Avoid focusing on a timeline.
If you are considering marriage sometime down the road, discussing any future dates with prodding family members should mostly be avoided. “The ‘right time’ is more of an abstract concept, and it’s more difficult for families to understand,” Dr. Hertlein said. “The family will focus on ways they can help you accelerate the timeline, making it more difficult for the couple to resist their meddling.”
So instead of assuaging marriage-minded family members with a possible timeline, simply share that marriage is an ongoing discussion in your relationship. Irina Firstein, a therapist practicing in Manhattan, said couples can tell people that they’re figuring it out on their own, and would appreciate it if no one asked them questions because it just “puts the pressure on us” and doesn’t help them reach an understanding any faster.
“You can also add that you appreciate their concern and understand their anxiety, but their questions are causing problems for you as a couple,” she said. “Just say that when you know a wedding date, they’ll be the first to know.”
Eric Hutchison, 29, a life raft technician living in Seattle, said he had no intention of getting married until he met his now-fiance, Rebecca Anderson, 33, an event manager also living in Seattle. Six months into their relationship he began fielding questions from family members about his intentions — questions he couldn’t answer.
“I know it made my partner uncomfortable because she didn’t have a great answer either, or knew when and if I would propose to her,” Mr. Hutchison said. “The more that question was asked the more pressured she felt and I could see it. We had talked about marriage a few times early in our relationship and I knew it meant a lot to her.”
The couple eventually started telling inquiring family members that they simply didn’t “have a date yet.” Mr. Hutchison said the question did force the two to discuss the possibility of marriage. When the time did come, the decision to propose was his and his alone. “I wasn’t willing to jump into marriage before I wanted to, just to make those people happy,” Mr. Hutchison added. “It took 4 years, but ultimately I ended up proposing because I love my partner and want to show her I am committed to her.”