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When to Talk About Marriage If You Want to Take it to the Next Level

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When to Talk About Marriage If You Want to Take it to the Next Level

In any serious relationship, there will be times when you will need to have “must-have conversations” (also known as the hard conversations) – and bringing up marriage is no exception to this.

So when IS the right time to start talking about it with your significant other? We will cover the answer to this and more in this simple to follow article.

Where to Start

Before you start thinking about when the right time is to bring up this important topic, first you need to ask yourself some important questions.

Take your time, go through each question and answer honestly:

  1. What are your reasons for wanting to marry your partner? Going into the conversation prepared with your reasons for wanting to take things to the next level can help you to get clear on whether now really is the right time.
  2. Why is now the right time to bring up marriage? Has something changed? Has someone inspired you to want to get married? What has led up to this point?
  3. Are you in a long-term, committed relationship or a short-term or newly formed relationship? (hint: refer to this article if you are unsure: 11 Signs That You Are in a Committed Relationship)
  4. Will anyone else be impacted or does anyone else need to be considered in this decision (for example, children)?
  5. Are there any other factors, beliefs or expectations you need to consider (for example, age, social, religious, culture, family)?
  6. Are you both emotionally, mentally and physically ready right now to discuss marriage?
  7. Have you already brought up this subject previously (whether as a passing comment or in the early days of getting to know one another)?

Every relationship, just like every person, is unique – which means each relationship will have their own unique time frame for having the more in-depth or “difficult” conversations.

Although every situation is unique, according to research discussions around marriage, usually it depends on the age, fertility, and mutual desires of the couple.

If marriage is a non-negotiable for you, bringing it up when in the initial stages of dating will be the best approach. This will save you spending unnecessary time with someone who doesn’t have the same vision for their future as you (and help you to avoid falling in love with someone who is anti-marriage.)

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Zola recently surveyed over 1,000 newlywed couples to discover how long before popping the question the topic of marriage was discussed in their relationships.[1] According to their research, majority of couples are having the marriage conversation way ahead of the engagement. The survey found that 94% of couples discuss getting engaged in the six months before actually doing so. A full 30% of those talk engagement and marriage at least once a week.

You may be thinking “it’s all good and well to know how long before engagement this topic is broached, but how do I know if I’m anywhere near that in my relationship?”

One way to get clearer on this is to discover which stage of an intimate relationship you, as a couple, are in:

Stages of a Relationship

Courtship / Romance Phase

Also known as the honeymoon phase, this is where the couple will feel almost addicted to each other. Faults are overlooked, judgement is suspended and you can only see all the good qualities in your partner.

So how long does this phase last you may be wondering? Studies have estimated this euphoric stage to last anywhere from two months to a year. Most people will brush over the marriage subject in this phase but it won’t be a concrete discussion or plan for the future.

Examples of these lighter initial forms of questioning will be “do you want kids?” and “what are your thoughts on marriage”.

Post-honeymoon Phase

Also known as the familiarisation / adjusting to reality phase, this is where couples “come up for air” and realize their partner is a human being.

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Many couples will fall apart at this stage if they don’t have a strong connection – where all the things that seemed insignificant in the euphoric phase will start to niggle. Dishes left in the sink, dirty socks not put in the wash basket, toilet seat left up or down or spending too much time out with friends instead of at home with your partner.

Open, honest and regular communication is essential in this stage if the relationship is to continue. And this includes opening up about planning for your future together.

Connection Phase

Also known as the companionship phase, this is where most couples will start having conversations about marriage. This stage is where the “dust has settled” and the couple will find their rhythm with each other.

Trust has been built and you are ready to go deeper with one another. The focus has shifted from you and I to “us”.

If marriage hasn’t already come up in the previous stages, it’s likely one of the individuals in the relationship will be thinking about or want to bring it up now – thinking of the future and wanting to make plans together, to make sure your dreams, hopes, vision and goals for your relationship are on the same track (or at least heading in the same direction).

Often the reason they don’t bring it up is because of fear – worry that their partner may misinterpret their desire to talk about their future as pressure to take the next step.

Power Struggle Phase

Also known as the doubting or comparison stage, this is another critical “make or break” stage in an intimate partnership.

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You might start comparing your relationship with other relationships. If marriage is important to you (which we will assume it is since you are this far into the article about bringing up marriage), the strain of not being able to talk to your partner about something this important has the potential to lead to a break up.

Stabilising Phase

Also known as the restful stage, this is where couples will have made their commitment to one another. Where the previous phases may have only been discussions, this phase is where the big life events happen – having children together, moving in together, buying a house together or getting married.

Some couples will never reach this stage, but those that do will find they have more love, trust and connection with their partner.

Once you know which stage / phase of a relationship you are in, it is much easier to identify if you and your partner are ready to have this conversation.

One thing to keep in mind is that the relationship stages/ phases are a guide only – even if YOU feel ready, your partner may not quite be there yet.

Important Things To Consider

1. Think About Issues That May Come up

Another alternative way to help you make this decision may lie in looking at some of the issues that can come from bringing up marriage too early (or leaving it too late).

Although this may seem like a record scratching in the middle of a romantic song, “reverse engineering” the process and looking at the problems that could arise from bringing up marriage with your partner is not as silly as it sounds.

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Part of making any big decision in life is weighing up both the pro’s and the con’s.

2. Make It Fun

According to Monica Martinez, counselor and educator at the Gottman Institute, a great way to calibrate where you are both at is to inject a bit of fun into the process. Their “52 Questions Before Marriage or Moving In” game brings lightness and playfulness into what can sometimes be a very daunting conversation for couples.[2]

Martinez says through using this game plus other less confronting techniques, “couples are able to examine and discuss important areas of their relationship without the fear and anxiety that usually accompanies these discussions.”

Final Thoughts

There is no “one-size-fits-all” approach to the right time to bring up marriage in a committed relationship; however, by answering the questions above, and considering the other information, you may be able to gauge if now is the right time for you.

The main thing to remember in all of this is that relationships are a two-way street – there must be give and take and this includes in communication with one another.

Holding the space for your significant other to explore and share how they feel is just as important as you opening up to them. Especially when bringing up serious subjects like your future together.

And if marriage is a non-negotiable for you, your partner really needs to know!

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Resources for Relationships & Marriage

Featured photo credit: Alfonso Lorenzetto via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] Zola Research: Pre-Engagreement Season
[2] The Gottman Institute: How To Talk To Your Partner About Your Future

More by this author

Amy Milnes

A relationship coach empowering people to create and maintain loving and lasting relationships.

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Last Updated on July 20, 2021

How to Overcome the Fear of Public Speaking (A Step-by-Step Guide)

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How to Overcome the Fear of Public Speaking (A Step-by-Step Guide)

You’re standing behind the curtain, just about to make your way on stage to face the many faces half-shrouded in darkness in front of you. As you move towards the spotlight, your body starts to feel heavier with each step. A familiar thump echoes throughout your body – your heartbeat has gone off the charts.

Don’t worry, you’re not the only one with glossophobia(also known as speech anxiety or the fear of speaking to large crowds). Sometimes, the anxiety happens long before you even stand on stage.

Your body’s defence mechanism responds by causing a part of your brain to release adrenaline into your blood – the same chemical that gets released as if you were being chased by a lion.

Here’s a step-by-step guide to help you overcome your fear of public speaking:

1. Prepare yourself mentally and physically

According to experts, we’re built to display anxiety and to recognize it in others. If your body and mind are anxious, your audience will notice. Hence, it’s important to prepare yourself before the big show so that you arrive on stage confident, collected and ready.

“Your outside world is a reflection of your inside world. What goes on in the inside, shows on the outside.” – Bob Proctor

Exercising lightly before a presentation helps get your blood circulating and sends oxygen to the brain. Mental exercises, on the other hand, can help calm the mind and nerves. Here are some useful ways to calm your racing heart when you start to feel the butterflies in your stomach:

Warming up

If you’re nervous, chances are your body will feel the same way. Your body gets tense, your muscles feel tight or you’re breaking in cold sweat. The audience will notice you are nervous.

If you observe that this is exactly what is happening to you minutes before a speech, do a couple of stretches to loosen and relax your body. It’s better to warm up before every speech as it helps to increase the functional potential of the body as a whole. Not only that, it increases muscle efficiency, improves reaction time and your movements.

Here are some exercises to loosen up your body before show time:

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  1. Neck and shoulder rolls – This helps relieve upper body muscle tension and pressure as the rolls focus on rotating the head and shoulders, loosening the muscle. Stress and anxiety can make us rigid within this area which can make you feel agitated, especially when standing.
  2. Arm stretches – We often use this part of our muscles during a speech or presentation through our hand gestures and movements. Stretching these muscles can reduce arm fatigue, loosen you up and improve your body language range.
  3. Waist twists – Place your hands on your hips and rotate your waist in a circular motion. This exercise focuses on loosening the abdominal and lower back regions which is essential as it can cause discomfort and pain, further amplifying any anxieties you may experience.

Stay hydrated

Ever felt parched seconds before speaking? And then coming up on stage sounding raspy and scratchy in front of the audience? This happens because the adrenaline from stage fright causes your mouth to feel dried out.

To prevent all that, it’s essential we stay adequately hydrated before a speech. A sip of water will do the trick. However, do drink in moderation so that you won’t need to go to the bathroom constantly.

Try to avoid sugary beverages and caffeine, since it’s a diuretic – meaning you’ll feel thirstier. It will also amplify your anxiety which prevents you from speaking smoothly.

Meditate

Meditation is well-known as a powerful tool to calm the mind. ABC’s Dan Harris, co-anchor of Nightline and Good Morning America weekend and author of the book titled10% Happier , recommends that meditation can help individuals to feel significantly calmer, faster.

Meditation is like a workout for your mind. It gives you the strength and focus to filter out the negativity and distractions with words of encouragement, confidence and strength.

Mindfulness meditation, in particular, is a popular method to calm yourself before going up on the big stage. The practice involves sitting comfortably, focusing on your breathing and then bringing your mind’s attention to the present without drifting into concerns about the past or future – which likely includes floundering on stage.

Here’s a nice example of guided meditation before public speaking:

2. Focus on your goal

One thing people with a fear of public speaking have in common is focusing too much on themselves and the possibility of failure.

Do I look funny? What if I can’t remember what to say? Do I look stupid? Will people listen to me? Does anyone care about what I’m talking about?’

Instead of thinking this way, shift your attention to your one true purpose – contributing something of value to your audience.

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Decide on the progress you’d like your audience to make after your presentation. Notice their movements and expressions to adapt your speech to ensure that they are having a good time to leave the room as better people.

If your own focus isn’t beneficial and what it should be when you’re speaking, then shift it to what does. This is also key to establishing trust during your presentation as the audience can clearly see that you have their interests at heart.[1]

3. Convert negativity to positivity

There are two sides constantly battling inside of us – one is filled with strength and courage while the other is doubt and insecurities. Which one will you feed?

‘What if I mess up this speech? What if I’m not funny enough? What if I forget what to say?’

It’s no wonder why many of us are uncomfortable giving a presentation. All we do is bring ourselves down before we got a chance to prove ourselves. This is also known as a self-fulfilling prophecy – a belief that comes true because we are acting as if it already is. If you think you’re incompetent, then it will eventually become true.

Motivational coaches tout that positive mantras and affirmations tend to boost your confidents for the moments that matter most. Say to yourself: “I’ll ace this speech and I can do it!”

Take advantage of your adrenaline rush to encourage positive outcome rather than thinking of the negative ‘what ifs’.

Here’s a video of Psychologist Kelly McGonigal who encourages her audience to turn stress into something positive as well as provide methods on how to cope with it:

4. Understand your content

Knowing your content at your fingertips helps reduce your anxiety because there is one less thing to worry about. One way to get there is to practice numerous times before your actual speech.

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However, memorizing your script word-for-word is not encouraged. You can end up freezing should you forget something. You’ll also risk sounding unnatural and less approachable.

“No amount of reading or memorizing will make you successful in life. It is the understanding and the application of wise thought that counts.” – Bob Proctor

Many people unconsciously make the mistake of reading from their slides or memorizing their script word-for-word without understanding their content – a definite way to stress themselves out.

Understanding your speech flow and content makes it easier for you to convert ideas and concepts into your own words which you can then clearly explain to others in a conversational manner. Designing your slides to include text prompts is also an easy hack to ensure you get to quickly recall your flow when your mind goes blank.[2]

One way to understand is to memorize the over-arching concepts or ideas in your pitch. It helps you speak more naturally and let your personality shine through. It’s almost like taking your audience on a journey with a few key milestones.

5. Practice makes perfect

Like most people, many of us are not naturally attuned to public speaking. Rarely do individuals walk up to a large audience and present flawlessly without any research and preparation.

In fact, some of the top presenters make it look easy during showtime because they have spent countless hours behind-the-scenes in deep practice. Even great speakers like the late John F. Kennedy would spend months preparing his speech beforehand.

Public speaking, like any other skill, requires practice – whether it be practicing your speech countless of times in front of a mirror or making notes. As the saying goes, practice makes perfect!

6. Be authentic

There’s nothing wrong with feeling stressed before going up to speak in front of an audience.

Many people fear public speaking because they fear others will judge them for showing their true, vulnerable self. However, vulnerability can sometimes help you come across as more authentic and relatable as a speaker.

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Drop the pretence of trying to act or speak like someone else and you’ll find that it’s worth the risk. You become more genuine, flexible and spontaneous, which makes it easier to handle unpredictable situations – whether it’s getting tough questions from the crowd or experiencing an unexpected technical difficulty.

To find out your authentic style of speaking is easy. Just pick a topic or issue you are passionate about and discuss this like you normally would with a close family or friend. It is like having a conversation with someone in a personal one-to-one setting. A great way to do this on stage is to select a random audience member(with a hopefully calming face) and speak to a single person at a time during your speech. You’ll find that it’s easier trying to connect to one person at a time than a whole room.

With that said, being comfortable enough to be yourself in front of others may take a little time and some experience, depending how comfortable you are with being yourself in front of others. But once you embrace it, stage fright will not be as intimidating as you initially thought.

Presenters like Barack Obama are a prime example of a genuine and passionate speaker:

7. Post speech evaluation

Last but not the least, if you’ve done public speaking and have been scarred from a bad experience, try seeing it as a lesson learned to improve yourself as a speaker.

Don’t beat yourself up after a presentation

We are the hardest on ourselves and it’s good to be. But when you finish delivering your speech or presentation, give yourself some recognition and a pat on the back.

You managed to finish whatever you had to do and did not give up. You did not let your fears and insecurities get to you. Take a little more pride in your work and believe in yourself.

Improve your next speech

As mentioned before, practice does make perfect. If you want to improve your public speaking skills, try asking someone to film you during a speech or presentation. Afterwards, watch and observe what you can do to improve yourself next time.

Here are some questions you can ask yourself after every speech:

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  • How did I do?
  • Are there any areas for improvement?
  • Did I sound or look stressed?
  • Did I stumble on my words? Why?
  • Was I saying “um” too often?
  • How was the flow of the speech?

Write everything you observed down and keep practicing and improving. In time, you’ll be able to better manage your fears of public speaking and appear more confident when it counts.

If you want even more tips about public speaking or delivering a great presentation, check out these articles too:

Reference

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