If you and your partner have been together for a while, you may be reaching the stage where it's necessary to either get engaged or break up. You may feel like you're officially ready if you've been talking about marriage, and you're both looking for the same thing. But if long-term commitment doesn't seem to be in the cards — and it's something you want — it may be better to get out now, before you waste more time.
The decision may be difficult, and it is ultimately up to you. But keep in mind, it doesn't have to be black and white. "If you love your partner and are in a steady point in your life, but neither of you are ready or want to take the next step, you don't have to break up," relationship expert April Davis, tells Bustle. "You might not be ready for marriage, but that isn't to say you won't be in the future. Why break something that isn't broken?"
It's also not necessary to get married at all, if you'd prefer to just maintain a long-term relationship. Do follow your heart, though, if a certain route is important to you. While you may be able to compromise for the right person, it's also important to focus on what you're looking for. So, with that in mind, read on for some ways to know if you and your partner are ready to get married, or if it'd be better to go your separate ways.
Signs You Should Get Engaged
1. You've Been Together For A While
If you two have happily been together for years, marriage may start to feel like the next logical step. You've enjoyed the early days of your relationship, and have now settled into a comfy routine where you live together, see each other's families, and can see it all continuing into the future.
So if things feel right and happy and healthy, go ahead and seriously consider it. "Get engaged if it feels like an exciting, positive, and life-altering step," clinical psychologist Joshua Klapow, PhD, tells Bustle.
While it's OK to date for as long as you want, this feeling of excitement could be a sign you're ready for more, and you should consider going with that momentum.
2. You Constantly Talk About The Future
If you two constantly talk about your future plans, it's a sign neither of you is planning on going anywhere. And it's clear you're both prioritizing the relationship, and feeling excited about what's to come.
Whether it's moving to a cool new city, adopting a pet, or one day opening a business together, Davis says "you can't imagine any of these things being successful without your partner by your side."
They're a part of your life now, and everything you imagine doing, you imagine doing it with them.
3. You're Doing It For The Right Reasons
If you're thinking about marriage, check in with your motivation. "You should be getting engaged because it's what you and your partner want, not because your family wants you to get married, or because all your [...] friends are posting [photos of] their engagement rings," Jennifer Weaver-Breitenbecher LMHC, CRC, a psychotherapist, tells Bustle.
If you remove all this outside motivation and can still imagine taking that next step, , it may very well be an excellent idea. At this point, you may want to start talking about marriage even more seriously, and see how your partner feels.
4. You've Gotten Really Good At Handling Problems Together
Marriage is difficult. It can involve facing illnesses, deaths, bills, and big moves, and doing so as a unit. So take it as a good sign if you're both skilled at handling life's ups and downs, and staying connected even when times are tough, as that can be a sign you're mentally and emotionally ready to stay together.
"Finding someone who has the same outlook and handles problems in the same way you do is someone you can grow old with," Slisha Kankariya, co-founder of Four Mine, an online jewelry retailer, tells Bustle. If this describes your partner, it may be time to put a ring on it.
5. Your Partner Pushes You To Grow
A healthy partnership involves two people who push each other to get better, whether that means becoming healthier, pursuing a dream job, or finally writing that novel.
"[They are not, however] trying to change you completely or changing you because they look down on you," Kankariya says. They love the "you" you currently are, as well as whoever you want to become in the future.
So if your partner is supportive, if they're encouraging, if they help you find ways to move past obstacles, it can be a sign your relationship is mature and secure. And that you'd be great for each other going forward.
6. It Feels Like A Natural Progression
Let's say you're both finished school, found an apartment, and have established a regular routine. If you're settled and ready for the next stage, the timing will likely feel right, and getting married will come about as a natural progression.
As Klapow says, it'll feel like something you can slide right into from the live you already have. If any of that rings true, and you and your partner have been talking about getting married, it may make sense to go for it, and start making big commitments for the future.
Signs You Should Break Up
7. Things Seem To Be Slowing Down
If your relationship had been trucking right along, but now feels stagnant, Davis says it may be time to evaluate what's going on. Is your excitement and passion dwindling? Do you feel "meh" about the future? If this sounds familiar, ask yourself if this is just a lull or if you'd prefer to move on.
Relationships naturally move past a honeymoon phase, where you're both head-over-heels and can't get enough of each other, and into a slower and more predictable stage. Here, you can find comfort in routine. But it can also be when problems start to arise.
If you feel stuck, talk to your partner about finding ways to reconnect. It can help to go on dates again, to make fun plans for the future, and to step outside your usual routine. Be honest though. If none of that helps, or if bigger problems seem unfixable, don't force the relationship to work.
8. Your Partner Is Holding Back
Couples who get engaged are excited to plunge forth into the future, so take it as a sign if your partner seems to be pumping the proverbial brakes, and doesn't want to commit to any big plans.
When that's the case, it can feel as if you want your "life to go further, but you feel as though [they] might be holding you back," Davis says. And that's not a good thing.
9. Your Timelines Have Passed
If you want to get married, and thought you'd have done so by now, it's more than fair to move on to someone who wants the same things, and is on a similar timeline.
"More than ever before it's important to put your own boundaries and timelines in place if it's important to you to get married," relationship expert Stef Safran, tells Bustle, and this can be especially true if you plan on having kids.
If your partner is aware of your plan and doesn't seem to care, it's probably time to find someone who does so you can start to create the life you want for yourself.
10. You Don't Share The Same Goals
Questions like whether or not you'll have kids, or where you'd like to live, are important to consider when deciding to stick together. For many big life decisions, there are ways to compromise, so it's not necessary to call a relationship quits just because you don't immediately see eye-to-eye.
You may, however, consider parting ways if your values and goals for the future don't line up in any way, Davis says. Decide on what's important to you, and where you're willing (and not willing) to give.
11. Only One Of You Sees Marriage In The Future
Kids and houses aside, you should think about parting ways if only one of you dreams about getting married. "You have to both want it," Weaver-Breitenbecher says. "Otherwise, resentment could grow later; either from the partner who wasn't ready to get engaged, or from the partner who feels like they forced the other to get engaged."
When it comes to marriage, you obviously both need to be on the same page. If you're happy, it's perfectly acceptable to date forever. But if you want to take that next step, do yourself a favor and make sure your partner is heading in the same direction, too.