If You're Not Ready To Exchange Keys, But Your SO Is, Here's What To Do
Every relationship is different. I have friends who got engaged after three months of dating, and I have friends who still don't live with their partners after years of dating. (Both couples are happily together FYI!) While relationships can move at different paces, sometimes you and your significant other might move at different speeds, too. If you find yourself moving at a leisurely pace while your honey is operating at a full sprint, you might find yourself not ready to exchange keys when your SO brings it up. If this is the case, don't panic. It's totally normal and not an indication that you have cold feet, second thoughts about your relationship, or commitment issues.
I spoke to Monica Parikh, founder of School of Love NYC, about the emotional significance of exchanging keys and she says, "At it's best, it's a step of progression — we are allowing access to our private space to another person. It says, 'I trust you. I want you in my life (literally).'" And even if you also want your partner in your life, you might not be ready to grant full access to your living space — which is fine! Parikh also cautions that exchanging keys can sometimes have a negative underlying meaning. She says, "At its worst, it can be a mechanism of control — especially if both people aren't on the same page."
Karenna Alexander, matchmaker and dating coach, also believes there is emotional significance to swapping keys. She says, "It implies you are getting much closer, not quite living together, but you have special access to their place, which for many clients is a big step." Alexander believes in initially taking things slowly in a relationship and says, "I personally don't advocate clients taking the keys too early on." So if you're uncertain about adding another key to your keychain, remind yourself that that's perfectly normal. Here's what to do.
While having a conversation about why you're not ready to swap keys could potentially be awkward, learning how to communicate with your partner is key — pun intended! Think of this as an opportunity to work on this. Parikh says, "Boundaries and communication are important to romantic relationships. It's important to not only heed your feelings, but communicate them to your partner in a way that the other can hear. Then, it's important for the partner to hear 'no' without taking it personally." So while you most likely don't want to hurt your partner's feelings by declining their offer, you can speak your truth in a kind and loving way.
Milestone moments in relationships can be a big deal, and if your partner is ready to make a move and you aren't, dealing with the fallout from that doesn't have to be a big deal. Remember to relax and enjoy your partner, enjoy the phase you're currently in, and enjoy taking things at your pace. Alexander says, "I'm a big proponent of taking things slowly in the early stages. I find that when relationships aren't rushed in the early stages — and courtship is present — the relationships are much healthier in the long run."
Meet In The Middle
Let's say you feel comfortable having a key to your partner's place but you aren't quite ready to give them a key to yours. First of all, they might not expect you to hand one over, but in case they do, Parikh suggests navigating this conversation with a what she calls a compliment sandwich. She says, "Start with something nice. Say your feelings and needs. And, then end with something nice! Here's a great example: 'I really care for you and want our relationship to progress at at pace that feels good to both of us. I'm not ready to share my keys with you. Please don't take this personally. I promise to let you know when I'm ready and you'll know that it's a decision I didn't make hastily.'" (Feel free to read this off your phone verbatim!)
Being honest with yourself and your partner about your feelings is always a good thing. If you can't quite put your finger on why you don't want a key to your honey's place, Alexander says, "I advise clients to say 'I want to take things slow.'" Saying this implies that you very much care about your relationship and you don't want to jeopardize it by moving too quickly. Clearly communicating your feelings shows your partner that you respect yourself, you respect them, and you respect your relationship. You got this.