You and your partner are in love and have been dating for a while—when is it time to take the next step and get married?
First, it’s important to have a candid talk with your partner about where the relationship is heading and whether you both agree that marriage is in the cards. When exactly this conversation should happen is based in part on your age and your priorities.
If you’re around 30 or older, it’s critical to talk about where the relationship is heading after being together for six months or so, especially if a woman wants to have children, advises Yvonne Thomas, Ph.D., a Los Angeles-based psychologist whose specialties include relationships. (The talk could happen as early as three months if things look serious.) “But if people are in their 20s, sometimes you're just having fun—you don't have to worry about biological time clocks,” Thomas says.
After that crucial conversation, there are a few more signposts to be on the lookout for. We spoke to some marriage and relationship experts about how to know when it’s time to get married. Below, we’ve created this “ready for marriage” checklist that can help you decide.
There can be many signs that you’re ready to get married, but among the top is knowing yourself and what you need in your life and a partner, says Dr. Paulette Sherman, a psychologist, author of “Marriage and the Law of Attraction”, and the host of The Love Psychologist podcast. Have you done your work and gained a good sense of who you are and how you show up in relationships? Are you personally accountable for your actions, choices, and words?
“It helps if you have had several relationships and, [thus], you have the skills to have a successful one,” she says. “It is also good if you have high self-esteem, have lived on your own, and can take good care of yourself.
It is also ideal if you have a job where you can be self-supporting and independent. Many marriages require compromise, good communication, and the willingness to commit through hard times, so it’s best if you have also cultivated those qualities. Since there are no warranties for marriages, it’s also helpful if both partners have gone to therapy and have insight about themselves or are at least willing to go to couples therapy to work on their relationship, as needed,” she adds.
You want to ask these important questions before your wedding day comes. Before you even begin your wedding planning, talk to your partner to make sure that the two of you are on the same page.
Assess how your relationship has been so far by asking yourself these questions, according to Crystal Bradshaw, a licensed professional counselor specializing in couples counseling in Marietta, Georgia: Can you navigate challenges and differences of opinion in a way that is more in the realm of we vs. me? Do you currently manage stressors well together? Do you work well as a team? Do you both accept influence from each other? Do you challenge each other in the good sense of the question? Do you enrich each other’s lives? Do your personalities complement each other in a balancing way? Do you trust yourself and your partner to prioritize the relationship?
Bradshaw says that a crucial question to ask is: Can you see yourself building a life with this person? Can you envision this person working with you collaboratively towards everyday things, as well as life dreams and personal goals? Do you find that you’re making long-term plans together? Do you talk about taking a two-week vacation 12 months from now, for example? Do you talk about having kids? Do you talk about buying a home? Do you talk about who’s family to spend the holidays with?
Do you share similar (but not all) interests? Are you interested in the things that interest your partner (even if you don’t participate in those things)? Are you unafraid of putting in the time and energy to nurture your relationship? Are you committed to the task over the long haul? Do you see conflict as an opportunity for growth and understanding?
Are you both financially responsible and have stable employment? Do you have similar financial values and similarly deal with money matters? Do you want to have children? How many and when? Are you in sync in terms of religion? It’s important to have straightforward and open conversations about these very important topics and to make sure that you’re both on the same page before taking the next step.
It can be hard to know when it's the right time to make that lifelong commitment. However, in most cases, when it's the right person, you'll know. When it's time to start with wedding planning, Zola is here to help. Check out our website for more resources on how to have a successful marriage.