couple having coffee together in pjs
Hannah Bjorndal Photography

If you’re in a serious, loving, and happy relationship, you’re likely wondering when the two of you might take the next big step and are ready to get engaged. It’s perfectly normal to dream about that big moment and what it might entail—after all, it’s one of life’s most exciting milestones—however, it’s important that you and your partner are on the same page, or, at least in the same book. “We all reach relationship maturity at various stages—just because one is ready to move forward doesn’t necessarily mean the other is,” explains Tiya Cunningham-Sumter, certified relationship coach, blogger and author of A Conversation Piece.

That’s not always a bad thing—and it certainly doesn’t cast a dark shadow on a couple’s future. But what’s actually a better predictor of long-term relationship success is a couple who has been talking about their hopes and feelings openly with each other long in advance of sparkly rings being purchased, explains Lisa Marie Bobby, Ph.D., L.M.F.T., dating coach, founder and clinical director of Growing Self Counseling & Coaching.

Here, experts share the biggest, and most important reasons why you should be upfront and honest that you’re ready to get engaged.

Your partner may not feel the same way that you do.

If you’re in a long-term relationship with someone who is fine owning up to the title of boyfriend or girlfriend, but winces at the mention of potentially being ready to get engaged, tying the knot, having kids, or simply having a future together. According to Dr. Bobby, this translates to "I do not want to marry you but I hope that I'll feel differently eventually, but I also don't want to upset you so much that you break up with me so I'm going to soft-pedal this and hope you let it go and go back to waiting patiently for me to change even though neither of us have any real indication that's going to happen." “Don’t wait, hope, and sometimes badger your partner to commit, to settle down, and move forward,” she says. “If your partner doesn’t want to get married, that's okay: You both deserve to be certain.”

You can’t avoid a dealbreaker forever.

If the two of you love  each other and enjoy each other, but want very different things, it may be better to know,” says Paulette Sherman, Psy.D., psychologist, director of My Dating & Relationship School and author of Dating from the Inside Out. “You could spend five years living together only to learn he doesn’t want marriage and kids or that he wants to wait another seven years when you are ready now.” She warns that prolonging the truth may make it even more painful and complicated down the road should your discrepancies be too great.

There may be an opportunity to get on the same page and compromise.

In cases where both partners may be ready to get engaged, but one wants more time, discussing your separate visions can quell anxiety and confusion, explains Dr. Sherman, allowing you to create a joint vision somewhere in the middle. “Sometimes just the act of providing some mutuality and structure can help the couple move forward in this area and help them make decisions as a team that works for them both,” she says.

The biological clock is real.

If you’re a woman, you might be thinking about the right time to get married based upon when you’d like to have children. Since men don’t have the same biological pressure, they may not be thinking about this issue, explains Dr. Sherman. “Of course today there is adoption, fertility treatments, freezing eggs and surrogacy too that can extend this window, but you may want to get pregnant naturally, and hopefully easily, which can cause concern,” she says. “In speaking honestly about this concern she can make sure her significant other understands the risks and she can then ascertain his readiness for engagement and kids and any holdbacks.”