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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.

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Last Updated on February 11, 2021

Easily Misunderstood by Others? 6 Barriers You Should Overcome to Make Communication Less Frustrating

Easily Misunderstood by Others? 6 Barriers You Should Overcome to Make Communication Less Frustrating

How often have you said something simple, only to have the person who you said this to misunderstand it or twist the meaning completely around? Nodding your head in affirmative? Then this means that you are being unclear in your communication.

Communication should be simple, right? It’s all about two people or more talking and explaining something to the other. The problem lies in the talking itself, somehow we end up being unclear, and our words, attitude or even the way of talking becomes a barrier in communication, most of the times unknowingly. We give you six common barriers to communication, and how to get past them; for you to actually say what you mean, and or the other person to understand it as well…

The 6 Walls You Need to Break Down to Make Communication Effective

Think about it this way, a simple phrase like “what do you mean” can be said in many different ways and each different way would end up “communicating” something else entirely. Scream it at the other person, and the perception would be anger. Whisper this is someone’s ear and others may take it as if you were plotting something. Say it in another language, and no one gets what you mean at all, if they don’t speak it… This is what we mean when we say that talking or saying something that’s clear in your head, many not mean that you have successfully communicated it across to your intended audience – thus what you say and how, where and why you said it – at times become barriers to communication.[1]

Perceptual Barrier

The moment you say something in a confrontational, sarcastic, angry or emotional tone, you have set up perceptual barriers to communication. The other person or people to whom you are trying to communicate your point get the message that you are disinterested in what you are saying and sort of turn a deaf ear. In effect, you are yelling your point across to person who might as well be deaf![2]

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The problem: When you have a tone that’s not particularly positive, a body language that denotes your own disinterest in the situation and let your own stereotypes and misgivings enter the conversation via the way you talk and gesture, the other person perceives what you saying an entirely different manner than say if you said the same while smiling and catching their gaze.

The solution: Start the conversation on a positive note, and don’t let what you think color your tone, gestures of body language. Maintain eye contact with your audience, and smile openly and wholeheartedly…

Attitudinal Barrier

Some people, if you would excuse the language, are simply badass and in general are unable to form relationships or even a common point of communication with others, due to their habit of thinking to highly or too lowly of them. They basically have an attitude problem – since they hold themselves in high esteem, they are unable to form genuine lines of communication with anyone. The same is true if they think too little of themselves as well.[3]

The problem: If anyone at work, or even in your family, tends to roam around with a superior air – anything they say is likely to be taken by you and the others with a pinch, or even a bag of salt. Simply because whenever they talk, the first thing to come out of it is their condescending attitude. And in case there’s someone with an inferiority complex, their incessant self-pity forms barriers to communication.

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The solution: Use simple words and an encouraging smile to communicate effectively – and stick to constructive criticism, and not criticism because you are a perfectionist. If you see someone doing a good job, let them know, and disregard the thought that you could have done it better. It’s their job so measure them by industry standards and not your own.

Language Barrier

This is perhaps the commonest and the most inadvertent of barriers to communication. Using big words, too much of technical jargon or even using just the wrong language at the incorrect or inopportune time can lead to a loss or misinterpretation of communication. It may have sounded right in your head and to your ears as well, but if sounded gobbledygook to the others, the purpose is lost.

The problem: Say you are trying to explain a process to the newbies and end up using every technical word and industry jargon that you knew – your communication has failed if the newbie understood zilch. You have to, without sounding patronizing, explain things to someone in the simplest language they understand instead of the most complex that you do.

The solution: Simplify things for the other person to understand you, and understand it well. Think about it this way: if you are trying to explain something scientific to a child, you tone it down to their thinking capacity, without “dumbing” anything down in the process.[4]

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Emotional Barrier

Sometimes, we hesitate in opening our mouths, for fear of putting our foot in it! Other times, our emotional state is so fragile that we keep it and our lips zipped tightly together lest we explode. This is the time that our emotions become barriers to communication.[5]

The problem: Say you had a fight at home and are on a slow boil, muttering, in your head, about the injustice of it all. At this time, you have to give someone a dressing down over their work performance. You are likely to transfer at least part of your angst to the conversation then, and talk about unfairness in general, leaving the other person stymied about what you actually meant!

The solution: Remove your emotions and feelings to a personal space, and talk to the other person as you normally would. Treat any phobias or fears that you have and nip them in the bud so that they don’t become a problem. And remember, no one is perfect.

Cultural Barrier

Sometimes, being in an ever-shrinking world means that inadvertently, rules can make cultures clash and cultural clashes can turn into barriers to communication. The idea is to make your point across without hurting anyone’s cultural or religious sentiments.

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The problem: There are so many ways culture clashes can happen during communication and with cultural clashes; it’s not always about ethnicity. A non-smoker may have problems with smokers taking breaks; an older boss may have issues with younger staff using the Internet too much.

The solution: Communicate only what is necessary to get the point across – and eave your personal sentiments or feelings out of it. Try to be accommodative of the other’s viewpoint, and in case you still need to work it out, do it one to one, to avoid making a spectacle of the other person’s beliefs.[6]

Gender Barrier

Finally, it’s about Men from Mars and Women from Venus. Sometimes, men don’t understand women and women don’t get men – and this gender gap throws barriers in communication. Women tend to take conflict to their graves, literally, while men can move on instantly. Women rely on intuition, men on logic – so inherently, gender becomes a big block in successful communication.[7]

The problem: A male boss may inadvertently rub his female subordinates the wrong way with anti-feminism innuendoes, or even have problems with women taking too many family leaves. Similarly, women sometimes let their emotions get the better of them, something a male audience can’t relate to.

The solution: Talk to people like people – don’t think or classify them into genders and then talk accordingly. Don’t make comments or innuendos that are gender biased – you don’t have to come across as an MCP or as a bra-burning feminist either. Keep gender out of it.

And remember, the key to successful communication is simply being open, making eye contact and smiling intermittently. The battle is usually half won when you say what you mean in simple, straightforward words and keep your emotions out of it.

Reference

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