decided to get married as early as possible, and the decision stemmed from the fact that we were individually so sure that this is what we wanted,” she adds.
2. The duration of the relationship
Every relationship does not start with the idea of marriage. It begins with attraction, and then, as time goes by, other factors like care, concern, and affection come into play, organically. So if it is a long-term, committed and exclusive relationship, you can definitely think of consolidating it legally with marriage.
Ideally, you should wait until the honeymoon phase has passed and you’ve seen and learned to love each other’s not-so-nice sides before you start talking about marriage. So before you start to talk about marriage with your girlfriend, make sure you at least know the kind of person she is when she gets upset.
3. External factors
Much as we would like it otherwise, unlike in the dating phase, when it comes to marriage, societal, peer, and family pressure come into play. Are you concerned about your family and friends when you think of bringing up marriage in a relationship? If everyone around you is as convinced as you are about your partner, and you know you have chosen the right life partner, it can be a signal to have “the talk”.
Even so, don’t let the opinions of others persuade you. Talking about marriage too early in a relationship can end up tarnishing things permanently, especially if you haven’t mentioned the idea of marriage before.
4. You fulfill and trust each other
You’ve had your fights, jealousies, arguments, and other issues – and you’ve overcome them to emerge stronger than before. If your partner has stood by you through tough times as much as they do during good times, it means what you have is special. It would just be apt to think long-term, i.e., marriage.
This is the time to talk about marriage before getting engaged and discover what the institution and the commitment and responsibility that comes with it means to you both. Being on the same page about your life journey is the cornerstone of a successful marriage.
So, instead of talking about marriage early in a relationship when you’re not even sure how well you support and trust each other, wait until you ride a few things out together. The way you navigate problems that come your way should tell you all about how good you are together.
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5. You feel the need for companionship
Marriage is much more than the wedding day. It’s about companionship, commitment, friendship, and a whole life together. You are not ready for marriage if you still love being single. Talk about marriage when you feel a strong need to have a steady companion and not just a boyfriend or girlfriend to have fun with or spend the weekends with.
This need arises when the relationship becomes deeper and you feel that your partner complements you in a way that makes your life more meaningful. However, make sure you don’t confuse a yearning as a need. It’s entirely possible that you’re just infatuated, and you’ve convinced yourself that you can’t survive without this person. Before you talk about your marriage with your girlfriend or your boyfriend, make sure you talk to yourself about it.
6. You have weighed the pros and cons
Alice P, a content writer, describes how she decided to talk about marriage with her boyfriend of three years. “I made a list of things to discuss before marriage. Our attitude toward money, life, children, and family. I guesstimated how he would react to each based on our interactions. When I was convinced he would be on the same page as me, I began broaching the subject,” she says.
It’s important to have these conversations before you make anything official. Even if things have progressed a little, having this conversation after engagement and before marriage is also a good idea. Alice has been happily married for five years and making sure she’s on the same page as her partner on financial and other issues made all the difference.
7. Attitude towards marriage
The need to talk about marriage massively depends on your own attitude toward it. A lot of people love to be in committed relationships without feeling the need to make it formal. If your marital status is really important, bring it up early on in your relationship so that both of you know what you are getting into.
Talking about marriage early in a relationship is not a no-go as long as you’re doing it to test the waters and understand where you each stand on the matter. This way, you’ll know where you and your partner stand on the issue. When to talk about the future in a relationship is influenced by a lot of things, but most of all, it’s influenced by how you feel about it.
It’s also one of the basic essentials to make any relationship work. When you consider marriage as a distant reality that you’re not even sure you’ll ever get to, it’s important to let your partner know about it. And if you’re the kind who wanted to get married yesterday, make sure your partner knows how eager you are to tie the knot.
How To Talk About Marriage
“My girlfriend and I had diametrically opposite views on marriage. We loved each other but she was afraid to commit because of her career and many other concerns. I had to work on it for months before getting her to say ‘yes’,” laughs Stuart, a programmer.
Indeed, after the ‘when’ hurdle is crossed, it’s time to consider how to talk about marriage. As Stuart found out, taking the right approach can make all the difference. “When a guy talks about marriage too soon, it can make his partner freak out, just like my girlfriend did. Her reaction was a bit disappointing, but I understood where she was coming from and we talked it out,” adds Stuart.
This conversation can be pretty nerve-wracking. Often, despite sharing many commonalities, a couple may differ on the issues of marriage. The fear of rejection, responsibility, family’s opinions, finances in their relationship, and other factors play a role in whether or not a person is ready for marriage.
Do not judge your partner; try and understand where they’re coming from instead. The below tips may help if you decide to talk about marriage:
1. Don’t dump the idea on them suddenly
You might have been dreaming of marriage ever since you made it official with your bae. It is NOT necessary that he or she share the same enthusiasm. So do not bring it up all of a sudden or give an ultimatum. Do the groundwork and throw in the subject of marriage in casual conversations initially to gauge their attitude.
“I started making these nonchalant references about being a married, old couple after we were already in a live-in relationship for over 3 years to see how my girlfriend would react. Then, one day, she responded with, “Yeah, we might as well seal the deal by exchanging our vows.” That’s when I knew we could start talking about marriage in more tangible terms,” says Brian.
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2. Have an honest conversation
After initially skirting around the idea, there comes a time when you need to be upfront. Do not shy away from having the conversation. Be upfront about your desire to have a family and cement the bond you share. But again, don’t threaten or make it about them. Instead, make it about you and what you want.
If they care, they will understand. If all goes well and you make it official by putting a ring on it, make sure that you talk before marriage after the engagement and keep these honest conversations flowing. Here we don’t mean talking about the wedding prep, but the life that awaits you on the other side of promising “till death do us part”.
3. Select the right time
Ideally, you should have a talk about marriage before proposing to him or her. Give enough signals or hints to know that you have a long-term commitment on your mind, and once you are sure that s/he is coming around to the idea, then talk about marriage.
Go for a grand, romantic proposal if you wish, but understand that there’s always a possibility of the answer not being too positive. The other person shouldn’t be left out in the cold, feeling the pressure to say “yes” because you decided to go down on one knee in a hockey stadium, your faces flashing on a giant screen, when they really want to say “no” or “I need more time.”
4. Understand their plans for the future
Once you get serious about a relationship, don’t just restrict your conversations to happy, easy things. Try and bring up the topic of the future every now and then. Where do they see themselves five or six years from now?
Does the talk of “settling down” or being with a family find its way in their chats? Understand this before going for the kill! Talking about marriage early in a relationship — in a generalized, casual manner — can help you gain some insight into whether or not they believe in the institution at all.
5. Be clear about your boundaries
There is nothing worse than being in an ambiguous relationship. If you are happy seeing someone without marriage, so be it. But if you definitely want marriage, then be clear about it as soon as both of you make it official. Of course, it may or may not lead to the walk down the aisle, but at least there won’t be any ambiguity about relationship expectations. In other words, don’t shy away from the “where is this going?” conversation.
6. Bring their friends and family in
Sometimes, seeking external help is useful. Winston Pererra, a financial adviser devised a unique method to moot the idea of marriage to his girlfriend. “I was terrified of rejection, so I enlisted the help of her friends and family. They kept drilling into her how perfect we were, how it was time to settle down, how I was an ideal man for her, etc., It helped when I proposed, I guess!” he chuckles.
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7. Talk about it after an intimate time together
One of the best ways to talk about marriage is to select a time when you have shared an intimate moment. Ensure there are no distractions or that your partner isn’t stressed about something. Talking about marriage when they are going through a career-low or facing a crisis is obviously not a great idea. Instead, broach it gently when you get the vibe that they are ready for it.
Marriage, as an idea, can either be intimidating or exhilarating for a person. It entirely depends on his or her personal makeup. The key, therefore, is to build the foundations of your relationship in such a way that the marriage talk doesn’t cause fear or uncertainty but rather brings joy and excitement.
Now that you can answer questions like, “When is it too early to talk about marriage?” or “When should I talk about the future in a relationship?” Hopefully, your conversation about it will be a lot better. Let it be the culmination of the first big phase of your relationship from which you can write a whole new beautiful chapter.
It is perfectly normal to talk about marriage after a certain point in your relationship. When you have shared something special and you are certain that you have found the person to spend the rest of your life with, you can talk about marriage and take your relationship to the next level.
Talking about marriage immediately once you start dating isn’t such a good idea. No matter what the attraction level is, being a boyfriend/girlfriend and being a spouse are two different things. Marriage brings with it a lot of responsibilities, so think about it only after you have spent considerable time with your partner and understand them really well.
When he shies from making any commitment, he does not entertain questions about the future and gives no indication that marriage is important to him, know that he does not believe in getting hitched.
After you have dated for a considerable amount of time and you have laid the foundations of the conversation regarding the future, you can initiate the conversation around marriage when you know that both of you want the same things from the relationship.