How do you know if you're ready to get engaged? Even if you’ve been with someone for a long time, even if you feel sure you’re going to spend your life with them, it can be tricky to know exactly when you’re ready to take the next step. And in a way, that’s a good thing—it’s a big decision and one that you definitely don’t want to take lightly. On the other hand, at some point, there’s going to be a leap of faith involved. You can never be 100 percent sure that you're ready, you can never be absolutely certain the choice is the right one. You just have to make sure that you’re ready to try.
When it comes to signs that you’re ready to get engaged, it might look a little different for everyone. Some people are forward planners and will want someone whose 10-year plan matches theirs. Others won’t be sure until they find someone who laughs at the same stupid jokes that they love. But at their core, there are some things that every relationship needs to make it in the long term—some universal relationship truths that resonate, no matter what your goals, personalities, or dynamics look like.
Wondering if you’re ready to take the next step? Here’s what to look out for.
1. It Doesn’t Feel Scary
OK, so it’s totally normal to feel a little nervous about any big life decision—and getting engaged and getting married certainly fall into that category. So a few nerves and butterflies make total sense and you shouldn’t beat yourself up for them or question whether you’re ready. We all get nervous, after all.
But when you’re really ready to get engaged, the idea shouldn't scare you. It might feel big and even surreal, but it won't feel scary. When you can start to imagine your future with someone and it feels natural—and even exciting—that’s a really good sign that you’re in the right place to take the leap.
2. You're At Your Most Comfortable With Them
If you’re going to be with someone for the long haul, you better be comfortable. Comfort in a relationship is a complicated thing—for a lot of people, they think of being able to relax and have a night in together, just chilling out in your pajamas while you watch Netflix and eat pizza. And that’s definitely important—but being comfortable also means a whole lot more.
If you’re going to be engaged, you need to be comfortable in every way. Comfortable being yourself—being silly when you feel silly and sad when you feel sad. Comfortable talking about what’s bothering you and voicing your own opinions, rather than just deferring to what they want. Comfortable being sick and a little gross in front of them—and comfortable taking care of them when they're sick and a little gross. Being comfortable together covers such a huge range of things, but they’re all important. So you want to make sure that you’re at your most comfortable, honest self in your relationship—and that your partner is too—before you get engaged.
3. Your Communication Is In Great Shape
There is no skill that will prepare you for being engaged—and eventually, for being married—better than strong communication. It’s not just about being able to talk to each other and feeling like what you’re saying is being heard and really taken into consideration, although that’s obviously important. The reason communication is so crucial is that it makes everything better.
If you can communicate, it will help you work through whatever comes your way—work stress, a flagging sex life, fights with your in-laws, not getting enough time together, spending too much time together. Anything and everything that can happen becomes so much easier if you have strong communication. Life comes at you fast, so being able to communicate should be a prerequisite for any engagement.
4. You’ve Hit Rough Spots—And Gotten Through Them
Speaking of life coming at you, rough spots can make or break a relationship. Whenever I hear a couple brag about how they’ve never had a fight, I can’t help but wince, because what you might think is a sign of true compatibility is usually anything but. "Never fighting" isn’t real. Nobody agrees all of the time, so "never fighting" either means that one person (or both of you) is just burying down how they feel and deferring to the other or it means that you haven’t been together long enough to really see how to deal with stress.
Fighting in a relationship actually isn’t a bad thing—if you do it in a healthy way. As long as your disagreements are respectful, you can learn a lot about each other when you hit rough spots or have longer patches where you’re struggling. Life is always going to happen, things are always going to go wrong. Knowing that you can come through the other side even stronger is crucial if you’re going to be spending the rest of your life with someone.
5. People Are Asking
Sometimes, other people can see an engagement coming before you do. If people are starting to ask, if everyone thinks it’s a done deal, then that can be a sign that you act and seem like a couple who should be engaged. Now, that being said, you don't want to trust everyone. If it’s your Aunt Karen who’s been divorced four times who is saying you should run to the altar, then you might want to take it with a grain of salt. But if people who you care about and trust think you’re in that place, that can really mean something.
Every relationship is different, but there are some things we all need to have a safe, happy relationship. Make sure that you feel comfortable being yourself, ready to weather the ups and downs, and excited about your future. When in doubt, trust your gut—because, really, you probably already know if you’re ready.