The 'M' Word: Why You Should Say It Before He Does

Janelle Harris
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Scared of commitmentAt this stage of life — meaning out of college, bills in your name, a career that doesn’t include running to get coffee or being a whiz in the challenging world of intern grunt work — dating should take on a whole new time frame.

In your late teens and early 20s, you’re still working to shape your identity and discover who you are, let alone expecting someone else to figure you out. But by the time you’re in the midst of your 20-somethings, and especially after you cross the threshold of the big 3-0, you’ve “found yourself,” you’ve got a few accomplishments under your belt, and you know what you want to do in life (even if you aren’t exactly living The Dream).

So there’s no need to avoid bringing up That ‘M’ Word with a guy you’re dating if that’s what you eventually want. In fact, the sooner, the better. Why pussyfoot around about the possibility of wasting your time?

Dating gurus and relationship know-it-alls have coerced women into becoming too timid and cautious when it comes to mentioning the subject of marriage, particularly in a space of time that’s considered too soon in a relationship. The word itself and the coinciding concept of a forever-and-ever commitment will probably intimidate the guy you’re seeing, they warn, and may even make him race to the nearest Hooters or strip club to regroup his man thoughts and relish in his precious singledom. (Alright, I added that last part myself, but it could be a consequence.)

I mean, if you start running through them like contestants on The Bachelorette, then you may want to stop bringing it up to just any ol’ body. But I do think there’s something to be said for being honest about your desire from the giddy up.

I also agree that you should pace yourself and not hammer an unsuspecting dude about his intentions on the first date over a plate of hot wings and a few Coronas. He’s straining to watch the game on the big screen TV just beyond the back of your head; you’re trying to evaluate what kind of husband he’d make and whether your children will inherit his beautiful hazel eyes. Calm down, killer. File that one under “way too much, way too soon.”

But there comes a point in the process of dating, which is ostensibly about getting to know each other, when you two are settling in and becoming comfortable. So I say that by the third date, especially if you’ve had regular contact in between a la phone calls, text messages, and Skype chats — and it’s clear that it’s not just a super casual, hanging-out kind of affair — mentioning that you’d like to be married with children someday isn’t inappropriate or bad timing or intimidating information. It’s being upfront to avoid investing months, maybe even years, before you realize that your telepathic messages have been getting rerouted and the thought of an engagement ring or a proposal has never actually crossed his mind. (Even though you — oops! — accidentally left the latest issue of The Knot tucked under his passenger seat. Must’ve slid out of your purse when he dropped you off at home. Yeah, that’s it.)

Womanist moment alert: Girls and ladies are conditioned to not speak up on behalf of our best interests, to let men take charge of the timing in relationships. That’s why we end up with so many disgruntled chicks who end up with enough experience to write bitter R&B and country tunes. If men are supposed to be so straight-from-the-hip, taking the mystery out of the hope for a white dress and walk down an aisle is helping him out by being direct, just like they like it.

And if the mere mention of the word ‘marriage’ weirds him out and scares him off, he wasn't built for the long haul anyway.

How soon is too soon to bring up The ‘M’ Word when you’re dating? If you’re married (or engaged), who brought up the subject first: you or your husband?


Image via TriggerHappyDave/Flickr

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