For some, getting engaged can be kind of a big deal. You’re not just exchanging rings and gushing about your spouse-to-be on Instagram, you’re also committing to spending the rest of your life with someone. So, how are you supposed to know that you’re ready to get engaged? Of course, there are signs that your relationship is strong enough to take to the next level — like if you feel safe and respected with your partner and know that you have compatible goals for the future. But there are also things you’ll notice about yourself that suggest you, as an individual, are ready for this exciting next step.
Let’s address the obvious first. If you have any personal fears about commitment, still have feelings for an ex, or are constantly making excuses for your partner’s unacceptable behavior, those are red flags that you’re not ready to get engaged. And don’t underestimate your gut feeling: If it feels like it’s not the right time, it probably isn’t. But what about the signs that you are ready? Dr. LeslieBeth Wish, licensed clinical psychotherapist, relationship expert, and author of the new book Training Your Love Intuition, says to pay attention to a few things about yourself.
For one, she says your perspective on past relationships can be a great sign. If you look back on those previous experiences and can honestly say that you realize why they didn’t work out, that means you’re better prepared to make things work with your current partner. She also says it’s important that you’re able to identify why your partner is right for you. How do they meet your needs in ways that your exes didn’t? If you haven’t processed this, you may end up making some of the same mistakes you did in past relationships. But according to Dr. Wish, if you feel like you’ve done enough reflecting and learning from your experiences, then you’re probably ready to get engaged.
When you think about the future with your partner, how do you feel overall? You may have mixed feelings — a little enthusiastic, a little nervous — and that’s totally normal. But on the whole, the feeling should be positive — if it’s not, you may have unresolved doubts or fears about getting engaged that you haven’t addressed.
“If you feel excited yet calm and assured about your future with your partner, then you’re ready,” says Dr. Wish.
Dr. Gary Brown, a prominent dating and relationship therapist in Los Angeles, adds that if you can easily see growing old together, that's a good sign.
"You look forward to waking up with your partner and seeing them at the end of the day," he explains.
And according to licensed marriage and family therapist Nicole Richardson, it's worth noting whether your partner is always the first person you want to share the good or bad details of your day with.
"The foundation of a good marriage is a good friendship and sharing things with each other is a big part of that," she explains.
Another positive sign, according to Dr. Wish, is if you no longer envy your friends who are married. Think of it this way: If you’ve been jealous of all your friends who already got hitched, then you may be getting engaged for the wrong reasons. You want to make sure that you’re marrying someone because you feel certain that you can build a happy life together, not because you feel societal pressures to tie the knot, or are afraid of being alone. So it may sound counterintuitive, but if you’ve reached a place where you feel at peace with the fact that you’re not married, then it’s likely that you are ready to get married.
"As long as you realize that a wedding is just for one day, you may be ready," adds Dr. Brown. "More important than the wedding, you realize that marriage is potentially for the rest of your life. "
Does calling your SO your partner, boyfriend, girlfriend, or bae simply not seem to cut it anymore? Dr. Wish says that if none of those terms seem to appropriately encompass the seriousness of your relationship, that may mean you’re ready to get engaged. You’ve likely reached a point where the level of understanding, trust, love, and mutual respect runs so deep that you can’t imagine a future without them. So as simple as it sounds, if you’re eager to call your SO your spouse, that’s a great sign you’re ready to take the next step.
Lastly, while it may sound obvious, pay attention to whether or not you fantasize about dating other people. While it’s totally normal to notice an attractive person walking down the street, feeling tempted to download Tinder and see who else is out there is a totally different story. The latter suggests you may have some misgivings about your current relationship, and thus, are not ready for an engagement. On the other hand, if you never have these thoughts about dating or hooking up with others, then you likely feel super confident in your current bond.
What if you're still not sure whether you're ready? Dr. Brown says you should take some time to list out your must-haves if you're going to get married, and then ask yourself: How many of my must-haves am I getting or likely to get with my current partner?
"If you feel clear that you aren't ready, it can be helpful to let your partner know gently," adds Richardson. "Saying something like, 'I love where we are right now and I want to enjoy this stage of the relationship for a bit longer.'"
Dr. Brown also suggests talking to a trusted friend or family member to get their perspectives.
"Ask them to be completely honest with you," he says. "And if you need to gain more understanding to help you navigate through all of this, you might very well benefit from pre-marital counseling. This is something that more individuals and couples are taking advantage of to help them build a good psychological foundation when considering getting engaged, or if already engaged, about to get married."
While all of these signs can provide some hints, ultimately, only you can decide whether you’re ready to get engaged. There are so many factors that play into your readiness, too — from your physical and mental health to your financial situation and work-related demands. You may ultimately decide that getting married simply isn’t for you. And even if you decide that you’re not ready now, that doesn’t mean that six months or six years down the line you can't change your mind — and the right person for you will hopefully wait patiently for you to feel ready. Until then, the most important thing is that you are doing everything you can to be the best partner possible for your boo and that they’re doing the same for you. And as for figuring out whether you’re ready or not, the old cliché rings true: when you know, you know.