Marriage Discussion in Long Term Relationship
September 4, 2014 8:34 AM   Subscribe

How would you bring up discussion of marriage without scaring your partner or making them feel pressured?

I've been with my boyfriend officially for 3 years. I guess you can say I "live" with him and his sisters and their house because it kind of slowly happened where I would stay over often but I still leave a couple things at my parents' house because it gives me an "excuse" to stay over and visit them since we're close.

Anyways, we have a great relationship. Very trusting, we think of eachother, do thoughtful things, we argue but we try to talk it out, we get annoyed with eachother but we love being around one another, the love is felt, we are like best friends but we have our differences. Hell, it's hilarious because we can talk openly about our disgusting body functions (I've never been able to do that with anyone) yet I am so uncomfortable with the talk of marriage. I'm really shy, always have been...even with my last ex of 5 years.

About 1 1/2 year ago, we kind of talked about it. We discussed if we're interested in kids, I told him what would be a good age to get married and when I'd have kids, how many, etc. and he agreed that the time to start getting married or having kids would be okay since it isn't too early on. I'm 25 and I remember saying 27-28 would be good to be married, having a kid before 30 is at age 29 I wouldn't want to have kids too late on. Also about moving out and getting our own place together.

I know I can't put exact numbers on it but just an idea. Anyways, we never really talked about it again...I think money may be a frightening issue for him because he's still in school although he makes decent money now (He's 24 and makes about 40k). He seems more interested in daydreaming about spending it on motorcycles or his car...but he's good with his money.

I want to bring it up but I'm not sure how without making him feel like I want to get a proposal now or force it....Just bring it up and say "Hey, where do you see us in the future?" and go from there??
posted by Asian_Hunnie to Human Relations (18 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
I'm 25 and I remember saying 27-28 would be good to be married... He's 24

Surely he remembers this conversation. I would not bring up marriage to a 24 year old man if I had told him that I thought marriage in my very late 20s would be optimal.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 8:44 AM on September 4, 2014 [6 favorites]

"Where do you see us in the future?" or "Where do you see this going?" is a fine question, maybe prefaced by the fact that you sort of drifted into living together. It is good to want to decide rather than drift! However, if you ask specifically whether he wants to get married, you have to be prepared to hear "no" or "not right now." At 24 and 25, a lot of people are just not ready to be married.

Also about moving out and getting our own place together.

So ask about this first. Now, if you are not comfortable getting your own place without marriage being on the table, that question will be implied anyway. But one thing you (probably) don't want to do is wind up 29, not only not married but still living with his family.
posted by BibiRose at 8:45 AM on September 4, 2014 [2 favorites]

I definitely wouldn't be thinking about marriage without having "properly" lived with someone first.

When you officially live with someone, you immediately have new and different responsibilities i.e. how do you pay your bills, who does the cleaning, who does the cooking, joint accounts? What if times get tough - how will you both react etc.

You guys sounds young. Yes, you've been together for a decent amount of time, but some people can change dramatically from the age of 24 to 30, and being compatible now doesn't necessarily mean you'll be compatible in 5 years time.

If you are serious about moving things forward, I'd look to move in together. Once you've done that for a while, you'll likely know much more so than now if he's REALLY the guy you want to marry.
posted by JenThePro at 8:57 AM on September 4, 2014 [2 favorites]

In a romantic moment you can ask "Do you think we'll still be together in 10 years?" If he says yes, you could just leave it there and be reassured that the two of you are on the same track. Or, if you prefer you can ask "When do you see us moving into our own place together?"
posted by ThatCanadianGirl at 9:01 AM on September 4, 2014 [1 favorite]

If this is the same fella from your past AskMe questions? Have you resolved all of those issues yet?

Be it marriage, kids, finances, living arrangements or any other aspect of a relationships, if you are serious about spending the rest of your life with someone, you HAVE to be able to talk about this stuff openly and honestly. Sometimes those conversations can get uncomfortable or awkward, but you have to have them. Ask him and see what he says. Like others have said, start with the moving in together conversation and go from there.
posted by futureisunwritten at 9:17 AM on September 4, 2014 [11 favorites]

This is the kind of conversation that happens all the time in a healthy marriage. If you can't even bring it up, or neither of you can have a conversation about it, then neither of you should be thinking about marrying each other yet. So don't rush it.

Also, although I have nothing against living together (we did it) I don't think it's really the sort of trial marriage that many people think it is. Being married is very different than being roommates, even if you are roommates that have been dating for years.

I've been married for 23 years, so it's entirely possible I have no idea what I'm talking about.
posted by COD at 9:18 AM on September 4, 2014 [5 favorites]

I guess you can say I "live" with him and his sisters and their house because it kind of slowly happened where I would stay over often but I still leave a couple things at my parents' house because it gives me an "excuse" to stay over and visit them since we're close.

Are you familiar with the concept of "sliding vs. deciding?" Because what you're describing here sounds like a classic slide. Which is not the end of the world! But I think it means that it's time to try actually deciding something: for starters, deciding to talk to your boyfriend about your future together.

It's very tempting to just hope that things will work out on their own, and to avoid rocking the boat, but if you want to be married two years from now, and your boyfriend does not, well, that's information you need to have. If he doesn't want to marry you, what do you want to do?

Where money is an issue, I'm not sure moving out on your own, just the two of you, makes all that much sense. But if it's important to you, ask about it. Would you be willing to support him while he's in school? Are you OK with him using all his savings to buy motorcycles? These are the kinds of decisions you would have to make together if you were married.
posted by mskyle at 9:44 AM on September 4, 2014 [1 favorite]

You don't sound like you love him in the "marriage" kinda way. He doesn't sound like he loves you in the "marriage" kinda way, either. Although, it is hard to tell ultimately from an AskMe!

I mean, He hasn't brought up moving in together yet, you're living with family. Seems like things are good and comfortable, but maybe not passionate?

I dunno.

Are you content to stay on the way you are for a few more years without a clear direction?

Again, it sounds like the relationship is comfortable. I don't know how you move that into "marriage territory" from there, or if you even want to.

You don't want to marry him if you are not both thrilled by the idea of sharing your lives and building your private life together.

You guys don't sound thrilled with each other. Can you develop that?

I think you need to have deeper feeling going on before you talk about marriage.

Don't force it if he's not the one, is ultimately what I'm saying.
posted by jbenben at 9:50 AM on September 4, 2014 [2 favorites]

Step 1: make a plan for moving in together. Not you sort of staying over at his family's house so much that it ends up that you're living there kinda, but real, intentional planning for an independent life where you both build a household and share responsibilities. Then, if after a year or two of living together it seems like you're both well-suited to living together, you can discuss what the next steps should be in your relationship.

The fact that you're tip-toeing around discussing things that are important to you is not a great sign. A healthy relationship based on mutual respect and consideration allows for excellent communication, even about difficult subjects. Right now it seems like you avoid talking about things that are important to you for fear of how he'll take it. If you're even considering marrying this person, you should put more effort into establishing good communication skills first. They don't just naturally develop once you're married.
posted by quince at 10:07 AM on September 4, 2014 [4 favorites]

As far as having the actual marriage conversation(s), A Practical Wedding's "pre-engaged" section has a number of great essays on being worried about pressuring your partner into proposing, gender roles in getting engaged (and how they can screw with our heads), and surviving pre-engagement limbo.

That said, as others have pointed out, a bunch of other conversations are important to have, too. You might want to pick up one of the many "100 questions to ask before you get married" books as a starting point, and start having some of those discussions—about money, kids, careers, living situations, goals, and other things—as a way to lead into the marriage question.
posted by rebekah at 10:13 AM on September 4, 2014 [1 favorite]

Your previous questions and your fear of discussing something with a man you think you want to marry and your having never been on your own are all troubling.

I am breaking guidelines here, but why don't you take yourself on a long weekend break or a real vacation to have some fun and clear your head?

If you are afraid to ask a question, you have two choices. 1) Rip off the band-aid and ask right now. 2) Realize you will most likely not get a useful answer and start working to remove yourself from the situation.
posted by Lesser Shrew at 10:29 AM on September 4, 2014 [3 favorites]

25 is that weird age... some guys are ready and some are not, and they just won't be, until 30+, no matter how good the relationship. Your guy sounds like the latter.

You are 25 and you have some time, whether with this guy or someone else.

I am more concerned that after 3 years you do not feel comfortable bringing up this concern to your guy. Like you've developed your routine, but it is not really a partnership. That is what would concern me the most. You are not comfortable sharing your deeper feelings, concerns and insecurities. In a marriage, you should feel comfortable.

Also the group co-habiting could be preventing true intimacy from developing as well.

So you want to test whether this relationship can develop into a marriage type relationship. You want to grow your relationship. Start talking to him about it. Tell him you want to be closer, and see if that happens. Open up to him and see if he responds. That will tell you whether to start down the marriage path. Don't start planning a wedding just because it's "what you do after 3 years." You start planning a wedding because this guy is your partner and you have each other's backs.

To be honest it sounds like you have a pattern of settling into so-so relationships instead of dating a little and deciding if you want to invest your time. Maybe you fall into things? Did you fall into this one?

So try to grow this relationship first and then see if it is marriage worthy.
posted by St. Peepsburg at 10:32 AM on September 4, 2014 [2 favorites]

He's still in school. That means there's a transition point in the future, and decisions he's going to have to make. If you're nervous about talking about the future of your relationship, especially "out of the blue", ease into it by talking about plans for after he graduates. Is he excited about finishing or nervous? Does he want things to change or stay the same? Is he considering changing jobs, of moving to a new place? If he wanted to move out of the house, would he want to get an apartment with you? Surely you've got some plans of your own - are you happy with your job? would you ever want to move to a different city? are you done with school or is that something you'd still want to do? The more you practice talking about his future, and about your future, the more natural it will be to include ideas like whether you want to be married.
posted by aimedwander at 10:44 AM on September 4, 2014 [1 favorite]

OP, you're a 25-year-old woman who says she wants to be married in the next 2 to 3 years, then get pregnant by her future husband in another 4 years' time. These are valid goals (though not AT ALL what I was thinking about at your age), and good for you for knowing exactly what you want while there is still plenty of time to do something about it. (And by the way, "the dream" can change, but that's another can of worms entirely.)

You've been (exclusive, I presume?) with your current boyfriend for the last 3 years, and prior to that you were exclusive (again, I presume?) with another ex for 5 years. So that's 8 years spent in relationships, and you're 25, and currently you have not a clue whether or not your boyfriend ever really intends to marry you. Oy.

How did you get to this place, OP? I mean, have you been bringing any part of your wonderful, unique, authentic self to these relationships? How does this dude like straight up NOT KNOW what's in your heart? How does he not know at all what you want your life to look like in 24 months' short time? Because your vision is clear. You know exactly what you want. Sounds like you need to work on finding your own voice, and on being brave enough to say what it is that you need, and share what it is that you are looking for in life. Just say it. Don't worry about coming up with the perfect script - just say it straight up - dude, are we getting married someday or what? And believe him when he, in so many words, says no.

Here's what I know is true, OP: you need to start doing your next 8 years much differently. Three years of your precious life with somebody is long enough to know if they're a decent marriage candidate for you personally or not. Ideally, you should know in 6 months whether or not there is a shot at a real future there. Be brutally honest with yourself. You know.

Bottom line, you've been hanging around in these 2 relationships way too long, and you have not revealed your real self to these dudes. You should definitely be dating around more. If you are indeed serious about your personal goals timeline as you've stated it here, then you cannot keep being in these long-term relationships with one man for over a year, wondering where it's going to end up, not seeing the writing on the wall.

In short, start dating other people, and get your own place. I hope your next Ask is a kickass "please review my OKCupid profile." Good luck!
posted by hush at 11:34 AM on September 4, 2014 [17 favorites]

Somewhat echoing what other people have said, before the conversation with him, the better question is to ask yourself if this is the man you want to marry in 2 years and have a baby with in another 4. I mean, really ask yourself that seriously. Picture the life you want and see if he fits in it. Does he fit because you love him and want him in it or does he fit because he's already here and it's easy. If this is indeed the man you love so so much and are excited to spend your life with, then you should be comfortable talking to him about how he feels. Just be honest and straight forward.

Most mefites tend to project a bit into their answers, naturally. So here's my projection: I spent years in different relationships asking "does he want a relationship?", "how often does he want to hang out?", etc, etc. It was always "what does he want?" and hoping that they liked me. But really, fuck that. Decide what you want first, and go after it.
posted by monologish at 1:58 PM on September 4, 2014 [4 favorites]

I would like to get hush's comment cast in gold and hung somewhere so everyone with a similar question (and there are a lot of women in your boat, I was one) can refer to it. Life is too short to waste on someone who doesn't share your goals. So find out if he does, and if not, well, you know what to do.
posted by Jubey at 5:05 AM on September 5, 2014 [1 favorite]

Yup, I've been in the same position and I can see how what a waste of time it was to tiptoe around the topic, worry about phrasing it correctly, etc. Just tell him what your goals are and ask what his are, including rough timeframes, and find out if they line up. If he doesn't want to talk about it, can't give you any answers, etc, you should decide if you're willing to push your timeline way out and potentially get married a lot later, or bail and find somebody else. 24 is very young for many guys so he may very well not be ready to even think about marriage yet, but you won't know till you discuss it.
posted by sunflower16 at 7:49 AM on September 5, 2014

So on Saturday night we went out, just the two of us. We were having a great time so I thought it was now or never. I started off by bringing up topics of marriage and divorce of our friends and then lead it to asking if he could see himself marrying me one day. He was caught off guard with me asking and joked asking if I was proposing. I told him I'm serious and he nodded and said yes. He asked if he could see me marrying him one day and I too said yes.

I asked him when he could see himself getting married. He gave me a broad range of 27-35 and hen said 34/35 is too old and changed it to 27-32. I said 27-30...preferably before 30. I don't think I made myself clear on how I strong preferred before 30 lol, so I think the will need to be revisited in the future.
posted by Asian_Hunnie at 9:00 AM on October 13, 2014

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