You meet. You click. You start seeing each other regularly. You fall in love (or at least in deep like). All this, but somehow your relationship seems to be at a standstill. Here’s what I mean: you’ve been dating for a few months. Everything seems to be going well—you get along, you enjoy each other’s company—but your new love interest is hesitant to go exclusive. How long do you wait before you explore other options? Or maybe you’re in a long-term relationship, and your partner is allergic to any conversation about rings. Do you wait a few more years in hopes of things changing or do you say enough is enough and walk out?
There are a number of factors when it comes to waiting and dating. For starters, time is subjective. What is long for one couple might be short for another. It’s important to consider that every couple’s story is different. Maybe you’re long-distance and taking things to the next level doesn’t make sense right now. Maybe you’re at different phases in your life. These are all valid reasons for not moving forward in a relationship.
However, the most important thing is the answer to a simple question: what do you want in a relationship? Also, what do you need? What makes you feel good? What makes you feel safe? If enjoying someone’s company and going with the flow is okay with you, then the old “let’s see where this goes” might work for you. You might be okay two years blowing by without changing a thing. But if you’re someone who’s looking for a serious commitment (in whatever capacity you define that), you need to make sure your relationship satisfies those needs.
Imagine you’re living with your partner of five years, and while everything is fairly fine on the surface, when it comes to taking the relationship to the next level, your lover hedges. Finally, when you give an ultimatum: either get married or we break up, they choose the latter. It turns out, despite five years together, they never wanted to get married in the first place.
In either of these scenarios, was time wasted? Not necessarily. Every relationship serves a purpose, and if we do the inner work, we can glean some invaluable lessons from each experience no matter how long or short a relationship might last. What’s imperative is to know exactly what you want in a relationship and to communicate those needs to your partner.
Your partner may use language you want to hear to get you to stick it out a little longer, but you need to stand by your integrity. Listen to your instincts and remember that actions speak louder than words. If your partner is using non-committal language or avoiding the necessary steps towards what you want, you might need to move on. Don’t stick around for potential. Don’t expect someone to change. Don’t force someone to change their mind. Be honest with yourself. We all experience those nudges. We all hear that inner voice that says, “Hey, something doesn’t feel right here.” Breaking up is never easy, but staying in a relationship that will leave you unhappy is worse.
Know what you are willing to accept and what you’re not, and stick to it. Remember, your time is precious. While every relationship has its own timeline, you can’t will something into being simply because you’re the one who can wait it out the longest. Patience isn’t a virtue when it’s not serving you.
Who knows? You could meet someone and find yourself married within a year. Timing really is everything.