“So, have you guys started talking about the ‘M word’ yet?” your girlfriends ask you.
“Well . . .” you begin. “We were talking about marriage and what’s important to us. He asked me how long he thought it would be good to date for. I told him a year, and he agreed and said something like, ‘That sounds pretty good to me.’ And he winked at me.”
Your friends blink a few times.
OK, maybe that wasn’t directly talking about marriage. When it comes to talking about the future with your boyfriend, some people are gloriously direct and have no qualms about laying out their future desires on date two. More power to them. Then there are the rest of us—those who can tell that a direct conversation might make our beaus a little skittish.
Talking hypothetically about love, marriage, and the baby carriage can be a delicate dance. It’s not wrong to want to keep a little old-fashioned mystery around for a while, nor is it wrong to want to take things slow and get to know each other before talking about a future together. But if you’re wondering if the two of you are on the same page about your futures, you can certainly find out by playing flirtatiously with hypotheticals. Here’s my advice.
01. Introduce him to your future husband.
When you’re talking in the hypothetical, introduce your boyfriend to his archrival, your future husband. When you are having a conversation about what you want out of marriage, whether you bring it up or he does, don’t stress your boyfriend out by making the conversation specifically about him—make it about what you’re looking for in a spouse.
“I think it’s important that my future husband and I have really clear communication . . .” you might say. Or “It’s important that my future husband and I share the same faith . . .” Honestly, this really helps keep the conversation hypothetical, but it also doesn’t cast him in the future husband role just yet. If your boyfriend starts wondering how he stacks up with your future husband, that’s a good thing.
02. Keep it productive.
It may turn out that as you muse about your future life, your boyfriend has a very different vision of life with his future wife. Acknowledge the fact that your hypothetical marriage situations are not matching up, and don’t try to force your boyfriend into your future husband’s suit.
The great thing about having the freedom to talk about what you want in marriage, independent of him, is that it gives him the freedom to disagree. You are dating, trying to see if your independent dreams for the future might be able to slide together into “us” and “we.” When the sliding together happens, it’s magical, and it gets you wondering, maybe you and me? But even when that doesn’t happen, these hypothetical conversations serve to offer clarity in the other direction, which can be just as helpful for figuring it all out.
To enjoy the butterflies of “Did he really say what I think he said?” kind of talk, you need to be able to let go a little. If you are looking for an explicit conversation about getting hitched and what that might look like with this specific person, talking more generally about marriage is not going to satisfy you. If you are not ready to talk brass tacks in your relationship, try to enjoy throwing around your thoughts on marriage and your expectations in a future spouse.
When done right, this kind of conversation is an easy and flirtatious way to get to know your boyfriend and help you decide if he is really the man for you. When you and your guy are speaking the same language (even if most of what you are communicating is unspoken), you can feel it. Relax and dream together, even if it’s just hypothetical for now.
I still remember when my fiancé and I were dating; it must have been four months or so in. We were sitting in a winery after a hike enjoying a glass together, side by side with our shoulders touching, and looking out into the woods that surrounded the winery but seeing far beyond. We never said the word “we” or “us” or “let’s.” I talked about when I realized I wanted to one day marry, if I met the right person, that is, and he talked about what it was like for him growing up and what he hoped he could provide for his future children if he was lucky enough to one day have a family. “Well, our kids are going to have the short stick when it comes to health problems,” he joked at one point. I laughed and smiled too.
You see, even though we never explicitly talked about “us,” our individual thoughts collided in that conversation and became an unspoken “maybe you and me?” And without that conversation, our real future—the one we’re living today—might not have happened.