The M word. When should you first dare to utter it? And how?
Here’s a simple guide for bringing up the topic of marriage in a relationship.
If marriage is important to you, waiting until you’ve been dating someone for a few months (or years) before your broach the topic is risky: you might find yourself in a relationship with someone who has no interest in ever tying the knot.
To avoid falling in love with someone whose anti-marriage stance is a deal breaker, be clear about your dating-leads-to-wedded-bliss intentions early on.
Once there’s relationship potential.
Just because you should bring up marriage sooner rather than later, doesn’t mean you should talk wedding bells on the first date. Wait until you’ve assessed your real relationship potential. If all is going well after a few dates — and you can see the possibility of things getting serious — bring up your views on (and hopes for) marriage.
As you learn about personal values and life goals.
Marriage isn’t necessarily a stand-alone topic. It will likely — or should, anyway — come up as you share your personal values, histories, interests and life goals with one another. Don’t avoid the subject when it pops up in conversation organically.
Once you’ve established marriage as a conversation topic in your relationship, let it come up casually on a semi-frequent basis. Instead of assuming you’re always on the same page, you’ll be revisiting your attitudes and ideas on matrimony as your relationship progresses.
When it’s serious.
When you first bring up marriage, it will be about your personal views on the subject. After you’ve been dating for a few months — or even a year or two — the topic will get more personal. If marrying your significant other is now something you’re counting on, don’t rely on telepathy to communicate this expectation to your partner. If you haven’t already done so, it’s probably time to seriously talk about your future together.
Get right to the point.
If you hope to get married one day, say so. Keep it about you — don’t overwhelm your date by pointing them out as your future spouse — and ask your date’s perspective on the topic. Don’t pressure a certain response out of him, and be open to revisiting the subject in the future. All you’re doing is being honest about your own expectations for your future and getting a conversation started.
If bluntness doesn’t suit you — marriage-talk can make one feel pretty vulnerable — look for an opportunity to bring up marriage in a less direct manner. Maybe your best friend just got engaged. Maybe you watched a movie about a marriage falling apart. Bring up marriage as part of a conversation about something/someone else and share your own thoughts and feelings on how you hope it will look in your own life one day.
Worried that your date will run screaming if you bring up marriage so you pretend you don’t care about a ring? Don’t. Feigning disinterest in marriage for the sake of your pride helps no one. It’s unfair to both you and your significant other if you’re not being honest about what you want.
Don’t assume anything.
Just because you both love sushi, Otis Redding and the Blue Jays doesn’t mean that you’re on the same page when it comes to marriage and commitment. And just because you both admitted to wanting marriage when you first started dating doesn’t mean that you’re both ready to tie the knot one year later. When conversations about the future arise, make sure you both have the opportunity to share your current hopes, concerns and expectations. Don’t just assume that you’re heading for the altar (at the same pace) just because you both like each other a lot.
Trust us. No one wants a proposal triggered by a threat.
You may have caught your significant other off-guard. And you might not hear what you want to hear. Let your partner express herself honestly. People struggle with the idea of marriage for a variety of reasons: a bitter divorce, discomfort with patriarchy, fear of commitment, personal insecurities. Listen to her concerns. Even if you’re both interested in marriage, your reasons might differ wildly. As you talk about marriage together, you’ll learn about your differing perspectives, hangups, fears and expectations of the future.
A conversation about marriage does not have to lead to a proposal. A successful conversation will simply lead to another one. Consider this an exercise in being vulnerable and open with one another as you discover whether or not your individual goals for the future are compatible.
Things to consider:
Your own motives.
Before you talk about marriage with your significant other, ask yourself why you hope to get married one day. Is it for the security? Tradition? Do you hope marriage leads to children? Having an understanding of your own motives and desires will help you better communicate why marriage is important to you — and will give your partner some insight into what makes you tick, and whether or not he can provide what you’re hoping for.
Your comfort level.
If you’re scared to bring up the topic of marriage, ask yourself why. If your partner isn’t approachable, or you don’t feel safe being vulnerable with him, let that discomfort challenge you: maybe the relationship isn’t heading in that direction after all. If you can’t be real with the person you might marry one day, he probably isn’t Mr. Right.
If you’re simply nervous because you don’t want to scare him away — maybe an ex ran for the door at any hint of commitment talk — communicate that. Be honest and open about what you hope your future holds. A loving partner will respect that.