The Forever Conversation
At some point, every couple will have the Forever Conversation – the discussion that explores their long-term commitment.
It’s no secret to anyone that the incidence of cohabitation has increased. In fact, a couple who hasn’t cohabited is increasingly rare, even in the Catholic formation circles where we work.
For couples in these semi-permanent living arrangements, the natural progression of a romantic relationship towards marriage is slowed. Without the inconvenience of returning to separate abodes following a date, the urgency to marry is lessened.
This is one of the reasons why its not uncommon to find couples who have cohabited for years. They can easily get stuck in a holding pattern where the incentives to move forward are overpowered by the fear of conflict or of change.
Enter the Forever Conversation. This is the conversation a couple has about the long-term future of their relationship.
For some, it comes naturally and easily as they are aligned in their dreams of family and values around marriage. The natural conclusion is a decision to marry, and the relationship is strengthened by the conversation.
For others, it’s a risky and awkward conversation. Some are ambivalent about their hopes regarding marriage and family and may not be ready to discuss it. Raising the topic may upset them and even destabilise the relationship.
Other couples may know or intuit that they are not aligned in their dreams and values. These couples may avoid the Forever Conversation so as to postpone the pain of breakup or the disappointment of downscaling their dreams.
Whatever the situation, the Forever Conversation is necessary and at a certain point becomes urgent. Here are three tips to help you set up the Forever Conversation for a fruitful outcome.
Take some time to privately reflect on your dreams for your future. Start by naming what you value from your own childhood and what you want to avoid.
Do a health check: do you both have the emotional resilience and maturity to take on all that marriage and family entails?
Do some reality checking: if family is part of your dream, there is a time limit. And this not just for women; the biological clock also applies to men whose capacity to father children declines steadily after forty-five.
Finally, do some fear checking. Our fears have a habit of lurking in our subconscious, sabotaging our dreams and motivation. Expose them to the light where you can see them and clearly articulate them for yourself and your partner.
2: Timing & Alerting
When we have something important to say, we often forget to consider how we can make it easier for the other to hear us. We’ve learnt the hard way that important conversations can be sabotaged from the beginning when we get the timing wrong.
Rather than surprising your partner with the Forever Conversation on a date night, alert them in advance and together agree on a good time to chat. This will allow your partner to collect their thoughts and clear their agenda to give you their full attention.
3: Prayerful Discernment
In all of this, remember to invite God to direct you. God knows your heart and desires only goodness for each of you.
God’s plan may be for you to be together forever, or it may be different. All paths will have pain and sorrow as well as joy and triumph. God stays close through it all, even when we make choices that are not his will for us.
Be not afraid!
The Forever Conversation transitions a relationship from one state to another. It is not always easy or comfortable and for some, it is terrifying.
Fear is never from God and acting from a place of fear is never good. We all know that a part of growth is to face our fears an overcome them… and it is no different in this area.
Avoiding the Forever Conversation is the worst option for a couple. It doesn’t resolve the questions about the future of their relationship; it merely postpones it.
Facing into incompatible expectations and dreams is painful! But if breaking up is the outcome, it’s better to do it sooner rather than later.