Knowing when the time is right to commit to marriage -- whether you pop the question or consider accepting a proposal -- is never easy. But several clues about the state of your relationship can help guide that decision.
In fact, a marriage proposal may not be a decisive sign. "A proposal could come from an immature or even a very dysfunctional person, thus by itself is never enough to lead a person to seriously consider marriage," said Rafael Morales, a licensed therapist and relationship counselor on JustAnswer.
He and a two other relationship Experts on JustAnswer offered the following essential considerations:
1. Is there consistency between words and actions? Morales asks partners to consider how much honesty, respect, affection, sensitivity, support, and accountability each other has noticed in words and the consistent actions that followed during the whole time they've been dating.
"If he has not been able to be this way during the dating phase, it would be unrealistic to believe an immature or dysfunctional boyfriend would suddenly become a responsible husband," he said.
2. You're not making excuses for the other's behaviors that you've said are upsetting to you. Dr. Mark, a Denver-based psychotherapist on JustAnswer, offered this example: A boyfriend doesn't call to say he's going to be late even though the girlfriend has asked many times to let her know so she's not waiting and wondering.
"After asking twice, if a person has a habit of not thinking about the other person's inconvenience, it's a problem," Dr. Mark said. "If he does change his behavior, this is a confirmation he has good character."
3. You are comfortable talking about your life goals and dreams together. If you really want to have three children, are you comfortable telling your partner that?
"If you're always just hoping that he or she shares your life dreams but are hesitant to have an open discussion, this will not become easier once you're married," said Dr. Mark.
4. Are your core needs and expectations being met while dating? Morales suggests asking: Are you two a good match emotionally, at the mental and personality levels; and have you had a healthy and fulfilling sexual relationship and emotional intimacy?
"Anything you experienced while dating, good or bad, could get deeper and stronger while married," he said, "depending on how truthful and competent your partner has been fulfilling your main longings and needs."
5. Have you seen willingness and effort toward personal change and improvement? Morales believes it's not accurate to always say, "If you really love me, you have to accept me the way I am."
He added: "We all need to change, to acknowledge our issues, work on them, and set boundaries as necessary in order to build and promote healthy relationships."
6. You are comfortable with each other's family. "Love conquers all for a few months or a few years," Dr. Mark said. "After that, he is part of his family and you are part of yours, and if there's hostility it will only grow."
7. You don't feel any pressure to get married. Jennifer Kelman, a licensed counselor on JustAnswer, said: "I believe the best sign about whether either partner is marriage material is that they actually want to get married, as opposed to feeling pressured to do so. Too often ultimatums are given, and that is no way to enter into a long-term marriage."
She concluded, "Both partners need to be on the same page and ready to begin the journey."
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