How to Openly Talk About Marriage & Getting Engaged With Your Partner
If getting engaged has been on your mind a lot lately (you know, more than the usual amount), maybe it's time to talk about marriage with your partner. Aside from leaving a copy of The Knot Magazine on your coffee table or accidentally keeping your secret wedding Pinterest board on display when you step out of the room, there are other ways to bring up the marriage talk and discuss whether you're ready to take the next step. Depending on where you are in your relationship, it's a potentially nerve-wracking subject, so we asked a dating expert for practical advice on how to bring up marriage without feeling *too* awkward. Plus, we've got a list of the most important things to focus on during your conversation when you're talking about marriage.
In this article:
When Should You Bring Up the Marriage Talk?
The timeline between dating and getting engaged is different for every couple. But in general, you should both be on the same page about major issues and lifestyle choices, and the foundation of your relationship should feel solid.
"It's time to talk to your partner about marriage once you feel the relationship has reached a point of depth and stability," says Paula Pardel, a professional matchmaker and CEO of Bloom Matchmaking. As important as it is to be aligned with your partner, Pardel, who has been professionally matchmaking couples since 2018, says it's also important to be in tune with your own emotions. "Trust your intuition and look for signs of mutual respect, values, and a vision for the future that aligns," she says.
On the other hand, there are some red flags that could indicate you're not quite ready to talk about marriage just yet.
"It may be too soon to start future/marriage talk if you haven't been able to have open, honest communication about your wants and needs going forward," says Pardel. "Is your partner emotionally mature? Do they communicate their feelings with you? Ask yourself, 'Why do I want a future with this person?' How does this person make you feel? How do you make them feel?"
How to Talk About Marriage Without Feeling Awkward
No matter how well you think you know your partner, it's normal to get butterflies or feel a little nervous at the thought of taking the next step. But take a deep breath and remind yourself that there's a good chance you'll feel so relieved once the conversation gets going. Here's how to bring up marriage in a simple, straightforward way.
Speak from the heart.
Without framing it as an ultimatum, talk about how you envision your future together. Let your partner know how much they mean to you by sharing specific things you love about them. You can explain that you've been thinking about what a life together would look like and ask your partner to share their thoughts. Where is this going? When do you envision being ready for the next step? They might be feeling exactly the same way as you, or they could need a little more time to let it all sink in.
The first time you talk about marriage doesn't need to be about nailing down a concrete date or timeline for getting engaged. For now, focus on sharing your thoughts and getting a sense of their feelings to make sure you're both (excitedly) on the same page.
Be comfortable with giving them a little leeway.
If this is your first time talking about marriage with your partner, you might catch them off-guard by bringing the subject up in conversation. In that case, keep in mind that they might not feel totally prepared to talk through everything right now, and that's okay. Take some of the pressure off by agreeing that you can always revisit the conversation at another time.
"Plan a day and time to talk about how you feel the relationship is progressing," says Pardel. She recommends checking in with each other on the state of your relationship once every 90 days or so, talking about both the good and the bad to get a better understanding of where your partner is coming from.
Remember: Just because they're not ready to talk about marriage at this moment doesn't mean that they never will be. You're playing the endgame here, so it's important not to rush into it before both of you are ready.
"Keeping an open, honest line of communication can prevent a lot of headaches and prevent those small disagreements from growing into resentment," says Pardel. Likewise, it's best to go into your marriage talk without specific expectations for your partner. Of course you want to hear them say that they're ready for the next step, but their reaction could be different (maybe even in a good way!) than what you originally thought.
Instead of worrying about what your partner may or may not say, put that energy back into yourself and double-check that you're also being a good partner. Make sure that you're being vocal about what you want, but remember to give your partner the space they need to comfortably speak their truth too.
Consider consulting an expert if needed.
If your partner isn't ready for the marriage talk, don't write them off just yet. Struggling to see eye to eye might feel stressful and disappointing right now, but a professional counselor can help you navigate your feelings and conversations in a healthy way.
"It's always a good idea to see a premarital counselor," says Pardel. "It doesn't have to mean you have issues but you are trying to prevent them and learn how to better communicate with your partner." In your premarital counseling sessions, a professional couples therapist can help you work through sticky situations, understand each other's needs and help you build a stronger foundation for a future marriage. Above all, the goal is to walk away with a renewed sense of appreciation for each other that will help your love flourish as you take the next step. "Remember, your relationship is fluid—a living thing that needs to be fed," says Pardel.
So, What Exactly Should You Talk About?
Realizing that you're ready to propose or get engaged is an amazing feeling. But now that you and your partner have agreed to talk about marriage, it's time to make sure that you're completely aligned before going any further. Set yourselves up for future marital bliss by talking through these important subjects.
Handling Conflict in Your Relationship
"Everyone has disagreements—it's how we argue that's important," says Pardel. When you talk about marriage with your partner, Pardel recommends discussing how you'll handle life's inevitable ups and downs. "Are you fighting to solve the problem at hand, or just trying to win or make your point? Do your arguments accomplish anything, or do they just seem to go in circles where nothing ever gets solved?" she says. Set boundaries about what's off-limits when fighting or disagreeing with your partner—no matter how tough things get—such as calling each other names or throwing insults that can't be taken back.
You may have already had a conversation about wanting (or not wanting) kids with your partner, but it's something else to address when you're talking about marriage. If you've both agreed that you do want children, take the conversation one step further. How many kids do you want? How soon do you want to start a family? What will you do if you run into fertility issues or other unexpected challenges? Pardel also suggests discussing parenting styles and how involved each of you will be when it comes to raising your children.
"Religion needs to be talked about," says Pardel. "Not only what religion, but also the depth of your religious traditions. Will you be more of a spiritual household, where you don't necessarily attend church a lot, or do you feel church attendance is important to you?"
These days, interfaith relationships are fairly common and widely accepted. If you and your partner come from different religious backgrounds, discuss how you'll balance your beliefs in terms of lifestyle, raising a family and planning an interfaith wedding.
Money is a major thing to discuss during your marriage talk, even if you think you already have your finances figured out as a couple. Once you're married, you're adding a legal aspect to your finances—taxes, insurance, social security, retirement funds—so the conversation becomes even more important. You should share the same views on spending habits, paying off debt and whether or not you'll merge assets.
"It can be a good idea to speak to a financial planner before marriage," says Pardel. "They can help you start a plan for the future. Do you want to live modestly, or do you want the huge house and all that goes with that?"
Meeting with a financial planner can also help you settle the debate of prenup or no prenup when you talk about marriage. Whatever you decide, it's best to have the conversation earlier rather than later so that you're both on the same page.
Future Living Arrangements
If you haven't had this convo already, share your views about where you see yourself putting down roots long-term. Are you happy with where you're living right now, or do you have big ambitions to move across the country at some point? If you're in a long-distance relationship, where and when will you ultimately live together? Discuss other things like renting versus home ownership, your thoughts on living together before marriage and how you'll split household costs in the future.
You're not engaged yet, but if you're talking about marriage, it's clear that you're probably headed in that direction. Having a brief chat about what you'd want your wedding to someday look like can be beneficial, especially if you want to start saving money for the big day. And while you're on the subject, we recommend sharing your thoughts on engagement rings and proposals—for example, if you expect your partner to ask for your family's blessing before proposing, now would be a good time to put that on the table.