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Now Reading: How Do I Talk To My Partner About The Future?

How Do I Talk To My Partner About The Future?

Whenever I’m writing a new article, I’ll take a few minutes to do a quick Google search and see what’s out there. If you ask Google the question, “How Do I Talk To My Partner About The Future?” some of the titles on the first page include:

“How to talk about the future with your partner in a way that isn’t scary.” 

“How to Talk to Your Partner About the Future Without Freaking Them Out” 

“10 Ways To Talk About The Future Without Making Him Run”

“Talking About the Future with Your Significant Other (Without Ruining Everything)”

Geez. I don’t know about you but if I googled “How to Jetski” and the top results included:

“How to Jetski Without Breaking Your Back.”

“How to Jetski Without Grievous Bodily Harm.” 

“How to Jetski Without Losing Everything You Love and Hold Dear.”

I would feel reasonably apprehensive about getting on a Jetski.

The takeaway for the innocent Googler is that if you try to talk to your partner about the future, there’s a significant chance you’ll (a) freak them out, (b) make them run, or (c) ruin everything.

I don’t want to minimise the reality that this can be a nerve-racking conversation. But I aggressively disagree with the implication that couples should be scared or freaked out by talking about the future.

Surely, we should be a lot more freaked out by the alternative –meandering our way through a relationship where we don’t have clarity about the other person’s intentions or where the relationship is going.

WHY IS THIS CONVERSATION IMPORTANT?

Relationships don’t work when you’re not on the same page. If one of you hopes to get engaged in the next few months, but the other person doesn’t think marriage is even on the cards for at least another year, there’s going to be unspoken tension.

While that might not be a fun reality to confront, I can promise you it’s an even less fun reality to ignore. Even if the two of you are on the same page, it’s important that you both know you’re on the same page.

In the months before we got engaged, the future was the number one thing that Renée and I would fight about. Renée would ask about the months ahead and I would get frustrated that we were talking about this again. In my head, it was pretty clear: I’d finish university, get a full-time job, save money, buy a ring, propose, get married and we’d live happily ever after.

The problem was that in Renée’s mind, the future looked like this: Sam finishes university… ???

When it comes to the future, you can’t just assume you’re on the same page. You need to have a conversation where you spell things out as much as possible.

Having this conversation is also an essential part of being intentional about your relationship.

The thing that bothers me the most about all of those article titles I mentioned in the introduction is that they’re highlighting a problem with relationships today: it’s not ok to have direction and purpose in your relationship. It’s not ok to be thinking about or planning for the future. It’s not ok to want to intentionally move forward in a certain direction.

One article on eHarmony gives the advice that the last thing you want to do is force a heavy conversation with your partner. “Instead, let it happen naturally,” suggests the article. “The more seamlessly you can allow information to simply emerge as part of your normal conversation, the less pressure your partner will feel.”

Let me tell you, the ‘heavy’ conversations that Renée and I had while we were dating – the conversations about physical boundaries, money, and past relationships – have been some of the best things we’ve ever done for our relationship.

These conversations aren’t easy, but an intentional relationship isn’t meant to be easy! It demands hard work, consistency, and a willingness to step outside of your comfort zone.

It’s worth every ounce of effort. Being intentional means that month after month, your relationship just keeps getting better. If that’s the type of relationship that you want, then you need to talk to your partner about the future.

WHEN SHOULD WE HAVE THIS CONVERSATION?

Before I give some practical guidelines on this, I want to start by saying don’t overthink it. There’s nothing wrong with asking future-oriented questions in everyday life. If you’re on a second date with someone who is in their last year of university, it’s completely fine to ask what they are planning on doing after university.

Don’t be the psycho who speaks only in present and past-tense because a blog post told you that you shouldn’t talk to your partner about the future until the 6-month mark.

However, there does come a point in your relationship where you should have a more deliberate conversation about how you each feel about the relationship, where you think it’s going, and what a (general) timeline for that progression is.

I’d recommend having this conversation at the point where you’d say the relationship is getting serious. This will be different for everyone but is probably somewhere around the 6-month mark.

Renée and I first had this conversation after 4 months of dating, but we had known each other for 10 years by that point and I’d just announced that I wanted to move to London for a university exchange.

Which brings me to my final point about timing: you should have this conversation (or at least part of it) whenever something prompts a big question about the future.

If you’ve been dating someone for 3 months and you accept your dream job in another city, you need to have a conversation about the future. If you’re 100% on the same page about the future but then a massive life event scrambles all your plans, you need to have another conversation.

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HOW DO WE HAVE THIS CONVERSATION?
1. Know what you want

Before you ask your partner any questions about the future, it’s important to answer them yourself. How do you feel about your relationship? Is this someone that you want a future with? If you’ve made it this far, I’m guessing the answer is “yes,” but just double checking.

What does that future look like? Do you want your partner to meet your family? When?

Are you hoping to get engaged in the next few months, or in 12-18 months’ time? Do you want a short engagement or a long engagement?

What about after you’re married? Where do you want to live? What kind of lifestyle to you want? How does your career fit in to all of this?

You don’t need to know the answers to all of these questions. Renée and I have been married for several months and I still don’t know if or when I want her to meet my other family (kidding).

But seriously, don’t feel like you need to have a 5-year relationship plan. What I would say is this: if it’s a question you’d like your partner to answer, make sure you can give an answer as well.

With this in mind, before starting any conversation with your partner, you need to decide what you want to know.

Do you just want to confirm that you both feel like the relationship is moving in the right direction? Do you want a general timeline for when you might get engaged? Do you want to understand how your partner sees his or her career playing into your future together? Do you want to know whether he/she wants kids one day, and how many?

2. Ask the right questions

General questions to start a conversation about the future can be things like “What does the next year look like in your mind?” or “Where do you see our relationship in the next 6 months?”

However, I’m a big fan of the principle that if you want a particular answer, you need to ask a particular question. For example, if you want to know when engagement might be on the cards, you need to ask, “How long do you want to date for before we get engaged?” or “What’s your timeline for engagement?”

Another aspect of this conversation where there is no shortage of terrible internet advice is how to word your questions in the least direct way possible. For example, Bustle recommends that “If you want to sneakily gauge your partner’s future life goals, ask them where they see themselves in ten years.”

To be clear, the guide these posts are essentially providing is “how to trick or manipulate your partner into revealing a certain piece of information without them realising.”

Hopefully we agree that this is a fundamentally unhealthy way to approach a relationship. But it also just begs the question, why? Why can’t you have an honest and open conversation? Why can’t you just be direct about the thing you’d like your partner’s perspective on.

Sure, questions like “What’s your timeline for getting engaged?” aren’t things to just blurt out halfway through watching a movie, but if it’s in the context of a deliberate conversation about the future, it should be 100% okay to ask direct questions.

If being this direct feels like a step too far outside your comfort zone, one way to mitigate this is to frame the questions as hypotheticals. For example, “How long do you think you would date the right person before you got engaged?”

3. Be specific

While you don’t need to establish a week-by-week timeline for the future, it is important to get specific. To help explain this, I want to share with you what Renée and I talked through the first time we had this conversation. We were 4 months into our relationship, we were dating long-distance, and I was planning on moving to London in a few months for a university exchange.

First important question: Was I planning on moving to London in a few months’ time? Yes.

Next question: What did that mean for our relationship? I hoped that Renée would consider moving over with me*, but if not, then we would continue dating long-distance (albeit at a much LONGER distance).

Next question: Would Renée consider moving to London? She said she’d think about it and we hit pause on the conversation there.

Renée thought about it for a few weeks and she decided she did want to move to London. Yay!

Next question: What did our time in London mean for our relationship? London was the next step forward in getting more serious in our relationship. It was the end of long-distance and the opportunity to get to know each other better in a new (and at times, challenging) situation. Assuming everything went well in London, engagement wouldn’t be too far away afterwards.

How long are we in London for? 5 months, while I finish my law degree.

What happens after London? We move back, get full-time jobs, and get engaged after we find our feet financially.

What did it mean to find our feet financially? We save up enough money to make necessary purchases (cheap second-hand cars) and I buy a ring.

That was where the conversation stopped for us. We didn’t feel the need to talk about the duration of our engagement or anything marriage related at this point, so we didn’t. It was enough to know that London was the next step forward and, all going well, that would lead on to us getting engaged.

While Renée and I have made plenty of mistakes when it comes to communicating about the future, this is one conversation where we got a lot right.

We talked about significant events in the future and our understanding of what they meant for our relationship, we got specific about an ideal timeline, and if anything was unclear (e.g. does “finding our feet financially” mean saving enough money to buy a ring, or acquiring a 7-figure property portfolio?), we clarified.

4. Keep the conversation going 

As you’ve probably realised by this point, this isn’t a one-off conversation. It’s more of a step-by-step process as your relationship continues to progress. For Renée and I, the process really started when I got invited to study abroad.

First, we talked about that and what it could mean for our relationship. Then, a few weeks later, we talked about Renée coming with me and what that would mean. While we were in London, we talked more about the timeline for getting engaged, how long we would be engaged for, and marriage.

After we got engaged, we talked more about marriage and what we wanted life to look like after we tied the knot. Post-marriage, we are still having these conversations about our plans for the next few years.

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WHAT IF WE WANT DIFFERENT THINGS FOR THE FUTURE?

This one question is what stops so many people from bring up the topic of the future with their partner.

In terms of how you navigate wanting different things, I think this is comes down to the degree of difference. You might not be on the same page, but are you in the same book?

If you want to get engaged in the next 6 months, but your partner’s timeline is closer to a year, that’s probably something you can talk through and potentially compromise on. If one of you wants to spend a few months travelling through Europe while the other person wants to focus on their career and building financial stability, again, you can probably figure it out.

However, there may be differences that you can’t work through. You want kids and your partner definitely doesn’t; one of you is committed to doing charity work in third-world countries, while the other wants to make their first million by the time they’re 30.

If big differences do come out, don’t minimise them or continue with the relationship on the assumption that “maybe he/she will change.” He/she probably won’t. What you want for the future may be too different for the relationship to continue.

If so, that sucks. But at least you’ve got clarity and you can address the situation. This is one area where ignorance definitely isn’t bliss. Better to end things now than to blindly carry on for a year (or more) until that difference became unavoidable and it’s more difficult to part ways.

CONCLUSION

Hopefully, after reading this guide you feel better equipped to talk about the future without “freaking your partner out” or “making him run.”

Remember, it’s not necessarily about having a 5-year plan or a month-by-month timeline. It’s about establishing that you’re on the same page and you’re both committed to your relationship moving forward in that direction.

It starts with a (potentially nerve-racking) conversation, but this is a topic you’ll return to again and again as your relationship progresses (and I promise you’ll get a lot more comfortable doing so!).

Don’t pay attention to the online headlines; the truth is that talking about the future is such a positive step forward in your relationship. After talking it through, you’ll be better equipped to start building that future together.

Do you have any concerns or fears around talking to your partner about the future? What are they? I’d love for you to let me know in the comment section below.



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