Does your relationship have a future? Here’s how to find out
You’ve been dating for a while, but the question remains — is this relationship going anywhere?
Perhaps you’re still waiting for your love interest to share a photo of you on Instagram, invite you over to their place, or introduce you to their parents.
You may also have dating fatigue — and are ready to lock this shit down.
The truth is, it’s not unusual for one person in a relationship to be catching feelings sooner than the other, and wanting to move things along at a faster rate.
But many of us are scared to broach the question of “Where are we at?”, worried we’ll look like the stage-five clingers who often make a name for themselves on The Bachelor and The Bachelorette.
We spoke to relationship experts and a former “commitment-phobe” for their advice on figuring out where your relationship is at.
Know that relationships can progress at different speeds
Relationships Australia psychologist Elisabeth Shaw says it’s common for people to be at different stages in a relationship.
“How old you are, what your past experiences have been, and what your goals are for your life are going to hugely impact how you approach and read a relationship,” she says.
Psychologist Zac Seidler from the University of Sydney agrees, saying “there are so many individual differences based on the way people have come to understand what relationships look like thanks to their parents” and other influences.
Read social cues from your partner
Despite the fact that everyone views relationship milestones differently, Ms Shaw says there are common “social cues” that may signal if the relationship is moving forward.
“Concrete things” like meeting the family, seeing their home and talking about the future are examples, Ms Shaw says, but not to live by.
That’s because, as Mr Seidler explains, some people don’t need certain things to feel secure: “Someone might want to meet the family, the other might not count that as important.”
Ms Shaw says people also often look for “casual references”.
“It may be that you are visiting someone’s kids and one of you will say, ‘I really want to have kids someday’,” she says.
“But when you don’t have enough of those [casual references], you need to have the formal talk.”
Own up to your own stuff
Before putting the hard word on bae about the future, make sure it’s for the right reasons, Ms Shaw says.
“Know yourself well — is it possible you are feeling a sense of urgency because of your own history?”
Failed past relationships might be making you nervous, she says. Or for women who might be worried about getting older, they might want to get things moving to have kids.
“It doesn’t mean you don’t have legitimate reasons to raise it, but be aware of your own stuff first.”
Ultimately, be brave and have the conversation
There’s no point in beating around the bush — if it’s not obvious to you where the relationships is going, you’re going to have to bring it up.
“The bottom line is, if there haven’t been enough indications where you’ve fallen into conversation about it, you probably need to ask,” Ms Shaw says.
She acknowledges it can be hard to bring up in a formal way, but encourages people to “be brave”.
“There is a way to just say, ‘I don’t need to rush at this. I just want to know if I’m reading this the same way you are’,” she says.
“There is a risk you won’t hear what you want to hear, but going along with a relationship feeling stressed is worse.”
Ms Shaw says a “sensible answer” might be: “I’m really happy with how things are going but I can’t say I’m in love yet” or “I’m really enjoying our company and want to see where this is going”.
“But if it’s more along the lines of, ‘I really like you but want to leave my options open’, then … it’s not offering the security you want.”
Mr Seidler says being “honest and blunt” is the best way to get on the same page.
“People are really good about skirting around the issue and that just leads to more harm,” he says.
“Get to the core of it. [For example] ‘I really like you and want to know where we stand so I can make sure I am giving you what you need’.”
Remember commitment ‘issues’ can be for valid reasons
Mr Seidler says it’s good to remember there may be valid reasons your romantic interest is holding back.
A fear of rejection can stem from being hurt in previous relationships or family life, he says.
“Therapists wouldn’t diagnose you with ‘commitment phobia’ … but when someone doesn’t know how the future will pan out, that is where commitment phobia comes in.”
Former “commitment-phobe” Jessica Goh says for years she couldn’t work out why her relationships would only last a matter of months at best.
The 32-year-old from Glebe in NSW says a fear of abandonment stemming from her childhood drove her fear of commitment, causing her to attract men who were also non-committal.
“For me there was a fear of being in a relationship, fear it was too good to be true and a fear I’m not good enough. ‘Why would they want to be with me?'”
She says after her most recent break-up she realised she was dating men just like her dad.
Since, Jessica has been working on her past experiences and loving herself.
She says learning she is worthy helped her finally commit.
“I had to shift the way I see myself, how I feel about myself and my distorted experiences with my dad,” she says.
“I’m happy with someone now. I’ve met his family. I’d never met a guy’s family before.”