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

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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Published on May 18, 2021

How To Improve Listening Skills For Effective Workplace Communication

How To Improve Listening Skills For Effective Workplace Communication

We have two ears and one mouth for a reason—effective communication is dependent on using them in proportion, and this involves having good listening skills.

The workplace of the 21st century may not look the same as it did before COVID-19 spread throughout the world like wildfire, but that doesn’t mean you can relax your standards at work. If anything, Zoom meetings, conference calls, and the continuous time spent behind a screen have created a higher level of expectations for meeting etiquette and communication. And this goes further than simply muting your microphone during a meeting.

Effective workplace communication has been a topic of discussion for decades, yet, it is rarely addressed or implemented due to a lack of awareness and personal ownership by all parties.

Effective communication isn’t just about speaking clearly or finding the appropriate choice of words. It starts with intentional listening and being present. Here’s how to improve your listening skills for effective workplace communication.

Listen to Understand, Not to Speak

There are stark differences between listening and hearing. Listening involves intention, focused effort, and concentration, whereas hearing simply involves low-level awareness that someone else is speaking. Listening is a voluntary activity that allows one to be present and in the moment while hearing is passive and effortless.[1]

Which one would you prefer your colleagues to implement during your company-wide presentation? It’s a no-brainer.

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Listening can be one of the most powerful tools in your communication arsenal because one must listen to understand the message being told to them. As a result of this deeper understanding, communication can be streamlined because there is a higher level of comprehension that will facilitate practical follow-up questions, conversations, and problem-solving. And just because you heard something doesn’t mean you actually understood it.

We take this for granted daily, but that doesn’t mean we can use that as an excuse.

Your brain is constantly scanning your environment for threats, opportunities, and situations to advance your ability to promote your survival. And yet, while we are long past the days of worrying about being eaten by wildlife, the neurocircuitry responsible for these mechanisms is still hard-wired into our psychology and neural processing.

A classic example of this is the formation of memories. Case in point: where were you on June 3rd, 2014? For most of you reading this article, your mind will go completely blank, which isn’t necessarily bad.

The brain is far too efficient to retain every detail about every event that happens in your life, mainly because many events that occur aren’t always that important. The brain doesn’t—and shouldn’t—care what you ate for lunch three weeks ago or what color shirt you wore golfing last month. But for those of you who remember where you were on June 3rd, 2014, this date probably holds some sort of significance to you. Maybe it was a birthday or an anniversary. Perhaps it was the day your child was born. It could have even been a day where you lost someone special in your life.

Regardless of the circumstance, the brain is highly stimulated through emotion and engagement, which is why memories are usually stored in these situations. When the brain’s emotional centers become activated, the brain is far more likely to remember an event.[2] And this is also true when intention and focus are applied to listening to a conversation.

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Utilizing these hard-wired primitive pathways of survival to optimize your communication in the workplace is a no-brainer—literally and figuratively.

Intentional focus and concentrated efforts will pay off in the long run because you will retain more information and have an easier time recalling it down the road, making you look like a superstar in front of your colleagues and co-workers. Time to kiss those note-taking days away!

Effective Communication Isn’t Always Through Words

While we typically associate communication with words and verbal affirmations, communication can come in all shapes and forms. In the Zoom meeting era we live in, it has become far more challenging to utilize and understand these other forms of language. And this is because they are typically easier to see when we are sitting face to face with the person we speak to.[3]

Body language can play a significant role in how our words and communication are interpreted, especially when there is a disconnection involved.[4] When someone tells you one thing, yet their body language screams something completely different, it’s challenging to let that go. Our brain immediately starts to search for more information and inevitably prompts us to follow up with questions that will provide greater clarity to the situation at hand. And in all reality, not saying something might be just as important as actually saying something.

These commonly overlooked non-verbal communication choices can provide a plethora of information about the intentions, emotions, and motivations. We do this unconsciously, and it happens with every confrontation, conversation, and interaction we engage in. The magic lies in the utilization and active interpretation of these signals to improve your listening skills and your communication skills.

Our brains were designed for interpreting our world, which is why we are so good at recognizing subtle nuances and underlying disconnect within our casual encounters. So, when we begin to notice conflicting messages between verbal and non-verbal communication, our brain takes us down a path of troubleshooting.

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Which messages are consistent with this theme over time? Which statements aren’t aligning with what they’re really trying to tell me? How should I interpret their words and body language?

Suppose we want to break things down even further. In that case, one must understand that body language is usually a subconscious event, meaning that we rarely think about our body language. This happens because our brain’s primary focus is to string together words and phrases for verbal communication, which usually requires a higher level of processing. This doesn’t mean that body language will always tell the truth, but it does provide clues to help us weigh information, which can be pretty beneficial in the long run.

Actively interpreting body language can provide you with an edge in your communication skills. It can also be used as a tool to connect with the individual you are speaking to. This process is deeply ingrained into our human fabric and utilizes similar methods babies use while learning new skills from their parents’ traits during the early years of development.

Mirroring a person’s posture or stance can create a subtle bond, facilitating a sense of feeling like one another. This process is triggered via the activation of specific brain regions through the stimulation of specialized neurons called mirror neurons.[5] These particular neurons become activated while watching an individual engage in an activity or task, facilitating learning, queuing, and understanding. They also allow the person watching an action to become more efficient at physically executing the action, creating changes in the brain, and altering the overall structure of the brain to enhance output for that chosen activity.

Listening with intention can make you understand your colleague, and when paired together with mirroring body language, you can make your colleague feel like you two are alike. This simple trick can facilitate a greater bond of understanding and communication within all aspects of the conversation.

Eliminate All Distractions, Once and for All

As Jim Rohn says, “What is easy to do is also easy not to do.” And this is an underlying principle that will carry through in all aspects of communication. Distractions are a surefire way to ensure a lack of understanding or interpretation of a conversation, which in turn, will create inefficiencies and a poor foundation for communication.

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This should come as no surprise, especially in this day in age where people are constantly distracted by social media, text messaging, and endlessly checking their emails. We’re stuck in a cultural norm that has hijacked our love for the addictive dopamine rush and altered our ability to truly focus our efforts on the task at hand. And these distractions aren’t just distractions for the time they’re being used. They use up coveted brainpower and central processes that secondarily delay our ability to get back on track.

Gloria Mark, a researcher at UC Irvine, discovered that it takes an average of 23 minutes and 15 seconds for our brains to reach their peak state of focus after an interruption.[6] Yes, you read that correctly—distractions are costly, error-prone, and yield little to no benefit outside of a bump to the ego when receiving a new like on your social media profile.

Meetings should implement a no-phone policy, video conference calls should be set on their own browser with no other tabs open, and all updates, notifications, and email prompt should be immediately turned off, if possible, to eliminate all distractions during a meeting.

These are just a few examples of how we can optimize our environment to facilitate the highest levels of communication within the workplace.

Actions Speak Louder Than Words

Effective communication in the workplace doesn’t have to be challenging, but it does have to be intentional. Knowledge can only take us so far, but once again, knowing something is very different than putting it into action.

Just like riding a bike, the more often you do it, the easier it becomes. Master communicators are phenomenal listeners, which allows them to be effective communicators in the workplace and in life. If you genuinely want to own your communication, you must implement this information today and learn how to improve your listening skills.

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Choose your words carefully, listen intently, and most of all, be present in the moment—because that’s what master communicators do, and you can do it, too!

More Tips Improving Listening Skills

Featured photo credit: Mailchimp via unsplash.com

Reference

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