The Can't-Close-the-Deal Rut
You're ready to take your relationship to the next level―to move in together, get married, or have a baby―but your partner won't make that commitment. You love each other, but should you just end it? Psychologist Howard Markman, who runs relationship workshops (loveyourrelationship.com), offers four steps to help you decide.
1. Ask yourself if your relationship is healthy. Do you handle conflict well? Do you have fun together? Is your relationship sensually or sexually satisfying? Are you both faithful and dedicated to it? "If all those components are in place, you're ready to move forward," Markman says. If not, try counseling or a relationship class.
2. Make your views clear. If your partnership checks out OK, talk about what you'd like to see happen next. Then ask your partner to do the same. Hear each other out, then try to talk through any underlying issues. For instance, maybe he's not ready to have a baby because he wants to gain more financial stability first.
3. If you don't reach a resolution in step 2, agree to disagree. But make a plan to revisit the conversation later. The person who is holding the relationship back might end up with more power, which can be a destabilizing force, Markman says. That's why it's best to try to talk through what the underlying issues are in step 2.
4. Decide when time is up. If your relationship is healthy, it's fair to give it another three to six months. At that point, express again how you're feeling and what you want. The relationship could automatically move forward (break open the Champagne!); you might develop a plan of action for how to take the next step (which at least calls for a toast); or one person may make it clear that his feet are firmly planted (cork it). In that case, only you can decide whether it's best to stick with the person or part ways. If you do the latter, says Markman, "end it as cleanly, openly, and honestly as you can and move forward with your life."