How to Talk to Your Partner About the Future Without Freaking Them Out

It can be terrifying to put yourself out there and ask your significant other about the future. You love him or her and want this to work out. What if they bolt when you bring it up? Regardless of where you are in your relationship, taking the next step is always a scary transition.

Think back to the beginning of your relationship. You were both on your best behavior, likely with skeletons, or issues, in the closet. Over time, the closet door opened and the skeletons were paraded out, one by one. As you may remember, this transition is nerve-wracking. Yet, as you watched your partner react to each skeleton, you had nothing to worry about — he or she still cared about you.

Talking with your partner about the future is similar. You have to put your desires and goals out there, gauge his or her reaction, and hope for the best. This is easier said than done. However, the discussion will come up eventually, and when it does, you can use these tips for speaking about the future with grace, patience, and good timing.

1. Be patient

A couple talking

Being in a relationship with someone is going to require patience. |

You may be 100% certain that you don’t want kids and never want to be married, but there is no need to blurt this out on your first date. Feel out the relationship and allow it to grow without any expectations of the future. But don’t wait too long to discuss the future. It can be extremely painful for both parties if you fall in love only to discover that you aren’t compatible on what matters most to you. Trust your instincts and wait until the relationship has developed — but not too far — before bringing up the future. There is no magic number of dates or months, but be aware of where you and your partner are at in the relationship.

2. Let it be natural

couple lying on carpet with laptop

Let the conversation come naturally. |

The worst thing you can do is bring up the topic in an aggressive, nervous way. Sure, you may be nervous, but your nerves will transfer onto the other person. Be calm. Bring up the future in completely general terms and gauge your partner’s reaction to see if the timing is right. He or she may have had an overwhelming day, and this is the last thing they want to talk about. Be sensitive to where your significant other is before you ramble ahead.

3. Keep it light

a couple communicating

Don’t say too much too soon. |

There is no need to sit across from each other holding hands and staring into each other’s eyes. Keep the conversation casual. You’re expressing your hopes and dreams for the future and listening to your partner’s expectations. There is no need to set a timeline or create a concrete plan. This is just a conversation to feel each other out and see where you both want to go and if your goals align. Create a calm, low-pressure environment.

4. Listen

Gay Couple looking at a smartphone

Both of you should feel heard. | Arap

Truly listen to what your partner wants for his or her future. Leave any snap judgments, fears, or anger out of it. Simply listen to your significant other express their goals, dreams, and plans. Maybe your partner wants to move next door to her parents in Ohio and have five children. Maybe he or she never wants to get married and hates children. Whatever the story, force yourself to give your partner the floor. Listen and ask questions to understand where he or she is coming from.

5. Be honest

A man thinking

You need to be honest about how you feel. |

Once you’ve heard your partner out, it’s your turn. Express yourself with complete honesty, even if your future plans completely conflict with your significant other’s. This is easier said than done. You’ll want to please your partner and you may be deathly afraid that you’ll lose him or her if your future goals are contrary. Don’t lie, and don’t be afraid to express what you want. This is what relationships are all about. You are opening up the conversation to learn more about each other and see where things are headed.

6. Move forward

Couple riding bicycles in the city

Look at the pros and cons and decide how to proceed. |

Once you’ve had the initial conversation, the anxiety surrounding the topic will disperse and it will become an acceptable topic to discuss. Maybe you’re on completely different pages. Talk about it. Relationships are all about acceptance and compromise. If the relationship is worth it and the variances in your future plans are not too great, then open it up for discussion. On the other hand, if you’re on completely different pages and neither of you is willing to compromise, it may be time to say goodbye. Be honest about what factors you can negotiate and what you can’t. The worst thing you can do is be in a relationship where one or both of you resent the other.