Once you hit your late 20s, it can feel like literally everyone you know is getting engaged. Your social calendar inevitably fills up with countless engagement celebrations, bridal showers, bachelorette parties, and wedding weekends. And because so many other people are doing it, it’s only natural to feel like you should be considering marriage, too. But what if you’re not sure if you’re ready? Or what if it's just not for you?
No matter how awesome your relationship is, it’s normal (and advisable) to think carefully about whether or not you’re really prepared to take the next step and walk down the aisle with your S.O. After all, you ideally want this thing to last forever, right? Luckily, there are some pretty clear signs that you’re either primed to commit to a lifetime together or that you should hold off.
Here, find out what expert relationship therapists say you should look out for that may signal you’re ready to say “I do.”
You Can Confidently Say You Know Yourself
Ask yourself Do I feel settled in my own life and truly know who I am as a person? If the answer is yes or pretty close, then you’re good to go, says Kimberly Hershenson, LMSW, a therapist who works with couples in NYC. “Feeling secure with one’s self leads to more security in marriage,” she explains. “If it takes until later in life to achieve this, that is okay. But a successful marriage is more likely if both partners feel secure independently and are able to work as a team moving forward.”
You’ve Dated Past the Honeymoon Phase
Clearly, there’s no specific amount of time that you must spend dating before getting married that applies to all couples. Everyone’s different, and some people will feel ready before (and after) others. Seeing how you stack up to other couples in terms of time spent dating isn’t particularly helpful, but there is one way to look at the time you’ve spent with your S.O. that may make a big difference.
Getting past the honeymoon phase is an important step, according to Wendi L. Dumbroff, LPC, a couples and sex therapist in Madison, New Jersey. “New relationships are exciting, and in the beginning, all you can see is the good stuff,” she explains. “But this phase does not ever last, no matter who you are or how much in love you might be at the outset. If you can get to the point where there are actually things you see that you may not like, or agree with, and you still love the person for all they are, then you might be ready to take the next step.”
You’ve Experienced Independence
“I would strongly suggest that everyone experience independence before marriage,” says Ana Aluisy, author and couples therapist. Independence means different things for different people, so that might mean spending time being single, living alone, being financially independent, or living with roommates. No matter how you get to that place, “Experiencing independence can lead to higher self-confidence and increased awareness of your needs and desires in a relationship,” Aluisy explains. Then, you’ll be better able to communicate what you expect in your partnership, which makes it more likely to succeed.
So go ahead and spend some time doing you, whatever that means to you personally.
Your Financial Situation Is Sorted Out
According to Hershenson, it’s not necessary that you’re totally financially secure before marriage, but you should have an idea of where each of your finances stand before diving into a legal commitment to each other. “Finances should be openly discussed prior to marriage, including any debt either of you has, whether each partner is expected to contribute to paying debt obtained prior to the marriage, how much income you make, whether you will have separate or joint accounts, how you will handle bills, and your beliefs about having savings,” she says.
“Owing money or not having a high-paying job are not signs you aren’t ready for marriage, but how you handle finances and whether that’s compatible with your partner’s views matters,” she adds.
You Don’t Dwell on the Past
No matter how in love you are with your current S.O., there are times when you might wonder what your exes are up to. That’s totally normal, but if you find yourself dwelling on thoughts about an ex, that’s a red flag. “If you are still heartbroken over a past relationship and still checking his social media accounts to see what he is up to, this is a sign you are not ready for marriage,” says Hershenson.
You Can Actually Envision Yourself Getting Married
It might seem like common sense, but it’s worth it to check in with yourself to see if marriage is truly something you imagine in your future. “If you sit down and ask yourself what your goals are for the next five years and marriage is not on your list, you are likely not ready for marriage,” Hershenson explains. “Career and self-discovery are important aspects of life, and if they are priorities taking immediate precedent, then the focus should be on those areas of your life.” Taking the time to sit down and think about what you want to accomplish over the next five years and whether or not marriage fits into that plan is an important step.
You’re Willing to Include Your Partner in Future Plans
Can you see yourself including another person in every life decision you make from now on? “It’s not that your future spouse needs to be present at every social event you attend,” explains Dumbroff, “but are you willing to work with that person on how your lives will run and what boundaries are acceptable for each of you?” Some things to consider, she says, are how often will you go out on our own with friends, whether or not vacations will be planned together, how you’ll negotiate family holidays, and how seriously you’ll take the other person’s concerns and desires into account.
“If you are still thinking, It’s all about what I want to do without considering your partner, you might want to step back from the serious commitment of marriage at this time,” she suggests.
What do you think the biggest sign someone is ready for marriage is?