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.)

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.((Zola Research: Pre-Engagreement Season)) 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.

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.

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.

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.((The Gottman Institute: How To Talk To Your Partner About Your Future))

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

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