In relationships it is natural that at some time one or both of you will feel ready to commit and establish yourselves as a couple. Of course, commitment can mean different things for different people and in addition there are steps and levels of commitment; the question is whether or not both of you reach those stages at the same time or alternatively agree on the level of commitment you are both happy with.
In many cases, the time it takes each person in a relationship to be ready to commit may differ, causing some friction and confusion about where it’s all going. There are generally three stages to commitment, but all of them can be approached in a somewhat similar way.
Stage 1 – From Dating to Being an Exclusive Couple
If you feel you want to move things to the next level at this stage, the best thing to do is be honest. Tell your man that you feel ready to stop seeing other people or that you want to go steady. If he is not ready, don’t worry just yet, it’s still early days; but remember that this is a highly personal issue for everyone, so if you are not happy waiting, either don’t or give yourself a time frame you feel comfortable with. Perhaps you may decide to give it another month and see if things are moving along.
Stage 2 – From Being Exclusive to Living Together
In most cases, once you have crossed the first commitment stage, it should be quite easy and straight forward to approach the issue. Often, you may have the feeling that the timing is right if you find that you are spending all your time together at one of your flats and paying rent for two seems slightly unnecessary. Simply suggest the idea casually and see how he feels about it. Mention the fact that you are practically living together already, remind him of how nice it will be to wake up together every day and have a fun conversation of all the awesome stuff you can do with the extra money you will have from sharing living costs.
Stage 3- From Living Together to Marriage
This is normally the transition that causes the most disagreement for couples. It’s not surprising considering the nature of the commitment. There are multiple reasons why he may not feel ready for the ‘final step’.
If you have been living together it could be that everything about you is the same as married couples, minus the wedding, rings and legal commitment. Some men become extremely comfortable in the ‘living together’ stage because they have everything a marriage provides, without having to declare a legally binding commitment with the words ‘forever’ in the big picture. Here are some possibles reasons for his reluctance and suggestions as to how to handle them:
- Your man may be having second thoughts due to his experience of his parent’s marriage. Remind him of all the reasons you are together and keep the conversation happy and positive if possible. Discuss the fact that whether or not you stay happily married is up to you both and that your relationship is unique. Be understanding and supportive and continue enjoying your happy relationship. A bit of extra time may be enough.
- Your man may be waiting for ‘the right time’- What ‘the right time’ means for him will be key to how you approach the issue. He may want to be more secure in his job, may want to be able to give you a dream wedding or he may have an idea of when this time will be for him. If it’s about his job security, you could discuss when he feels the situation will resolve. If the issue is affording the dream wedding, you could be creative with your finances, or discuss a savings plan. The key is to work together to achieve whatever will make the timing right. You could also suggest getting engaged as a preliminary step and together, decide on the engagement period that you are both comfortable with.
- Your man simply doesn’t believe in marriage or does not want to get married- If this is the case, it’s best to evaluate your values. You may need to consider if marriage is more important to you than being with him. This issue may simply be a matter of conflicting values, and a successful marriage requires compatible values or at least a way of meeting in the middle. If you can’t find a way to compromise, it may be time to go your separate ways.
Finally, when addressing commitment issues there are three vital points: being honest to your self, being understanding of him and knowing where you stand. If you discuss your feelings openly and are ready to meet in the middle it is likely that you will come to an agreement you are both happy with at any of the three stages. It’s important that you feel you know where you are heading and this requires open communication from both parts.