How to talk to your partner about taking the next step in your relationship

Are you both heading in the same direction? (Picture: Getty/fStop)

If you’re happy in your relationship then it’s completely normal to think about the future.

When you’re in relatively early stages of a relationship, you might start thinking about next steps. Moving in together, for example. Or if you already live together, maybe marriage or kids are on your mind.

But it’s always scary to bring these things up, particularly if you’re not sure if your partner is on the same page as you – or if you suspect that they likely are not.

If these markers of progression are important to you, it’s vital to have those conversations with your lover. You don’t want to stagnate, or start to resent them because things aren’t going how you want.

Netflix show ‘The Ultimatum: Marry or Move On’ has created a lot of buzz as couples with misaligned commitment goals have to decide whether to get married or split up for good. But can an ultimatum actually work in a real-life relationship, or are there better ways to communicate?

Annabelle Knight, sex and relationship expert at Lovehoney, has shared some advice on how to know when the time is right to progress in your relationship, and tips on how to navigate communicating your relationship desires with your partner. 

‘Before you even sit down with your partner to have these types of conversations, it’s a good idea to settle on some ground rules,’ says Annabelle.

‘That way, no matter which direction the conversation goes, you can be sure that you’re communicating in the best way possible.’

Dismiss the idea of right and wrong

When you’re talking to your partner about progressing your relationship to the next level, Annabelle says it’s important to remove any notion of ‘winning.’

‘This is a conversation, not with one partner pitted against the other, but rather two people side by side against the world,’ she says.

Keep your focus

‘If the conversation begins to spiral or evolve to be about something completely different then agree to take a step back and get back on track,’ says Annabelle.

This is common with partners who have a lot of history. You don’t want to end up accidentally having the same fight you always have.

Learn to listen

Annabelle says that more often than not we are guilty of spending time during deep conversations waiting for our partner to finish their sentence, so we can start ours.

‘This prevents us from really hearing what your other half is trying to say,’ she says.

‘So, for any important conversations make sure you tune into their words so you can really hear their meaning.’

Process properly

Annabelle adds: ‘After you’ve both said your piece take some time out to process what’s been said, how it’s made you feel and what you want to do about it.’

Seek clarity

She also says you shouldn’t be afraid to ask your partner to repeat any points you don’t understand.

‘Moving forward in any relationship relies heavily on understanding your partner, this goes for what they mean when they speak, as well as who they are as a person,’ says Annabelle.

How do you know when it is the right time to progress in a relationship?

Whether it’s taking your relationship to the next level and making it official, moving in together, or getting married, Annabelle agrees that knowing when the time is right can be tricky.

‘The answer to these questions largely lies in not only how you feel about one another, but also your visions for the future,’ she says. ‘Not just for what you want to achieve as an individual, but for what you want for your relationship as well. 

‘Having an open and honest dialogue with your partner about these things is absolutely your best bet, however, this isn’t always how things pan out in real life.

‘We might be fearful of rejection so hold our feelings in, we may be worried about rushing our partner so slow things down, or it could be that we keep meaning to have that chat… but life just keeps getting in the way.’ 

Although knowing when it’s the right time to progress in your relationship can be difficult, Annabelle says that if you take into consideration her key points of advice, you may have an answer for yourself.

‘I’ve created the acronym T.I.S.S – Trust, Intimacy, Security, Support – to help couples figure out if the time is right.’

‘Trust is a key component of any happy and healthy relationship. It’s also something that isn’t earnt overnight. If you and your partner can, hand on heart, say that you trust one another then it may be time to progress your relationship.’

‘Make sure you and your partner are on the same page when it comes to how often you’re intimate and what levels of affection you need from your partner.’

‘Nope, I’m not talking about burglar alarms, I’m talking about how safe and secure you feel with your partner.’

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‘Supporting your partner and knowing that they in turn support you is one of the cornerstones of a long-lasting and meaningful partnership.’

If you can wholeheartedly tick these things off, and know that your partner can do the same, Annabelle says this could be the signal that it’s time to speak to them about taking your relationship to the next level.

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