Blame the royal wedding hype, the new wedding song John Legend just released, or the impending wedding season, but there seems to be a lot of talk about matrimony in air. If you're in a committed relationship, there is a very good chance that you've wondered what it would be like to be married to your partner. You may have even dropped subtle hints about it, or found ways to meld it into your everyday conversations. Still, Want to get married?, feels like a loaded question to confront head-on.
"It's scary for a lot of people, because it seems very consequential," says Kayla Knopp, a clinical graduate student who studies facets of commitment in relationships at the University of Denver Center for Marital and Family Studies. If you're someone who does care about marriage, then it can feel nerve-wracking to talk about, because there's a chance that your partner might have an answer you don't like, she says. Or, even if you don't have strong feelings about marriage, communicating something about your own commitment naturally puts you in a vulnerable position, she says. "You sort of give up power when you give your partner information about your commitment that they're also not giving you back," she says.
So, the logical solution to avoid all this awkwardness is to just put off the conversation about marriage forever, right? Wrong. When people are uncertain about their partner's intentions in a relationship, they tend to clam up and not talk about things, Knopp says. "But, there's other research that says that, even though that seems to protect you at the time, it actually doesn’t help in the long term, and you’re better off having those conversations," she says. In other words, while you may feel motivated for a variety of reasons to keep your relationship ambiguous, it's worth it to talk about commitment so you know that you're both on the same page, and you don't waste your time.
At some point, you just have to be okay with what's important to you, and be okay with asking for what you need in a relationship.
Kayla Knopp, a clinical graduate student who studies facets of commitment in relationships at the University of Denver Center for Marital and Family Studies
The thing is, every relationship progresses at a different speed, so there's not really a "right time" to bring up marriage. Many people worry that bringing it up "too soon" would end their relationship, because it comes across "too strong," Knopp says. "Typically, people are their own best guides in terms of when something becomes important to you," she says. That said, it's possible to make a commitment too soon in a relationship.
Based on studies, Knopp says serious commitments should never be made sooner than a year in, at least — but that's just a ballpark estimate. "Definitely go slowly in a relationship, let it develop over time, and take time to get to know your partner," she says. (Hey, even John Legend said he "grew into his relationship" with his wife Chrissy Teigen.) It's also a good idea to discuss your future and views on marriage before moving in together, she says. "We know that [moving in] tends to be a bigger commitment than people think they're making," she says. "They need to really know what that means to the both of them."
Basically, the best thing you can do is trust your gut, and know that it doesn't make you high-maintenance, "crazy," or uncool to want to discuss your future with your partner. "At some point, you just have to be okay with what's important to you, and be okay with asking for what you need in a relationship," Knopp says. "And, really know that you deserve to get what you want in a relationship, even if that means looking for somebody else who could fit that better."