how to have the marriage conversation

Ready to Talk About Marriage? 10 Tips for the 'Next Step' Conversation

So you're in a committed relationship and you're ready to have the marriage conversation - but where do you start? And why is the conversation so difficult? If the thought of marriage has crossed your mind, it’s important to ask yourself a few questions before you discuss marriage with a partner. What makes you feel ready for marriage? How are your feelings about marriage different than they were in the past? Have you considered if your religious values and worldviews are compatible? Are you emotionally and mentally prepared to commit yourself to another person? For the rest of your life?

Some of these questions might seem nearly impossible to answer, afterall we never know what the future has in store for us. But, it is important to ask yourself these types of questions before you dive head first into a conversation about marriage with your partner. Marriage can be a huge deal for a lot of people, so you need to make sure that you know you are ready before discussing it with a partner. As romantic as it may seem to pop the question and completely take your partner by surprise, in reality, it is important to broach the conversation of marriage before proposing to a partner. This doesn’t mean that a surprise proposal is totally off of the table, just that the proposal should not be the first time you are talking about the future of your relationship (and the possibility of marriage) with your partner.

If you decide that you are ready to have the marriage discussion with your partner, consider these ten tips on when and how to approach the conversation:

Drop hints

Talking about marriage with your partner should not take them completely by surprise. Before gearing up for the big conversation, drop some hints to test the waters and see if they are on the same page as you are. Dropping hints can mean talking about a couple you know that is recently engaged (there is bound to be one...), broaching conversations about a wedding ring, abstractly talking about wedding venues, watching rom coms that involve weddings... There are tons of ways to drop hints to help gauge your partner’s response and prime them for a more serious conversation about marriage.

Timing is everything

When you are choosing when to talk about marriage with your partner, remember that timing is everything! If you and your partner are completely on the same page, this could be a relatively short conversation. But in other cases, you need to budget some time to have this serious conversation about the future of your relationship. Don’t choose a time when you are both rushing out of the door or in a hurry. Instead, choose a time when you both have some down time and are ready to discuss. In addition to thinking about timing, it is important to think about the setting. You can make this a romantic conversation if you want to, but it is more important to choose an intimate, neutral place where both you and your partner can discuss marriage openly.

Talk about personal goals

When you are talking about the future with your partner, it is important to consider if your personal goals are compatible. Your relationship may be great now, but will it be great in five years? Do you have plans to move? Go back to school? Start a new career? Does your partner have big plans? Are you willing to support each other through times of transition? Understanding what your personal goals are, and if your personal goals are compatible will help you understand if you and your partner have what it takes to be life partners.

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Talk about your relationship goals

In addition to talking about your personal goals, it’s important to talk about your relationship goals! Are you and your partner committed to a monogamous relationship? Do you both see yourself with one other person for the rest of your life? Do you hope to start a family together? Even if you and your partner are compatible as a couple, you may not be cut out for marriage if you are not on the same page about your relationship goals. It is important to talk candidly about your hopes and dreams for the future so that you are both on the same page if you do choose to get married.

Keep an open mind

Just because you are ready to have the marriage discussion, does not mean that your partner is! Having a discussion about marriage with someone can lead to a lot of unexpected responses. It is important to keep an open mind and respect your partner’s point of view and preferences, even if they do not align with yours. Do they want to wait until accomplishing a personal goal? Do they not want to commit to monogamy? Keeping an open mind about your partner’s views on the future will help your relationship if it turns out you are not on the same page about marriage.

Talk about values

Like we mentioned before, it is super important to consider how your personal values will align in the long run. Are you and your partner on the same page about religion? If you are not, are you willing to accept their view? Are your families willing to as well? Do you have similar values related to settling down? Working? Raising a family (if you do choose to do so)? No matter how well you know your partner, it can be awkward to drill down about your values. But understanding if you are both on the same page can help you understand if you are ready for marriage. If you are unable to have difficult conversations like this, you may not be ready to commit your life to someone! Think of this ‘next step’ conversation as practice for the future, tough conversations that can arise if you do decide that marriage is right for you.

Debt matters

As unromantic as this might seem, it is important to talk to your partner about debt and spending patterns. When you are dating someone, you may not know the ins and out of their finances. But if you are married, their finances become your finances, so it is super important to know if they are carrying around mountains of debt. Debt should not be a dealbreaker by any means, but it is important that you and your partner are transparent about debt before tying the knot. This conversation should also touch on different spending habits. Financial stress is one of the leading things that causes relationship problems. If you and your partner have completely different spending patterns, perceptions of risk, or ideas about what is worth spending money on (think down payment versus beach vacation), then your financial incompatibility should be a consideration before deciding to get married.

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Discuss logistics and timelines

Again, logistics and timeliness are not the most romantic things to dive into while you are broaching the idea of marriage with a partner, but that does not make them unimportant! If you decide that you want to get married, it’s important to consider when you would like to get married, if you would like a wedding (often another entirely different conversation), how you will finance the wedding (if you decide to have one), where you will move to once you are married, etc. etc. Of course, all of these details do not need to be decided during your first conservation about marriage (and probably should not be), but it is important to keep these things in mind for future conservations.

Be honest about expectations

Discussing marriage has the potential to change your relationship with your partner. Your relationship might feel more serious if you decide to commit to each other for the rest of your lives. During your first conversation about marriage, it is important to discuss your expectations for marriage and for your relationship moving forward. Discussions of marriage often prompt people to think about their relationship in a more long term time frame than they were before, which can prompt some important conversations about expectations for the future.

Consider what no means

If you decide to have the marriage conversation with your partner, it is important to remember that they can say no to the idea of marriage and it is important to consider what this means for your relationship. Is marriage a deal breaker for you? If your partner agrees they want to spend their life with you but is uninterested in the institution of marriage is this a deal breaker? Disagreements about whether or not you will get married can ultimately be the demise of relationships if you and your partner are not on the same page. This means that before you broach the conversation with your partner, you need to consider how this conservation could potentially end your relationship. As we suggested above, it is important to keep an open mind and consider how to compromise with your partner if you are both on different pages. But it is also important to recognize that marriage is not something that is worth compromising on for many people.

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