Relationship problems are rarely 100 percent black and white, but there's no denying many reach a stage where it's necessary to either get engaged or break up. If you've been talking about marriage, there will likely come a day when you two just need to do it already. But if long-term commitment doesn't seem to be in the cards — and it's something you want — parting ways may be the best option.
The decision may be difficult, but it is ultimately up to you. And it's also perfectly OK to avoid doing either. "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," says relationship expert April Davis, in an email to 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?"
If you aren't sure what's going on, however, it can help to evaluate your partnership for signs of its staying power. "Try to bring up problems in your life and see how the person supports you, or if they don't," says Slisha Kankariya, co-founder of the online jewelry retailer Four Mine. "Oftentimes ... it will be difficult to understand if the person is the right match for you, but if you try to push the envelope a little bit, it can be a great catalyst to understand if your relationship has hit a breaking point and you should break up." Read on for some helpful ways to finally tell the difference.
Signs You Should Get Engaged
1. You've Been Together For A While
If you two have happily been together for years, marriage is often the next logical step. 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, Ph.D. 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.
2. You Constantly Talk About The Future
If you two constantly talk about your future plans, it's clear you aren't planning on going anywhere. Whether it's moving to a cool new city, adopting a dog, 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."
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 want you to get married or because all your Facebook friends are posting [photos of] their engagement rings," says psychotherapist Jennifer Weaver-Breitenbecher LMHC, CRC. If you still want to shack up, regardless of pressure, it may be an excellent idea.
4. You've Gotten Really Good At Handling Problems Together
Marriage is difficult. It involves handling illnesses, deaths, bills, and moves together, so it's a good sign if you're both skilled at handling life's ups and downs. "Finding someone who has the same outlook and handles problems in the same way you do is someone you can grow old with," Kankariya says. 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.
6. It Feels Like A Natural Progression
Let's say you're both finished school, have an apartment, and a regular routine. When you're settled, the timing will likely feel right and getting married will feel like a natural progression. As Klapow tells me, it should feel like something you move into with momentum versus settling for an alternative to not moving the relationship forward.
Signs You Should Break Up
7. Things Seem To Be Slowing Down
If your relationship has been trucking right along, but now feels stagnant, Davis tells me 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're prefer to move on.
8. Your Partner Is Definitely Holding Back
Couples who get engaged are excited to plunge forth into the future. So take note if your partner seems to be pumping the proverbial brakes. "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's likelier to commit. "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 and have children," says relationship expert Stef Safran. If your partner is aware of your plan and doesn't seem to care, it's probably time to find someone who does.
10. You Don't Share The Same Goals
Questions like whether or not you'll have kids, or whether or not you'll buy a house, are important to consider when deciding to stick together. Do you and your partner see eye-to-eye on these things? If not, Davis tells me it may be a good idea to part ways.
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," says Weaver-Breitenbecher. "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 get "settled" and married, do yourself a favor and make sure your partner is heading in the same direction.
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