How to Know When to Propose, Based on 15 Telltale Signs

If you're thinking about taking the next step, you're already on the right track.
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Samantha Iacia - The Knot wedding style expert
Samantha Iacia
  • Samantha writes articles for The Knot Worldwide, with a speciality in wedding decor, trends, and fashion
  • Prior to The Knot Worldwide, Samantha was a features and weddings contributor for The Baltimore Sun
  • She is based in Washington, D.C. and holds a Bachelor of Science in journalism
Updated May 15, 2023

When you're happy in your relationship, there comes a time when you start to wonder how to know when to propose—a thought that's equally exciting and nerve-racking. On one hand, realizing that you could potentially marry your partner is like an instant dopamine rush, but on the other hand, how do you know if they're feeling the same way? Let us take it from here. Deciding that you're ready to propose might be a gut feeling you have without a doubt, or it could take a little more time to connect the dots, but there are some telltale signs to look for either way. If you've reached most of these relationship milestones, good news: an engagement could be around the corner.

1. You've discussed your future together.

While the proposal itself can be a surprise, the general topic of marriage is something that you should talk to your partner about beforehand. Do they like the idea of being married and is it something they eventually envision for your relationship? What are their thoughts on other big decisions, like a postwedding name change or where you'll live together? You don't need to have every detail of your 10- or 20-year plan in place, but it's important to know that you can both realistically see your relationship still going strong for decades down the road.

2. You're both open about your finances.

It's not always easy, but discussing money with your partner is an important part of every long-term relationship, especially if you're thinking about getting married. Even if you're not experts on the financial front, you should have a good understanding of each other's financial situations, from salaries to spending habits. Discussing debt before getting engaged is another conversation to have, since it can affect things like your credit score, filing taxes, loan approvals and more. Lastly, start thinking about how you'll approach finances once you're married (joint or separate bank accounts?) and whether or not you should sign a prenup.

3. You're on the same page about starting—or not starting—a family.

Whether or not you want kids, you should talk about it with your partner before moving forward with an engagement. If the two of you are both in agreement about children, it's also important to talk about your ideal parenting styles to make sure you're on the same page about education, childcare, family values and how many children you want.

4. You communicate with each other effectively.

Healthy communication with your partner is a major green light on our list of how to know when to propose. This could be something as simple as reading unspoken cues that your partner is having a bad day, feeling comfortable enough to be honest when you're upset about something (instead of holding it in) or knowing how to resolve an argument respectfully and maturely.

5. You're aware of each other's ambitions and life goals.

You don't need to share every life dream that your partner has (and vice versa), but you should be aware of each other's ambitions—and more importantly, feel comfortable supporting each other to achieve them. Maybe you have the goal of starting your own business sometime in the future, or perhaps your partner has a lifelong dream to live in a specific location. If you've already talked about your major desires and you both feel good about them, it's a good sign that you're ready to propose.

6. You support each other's personal space.

Being able to give your partner their personal space as needed is another thing to consider if you're deciding when to propose. As much as you love spending time with each other, it's healthy to have your own interests, friends and downtime outside of the relationship too. Accepting and embracing "me time" will help you both feel more aligned and supported going into marriage.

7. You've made it through ups and downs together.

Whether it's a vacation gone wrong or a major health scare, seeing how your partner acts during times of uncertainty can influence your decision about how to know when to propose. Do you feel safe and supported by each other, even when you don't have all the answers? Being able to work as a team through the good and the bad times is reassurance that you're already on the right path to a proposal.

8. Both of you feel comfortable being yourselves in the relationship.

Being in a relationship requires compromise within reason, but you shouldn't feel the need to change who you are or go against your beliefs, especially when you're thinking about a commitment as serious as marriage. So how do you know when to propose? A good indicator is that you can be your true selves with each other (opinionated thoughts, mood swings, silly habits) and it only makes your bond stronger.

9. There's relative calmness in your lives.

There's always going to be something going on—that's just the nature of life—but finding the right time to propose involves taking your partner's needs into account too. If your partner is navigating an unusually stressful situation, it's probably not the right time to ask. It could be that they're dealing with family issues or making a major career change, and adding wedding planning into the mix isn't the best decision at the moment. Propose when you can both think clearly about moving forward with a commitment and focus on the excitement of being engaged.

10. You understand and celebrate your differences.

Allowing each other room to grow and change will help your relationship stay strong over time. You won't agree on everything, but that's okay. Acknowledging that things won't always be perfect (and still keeping the faith that you'll figure it out) means you're building the foundation for a healthy marriage and one step closer to being ready to propose.

11. You reached an important milestone.

It's not uncommon to want to wait to get married until one or both of you has reached a certain milestone. If you've just accomplished a personal or professional goal (like finishing a degree, paying off debt or finally getting that promotion), it may be the perfect time to take the next step in your relationship too.

12. Your partner is dropping hints.

Maybe your partner mentioned that they're really into cushion-cut diamonds or that they'd love to honeymoon in Thailand. The hints can be a little less subtle when The Knot Magazine mysteriously appears on your coffee table, but the message is clear: they're ready to get engaged. If you've already been thinking about when you should propose, consider this the green light to make your move.

13. Your friends and family are fans.

Your loved ones have hopefully met your partner by now, and their approval is another great sign if you're wondering how to know when to propose. They've witnessed how you interact with your partner and can be a good judge of things you might not even notice, like your big smile or how often you mention that you're happier than ever.

14. The idea of getting engaged feels exciting, not scary.

Sure, you might have butterflies in your stomach when you think about asking your partner to marry you—that's totally normal. But ultimately, those nerves should feel like a minor obstacle to get to your end goal of an engagement. Sweaty palms aside, listen to your gut and ask yourself if you feel excited about taking the next step. If the answer is yes, then you know you're ready to propose.

15. You can't imagine your life without them.

Above all else, the most important thing is that you want your partner to be around for the long haul. You might catch yourself subconsciously planning for your future and daydreaming about things like your wedding day or starting a family before you're even engaged. In that case, it's a pretty good giveaway that you've found the person you want to marry. How exciting is that?

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