3 Signs You're Not Quite Ready For Marriage Yet (But That's Totally OK)

Marriage is a wildly confusing institution. It's lovely, and beautiful, and one of the most magical bonds two people can share. But — to those of us who are not ready for marriage (yes hello I am president of the club) — it's also pretty freaking terrifying.

I mean, you are literally latching yourself onto another person forever. Until death (or divorce) do you part. Sharing duvet covers, cold symptoms, and the last of your Nutella — no matter what. It's... a lot. And, in case you hadn't realized, it's not a commitment one should take lightly.

Personally, I am years (possibly decades... potentially centuries?) away from getting married. Like, I'm the type of single that prompts my grandmother to ask if I "ever crave male company" on a monthly basis. But if you're in a serious relationship that's headed towards marriage, you might be looking for signs that you're 100 percent ready to say, "I do."

Truthfully, the only sign you really need is your own intuition. If you don't feel completely ready and comfortable at the thought of committing to your partner ~forever~, definitely don't allow yourself to be pressured into making that decision. (In other words, don't pull an Arie Luyendyk, Jr., guys.)

But sometimes, it's so easy to get caught up in the thought of planning Pinterest weddings, picking out bridesmaids' dresses, and selecting honeymoon destinations that the trickier, stickier parts of marriage might slip your mind. Which, TB-totally-H, is probably why the divorce rate is so freaking high in this country (around 50 percent).

So, if you've caught your partner browsing rings and are searching for signs that you are — or are not — ready to get married, look no further. I chatted with Anita Chlipala, a licensed marriage and family therapist to unearth the top three signs that you may not be prepared just yet. (Which, for the record, is completely OK! You have to move at your own pace.)

You Put Yourself First.

If you have a "me first attitude" — to borrow Chlipala's words — you're probably not ready to commit to marriage just yet.

"Your exes might even call you selfish, [because] you think about your own needs over your partner's," she explains.

Now, before defensively deciding that you are absolutely not selfish, remember that you are allowed to put yourself first, especially at this pre-marriage point in your life. It doesn't mean that you're callous or self-obsessed — just that you make your decisions based on your own wants and needs, which isn't as easily done once you're married.

"Marriage requires compromise and a balance of honoring both your needs and your spouse's," says Chlipala.

Decisions as major as moving to a new continent and as minor as where to grab dinner tomorrow night hinge on the thoughts and feelings of your spouse, which can be a little scary. So if you'd rather not worry about striking that balance between your wants and those of your husband or wife, maybe wait a bit before walking down the aisle.

You Like To Control Your Own Schedule.

This one goes hand-in-hand with the idea of putting yourself first: If you like to be the one calling the shots on when and where you need to be at any given moment, it could be another sign that now's not the right time for you to tie the knot.

"You do what you want to do, when and how you want to do it, and you don't like answering to anyone," says Chlipala.

Personally, this is my favorite thing about being single. I'll hop on trains and spontaneously head out of town on the weekend, order Indian takeout at 11:30 p.m., and make or break date night plans based on when I last washed my hair. And I love it.

If this is also one of your favorite things about being a Ms. instead of a Mrs., don't feel bad about wanting to savor that time before accepting a proposal.

You Don't Feel You 'Need' Anyone.

Last but not least, if you are fiercely independent — like, blare-old-school-Destiny's-Child-level independent — and don't feel you need your partner, you probs don't need to be picking out China patterns with them, either (at least not yet!).

"We're wired for connection, and the overly independent person still wants a relationship, but doesn't think they need anyone," explains Chlipala. "This creates an emotional distance between partners. You won't let [your partner] in."

Now, it's important to note that no one really needs anyone. But, as a friend of mine once put it, "The idea of losing my husband puts the fear of God in me. And that's exactly how it should feel."

Marriage is, quite literally, a union. It's all about intrinsically, and legally, linking yourself to another human being. So if thoughts have crossed your mind like, "I can see myself marrying them, but I would also be fine if they left," you may still need some time to break down different walls with your partner and bridge that emotional distance. And if your S.O. is pushing you to take steps you're not comfortable taking, well, are they really the person with whom you want to take those steps? (I vote no.)

So don't stress if you're not ready to jump on that horse-and-carriage of marriage right now — it doesn't mean you love your partner any less. I hate to disagree with Beyoncé, but I'd say it's possible to like it without putting a ring on it.