Knowing when to take that next step in a relationship can be less than clear cut and obvious. Whether it’s calling him your boyfriend, moving in together, getting engaged, or sharing a bank account. Whatever the next step is, there are things you can do to make sure you’re ready.


Dr. Marie Land LLC | Washington DC Relationship Therapist | Psychologist Dupont Circle

Your knowledge of your own readiness can be influenced by your assumption about what your partner’s readiness to take the next step is. For example, if you’re preoccupied with whether or not your boyfriend thinks it’s too soon to move in or not, this makes it less likely that you are able to acknowledge to yourself what your needs and wants are. People have a tendency to dismiss their own desires when they feel like there would be vulnerability in expressing then. If there’s real concern about being the first one to bring up a next step, think about why that is. Is it because that is what you believe your partner is the only one who has the right to steer the relationship in a certain direction? Or because you label yourself as either too needy or too uncomfortable with commitment? Allowing things to “unfold naturally” does not need to mean that you need to wait for the other person to make the decisions about the relationship. Communicating one’s perspective is a mature and healthy way of relating.


So, what if after you express your needs you’re on a completely different timeline than your partner? He assumes that moving in after a year is normal and you’re a little more cautious and want to wait two years. Does it mean that your relationship is destined to fail because of timing? Not necessarily. If both partners can openly discuss the meaning behind the their partner’s time line (after all, everyone comes up with their own one based on past relationships, values, and the models of relationships they’ve had in their lives), and not get freaked out by what they think that means, having differences doesn’t have to determine if the relationship sinks or swims. The first step though is getting real with yourself and looking at why you would not be open to discussing the next step when you feel it’s time to take it. Is it because you fear that it will push the other person away? If so, isn’t that something you would want to know? That your relationship is so fragile that a little communication will determine its failure?


Usually when making decisions, there’s not complete certainty that it is the “right” decision. It’s normal to have some hesitation with any big decision. Ideally, you can be open with your partner about concerns and hesitations. Chances are they have had some of them as well. That doesn’t necessarily mean anything of concern. Hold in your mind that there are not perfect decisions, and there are risks involved with every decision. Also, know that if make a decision and it doesn’t work out, you can make another decision. You have to make choices based on the information you have. You can’t predict the future but you can honor where you’re at by listening to your wants and needs and expressing them.