Everybody feels differently about marriage. On one end of the spectrum you have people who are so enthusiastic about it that they have the whole thing planned out on Pinterest, down to the centerpieces (and sometimes, when they’re still single). On the other end, you have the Brad and Angelinas and Kurt and Goldies of the world, who are totally in love but couldn’t care less about making it official.
If you’re in a committed relationship, you should at one point have “the talk” about marriage. Do you both believe in it, and do you want to do it together, and when? Most healthy couples do talk about marriage before there’s an actual ring involved, but it can be a tricky subject and awkward at times to navigate. Here’s how to do it so you both feel good about it:
Establish–do you want to marry him? You need to find the answer to this question within yourself, and not from any relatives or close friends–or even from him. Pressure of any kind–financial, peer, societal–is not a good reason to get married. Ask yourself: is this the person I want to grow old with (or at least try to)? Do I want to get married for the right reasons? If there’s no doubt in your mind that you want to get married because you love this person the most, then it’s a good time to broach the topic with him. If you have doubts of any kind, speak with a professional or someone you know who gives solid advice about it.
Start soft. How you initiate the conversation makes all the difference in the world. Something along the lines of, “I’ve thought about spending my life with you,” should work (that’s a pretty earnest approach–if you have a more playful relationship, feel free to inject some humor in it).
Come from a place of love. Telling your boyfriend that you want to spend the rest of your life with him should be a romantic conversation–not a contentious one. Don’t stoop to ultimatums, threats or guilt-trips–which are unhealthy forms of communicating for any couple on any topic (not just the marriage one). Speak your truth and be open to hearing his.
Never say never. When communicating, you shouldn’t use absolute phrases like “never” and “always”–it will put him on the defensive. This is just a good ole fashioned rule of relationships.
Don’t assume that he wants to get married. If there’s a reason why he might have certain doubts about marriage (if he’s been divorced before or if he had a bad childhood experience with divorce) be sensitive to that. Don’t expect that marriage is an obvious choice for all people–he might have something different in mind for a lifelong partnership. Start with the fact that you want to love and support him for the long run, then move on to establishing whether you both feel good about the institution of marriage.
Establish a general timeline. Once you’ve agreed that you both want to do this thing, you should discuss a rough timeline for the engagement and the wedding that you are both comfortable with. Are there milestones you want to hit before or after getting engaged or married (graduating from school, buying a house, traveling the world, having a milestone birthday)? Just because you want to get married before 30, doesn’t mean you can force it. Be considerate of his wants and needs. This is good practice for your future marriage, where compromise is key.
Don’t bring it up again. After you’ve determined that you want to marry each other and generally when you want to do it, it’s time to back off. He needs time and space to plan a proposal that you can both truly feel great about–there should still be an element of surprise to the whole thing even though you know it’s coming. He’ll have a lot on his mind between your conversation about marriage and the actual proposal (getting the ring, asking your parents for permission if he’s traditional like that, planning the proposal itself). Let the man do his thing!
READ MORE: 10 Things To Do As Soon As You Get Engaged