Young people these days refer to it as “Facebook Official”, where they take the next step in defining the relationship. For adults of all ages and stages the “Define the Relationship” conversation can be anxiety ridden and awkward. Determining when is the right time to move to the next level and what actually should the next level be in the romance can be a dreaded and difficult discussion for any couple.
A Good Timeline?
How do you know when you should move from seeing other people to exclusivity? When are you ready to move in together? How do you know when you’re ready to get in engaged and how long should you be engaged before getting married? And perhaps most important, how do you have these conversations?
As much as we might worry ourselves or feel pressure from our friends and relatives, there is no set timeline for life or for love. What is right for one couple might be too fast or too slow for another. So how can you talk about moving to the next level in a relationship in way that is both productive and genuine? And, how do you handle it if you or your partner is not at the same stage in your relationship?
There are couples that skirt around these questions for years and years, with one or both partners either too anxious or frightened to bring it up. Perhaps they are scared about making the other person feel put on the spot or are concerned they might get a no to their pressing question.
Movin' On Up
We probably all know a least one example of a relationship where each person feels comfortable talking about anything, even if they disagree with one another. How do they manage to have these difficult conversations and still stay together? Here are a few suggestions on how to talk about the next level in your relationship.
1. Don’t take responsibility for the reaction. So often people do not want to discuss monogamy or even marriage because they don’t want to upset their partner. But the reality is that focusing and worrying about a person’s reaction is often what causes their anxiety in the first place!
If you are taking care of your own emotions and communicating your thoughts clearly and calmly to your partner, then he or she will have the space to do the same. You might not always like the answer, but at least you will have a better sense of how you want to respond to this information.
2. Asking doesn’t change the answer. Some people are afraid of getting a no or a maybe when they ask a partner about moving to a new stage in the relationship. But it’s important to remember that you might always stay stuck where you are if you don’t take the time to have the conversation.
If you have a trusting relationship where each person feels heard, then your partner will be honest with you. They aren’t going to change their feelings or mind about the question just because one of you finally said it out loud.
3. Conversation is a muscle. The sooner both of you feel heard in the relationship, the easier it will become in the future. If you’re waiting until marriage to learn how to have honest conversations with your partner, then it might be a very steep learning curve.
This doesn’t mean that you’re constantly having conversations about the state of the relationship. Just that you feel comfortable checking in with each other regularly about your wants and needs in the relationship. If you don’t flex this muscle from time to time, it might be very difficult to hear each other in the big decisions or in a time of crisis.
We are emotionally invested in any romantic relationship, so these conversations might never feel 100% comfortable. But getting accustomed to a little discomfort for the good of the relationship will add up to much more peace and contentment in the long run. Because if you can talk about the next level, then you can talk about anything.
Sometimes it takes the insight of a professional in order to help you through the relationship stages and to teach you how to flex your conversational muscles in the relationship? Please give the counselors at the Relationship Center of Orange County a call today at 949-430-7389, or book an appointment via our online scheduling calendar.