Right along with uttering those three little words for the first time, talking about engagement is — hands down — one of the most nerve-wracking discussions you can start with your boo. Regardless of how long you've been dating, whether you're living together, or how strong your bond is, there's something innately vulnerable about launching the discussion about potentially spending the rest of your lives together. So it's only natural to wonder how to bring up getting engaged for the first time.
You may feel that you're ready to at least start talking about engagement — now, you're eager to find out if your partner is ready. According to Dr. LeslieBeth Wish, licensed clinical psychotherapist, relationship expert and author of "Training Your Love Intuition", there is an ideal way to start this often intimidating discussion. The key, she says, is to ease into the conversation. Obviously, you don't want to force it or bring it up out of nowhere, as this might catch your SO off guard. Look for opportunities to naturally steer the conversation in that direction. For example, if you’re already talking about the future — like moving in together, traveling overseas together, or moving to a new city together due to a career or educational opportunity, for example — that presents a phenomenal opportunity to bring up the subject. Dr. Wish recommends asking something along the lines of, “How you feel about where we are in our relationship? How do you see us in the future?” This provides a natural transition for bringing up the possibility of engagement.
The important thing is to bring it up in a way that doesn’t imply any pressure or demand an immediate answer. Your only goal is to pose the topic of engagement to plant the idea in your partner’s head — if it hasn’t already been there. If you’re in a happy, healthy, strong relationship, there’s a decent chance that bae has already been thinking about what it might be like to get married as well. And if they haven’t, bringing it up will give them a reason to start considering it while also demonstrating that it’s something you want.
Obviously, it’s not a good idea to bring up the subject of engagement after a big fight. In fact, Dr. Wish says that you’re more likely to get a hasty (and perhaps unfavorable) answer if you have this discussion after a blowout. Also, don’t underestimate the power of a little romance or nostalgia. By bringing it up deliberately and thoughtfully, you’re showing that you’re serious about the topic of engagement, and you’re also more likely to have bae’s full attention.
“Whatever you do, don't raise the topic in a text or while you are doing something ordinary and forgettable such as filling up the car or flipping through the television channels,” Dr. Wish explains. “Make sure that both the conversation and the actual engagement are memorable. No one wants memories of talking about it when you are taking out the trash. If you really feel confident and want to be both bold and romantic, open up the topic at the place you first met, the place of your first date, or any other place that holds special meaning.”
It’s totally natural to have some nerves. After all, if this is truly the first time you’re bringing it up, you may not know whether your boo is on board with the idea of getting married, or if they feel remotely ready to get engaged. Luckily, there are some steps you can take to alleviate your anxiety around having this conversation.
“If your anxiety outweighs your confidence in your relationship, you might first want to have a conversation about how you feel about each other,” advises Dr. Wish. “Go for a walk to your favorite place or do something that you both enjoy such as skiing, or dining at your favorite restaurant.”
Dr. Wish also suggests testing the waters by talking about the marriages of your friends and relatives if you don’t feel ready to ask your partner directly about getting engaged yet.
“Start slowly, but open up the topic sufficiently so that you get a true sense of your partner's feelings,” she adds.
In an ideal world, you’d be able to clearly gauge your partner’s feelings about engagement after bringing it up. But what if you can’t get a solid read because they offer vague comments or neglect to reveal how they really feel about it? Dr. Wish’s advice is to be a bit more direct in the conversation next time you bring it up. Rather than commenting on a friend’s engagement to try and read their response, or ask them about their goals for your mutual future together, you can ask them outright whether they can see you getting engaged to each other — and if so, what timeline feels realistic for them.
There’s no denying that engagement is a colossal step — after all, it signifies a lifelong commitment to each other. Regardless of where, when, or how you bring it up, make sure that your SO feels emotionally safe and supported in revealing any concerns or doubts they have as well. If you both can be totally honest about your feelings about getting engaged, then you’re more likely to come to a conclusion that works for both of you. Remember: Engagement isn’t the answer for every couple. It’s entirely possible to have a lasting, fulfilling relationship without getting married. However, if marriage is important to you, you certainly deserve to be with someone who shares the same goal. The important thing to remember is that talking about getting engaged will likely be an ongoing discussion. Once you bring it up, you can start to figure out as a team whether that’s a step you’re mutually ready to take, and if not, what you can do to work toward it.