Do I Need My Partner’s Permission to Make My Own Commitment?

Ask APW: Is it too soon to have "the talk?"

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Q: Disclaimer: I’m not engaged. I’m not really even pre-engaged, but Christ, guys, with every post I read about people binding themselves to each other forever, a deep part of my heart yearns and yells, “That’s me! Right there!” And so while this isn’t a question about proposing to my girlfriend, I feel like it is.

We’re new together. We’re still just starting out in making an “us.” But I want to ask her to please come with me, to consciously decide that there will be an Us and that Us is important and worthy of work. I want to put the work in. I want her permission to go all-in and love the motherfucking shit out of her. I’ve been happier the last few months with her than I have been in years, and people keep telling me they can see it, even when she’s not with me. I love this girl. But we’re just getting to the part where our baggage is really becoming apparent and there are things we need to deal with, and they won’t be easy. And I think I need some kind of conscious, mutual decision at this point that we’ll both commit to doing the work and not run out screaming in the middle just because it’s hard.

Partly, I think I need this to keep myself accountable. I do run from this kind of hard emotional stuff whenever I can get away with it. I’m afraid that without a commitment from her as well, I’ll just duck my own responsibility to our relationship and sabotage it. I don’t want to do that, and her keeping me accountable (and me keeping her accountable for keeping me accountable, etc.) makes me a lot less scared of that.

And partly also, I need to hear her make that commitment before I’m okay with making this vast leap of faith into the unknown jungle of emotions in front of us. I want to know that she feels the same way. I want to take this leap starting from solid ground and know she’s right here with me even through the thick of it.

Am I crazy? Is this too needy? Should I really need my girlfriend’s permission to make my own commitment to her? I dated a guy who made his own commitment to me before I was ready to reciprocate, and while it was not the leading cause of that relationship’s death, it was weird and uncomfortable and I felt pressured to commit. I don’t want to do that to her, but am I just looking through baggage-colored glasses?

A Leaf on the Wind

A: Dear ALW,

First, I’m going to encourage you to unwrap yourself from your own brain for a minute. There are a lot of complicated thoughts getting mixed in with emotions up there, and it sounds like you’re trying to follow both your brain and your heart at the same time right now. Without a GPS. Scary.

That said, there is definitely a spectrum of commitment when it comes to relationships. Which is good—over-investing in someone who really wasn’t worth it has bitten me more times than I can count. There’s also wisdom to taking it slow in a relationship, not investing too much emotion into someone until you know them and that they’re investing back. (Damn. Turns out my mom was right about that.)

But it’s for exactly that reason that these kinds of “what are we doing?” chats are so awesome. No matter what stage of the relationship you’re in, it’s nice to check in and find out if you’re on the same page.

But, don’t be mistaken. Checking in is not a proposal. You can’t pretend that it is. While it’s fair to ask, “I’m ready to tackle this with you; are you up for sticking by me as we do it?” it’s not really fair to expect that just because you agree to face the tough stuff together, you’ll be together forever. Besides making sure that you’re committing to someone who’s committed to you, the other major reason mom said to take it slow is because going through these emotional-baggagey-times helps you to figure out if this person is a “forever” type. I’m getting a vibe from you that you don’t want to go through all of this work if it means you won’t be married in the end. But, in reality, sometimes going through all of the work is exactly what helps you figure out if you can get married in the end. It’s a terrific idea to make sure that you’re both in the same place and pointed in the same direction. But it’s not realistic to expect to predict the future.

Beside all that, there’s still a chance that all of the wonderful squishy feelings she gives you are only wonderful and squishy when times are happy. That’s the crummy part of being in any stage of relationship at all—you’re always, in part, putting yourself at risk of getting hurt. Caring for someone, by definition, makes you vulnerable. It’s a scary thing, and it’s true even in marriage. But, honestly, there aren’t too many awesome things in life that don’t come with a bit of risk. (Just napping, really. I think that’s the only good thing in life without risk attached. Napping and Downton Abbey.)

So yes. Have your talk! Sort out where you are and where you’re headed. Get on the same team to tackle all of this crappy emotional baggage together, and then be confident that even if things don’t work out the way you plan, this risk is worth it.

If you would like to ask Team Practical a question please don’t be shy! You can email Liz at: askteampractical [at] apracticalwedding [dot] com. If you would prefer to not be named, anonymous questions are also accepted. Though it really makes our day when you come up with a clever sign-off!

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  • I have taken some fairly risky naps in my time, thank you very much. Otherwise, Liz is full of solid advice, as always.

    • Liz

      Sounds scandalous.

    • Miranda VanZ

      I agree, for example, napping on the bus is always risky business.

      • Kara

        As are airport and train station benches. C’est la vie.

        • Brittany

          I once mistakenly landed myself in Jamaica, Queens instead of my East Village home as a result of an ill-fated subway nap. :D

          • Shiri

            Dude, Brittany, me too. Exactly (though, not my East Village home so much as the East Village where I’d get a train for my BK home, but you know).

      • MDBethann

        Napping on trains always worries me, unless my stop is the last one.

  • I think taking about commitment is big for a lot of people in relationships. Even if you both know you’re committed, it’s good to check in about your vision of the relationship path. When my husband and I were dating, we did three years of long distance. Once I got really frustrated that it would never end, and we had a big talk about working toward being in the same city and setting a deadline and how we both wanted to get married once that happened. It didn’t mean that we got engaged at that second, but it was good for both of us to know that we were envisioning the same timeline.

    • Hey ANNIE. Thanks for posting this comment. It’s basically what I wanted to say, but you worded it better. I’ll just take it one step further and add that even if you aren’t envisioning the same timeline, it’s good to know that- especially as a moment you expect to happen approaches. {Trust me, if you don’t talk about it before then, (s)he is going to be really confused with why you’re upset. It might not even be on their radar…} By communicating about the future (even if your timelines are different) you can work to create it together (even if it means compromising). Being open is a huge deal that saves a lot of heartbreak.

  • Leslie

    A couple of years ago, I was getting ready to move across the country from my boyfriend of 5 years. A few weeks before the move, I realized that we’d never had any sort of Talk about what we were expecting from the future. So I sat him down and told him that I wanted to stay together but I was only interested in maintaining a long distance relationship if we both wanted it to lead to marriage.

    He hemmed and hawed and sort of agreed, and I was a little hurt and confused. A few months later, he flew out to see me and proposed. It turns out he had been so flustered in that first conversation because he’d just ordered a ring, and he was afraid I was going to propose to HIM and he wouldn’t get to surprise me and go down on one knee.

    This is kind of a silly story, but the point is that it’s important to know whether you and your partner are looking in the same direction. It’s so joyous and affirming when you find that you are (even if the conversations are a little convoluted). And if you’re not? Much better to know sooner rather than to labor under false impressions.

    • Copper

      I think the other point of that (great) story is, that if someone seems sort of awkward about it, don’t assume the reason! They could have things going on behind the scenes that are causing that reaction that makes no sense to you, whether it’s because they’re planning a proposal or because they had some gnarly tacos for lunch that are making their stomach feel awful at a really inconvenient moment (actually happened with my guy during a very important talk).

      • H

        Omg. This. I thought my then boyfriend didn’t want to talk about marriage, because I brought it up in a round-a-bout way and he got super annoyed. So I was really hurt and confused. Turns out he had just talked to my parents a week before, and was trying to get me off his trail. I’m not gonna tell you how stupid I felt when I figured this out.

      • Kess

        Gnarly tacos indeed!

        Not once, not twice, but three times, my SO has been working into ‘deep stuff’ territory when my stomach is crying out something horrible. Evidently there’s something about Taco Bell that makes him want to have serious conversations and something that makes me want to sit on the toilet for 12 hours.

        I have now boycotted taco bell. Sadly, we don’t have a combination Pizza Hut and Taco Bell where I could get some pizza instead. ;)

  • My husband and I call these “State of the Union” talks. They can be hard, but ultimately productive, and often rewarding.

    • MIRA

      I love that!

    • Liz

      Haha! Did you see that’s what I tagged the post?! That’s what I call them, too!

      • Kara

        That’s a MUCH better phrase than the (semi-ubiquitous in my world) Define the Relationship. Not every relationship needs to be defined at every point there, you just need to know whether or not you’re on the same page as your SO–and if not, whether you’re both ok with it.

  • I believe in having these conversations early and often, and even after you’re engaged. As in: when we talk about the future, are we talking about the same thing? What does that look like? And what about: Career? Home? Pets? Kids? Travel? Our families of origin?

    And just because you’re engaged (or married!) doesn’t mean that things are set in stone. Things are shifting all the time, whether you feel it or not. Having continuous conversations of varying levels of magnitude is crucial.

    One of the best things that I’ve read so far about weddings is that life does not stop while you’re planning them. The need to keep talking, checking in and making commitments (seemingly) hasn’t stopped for a moment since I got engaged two months ago. And that feels right.

    As far as having the conversation, just start. Maybe with something small, maybe something big. Be deeply curious about your partner. And keep talking.

    Good luck!

    • Sooo true. We had so very many State of the Union talks while engaged. We’ve only been married for five months, but we’ve had snippets of them in that time, an expect to have many more in the future.

      Things don’t stop just because you’re married! And having these conversations is still important in the context of marriage, for sure.

      • Suzanne

        First off, sorry I clicked the wrong button. Meant to hit “reply”, not the “report” button. So if the APW fairies go “huh why was this commented reported”, it’s because my brain and mouse finger aren’t quite connected today!

        My husband and I have these talks all the time too! I don’t think that ever changes in a relationship. About the only thing that changes is what those talks are about. I think it’s somewhat human nature to want to check where we are out with the important people in our lives.

        • Liz

          No worries about the “report” thing! Happens all the time.

    • Agreed! It’s important to have these conversations on a regular basis – not just when you’re getting ready to get engaged or married, but just a check-in to make sure you’re both happy and are moving in the same direction. It’s been over 3 months since our wedding and we still talk about what it means to be a husband/wife, etc.

      I find that it’s best to have these conversations when going for a walk. Sitting across a table is really intense, but if you’re out there walking and able to look around and not just staring at someone’s face it helps alleviate some of the pressure, while still remaining productive.

      • Not Sarah

        My boyfriend and I mostly have “serious” discussions while sitting on the couch with a blanket. That way, we’re both super comfortable physically! I don’t like the conversations while I’m hungry or while we’re driving or walking.

    • Getting in the habit of having these talks also helps them happen in a more natural way in the future. Our early State of the Union talks were very hesitant and a little awkward, even though I knew from day one that I was going to marry him. Maybe because I knew from day one that I was going to marry him.

      Once we got more comfortable with how we’d communicate about the big stuff and check in I found that my husband and I started having these talks very easily and naturally even at really difficult talks. We’ve got some things that we have set timelines for talking about, like visiting the ever evolving discussion about our living situation every two months and knowing that we’re want to talk things through together lets it come up just because it’s Tuesday, we’re running errands together and it’s on one of our minds rather than one of us getting to the point of being super concerned.

  • KB

    I am a huge fan of the DTR (define the relationship) talk. I always think it’s good to go into a DTR with a light heart and a couple of beers (or cookies), usually doing something fun, like crafty or cooking. It’s such a serious conversation and you don’t want to make it even more serious with the quiet, ominous tones and staring at each other in the midst of awkward silence. I think that creates pressure more than anything else – really, the DTR is a way for you to be like “Hey. I like you. No, REALLY like you – enough to jump off this crazy life-cliff together” and see what she says back.

    Also I love the GPS analogy that Liz uses – I’d go a metaphor further and say that having the DTR is like checking each other’s respective positions in Google Maps – right now, your blinking dot hopefully coincides with her blinking dot, and you have a nice blue line to where you want to go. Sometimes that blue line takes alternate routes, and you might discover that her blinking dot wants to take a side street sometimes. My point is that having the DTR isn’t going to make you totally safe – but it will strengthen your foundation as a couple. I’ve always thought of the DTR as really the conversation that begins the series of mini-conversations throughout the length of the relationship, and you have to make allowances for that. We’re all human, after all.

    • MDBethann

      My hubby and I recently had a talk about kids, how our lives will change if we have them (we’re TTC right now), and whether we’re okay with those prospective changes. We both want kids and have the same time frame, but we like our life the way it is right now and hadn’t really talked about the way kids will change that. We had the conversation while building with Legos. It allowed it to not be as intense of a conversation as it could have been and it was a lot more comfortable for me in terms of expressing my concerns.

      I’m all for the conversations that aren’t confrontational.

  • Jo

    Yes, “early and often”. And they don’t have to be such heavy conversations.

    It does probably depend upon where you are in your life, your age, etc. When my husband and I met, I was 27 and he was 26. We were both working professionals with a decent sense of who we were and what we wanted in life (of course this has evolved, but it was definitely a more solid place than either of us were when we were younger). We talked pretty early on about what we could see in the future together, and more importantly, what our deal-breakers were. For example, we discussed the fact that we both wanted kids. I know that if either of us had said that we didn’t see that as part of our future, it would have had to have been the end of our relationship right there. I’m glad we discussed it early, before we were TOO invested in each other. (And I’m glad we wanted the same thing and didn’t have to end things).

  • Sometimes when I’m stuck on questions like this, I ask myself what I’d do if it were a job-related situation instead. As in, How would I feel about falling in love with a job and making plans for climbing the ladder if I didn’t know how my boss perceived me? Well, I’d be cautious…but then I’d probably just ask my boss. For feedback, for things I could improve upon, for a clear picture of where our company/department/etc. was headed. And I’d make my plans for advancement pretty clear so that my boss could let me know if it just didn’t seem to be in the cards. In many cases the answer might just be, “We’ll just see,” with some specific reasons why they aren’t sure yet, but there are also those times when a boss says, “Yeah, you’re totally on track to a promotion, I was hoping you’d be interested in that too.” But in either case, it just makes sense to make your intentions known and get feedback, not because you’re insecure, but because it’s just normal to think about and/or begin to plan for your future.

  • meg

    Is this one of the best ATP’s ever? (I didn’t read it till now, heeeeeeyyyy maternity leave) and I’m kind of in love with it.

    I don’t actually have anything to add to Liz’s great advice. I knew I would marry David the day we got together (which sounds totally weird, but we’d been friends for NINE YEARS) so our only state of the union talks were about timing. He didn’t know we were getting married, apparently, till later, but hey. So that’s not really advice. Fin! Carry on with everyone being awesome!

    • Liz

      Aw, shucks.

    • Alexandra

      I don’t have any advice either, but I also thought this was a great question! And will probably be my go-to “APW has great relationship advice” for the next time I end up in a conversation with a friend who’s just on the edge of a new relationship. (As in, I’ve been asked this before, and I think the girl in question ended up sending in an ATP about it.)

    • Shiri

      God, you APW staffers are so cute to each other :)

  • Jashshea

    Talk to her. You’re going to drive yourself crazy until the conversation comes out one night when you’re 1/2 in the bag and crying in the form of “why don’t you love me, I love you, dammit.”

    Ahem, because I speak from experience.

    So, good advice from others – have a quick convo to test her temperature. Tell her you’re super happy and you’d like to continue to being super happy with her. Even if times get tougher than they are now.

    • Exactly! I unfortunately had the angry/crying discussion last night because I waited until I was about to boil over. It’s so comforting to come to APW this morning and see that I’m not alone here, and that having these discussions is okay, even if they don’t come out quite like you planned

    • Bears Fans

      All of our relationship talks came after I got angry and flustered and just blurted out that I was upset about not living together yet, etc. It works for us because my guy is really patient, but it’s probably not a model for good communication.

      Also, Downton Abbey is NOT risk free.

  • Emily

    I have nightmares when i nap. Like, dad died of pneumonia and mom didn’t know how to tell me till a week later nightmares.

    As for the State of the Union (love that!), Liz really did say it all. Just, before you sit down with her, be honest with yourself about what you want, and then consider how you wish your ex had presented his feelings, so you’re prepared for any awkwardness. Talk slowly, make jokes, wear a cute outfit.

    • d

      I used to get nightmares like that with naps. Eventually they went away. Now I adore naps. I daydream about ways to convince my boss to let me take naps.

    • I get those same nightmares (as well as “everything is going to hell at work”) when I decide to go back to sleep after waking up in the morning. Probably something about an interrupted or disjointed REM cycle.

      “Wear a cute outfit” is such great advice for these talks that I can’t even express how great it is. Seriously.

  • Everyone is giving really spot on advice here. I met my man when we were both in undergrad, though I was a senior and he was a junior. With graduation looming, I was starting to feel insecure about what would happen when I left school. Eventually, I just came out with it and said if he didn’t want to invest in long distance (well, only 2 hours), then we should call it quits sooner than later. To which he responded, more than allaying my fears, and assuring me he was in it to win it. Later on, I again nervously brought up our relationship plans in relation to my job search- me thinking I’d like to find a job near where he wanted to go to grad school- only to find that he was planning on going to grad school near wherever I found a good job.

    I agree with KB- keep it light, grab a drink, have something to do with your hands. As my man and I continue to have talks, another important thing I have to keep in mind is that when I bring up an issue, I’ve usually spent A LOT of time thinking about it, but he hasn’t had that time yet. Also, I make decisions and voice opinions very quickly, while he is much more thoughtful, and takes his time to make up his mind and respond. So even if you have the perfect casual setting to start the conversation, your girlfriend may need some time to think on it a while.

    Happy conversing!

    • Jashshea

      Great points in your last paragraph – Not everyone makes decisions at the same speed and some people don’t respond perfectly straight away. I wouldn’t frame the conversation as “I’m here, where are you?,” but rather “I”m here and I want you to know that.”

      • Agreed. Asking a huge question that I’ve thought about carefully for weeks usually sets me up for frustration when he doesn’t have an answer. I have much better success (and peace of mind) with status updates with the phrasing you describe, informing the other person of what has occupied a lot of your mental space lately. And if you really want a response- maybe just set it up “could we talk about it sometime? I’d really like to know what you think about it.”

  • Elena

    I met my now husband online though a dating website. In my profile I clearly stated – I want a relationship that leads somewhere. He found me the day after I created my profile and then for the next 4 days we talked online, discussing out future and what the expectations are if we really do like each other in person.
    I think this kind of conversation is important – I spent 3 years with one guy just to find out that he doesn’t really know in he wants a family in the future (and he was 8 year older than me already!). I think not having that discussed between us earlier prevented up from trying to grow into that envisioned future together.
    My husband is very intense buy – he jumped head first into our relationship from day one, and this actually helped me to trust him too and develop a stronger commitment on my side. If both people are just “trying water”, you might end up just staying there. Someone does need to dive in first and set an example. Scary? oh yeas! I was usually the one diving in and getting hurt then the other doesn’t follow. But it’s also super rewarding when it works out.

  • Marina

    Totally, totally agree with everyone who said to have these conversations early and often. Long term relationships are FULL of these conversations, and personally I think one of the reasons my relationship feels successful is because we’ve gotten better and better and better at having them. I don’t really want to say they’ve gotten less scary, because they’re always scary, but at least they’re not the kind of scary where it’s completely unknown territory. I know how to have the hard conversations with my husband, because we’ve done it over and over and over again.

    So jump off the cliff and start the conversation. You’ll probably say something stupid, your girlfriend will probably say something stupid, you’ll probably cry, she’ll probably cry… if not this conversation, in the next or the next or the next. But you’ll get better and better at it. It’ll get less and less scary. You’ll figure out how the two of you as unique people in a unique relationship need to talk with each other.

    You’ve got two things to do in this conversation: 1) let her know all the thoughts and emotions you’ve been sitting on. Be honest. Be super duper completely honest. Get every bit of it on the table. 2) Listen. Stop talking, stop thinking about what your goals are. Really want to hear where she’s at, even if that doesn’t match up with where you’re at. Remember you’ve been thinking about all this stuff for a while and it may be more of a surprise to her, so she may need to have the conversation happen in several parts as she takes the time to think about it. And the conversation may go some surprising, wonderful, terrifying, deep, incredible places.

  • Katie

    Not to be a brat, but I think watching Downton Abbey is an emotionally risky prospect =)

    • Liz

      I’ve heard this about season 3! Eep!

      • Katie

        Downton aside, thank you for this. My current relationship has kind of flowed from dating to exclusive to pre-engaged and living together and I feel I keep going back and forth between “He’s the one!” and being furious about division of chores or whatever. Meanwhile he’s made it so clear that he’s all in. I think having a SotU talk about where we’re at is in order.

  • I’ve been so lucky to be with a man who is an impossibly good communicator. The night after we met at a bar he sent me a facebook message (I hadn’t given him my number) saying he would like to date me. Then after 2 months of dating, we mutually decided to become exclusive. Then 3 months later he started throwing words like “forever” into our conversations. This threw me off. There were lots of tears, insecurities revealed, pasts divulged, and then a calm security. 6 months later we moved in together after LOTS of conversations about when the time would be right, and lots of reassurances that we were going to give 110% to working out whatever came our way. Moving in together is almost as big of a step as getting married because it’s hard to split once your lives are that entwined. Now 18 months after that fateful night in a bar he’s got his grandmother’s engagement ring hidden somewhere 

    Overall, if you’re serious about a relationship with someone talk to them! You shouldn’t be in the dark about your relationship. If being open and honest with someone is hard, take baby steps. The thing that set my current partner apart from previous relationships and really convinced me that this is the man I will spend my life with is the fact that when I’m feeling insecure I can talk to him and he will listen and be honest with me, whether it’s what I want to hear or not. But it definitely took relationship defining talks every step of the way.

  • Rebekah

    Oh, this post hit my soft spots.

    I’ve ALWAYS been the more commitment-minded one. I liked my boyfriend for about 3 months before I convinced him he liked me too, and somewhere in the middle of that he sat me down for a DTR that went “I’m so glad we’re better friends now, but just friends.”
    Undeterred and a little oblivious, I forged ahead, to later corner him after he’d been holding my hand for a week to be like “What is going on now?”
    Of course, he went off to med school and I finished at college. One of my mentors asked “What’s up with y’all?” and I kind of brushed him off like, “Well, I dunno for sure, but here’s what I hope…” and then when I went to visit the boyfriend, told him “Mike wants to know if you want to marry me.”
    And he said yes, we were headed that way. Yay!
    Since I graduated and move out to where he is (2+ years ago), I’ve cornered him many-a-time asking him to help me redefine our timeline and commitment and what exactly he sees happening, because I love him and I’m impatient. DTRs are hard and they still make me nervous. I know my adrenaline levels will go NUTS when he proposes, even if the outcome is what I want.

    Long story short – DTRs, man. Have them often and they aren’t so big a deal, hopefully. My only other DTR was a breakup, and it was the most liberating thing ever.

    • “I’ve cornered him many-a-time asking him to help me redefine our timeline and commitment and what exactly he sees happening, because I love him and I’m impatient.” OMG that sounds just like me.
      Me: So when are you going to propose?
      Him: You just don’t have a lot of patience for surprises do you?

  • Pippa

    This isn’t so much advice, but letting you know how things happened for me. Maybe to show you that the sit-down, serious conversation doesn’t always work for everyone.

    I always felt more committed to our relationship than my boyfriend, and we were both young, and there was just something about our dynamic at the time that didn’t really lend itself to heavy ‘where are we at?’ conversations. So at one point during our relationship I brought up a quote I’d read about how love comes and goes in a marriage (slash long-term relationship) but commitment is when you’re prepared to stick around until the love comes back. And that I believe in that sense of commitment and that’s what I’m giving to you. I didn’t expect any reciprocation from him, I was just letting him know.
    Later on, I also let him know that I wanted to marry him, no pressure. He came around in his own time as it turns out and we got engaged shortly after our 2nd anniversary.
    BUT our relationship has undergone major change and reshaping thanks to infidelity, unemployment, mental illness, addiction, drugs etc. etc. and we now have the dynamic where we actually sit down and discuss the things that are important. That also may have a lot to do with the fact that we’ve been together now for 5.5 years and not a few months.

    Good luck with your chats and I hope the outcome brings you joy.

  • Anon

    This post exactly.

    My partner and I courted each other from a distance for a full year before we officially started “going steady” (or whatever you call it) we were both coming out of messy long term relationships and we didn’t want to jump into a relationship just because we were single. But once we were together, we were Very together, and very quickly we realized we both felt a deeper connection than we had ever imagined before.

    Six months into our relationship we took of to South America together for a month, and one of the first things we did was the four day hike through the jungle (and one rock slide) to Machu Pichu. It was 8 – 12 hours of walking a day, in the rain, up a (steep) mountain, over log bridges with 12 foot drop into rushing water, across the narrow slippery little Inca trail, eating what I’m pretty sure was guinea pig stew, and the mosquitoes, did I mention the millions of mosquitoes?
    Everyone thought we were crazy to attempt something like this so early, they were sure we’d kill each other, I am not a “outdoors” person, this was insane.

    But we made it all the way. And when we were sitting at the temple of the sun looking over the valley we’d crossed together he asked me if I’d marry him….. at some point in the future when we were both ready. It wasn’t an engagement, it was a promise to give it a shot, to work at it, and to be open to the possibility of trying to work things out together so that one day that might be a viable option for us.

    It was so tentative at the time, but because of that conversation we’ve been able to face more crazy life shit together than I think we would have otherwise. Now, two years later, we’re actually getting to that point where “one day” doesn’t seem so far away, and I’m so glad that we’ve been able to talk openly about our intentions together as a couple and as individuals. I couldn’t have it any other way.

    So I would say for sure have the conversation now, have it as soon as you feel it to be true. If the only way to preserve the relationship is to not be honest and talk about how you are feeling and your intentions and hopes for the relationship then it probably isn’t a relationship worth preserving.

    Best of luck to you!

  • Oh ALW, you and I are cut from the same cloth.

    I’ve had the good(?) fortune of feeling this exact same way, and having two REALLY DISASTROUS State of the Union talks with my now-husband (plus one really great SotU), and I am absolutely a stronger, better person for it.

    I held back my feelings from him/the relationship for *years*, because we never talked about our feelings and I didn’t want to make the mistake of loving him more than he loved me (as if you can control that sort of thing, or will your own feelings away. Please). Finally, 3.5 years into the relationship we had our first State of the Union. He initiated it by telling me he’d been thinking about life after he graduated and wanted me to know he hadn’t been picturing me in it. Not necessarily maliciously, or on purpose, just that “when I’ve pondered the future, my brain has never included you. I know you’ve been including me in your own ponders, so I thought you should know.” That chat resulted in a lot of tears. 4.5 years into the relationship (and one year of long distance later) we had a State of the Union at my request, and broke up, as he still wasn’t thinking about me in the long term.

    The third State of the Union was when we got back together and declared our intentions that, this time, it was for real, and forever (as best as we can manage). That conversation was also hard, but at the end it was so freeing. It was exactly what you’re needing right now–permission to let down your walls and just…be. Be in love, be joyful, be crazy about your Person. Free to feel whatever you feel, instead of having to monitor it.

    I know one of the fears is of scaring your Person away, or confirming the fact that you’re ready to be head over heels and they’re just cooling their heels–and finding that out really, really, really sucks. But, and this is a very important but, it gives you all the information. Even though I was completely crushed when we broke up, I was relieved as well, because for the first time I was making an informed choice. Not having all the puzzle pieces (ie: your Person’s thoughts on the matter) is to live in a perpetual state of tension and uncertainty. It is good to be certain. You’re a better person and a better partner when you’re certain.

  • Emma

    My husband and I have been married for almost 11 years (we knew at the 2 week mark, this was IT), and we have our State of the Union talks (that’s what we’ve always called them too!) once a year at an “official” breakfast. We bring our individual written agendas and talk about where we’re going, what we both want as individuals and within the marriage. Sometimes its hard (the urge to talk over him is immense), mostly its fun and inspiring and puts us on the same page so we know we have the same overall vision.