Let’s say you’re happier than you’ve ever been. You’ve met someone new, and you think that you could really stay with them for a long time—as in, marriage.
Exciting, right? But, then the worries and doubt set in. Everyone says it hasn’t been long enough, you’re rushing, etc.
Or on the flip side, maybe people are saying you’ve been together for too long. That without any progression, things are bound to fizzle out.
So, who’s right? What do the experts say about how long to date before marriage?
In this article, you’ll learn what the ideal length of time to date before getting married really is—and whether or not it actually matters.
How long does the average couple date before getting engaged?
A few decades ago, you may have met the person you were going to get married to and went through the union rather quickly.
However, times are changing. More people are dating longer than they used to, and there are a lot of reasons that’s happening.
As we all learn and grow, relationships change. People are able to cohabitate today whereas it was looked down upon in the past. This is one reason why people are dating longer.
Other reasons people are dating longer is due to finances, maturity, career goals, and more.
But, through all of this, it seems that the average couple knows each other very well. Most couples date 4.9 years on average.
How long should you date before getting serious?
In every relationship, there is a “honeymoon phase.” This is basically where we hide our flaws and live in this happy little world without arguments or other things.
So, when this honeymoon phase wears off, where does it lead you?
It turns out that this phase lasts about three months. After you’ve gone through this stage, you know a little bit more about the person—like their likes and dislikes, frustrations and desires, and more.
Experts recommend that after about three months, you can broach the topic of getting serious with each other. However, there’s no timeline.
If you find that earlier seems natural, do it. If you find later seems natural, do that.
It’s your relationship.
How do you know when you’re ready to marry someone?
Some people are ready for marriage quicker than other people. There’s nothing wrong with that, and you should always look at what feels right to you. But, maybe you do think you’re ready for marriage.
It can be a confusing time. You don’t want to jump the gun, nor do you want to get married for the wrong reasons. Here are 11 ways you’ll know that you’re ready to marry someone:
1. You don’t want to get married for a wedding
There’s nothing more beautiful than a wedding. A fun party with your loved ones is everything you could dream of. But, if that’s why you’re getting married, don’t do it.
We can feel pressured by the pretty dresses, stunning parties, and the jump to define our relationship, especially because we see these things on social media so often. However, you are not everyone else.
Your relationship shouldn’t take into account everyone else. Just because your high school friends are getting married doesn’t mean you need to or want to.
When you aren’t getting married for the wedding, if deep down you know that if there was no wedding at all you’d still want to get married, this is a good sign.
2. You know what drives your partner
For a marriage to succeed, you need to understand what the other person truly wants from it.
Men and women are different and we want different things from marriage.
And a new theory in relationship psychology is revealing exactly what men want.
It’s called the hero instinct.
Men have a built in desire for something “greater” that goes beyond love or sex. It’s why men who seemingly have the “perfect girlfriend” are unhappy when they get married and find themselves constantly searching for something else — or worst of all, someone else.
According to this theory, a man wants to see himself as a hero. As someone his partner genuinely wants and needs to have around. Not as a mere accessory, ‘best friend’, or ‘partner in crime’.
And the kicker?
It’s actually up to the woman to bring this instinct to the fore.
I know it sounds a bit silly. In this day and age, women don’t need someone to rescue them. They don’t need a ‘hero’ in their lives.
And I couldn’t agree more.
But here’s the ironic truth. Men do still need to feel like a hero. Because it’s built into their DNA to seek out relationships that allow them to feel like a protector.
The simple truth is that you shouldn’t get married unless this instinct is triggered in a man.
How do you do it?
The best way to learn how to trigger the hero instinct in your guy is to watch this free online video. James Bauer, the relationship psychologist who first coined this term, gives a terrific introduction to his concept.
Some ideas really are life-changing. And if you’re thinking of getting married, I think this is one of them.
3. There are more benefits to getting married than keeping your relationship how it currently is
Ask yourself, what’s the reason to get married? Why is marriage so important? If you don’t want to live with them until you’re married, then marriage would be a benefit.
Is it shared finances? Do you want to spend more time around each other? Or is it that you just want the title or husband or wife?
If there are more benefits to getting married, then that’s a good sign. But there’s no harm in keeping your relationship steady like it is now, either.
4. You’ve been alone and enjoyed your “me” time
It’s not to say that those who have been together since they were kids can’t make it work—they can.
But many times, you need to have some time by yourself. Learn who you are and what you stand for. That can be difficult when you have someone tethered to you constantly.
5. You know them and trust them wholeheartedly
Trust is the foundation of marriage. If you don’t trust the person, you shouldn’t marry them.
There needs to be complete and total trust. Without it, a marriage is bound to fail. No matter why you don’t trust the person, think it through before the marriage. Trust can be built, so if it doesn’t exist now, that doesn’t mean you’re doomed.
But take the time you need to build the trust up.
6. Your relationship isn’t shallow
Do you only talk about things like movies and sports? Look, those things are great. But a marriage is deep, and you’re going to need to talk about deep things.
There should be multiple deep talks with your future spouse before you get married to them. Without those, it can be hard to see whether everything will last.
During a marriage, you’ll go through some tough things. Loss of friends, death of a loved one, or things you’ve never thought you’d have to deal with, like infertility or financial woes.
(Marriage is hard work. If you need help in making your marriage better, check out our comprehensive Mend The Marriage review).
7. You aren’t going to try and change them
Are you happy with who you are right now? Do you want to be changed?
I’d guess the answer is yes, you are happy and no, you don’t want to be changed.
If you don’t want your significant other trying to change you, don’t try to change them. It’s not fair, especially when there are other people out there who would accept them as is.
When you find yourself day dreaming about changing them, it’s time to hit the road and call off marriage.
8. You work through your problems with them
Are you and your partner the type who work problems out, or are you the ones who sweep everything under the rug?
Conflict resolution is really important, so make sure you can work through your problems with the person.
9. Long-term plans come easy and naturally
When you find yourself making long-term plans without a second thought, that’s a good sign! Whether it’s a big road trip or family party, when they’ve already been inserted into your life for so long, marriage doesn’t seem like too crazy of an idea.
10. You can’t imagine life without them
If you love the person and can’t imagine life without them, that’s good. When you’re thinking about future plans, do they always make the cut?
You want to be with a person that you love and care about—and who loves and cares about you. Life without your partner wouldn’t be as fun, and that’s a good sign you’re ready to be married to them.
11. You’re good for each other and others approve of them
Sure, you may think that it’s no big deal that everyone else disapproves of your partner. But in the long run, it is a big deal.
Little things will create a big rift, and soon enough, you resent them.
You have to be good for each other, but the most important people in your life should also approve of them.
If everyone is raising red flags against your relationship, it may be time to take a step back and see if some of them are right.
Length of dating before marriage statistics
What everyone really wants to know is…what do the experts say?
Does length of dating really correlate to the length of a marriage?
Because everyone is curious about this, it’s no surprise that a few different studies have been done on the topic.
One study at Penn State University followed over 150 couples for 14 years. Over that time, they looked at a few different factors, but they mainly focused on the length of time they dated and how long their marriage lasted.
What they found was that those who dated an average of 25 months were more likely to be happily married at the end of 14 years.
The couples who dated just 18 months had a higher rate of divorce. Though most of them survived at least seven years, it was interesting to find that many divorced after that.
Another study done at Emory University followed a much larger group of 3,000 couples. The couples who dated over three years were 39% less likely to get divorced.
So, according to these studies, it seems like the length of time you date matters a lot. But, does it really?
Most experts say that about a year of dating is necessary if both individuals in the relationship are open and honest about what they’re looking for. But it doesn’t stop there.
As it turns out, the most important thing about a relationship probably isn’t the amount of time you’ve spent with each other.
The things that really matter may surprise you.
How to have a lasting relationship
I’ll let you in on a little secret—the length of your relationship before marriage doesn’t really matter that much.
Everyone is different. Love is a complex thing that science cannot narrow down, and as much research is done, it can’t be repeated. Because each time you have an experiment with 10, 20, or 300 different couples, you have wildly different people.
One couple is not the same as another. They are two people with different interests, histories, and desires.
People grow. People change. And because of this, each relationship will run its course whether you want it to or not. Some of those courses won’t ever end—like those couples who make it 75 years together. Other relationships run their course after three or four years.
Dating an extra month or two wouldn’t change those outcomes.
The real thing that matters in marriage isn’t how long you’ve been dating someone but how you’re dating them.
As humans, we are very intuitive. We can pick out the flaws and characteristics of others and talk about them.
But for ourselves, we’re horrible. Our intuition fails us. That’s why many of us end up choosing the same type of person to date over and over again.
If you slow down, stop, and recognize what it is that keeps ruining your relationships, you can choose better.
You need to learn from your dating history, and that’s one of the main things that leads to the emotional maturity you need to get married.
But, even emotional maturity isn’t the only thing you need. Experts say the things that really matter are:
- Conflict resolution: Are you fighting fair? When you get frustrated, do you talk about it right then and there? If you’re the type of person who bottles everything up, your conflict resolution isn’t going to be as good as it needs to be. There’s a lot of conflict in marriage, so you’ll have to figure out how to fight fair.
- Shared interests or values: You don’t have to be the same person. In fact, you can be far from it. But you should have some shared interests and values. Something that is fun that you can do with each other.
- Financial views: How you handle your finances is also important. If one of you is a spender and the other is a saver, talk about this before.
- Work and family life balance: Do you believe work or family is more important? How do you show this? If the two of you disagree on this topic, it can be difficult to be compatible.
While how long to date before marriage matters, it’s not everything. In fact, your maturity and how much you have in common with someone seems to matter a lot more.
So, you shouldn’t wait for some magical number of months or years before you’re ready to get married. The truth is, we’re all different.
Every relationship has its own timeline, and sometimes, it’s quicker than other relationships.
The only person you should listen to when it concerns your relationship is you and your partner. When it feels right to the two of you, it’s the right time to get married.
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