Living together, marriage, babies - how to have the next step talk?

Imagine that you’ve been dating a new online love interest for several months and things are going really well. There’s a strong physical chemistry, you seem to have a lot of fun together and they get along with your friends. You love spending time together, the sex is great and you can’t seem to stop thinking about them. How then do you bring up the “next step” talk with them, and not scare them off?

Consider these 5 key elements when having the discussion: 1) Choose a relaxed setting This conversation is a big one, so don’t try and talk about it in a pressured situation or when you’re in a hurry. You need to bring this up in a calm and relaxed environment when you have plenty of time to discuss your hopes and dreams for the future. Avoid interruptions, time restraints, noisy situations or pressured settings. 2) Be curious and non-judgmental When you’re having this conversation, it’s important that you’re curious and non-judgmental. If you’re too intense, disagreeable, rigid or dismissive, then they’re going to get scared, step back and shut down. Look to express your expectations, then be open and curious to learning about theirs.

3) Be very clear about your relationship needs When you’re expressing your wants about marriage, babies, moving in together and other commitments, be very clear about your needs. This is not a time to be vague or to give out mixed signals. Do some prep beforehand and know exactly what you want to say and what relationship needs are important to you. 4) Don’t over-react If you hear something during this conversation that doesn’t sit well with you – try your best to hold your reactions in check. This is a time to get all your relationship expectations out in the open. To know what you both want for the future. If it doesn’t sound good, ask more questions, get clarity, and then go away and really think about your next action steps. 5) Have a deadline Sometimes these types of conversations can come as a surprise, and your partner may not be ready to answer all these questions. They may need more time to consider their expectations for the future. That’s ok – but you must have a deadline. Limbo will not work for you in this situation. So by all means let them consider their wants and needs, but they must come back to you by a certain deadline – otherwise they don’t want the same thing, and you’ll need to move on.

John Aiken, RSVP dating and relationship psychologist, as seen on the hit show Married At First Sight, and on Ch 9’s Today show, Today Extra and A Current Affair. He is a best-selling author, regularly appears on radio and in magazines, runs a private practice in Sydney, and is a sought after speaker. (

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