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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!

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.

How to Know If You Have an Emotionally Unavailable Partner 7 Secrets of a Happy Marriage Revealed by a Relationship Expert When to Talk About Marriage If You Want to Take it to the Next Level 15 Signs You Are In a Relationship With a Narcissist (And What to Do)

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Published on September 23, 2020

6 Effective Negotiation Skills to Master

6 Effective Negotiation Skills to Master

I don’t know about you, but many times when I hear the word negotiate I think of lawyers working out a business deal or having to do battle with a car salesman to try to get a lower price. Since I am in recruiting, the term “negotiation” comes up when someone is attempting to get a higher compensation package.

If we think about it, we tend to negotiate almost every day in a wide variety of things we do. Getting a handle on the important negotiation skills can be incredibly beneficial in many parts of our lives. Let’s take a look at 6 effective negotiation skills to master.

What is Negotiation?

First, let’s take a look at what negotiation is. Put simply, negotiation is a method by which people settle their differences. It is a process in which compromise or agreement can be reached without argument or dispute.

Anytime two people or sides disagree on something, they are almost always looking for the best possible outcome for their side. This could be from an individual’s perspective or someone representing an organization.

In reality, it’s rare that one side gets everything they want and the other side gets nothing that they are seeking. Seeking to reach a common ground of sorts where both sides feel like they are getting most of what they want is the key to being successful and maintaining the relationship.

Places We Negotiate

I’ve mentioned that we negotiate in just about all phases of our life. For those of you who are shaking your head no, I invite you to think about the following:

1. Work/Business

This one is the most obvious and it’s what naturally comes to mind when we think of the word “negotiate”.

When you first started at your current job, you might have asked for a higher salary. It could be that you delivered a huge new client to your company and used this as leverage in your most recent evaluation for more compensation. If you work with vendors (and just about every company does), maybe you worked them to a lower price or better contract terms.

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In recruiting, I negotiate with candidates and hiring managers all the time to land the best talent I can find. It’s very common to accept additional work with the (sometimes spoken, sometimes unspoken) agreement that it will benefit your career in the future.

Recently, I took over a project that was my boss was working on so that I would be able to attend a conference later in the year. And so it goes, we do this all day long at work.

2. Personal

I don’t know about you, but I negotiate with my spouse all the time. I’ll cook dinner with the understanding that she does the dishes. Who wants to mow the lawn and who wants to vacuum and dust the house?

I think we should save 10% for retirement, but she thinks 5% is plenty. Therefore, we save 8%. And don’t even get me started with my kids. My older daughter can borrow my car as soon as she finishes her chores. My younger daughter can go hang out with her friends when her homework is done.

Then, there are all those interactions in our personal lives outside our homes. The carpenter wants to charge me $12,000 to build a new deck. I think $10,000 is plenty so we agree on $11,000. I ask my neighbor if I can borrow his snowblower in the winter if I invite him over the next time I grill steak. And so on.

3. Ourselves

You didn’t expect this one, did you? We negotiate with ourselves all day long.

I’ll make sure I don’t skip my workout tomorrow since I’m going to have that extra piece of pizza. My spouse has been quiet the last few days, is it worth me asking her about, or should I leave it alone? I think the car place charged me for some repairs that weren’t needed, should I say something or just let it go? I know my friend has been having some personal challenges, should I check in with him? We’ve been friends for a long time, I’m sure he’d come to me if he needed help. I’ve got the #4 pick in this year’s Fantasy Football draft, should I choose a running back or a wide receiver?

Think about that non-stop voice inside your head. It always seems to be chattering away about something and many times, it’s us negotiating with ourselves. I’ll finish up that report that the boss needs before I turn on the football game.

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Why Negotiation Skills Are So Important

Put simply, negotiation skills are important because we all interact with other people, and not only other people but other organizations and groups of people as well.

We all rarely want the same thing or outcome. Most of the time a vendor is looking at getting you to pay a higher price for something than you want to spend. Therefore, it’s important to negotiate to some middle ground that works well for both sides.

My wife and I disagree on how much to save for retirement. If we weren’t married it wouldn’t be an issue. We’d each contribute how much we wanted to on our retirement funds. We choose to be married, so we have to come to some agreement that we both feel comfortable with. We have to compromise. Therefore, we have to negotiate.

If we each lived on a planet by ourselves, we would be free to do just about anything we wanted to. We wouldn’t have to compromise with anyone because we wouldn’t interact with anyone. We would make every choice unilaterally the way we wanted to.

As we all know, this isn’t how things are. We are constantly interacting with other people and organizations, each one with their own agenda’s, viewpoints, and opinions. Therefore, we have to be able to work together.

6 Negotiation Skills to Master

Having strong negotiation skills helps us create win-win situations with others, allowing us to get most of what we want in conjunction with others around us.

Now, let’s look at 6 effective negotiation skills to master.

1. Preparation

Preparation is a key place to start with when getting ready to negotiate. Being prepared means having a clear vision of what you want and how you’d go about achieving it. It means knowing what the end goal looks like and also what you are willing to give to get it.

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It also means knowing who you are negotiating with and what areas they might be willing to compromise on. You should also know what your “bottom line” is. By “bottom line” I mean what is the most you are willing to give up to get what you want.

For instance, several years ago, I decided it was time to get a newer car. I say newer because I wanted a “new to me” car, not a brand new car. I did my research and figured out what type of car I wanted. I decided on what must-have items on the car I wanted, the highest amount of miles that would already be on it, the colors I was willing to get it in, and the highest amount of money I was willing to pay.

After visiting numerous car dealerships I was able to negotiate buying a car. I knew what I was willing to give up (amount of money) and what I was willing to accept, things like the color, amount of miles, etc. I came prepared. This is critical.

2. Clear Communication

The next key skill you need to be an effective negotiator is clear communication. You have to be able to clearly articulate what you want to the other party. This means both clear verbal and written communication.

If you can’t clearly tell the other person what you want, how do you expect to get it? Have you ever worked through something with a vendor or someone else only to learn of a surprise right at the end that wasn’t talked about before? This is not what you would call clear communication. It’s essential to be able to share a coherent and logical vision with the person you are working with.

3. Active Listening

Let’s do a quick review of active listening. This is when you are completely focused on the speaker, understand their message, comprehend the information, and respond appropriately. This is a necessary ingredient to be able to negotiate successfully. You must be able to fully focus on the other person’s wants to completely understand them.

If you aren’t giving them your full attention, you may miss some major points or details. This leads to frustration down the road on both sides. Ensure you are employing your active listening skills when in arbitration mode.

4. Teamwork and Collaboration

To be able to get to a place of common ground and a win-win scenario, you have to have a sense of teamwork and collaboration.

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If you are only thinking about yourself and what you want without giving much care to what the other person is wanting, you are bound to wind up without a solution. The other person may get frustrated and give up if they see you are unwilling to meet them halfway or care little for what they want.

When you collaborate, you are working together to help each other get what is most important to you. The other upside to negotiating with a sense of teamwork and collaboration is that it helps create a sense of trust, which, in turn, helps provide positive energy for working to a successful conclusion.

5. Problem Solving

Problem-solving is another key negotiation skill. When you are working with the other person to get the deal done many times you’ll face new challenges along the way.

Maybe you want a new vendor to provide training on the software they are selling you but they say it’s going to cost an additional $20,000 to provide this service. If you don’t have the additional $20,000 in the budget to spend on the software but you feel the training is critical, how are you going to solve that problem?

From what I’ve seen, most vendors aren’t willing to provide additional services without getting paid for them. This is where problem-solving skills will help continue the discussions. You might suggest to the vendor that your company will also be looking to replace their financial software next year, and you’d be happy to ensure they get one of the first seats at the table when the time comes if they could perhaps lower the pricing on their training.

There’s a solution to most challenges, but it takes problem-solving skills to work through them effectively.

6. Decision-Making Ability

Finally, having strong decision-making ability will help you seal the deal when you get to a place where everyone feels like they are getting what works for them. Each step of the way you can cross off the list when you get what you are looking for and decide to move onto the next item. Then, once you have all of your must-have boxes checked and the other side feels good about things, it’s time to shake hands and sign on the dotted line. Powerful decision-making ability will help you get to the finish line together.

Conclusion

There you have it, 6 effective negotiation skills to master to lead a more fulfilling life. Once we realize that we negotiate in one form or another almost every day in every phase of our lives, we realize how critical a skill it is.

Possessing strong negotiation skills will help you in nearly every one of your relationships at both the workplace and in your personal life. If you feel your arbitration tools could use some sharpening, try some of the 6 effective negotiation skills to master that we’ve talked about.

More Tips to Improve Your Negotiation Skills

Featured photo credit: Windows via unsplash.com

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