Proposing is a big decision. From the ring to the location, the speech to the celebration, an engagement is a huge turning point in a relationship. While there’s a lot to consider when it comes to a wedding proposal, the first key is figuring out when you’re ready to embark on the next big couple milestone. Here are a few things to keep in mind when deciding whether or not it’s time for the next step in your partnership.
Subconsciously thinking of you and your partner as a unit is a great indication that you highly value your connection. Not only does this mean you consider each other when planning for the future, but you also feel it’s important to tie yourself with your SO—both big components when it comes to building a life together and popping the big question.
While it might not seem as romantic as, say, planning exactly what you’re going to say during the proposal, it’s one of the most important components to be open about in a relationship. From savings to student loan debts, retirement to future financial plans, having frank and honest communication about money is important. When you know you’ve found “the one”, there’s no off-limits conversation. While you don’t need to know all of each other’s transactions or exact salaries, having a good idea of where you each stand financially and being clear about any debts will help alleviate any future squabbles.
Thinking about moving in together? Whether you currently share a space or not, this is a helpful step to see if the two of you will be able to spend the rest of your lives together. From sleeping habits to laundry quirks, cleanliness to cooking ability, knowing their day-to-day routines and mannerisms (and how they clash or complement your own) is important when looking to create a household with your boyfriend or girlfriend. Whether that means you’ve officially lived together, have shared spaces while traveling, or are just in one of those “we spend the night at each other’s places all the time” kind of situations, it’s crucial to have spent plenty of downtime cohabitating before making it official to ensure you’re on-board with (or at least accepting of) each other’s routines.
Whether it’s creating a business, opening a restaurant, going back to school, or wanting to start a family, knowing and being on board with each other’s personal goals is important when deciding to start the rest of your lives together. Chat about your one-, five-, and 10-year personal and mutual goals to ensure you’re on the same page. If one of you plans to pull your savings for a project while the other hopes to quit his or her job to seek a degree, that’s something you deserve to know before making a legally binding commitment.
“If a couple told me they never fight, then I would be worried,” licensed marriage and family therapist Kiaundra Jackson told The Oprah Magazine in 2019. While you might think a sign of a successful relationship is being conflict-free, that’s just not viable. Since everyone processes situations differently, odds are there will be head-butting when it comes to solutions. Luckily, this is one of the big pros of marriage: You get to have two perspectives when it comes to making decisions.
If you’re able to actively listen to each other, ask for what you need, agree to disagree, and communicate when you need to walk away and cool down, you’ll have the tools to face what marriage throws at you. Don’t worry: If you still have some work to do, that’s normal. The 5 Love Languages book and the Lasting app are great tools to learn more about fighting respectively and productively.
While chatting about your individual goals is one thing, chatting about your mutual goals and plans is another. Before getting married, it’s important to communicate where you see your life together. Do you want to get a van and travel the country together for a year? Are you hoping to start having children immediately? Do you want to buy a house in the suburbs after the wedding? While they’re hard-hitting topics, it’s important to discuss where you see your joint life going. Things like where you hope to settle down (or even if you want to “settle down”), how you feel about having children, and what your goals are for your new family are important to agree about before getting down on one knee.
Your closest friends are part of your life for a reason, and they have your best interest in mind. If your pals are fans of your relationship and support your plans, it’s a good indication you’ve found the one. As a bonus, having everyone feel harmonious will help alleviate any future strains in choosing between your buddies and your spouse.
Whether you never manage to unload the dryer, have a horrible habit of forgetting to run the dishwasher, or you just get intense when your team is playing, these things might seem small (and they are, in theory), but they can lead to tension and disagreements down the line. While these might not seem like “make or break” offenses, they’re important to be aware of. If you and your SO know all about each other’s flaws—and you accept each other for them—you know you’ve found a strong, life-lasting connection.
Being married to someone means spending a lot of time with them. And a lot of that time will be spent doing ordinary, everyday things like cooking, grocery shopping, watching Netflix, and cleaning the kitchen. You’ve found a true partner if you find yourselves making each other laugh, having fun doing things like planning what to make for dinner, and tend to go to the first with both the good news and the bad.
When it comes to proposals, hinting isn’t a bad thing. It’s a sign that one (or both) of you is ready for a lifetime together. If your SO has brought up other couples’ weddings, shown you pictures of diamonds for an engagement ring, or dropped their ring size, there’s a chance they have engagement on the brain. If these hints make you feel excited—as opposed to scared—there’s a good chance you’re also ready to embark on the next chapter with this person.
At the end of the day, only you can tell if the time is right. Take your time, soak up the moments, and get excited for the next great adventure of your relationship.