The time has finally come for you to take your relationship to the next level, eh? Maybe you’re getting antsy for your partner to put a ring on your finger; perhaps you’re ready for cohabitation; or maybe, just maybe, your internal clock is signaling it’s time to start growing a family of your own. Whether you find yourself anxious to share a home with your beau, or you long to see a sparkly diamond ring on your left hand, you should never pressure your partner to do something when they aren’t ready. You have to ask yourself this important question: how does your partner feel?
More often than not, couples do not enter every phase of a traditional relationship at the same time. It is extremely likely that you are ready to take a step that your significant other cannot imagine happening any time soon.
Perhaps, it’s the other way around and your partner is ready for a new phase of the relationship that you cannot commit to yet. Either way, it’s critical that you and your beau discuss expectations about the big steps in mind before moving forward. You each need to articulate if you’re ready, what taking the next step means, and ultimately assess how and why it will be the best move for both of you.
If one of you isn’t ready to move forward, things are probably not going to work out for the best. No amount of pressure will fix it. Instead of putting pressure on your relationship, communicate openly to stay on the same page about what is the best next step for your relationship.
Here are four major steps you should never pressure your partner into taking:
1. Moving in together.
Cohabitation is no joke. Living with your s/o is nothing like spending the night at their place a few times a week. Living with someone often involves a huge adjustment for both of you. In fact, a recent study by SpareFoot found that 58 percent of Americans believe moving in together as a couple is more challenging than planning a wedding!
You each need to get used to each other’s routines. Maybe you tend to leave hair all over the place because your luscious locks shed all of the time. Your partner is going to have to get used to clumps of hair clogging the shower drain. Perhaps you like to come home from a long day at work to do a session of yoga to relax your mind, but your beau likes to play video games at the loudest interval the television allows. The point is, seeing your partner a couple of times per week is only scratching the surface of what living together would be like.
Right now you might find it cute now when your s/o lets his/her laundry pile up at their place, but find it extremely annoying if you’re sharing a home. In short, talk it out. Discuss each of your habits and routines. See if meshing your lives together full-time really is what’s best.
Pro-tip: consider signing up for a month-to-month lease if you and your beau do decide to live together full-time. Hopefully it works out, but there’s nothing worse than signing on for a year-long housing contract that you cannot break if living with your beau ends up being the wrong move at this time. This has happened to several people I know. Doing this isn’t a sign that you don’t trust that things will work out and that you need a fallback plan — it’s simply smart decision-making for both of you.
2. Getting engaged.
Preparing for marriage is a big step for any couple but can be extra challenging if both parties are not ready to bring the relationship to this level. Perhaps one of you is more intent on being engaged than the other. This might lead you to put pressure on the other person to move into this phase of your relationship.
We’re all moving at different paces so it’s important to discuss this with your partner to make sure you’re on the same page. Pressuring someone to pop the question or to say yes is an unhealthy way to begin the rest of your lives together. No one wants an ultimatum to start off a marriage.
Getting engaged can be tricky to discuss with your partner. Perhaps they already have plans for a big proposal or are stressed that they can’t afford the ring that you want (or maybe you’re the one stressed about proposing). Talk about this with each other and discuss where you see the relationship going in the next few years. Maybe you don’t see marriage as an option until you graduate from grad school, maybe your partner wants to save a certain amount of money first. Get these things on the table and be honest.
3. Buying a house.
Becoming a homeowner is a massive undertaking. It’s more than living with your partner because owning a home is a huge investment. Co-owning a house with your s/o becomes a piece of property you are legally tied to. You become responsible for maintenance, property taxes, landscaping, roof leaks, aging appliances, and homeowner’s insurance. When you own a house, you cannot call a landlord to fix the broken refrigerator. Owning a house means you and your partner are taking the lead, so it’s up to you two to figure it out.
All of this isn’t meant to scare you, but please do recognize the responsibility that comes with owning a home. If you and your partner have not defined the relationship or discussed your future (i.e. getting engaged, getting married, having children, etc.), you may want to back off the topic of buying a house together. If you and your partner end up splitting up and you own a house together, it can get very messy. Don’t pressure taking this step until you and your beau are 100% certain this is a phase of your relationship you are both prepared to enter.
4. Starting a family.
Unlike marriage, having children is not something you can divorce from if it’s not working out. That’s not to suggest that getting divorced should be a back-up plan if your marriage fails, but having children is a very different form of commitment.
Children are not hobbies; you can’t give them up after the excitement wears off. As adorable as babies are, having your own is a commitment for the next eighteen years or more of your life. Having children means their needs are now put before yours and your partner’s. Becoming a parent is a responsibility unlike any other.
Before you pressure your partner to start a family with you, really ask yourself if you’re ready. If you’re 100% confident you want to have children now, make certain your beau feels the same way. If the two of you are not ready, please be sure you’re practicing safe sex.
Entering into the next phase of a relationship, whatever that phase might be, is always an exciting time. It can be amazing to get engaged, get married, buy a house, and/or start your family. However, taking these big steps is not the right thing to do if you’re partner isn’t on the same page.
It can be hard to practice patience when you are so very ready to move forward, but if you’re confident you’re with “The One”, then your partner should be worth waiting for. Teach yourself to calm your excitement while your beau figures it out for himself/herself.
There’s truly no rush to reach certain phases together. Some people date for a decade before getting engaged. Others get engaged but wait five years to get married. Some people opt to wait until their late thirties to start reproducing because it’s more important for them to focus on their careers during their twenties and early thirties.
In short, there’s no rush. Take your time, and remember to communicate with your partner.
Have you ever been pressured into making a decision you weren’t ready to make? If so, what happened? Share your personal experiences in the comments!