Here's How Long You Should Date Before Getting Engaged
You are absolutely, mind-blowingly, heart-meltingly in love, but there's just a small problem. You've only known the person for a few months or maybe only a few weeks. You're both hearing wedding bells, but that's crazy, right? Your brain tells you that you need to wait, but your heart… your heart wants to move faster so can start your forever. So, are you love drunk, or is your heart telling you a deeper truth? How soon is too soon to propose?
How Long Should You Date Before Getting Engaged?
This might not come as a shock, but there's no definition of what's "normal" when it comes to the question of "how long should you date before getting married?" Answers can vary from decades of dating to four days (wow!).
Even though everyone—your parents and extended family members and friends—will have an opinion on the matter, from "You're jumping in too quickly!" to "It took him way too long to propose—are you sure?" there isn't a magic formula. Only you can know when you're ready to take the next step.
Give Yourself Time to Know Your Partner Through the Good Times and the Bad
As a baseline, Ian Kerner, PhD, LMFT, licensed psychotherapist, couple's therapist and author of She Comes First, suggests that one to two years is often a good amount of time to date before getting engaged.
"I've worked with a lot of couples who have strong relationships, and they met and fell in love quickly and really got to know each other's friends and family," Kerner says. "They got to experience what it's like to live with each other or spend a lot of time with each other, go through some life cycle issues, like the loss of a family member or the loss of a friendship, or going to a wedding or funeral and really getting to see each other in a lot of different contexts and feel like it's a good match. And generally, that can happen in a year... You want to have some problems emerge and see how you deal with problems together. For me, it's more about the range of experiences that lend themselves to compatibility rather than the amount of time.
As you wonder if it's too soon to start talking about marriage with your partner, think about all the experiences you've shared. Have you faced major life challenges together? Have you seen them at their highest and their lowest? Have you had the time to learn about their family and background? Do you know their strengths and their flaws?
There is no set time limit to gain this experience. You can learn a lot about a person quickly, especially if you spend a lot of time together. Alternately, you can date someone for months and years and barely dig beneath their surface.
How Well Do You Communicate?
Tammy Nelson, PhD, licensed relationship therapist, board-certified sexologist and author of The New Monogamy and Getting the Sex You Want, also believes that while each couple's situation is different, it's most important to learn how to communicate when you have a conflict, rather than focus on the time frame.
"Many couples wait until they are ready to have children, or ready to buy a home before they marry," Nelson says. "There is no 'normal.' Partners may have an implicit expectation of the length of an engagement that is based on their family, their culture and their community. Sometimes this is different for each partner, and if it is not significantly discussed in a very explicit way, it can lead to misunderstandings."
If you're wondering how soon is too soon to propose, take a step back and make sure you and your partner have had those important conversations. You'll want to know your partner's expectations for your relationship. Now might also be a good time to discuss whether you want to have children, how you both deal with money and what you both want for your future.
Are You Past the "Romantic Love" Phase?
One thing to consider if you worry that your relationship is moving too fast is that you might still be in that initial lovey-dovey phase. You know what we're talking about. It's when you can't erase that goofy grin off your face, when every single thing your partner does is perfect and magical at the same time.
Dr. Nelson explains, "There is no magic time frame when a couple should date before the engagement, but the rule for any happy and successful marriage is to realize this—all couples go through a 'romantic love' phase. This lasts anywhere from 2 days to 26 months, and then the couple will enter into the power struggle or the conflict phase of their relationship. This is natural and probably will last the rest of your marriage, or forever (the bad news). The good news—with conscious communication and planning, a successful marriage means that conflict is inevitable (it has absolutely no reflection on whether or not you are in a marriage that will last), but how you repair your conflict is much more important. Whether you are engaged, living together or married, work on healing your conflicts, create healthy communication and your relationship will last for the rest of your life together."
So really, it doesn't matter whether you waited five years or five months to get engaged. When it comes to the question of how long should you date before getting engaged, the most important part is that you're confidently committed to one another. Do you agree or disagree?
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