You’ve swiped left, swiped right. You’ve grabbed drinks, had dinners, gone to an occasional museum date. And now you’re in a relationship where you feel happy, fulfilled, and seen. You’re savoring the moment, and enjoying all the honeymoon feels.
Then, one day your partner raises the topic of marriage. It’s not a proposal – maybe it was a casual reference to your future together or maybe it was a very intentional initiation of a conversation about your future together. A rush of emotions takes over – panic, fear, excitement. Whether or not you see a future with this person, the topic feels premature. Or, maybe, you’re the one who initiates the topic of marriage early on in the relationship, and your partner feels it’s too early.
Each person moves at a different speed when it comes to connection and commitment. It’s normal for each person to reach different emotional milestones at different times. However, if there is a significant difference in those time periods (or expectations of when each person should be hitting those milestones) that can cause tension in the relationship.
Not sure if your partner or you are rushing into marriage? Keep reading! Below, we will talk you through a few common signs that someone is rushing into marriage, possible driving factors, and how to handle it.
Cues of Rushing In
While each relationship is different, there are common indicators for when a person or relationship is rushing into marriage prematurely. Savor the excitement of your relationship and be aware of any warning signs.
- Out-of-touch discussions. Consistently talking about marriage without taking the relationship’s stability or other realistic factors into account.
- Frustration or impatience for the other partner to “catch up.” If a partner doesn’t reciprocate the same level of commitment, the other partner may become excessively frustrated or impatient. In some extreme cases, a partner may gaslight the other and make the other feel as if they’re in the wrong for having any questions or pauses.
- Idealization. Marriage is talked about like a fairy tale; happily ever after, without looking past the magical wedding day. Any discussion about realistic ups and downs, or practical aspects (e.g., finances, living arrangements, future children).
- Making decisions without joint conversation. Does one partner make decisions for the relationship without consulting the other? It could be small decisions, like announcing your relationship status before you’re ready, or big decisions like buying a ring without a discussion.
- “We’ll figure it out.” Is this their answer to everything? While it may be framed as YOLO, if it is happening consistently it’s likely to be a form of avoidance. Continually kicking the can down the road can be a sign that not enough thought has gone into a decision of this magnitude.
While these behaviors may be done with good intention, there still a warning sign for you to explore what’s occurring.
Why the Rush?
What’s driving the eagerness to settle down? Let’s take a closer look at some of the possible reasons driving this behavior. And just know – it can be one or a combination of these things for you or your partner.
Personal or Cultural Background
How we were raised significantly impacts how we develop our values and world views, including marriage. Many people may follow their parents’ values (e.g., marry young) because that is what they were taught or what they saw around them. Or maybe they rebel against a notion because they saw a poor model. Cultural background is also an influencing factor. For some cultures, marrying young quickly after meeting, or through arranged marriage is customary. Considering your partner’s background can be helpful in understanding what may be driving their relationship pacing.
Talking about marriage too soon often stems from unrealistic expectations about how quickly a relationship should progress. These expectations may be influenced by societal pressures, family values, personal insecurities, or hollywood-style notions of romance. Or, they may simply be a product of lack of life experience, especially for younger people or those entering into serious relationships for the first time. If this is the case, correct your partner gently without shaming them. It is crucial to establish open communication and discuss expectations in order to get both partners on the same page.
Fear or Anxiety
Whether it’s months or years of dating, finding “your person” is a remarkable occurrence. And for some, the joy of the relationship is only matched by the fear of losing it. That fear and anxiety can drive the desire to “finalize” the relationship through marriage, as if that will decrease the chances of it ending.
Impact on Relationships
Bringing up marriage too soon affects the underlying dynamics at play in a relationship in a variety of ways, discussed below.
Pressure and Discomfort
Bringing up the topic of marriage prematurely creates unnecessary pressure and discomfort in relationships. It may trigger the other person to feel overwhelmed or trapped, especially if they are not yet ready to make such a significant commitment. The pressure the other partner feels may even lead them to question the authenticity and long-term viability of the relationship. All this places enormous strain on the couple and leads to misunderstandings or even breakups.
If you’re on the receiving end of a discussion about marriage that feels too early, tell your partner about the emotional toll it takes on you. They might not know, and letting them in on your feelings may be enough for them to understand that it’s too early and close the discussion until it’s really time.
Skipped Relationship Milestones
Discussing marriage too soon can cause the couple to bypass important relationship milestones such as getting to know each other on a deep level and witnessing how one another behaves in a range of different life situations, navigating life transitions together, and managing conflict. It is essential to build a solid foundation of trust, compatibility, and emotional connection before considering marriage, and to take the time to let the relationship unfold and grow at its own speed. Rushing into marriage without fully exploring your connection can result in an unstable and unfulfilling partnership.
Navigating the Conversation
Found yourself on the receiving end of a premature talk about marriage for which you weren’t prepared? Here’s how to maintain your boundaries and handle the situation gracefully without alienating your partner.
Expressing Personal Boundaries
If your partner talks about marriage too soon and you feel uncomfortable, it is crucial to communicate your boundaries explicitly and honestly. Avoid blame, and speak from a perspective of your feelings (“I’m worried we’re moving too fast” vs. “You’re moving too fast”). Remind each other of your common goal, a healthy, fulfilling relationship, and how you define that in the short-term.
Focus on Requests
Clearly define what behaviors are making you uncomfortable and make clear requests to your partner. Conversations you’d like to have, comments/discussion you’d like to stop, and being included in discussions before decisions are made. The clearer you are, the better. Your partner may not agree to the requests or you both may need to compromise, but this will decrease any miscommunications.
Establish a Timeline and Set Goals
Discussing a timeline for relationship milestones will help you align your expectations and avoid misunderstandings. Set goals together with your partner and work towards them at a pace that feels comfortable for both of you. However, rather than focusing your goals on marriage, set goals in service of developing your relationship gradually, one step at a time.
Goals might include particular travels and adventures together, personal development goals such as learning new skills together or working on various aspects of yourselves that you want to improve, such as financial planning goals, health and fitness goals, and career goals.
You can also set goals explicitly focused on the relationship itself, such as regular date nights, practicing certain communication or conflict resolution approaches, or planning special experiences or surprises for one another. This approach promotes a sense of shared commitment and ensures that neither person feels rushed or pressured.
Shift the Focus
If your partner repeatedly brings up marriage prematurely, try redirecting the conversation to other aspects of the relationship. Emphasize the importance of enjoying the present moment and getting to know each other on a deeper level before considering long-term commitments. Encourage exploration of shared interests, personal growth, and building a solid emotional connection.
Address Concerns and Insecurities
It is essential to address any concerns or insecurities your partner may have that contribute to their eagerness for marriage. If this is indeed something that comes up again and again, open up a conversation aimed at gently and compassionately exploring any underlying issues or insecurities that are leading to your partner’s desire to rush to the altar. Then, work together to address these issues. In doing so, you’ll turn a relationship problem into an opportunity for growth and develop trust through the vulnerability inherent in such discussions.
Learn from the Experiences of Others
Again, mismatches in relationship pacing are quite common, which means that others who have been in similar situations can provide valuable insights and perspectives. Talk to friends and family members. Seek out blogs from folks who have been in your position before, whether you’re the one bringing up marriage too soon or the one feeling uncomfortable about your partner having done so. Gaining perspective in these ways will help you comprehend the potential risks and challenges associated with discussing marriage prematurely as well as gain insight into how others have navigated the situation–both successfully and unsuccessfully.
Although this principle is relevant for everyone as general life advice, it’s especially pertinent if you’re the one who’s compelled to rush into marriage. Take time to sit with yourself and ask yourself where your eagerness is coming from and what needs it is meeting or attempting to meet. Understanding what’s driving your desires and priorities is crucial in making informed decisions. Instead of diving in full steam ahead, resist the urge to rush into commitments and allow the relationship to evolve naturally.
This can also be done if you’re on the receiving end of a premature, marriage discussion. Does marriage or long-term commitment, in any way, cause significant anxiety? If so, why might that be? Understanding yourself is key.
When One Partner Wants to Slow Down
In some cases, one partner may express a desire to slow down when marriage discussions arise too fast. It is essential to respect each other’s speed and readiness for such commitments. While both partners should listen to and validate one another’s positions, ultimately the pacing of the relationship should not be faster than what’s comfortable for either party. Just like when you’re hiking, you adjust to walk at the pace of the slowest person in the group.
When to Consider Ending the Relationship
In some cases, discussing marriage too soon may reveal fundamental incompatibilities or irreconcilable differences. If one partner consistently pushes for marriage early on despite the other’s (expressed) reservations, it could be a sign that the relationship is not built on mutual respect and understanding. In such situations, it may be necessary to end the relationship in favor of individual well-being.
When Exactly is Too Early?
Although we’ve been exploring how to handle a premature marriage discussion, we haven’t actually talked about when, exactly, it is too early. And the answer is…it depends. There’s no formula you can follow in order to check if it’s indeed time, but you can use a few relationship milestones to guild you. The may include:
- Have you been vulnerable with each other?
- Have you met those who are most important to your partner?
- Have you had your first, honest disagreement or rupture?
- Have you repaired a rupture? A.k.a., have you found a way to discuss and grow from a disagreement or argument?
- Have you been physical with each other (in a way that each other values and desires)?
- Do you both clearly know why you want to get married? And have you shared that with the other person?
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) About Premature Marriage Discussions
Q: Is it common for one partner to bring up marriage early in a relationship?
A: Yep, it’s pretty common. Some people have a strong desire to settle down and are apt to bring up marriage prematurely. It’s certainly not weird or rare, but can impact the sustainability of the relationship.
Q: How can I communicate my discomfort about discussing marriage too soon?
A: Express your feelings honestly and respectfully to your partner. If you need a moment to step away or process, take the time! When you’re ready, share how that made you feel, and your boundaries and requests. Stay curious and be open to learning what is driving this for your partner.
Q: What if my partner’s eagerness for marriage persists despite my concerns?
A: If your partner continues to bring up marriage prematurely despite your concerns, it may indicate a significant mismatch in expectations, and it might be time for you to look in the mirror and ask yourself some hard questions about the viability of the relationship. If you’re strongly invested in the relationship, seek guidance from a counselor or therapist.
Q: Are there any red flags to watch out for when someone talks about marriage too soon?
A: While eagerness for marriage alone may not be a red flag, it is essential to assess whether your partner is disregarding your boundaries or pressuring you into making hasty decisions. Pay attention to signs of manipulation or control in the relationship–especially if your partner keeps pushing for marriage despite knowing that you’re not comfortable with it.
Q: How can I balance my partner’s desire for marriage with my own reservations?
A: Through the difficult but fulfilling work of open communication. And you know what? Sometimes, relationships are not perfectly balanced, and that’s okay. Rather than striving to achieve a pure equilibrium, it’s much more important to seek to understand and respect one another’s perspectives. The partner who is more eager for marriage must be the one to yield in this case, but their needs can be at least partially met by establishing a timeline for relationship milestones and working towards them together.
Discussing marriage is a big step in a relationship and should be approached in a manner that is comfortable for both partners. Be open and honest with yourself and your partner; addressing this sooner rather than later can help you both build a strong, relational foundation.
Dr. Vivian Oberling is the Founding Psychologist at Pace Groups. She is also a licensed clinical psychologist who has dedicated her career to improving the lives of clients across the lifespan. Background-wise, she’s been trained and worked in academic centers and hospitals (Stanford, Harvard, UCLA, Kaiser and Rady Children’s), and utilizes evidence-based treatments and research to enhance non-clinical, supportive services.