Q. I’ve read lots of posts on Love Letters about how to know when you’re ready for marriage, when you’re not ready, why your partner is taking so long to get ready, being ready for a wedding vs. ready for a marriage, etc., etc. Here’s another one in a similar (but less confusing) vein: When you know you’re ready, how do you start the conversation?
My partner and I have been together for four years. We have a solid, supportive, fun, and happy relationship. I’m in my late 20s and he’s a couple years older and we’ve both never been married or engaged before. I’d like to start a conversation with him about how and when to make it official. I definitely do not want to put on any pressure as far as the timeline; I’m sure he’s the one, and I’d like to start our marriage, but I know it’s a big and important decision so I’m perfectly happy to wait if that’s what he wants or needs.
So, should I make a nice dinner and treat it as a big conversation (it is!)? Should I bring it up casually while we’re out for a walk and see how he responds? Should I come out and say I’m ready (no room for miscommunication in this conversation!) or broach the subject more gradually?
We both see each other as family and take for granted in our conversations and plans that we’ll be married someday; I’m simply looking for the best way to check in and see if we can start to put a date (or year) on “someday,” without making him feel behind or pressured if his timeline is different than mine.
A. “We both see each other as family and take for granted in our conversations and plans that we’ll be married someday.”
Well, this makes life easier. If you’re already talking about the future, this conversation shouldn’t come as a shock to him.
I think there’s a sweet spot between “big important dinner conversation” and “super casual comment that comes off as spontaneous but clearly isn’t.” I do like the idea of bringing it up on a walk. You could say a version of what you told us: “Lately I’ve been thinking about when we’ll do some of the things we talk about — like get married. I’m ready, and I’d love to hear what you think about what comes next.” It’s casual without being apologetic or dismissive. Best of all, it’s the truth. You do have questions about your timeline. It’s that simple.
This pandemic is teaching some of us (I’ll count myself in this group) to be more straightforward about our needs, concerns, hopes, and wishes. It’s a great time to talk about plans and things to look forward to. Don’t downplay it or assume the conversation will involve pressure and awkwardness. Simply tell him that you’re excited to discuss. Ask for his input and see where it goes.
It’s going to be a lovely season for long walks. Just saying.
It’s not like you’re asking him to marry you. Instead of assuming marriage is in your future, just ask him point blank: “What do you think about getting married, to me?”
I wouldn’t make it a whole big production. That will make it feel like you’re pressuring him. I would talk about it casually, but be direct. Don’t hint around. If you can’t talk about this with him honestly and directly, then you aren’t really ready.
Do you even know whether you’re on the same page about having kids? There may be a few more conversations you need to have with him before talking about marriage.
^I agree. That’s a key thing to know before getting married. And it may provide a great segue to tell him she’s ready, assuming she likes his answer to her question about having children.
Bring it up when the time feels right. It’s an important conversation, especially if you are just taking for granted that you are both on the same page. But it doesn’t have to be a big dramatic thing. Let him know you are wondering what he sees for the future. You have been together for four years so as long as he knows marriage has always been a part of your plan, it shouldn’t be a surprise to him when it comes up.
At your age, haven’t you two been to multiple weddings by now? And the subject hasn’t come up in four years? I find that very odd.
I worry about your relationship if after four years you don’t already know the answer to this, and worse, you don’t even know how to talk to him about it. [My partner and I] were laying in bed and I was thinking it so I said, “I want to spend the rest of my life with you,” and he said, “I do too.” Maybe I’m biased but I do feel like it should be that simple.
A big fancy meal would be a lot of pressure and would feel like you’re proposing right there and then. Choose a time when the two of you are alone and there are no distractions. My fiance and I talk, he tells me to simply come right out and say, “I’d like for us to talk about [topic].” Be direct about what you are looking for and ask him for his thoughts.
It’s ironic that with all the progress in women’s rights and financial independence, some women still feel that they have to wait for the man to propose.
^Observer, what makes you think the letter writer is a woman? ... I’ve always been much more in favor of marriage being a choice two people make together.
Try this on for size: “What are your thoughts about marriage?” You’re welcome.
Catch new episodes of Meredith Goldstein’s “Love Letters” podcast at loveletters.show or wherever you listen to podcasts. Column and comments are edited and reprinted from boston.com/loveletters. Send letters to email@example.com.