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Relationships are all about timing. It's not uncommon to find yourself in a position where you want to take it to the next level, but your partner isn’t ready. They may have strong feelings for you, care about you deeply, and potentially see a future with you, but they're just not ready for a serious commitment. What does it mean when someone isn't ready for a relationship? Ultimately, the answer depends on your situation, but it is normal for some people to need more time than others.
Every romantic connection goes through its own stages. Love doesn't look the same for any two couples (which is great news if you don't want a repeat of your ex). Because every individual has their own process when determining their desires for commitment, the future of any relationship can have different opportunities. It all depends on where you're coming from in the past and what you want for your future. Should you wait? We consulted experts Jeremy Nicholson, MSW, Ph.D., Linda Bloom, LCSW, and Douglas LaBier, Ph.D. to learn about a few key points to consider before making your decision.
Meet the Expert
- Jeremy Nicholson, MSW, Ph.D. is a doctor of social/personality psychology with a focus on relationship dynamics.
- Linda Bloom, LCSW, is a licensed clinical social worker with a focus and expertise in relationships.
- Douglas LaBier, Ph.D. is a psychoanalytic psychotherapist with a focus on treating men and women with midlife developmental issues, including an interest in emotional development.
Read on for expert advice—plus a few pros and cons—when waiting for someone to be ready for a relationship.
The Pros of Waiting Until Your Partner Is Ready
While it may be tough, there definitely could be some pros to waiting until your partner is ready for a relationship.
Waiting Lets Your Partner See How Much You Care
Your partner might need more time to decide if they're ready for a serious commitment. Maybe they've just come out of a long-term relationship, or they simply don't move as quickly as you do. By giving your partner time to make their decision, you're not only respecting their wishes, but you're also showing them they're worth waiting for.
When you stand by your partner through the process, it lets them see just how much you care and honor their needs. Nicholson suggests asking a few questions to determine whether one should settle down. "Is this a good time for you to have a serious relationship? Is your date or lover ready for a monogamous, long-term commitment? Such considerations can have an impact on both the direction and quality of your future relationship together," says Nicholson.
Waiting is hard, but for the right person, the outcome can be worth it. Allow your partner the necessary time to get to know you—and demonstrate that you're as serious as you say you are.
Make sure your partner knows they're in a safe space to share their thoughts and feelings with you. Communication is key.
Waiting Allows You to Connect in a Deeper Way
A longer build-up may also lead to a stronger bond down the road: Both parties have fully weighed their options, and when they do commit, they're free of reservations or doubts. When you give your partner more time to enter a serious commitment, you're laying the groundwork for a more meaningful connection with one another.
Bloom adds that healthy commitment requires a process of building and cultivating. "The ease that comes from being securely bonded is a great asset not only to our relationship but also to our life in general. The higher trust level gives us peace of mind." Waiting can help solidify your partner's decision, but even more importantly, it creates a healthier dynamic for long-lasting relationships. In fact, rather than rushing into a major commitment, taking it slow builds a connection that you'll both strive to maintain.
The Cons of Waiting Until Your Partner Is Ready
Waiting for your partner to be ready can definitely come with a few cons. Deciding whether the pros outweigh the cons will be helpful in choosing to stay and wait or not.
Waiting Can Be Emotionally Draining
On the flip side, if you're worried your partner is afraid of commitment, it's important to keep your emotional health and well-being in mind. You may feel stressed, anxious, or unsatisfied that your partner isn't invested as much as you are. Waiting for someone who doesn't want a relationship at all could set you up for heartbreak in the future.
When you're feeling stuck in the middle, take time to consider whether this person is actually worth waiting for—or if you're just standing by to see the outcome. If you're not entirely confident that they're the best partner for you, the stress of not knowing may not outweigh the rewards.
Waiting Can Make You Unavailable to Others
It's also important to consider that waiting for your partner could prevent you from pursuing other people. If they're emotionally unavailable, they may not be able to provide you with the commitment and support you're seeking. Keep a few considerations in mind: Does this person really demonstrate what it takes to build a lasting partnership with you? Or are you infatuated with the idea of being together? If it's the latter, you might be better off parting ways to discover new relationships that can meet your desires.
"When a person feels less ready for commitment while in a relationship, they are less likely to act in ways that support its endurance and a positive, sustaining connection," adds LaBier. If this person isn't (and has no plans to be) "the one," you could be preventing yourself from finding what you really want. Make sure you're not closing the door to meaningful opportunities with someone else.
When a person feels less ready for commitment while in a relationship, they are less likely to act in ways that support its endurance and a positive, sustaining connection.
Waiting May Last Indefinitely
If your partner isn't ready for a serious commitment, it's important to discuss your desires with them to ensure the waiting period doesn't last indefinitely. Nicholson suggests that when you're considering whether to be a committed couple, it may be more helpful to decide if you're actually acting like one.
"If you are currently in a relationship of some kind, it can also be important to consider how you are actually behaving toward each other. Generally, individuals who are ready for a commitment tend to behave in ways that are more open toward their partner and that enhances the relationship," Nicholson says. While you may think your partner only needs a short time to make their decision, you could end up waiting months—or longer—if you haven't discussed where you stand.
Should You Wait for Your Partner?
Once you've considered these points when feeling unsure about your partner, it's time to look internally to make your choice. Are you able to wait for this person to decide what they want, even if that means being in a constant state of limbo? If you can't imagine a future without them, then it might be right to give them the time they need. Just take care to think of yourself and ensure the relationship you're building can lead to a healthy partnership (rather than a dynamic where your needs are dismissed).
Be sure to communicate your own expected timelines for the relationship: Your happiness matters, too.