Sometimes I miss the early days of my relationship, back when it was all about getting to know each other and enjoying every moment without questioning what it all meant in the great scheme of things.
If you’ve ever been in a relationship that lasted a couple of years (or if you’re in one now) you probably know what I’m talking about. And since you’re here reading this, chances are you’re unsure how to approach the big question:
Where is this all going and do we have the same plans for the future?
As I’ve been finding out (some things you can’t know from theory until you’ve lived them), the best way to approach it is rip the band-aid right off and jump right into it without beating around the bush.
Speak of Your Expectations and Fears
Rather than leaving it all up to the other person, start by saying how you see the relationship and what you want it to be. You might feel scared - what if this is too much for them? What if they freak out?
So let me ask you this - what if it is too much for them? Would you rather find that out after ten years of a relationship, or right now? By trying so desperately not to seem… well, desperate, and “too much” for the other person, we often end up delaying this conversation. The result of that (more often than not) is that five years down the road, when you’re ready to settle, the other person realizes they don’t want to marry, or they don’t want kids, or they aren’t done dating yet… Which is a much, much bigger emotional blow than finding out early on you just don’t have the same plans for the future and going your separate ways.
So my advice to you is - say what you want and expect. If you want ten kids, say it. If you want to marry in a year, stop sending vague signals that someone might or might not pick up on! Speak your mind, and if the other person isn't sure what they want, well - that leads us to the second point.
How Much Indecisiveness Should You Tolerate?
The answer I’d give you as a therapist is - as much as you’re prepared to. It’s a completely individual thing, and it works as long as it doesn’t start affecting your emotional state and leading you into anxiety, anger, or depression.
However, rather than answering their “I’m just not sure” with “Okay, I understand” and stopping there, continue the conversation. “I understand and that's okay, but I’d like to get to the bottom of why you’re not sure. Are you afraid of something? Are you not in love anymore?” If you simply let the indecisiveness run its course, by the time it does, it may be too late. Always get to the why of the whole thing before deciding what to do next.
Now, my answer as a person going through it right now is - decide right away how much time you want to give it, but let them know about it, too. “Look, I understand that you’re scared, and you’re allowed to be. But I think I deserve better than maybes. I’m okay with giving you the next year to figure out what you want out of this, and I’m always open for conversation. But if after all that time you’re still not sure about it, then I can’t promise you I’d be willing to stay.”
Does it hurt? Absolutely. Will they end up angry, hurt, and anxious? Very likely. But is it a necessary thing to do? If all you ever get are delays and uncertainty - it probably is.
Finally, there is one last question to answer.
What Do I Do With Vague Answers?
Okay, you’re finally on the same page - you both want marriage and 2-5 kids (some compromises always need to be made) - yay! The issue is - you know you want it in the next year or two, but he keeps on dodging any conversation pertaining to the specific time span. What now?
Once again, explain why it matters to you that you know these things. You don’t want to hurry anyone and you’re willing to negotiate, but you want to be sure that they’re sure, right? And as long as it’s just “yeah sure I want to do that one day”, that “one day” remains quite indefinite. Could be a year or ten years, right? And not only that, but there's no real commitment in something as indefinite as that.
And while pushing them and hurrying them up when they’re not ready isn’t the way to go (it might create unnecessary negativity in an otherwise healthy relationship and affect your future), being honest about your expectations and wanting them to actually commit is perfectly okay. What you need to do is make sure they understand you’re not asking for a date, only something to hold them accountable. (If you come to the conclustion you're ready to get married - congrats! - and check these guys out: https://www.minted.com/wedding)
True commitment doesn’t lie in words, not even in rings - it lies in actually planning a future together.
So if you keep on getting answer such as “we’ll cross that bridge when we get to it” and constant avoidance about the ETA of getting to the said bridge - that becomes an issue. You may even feel manipulated after staying in a relationship and believing there’s a common future to be had, only to be left disappointed when nothing changes for years.
Explain all that to them and let them know why it’s important for you. Remind them that a future together isn’t a monster to be approached with caution, but a wonderful thing both of you want, and the better you plan it all out, the easier you’ll make that huge change together.