The question above could be put into a category along with questions such as “how long is a piece of string?” The answer will be different depending on who you ask and the circumstances leading up to the beginning of the relationship. As long as you believe that you know the other person well, and that you have been honest and open with them allowing them to know what you are really like then you should be ready for marriage.
As you are making a decision on a relationship that should last a lifetime it is better to be safe than sorry and make sure that you have properly considered the consequences of it not working out. Divorces are easier to obtain now than they ever were, but there can still be a price to be paid for getting things wrong. There will always be people who have heard of a couple who married after a few months and it worked out perfectly while another couple dated for years before getting engaged or married and they did not last. The expression “act in haste repent at leisure” is not always accurate. Whether you date for a few months, a few years or a few decades – it is hard to know what is best.
Getting to Know Someone Better
For a couple who are classed as childhood sweethearts they will clearly be together a long time before they marry simply due to their age. But what if you are childhood friends who begin to date when you are older? It may seem that you know all about each other, but there are bound to be things you can still learn. Being friends is not the same as being in a relationship. You will spend much more time in the company of others when you are friends and it will be hard to predict how you will feel when it is just the two of you. You could be surprised at how much tension can be lifted if there are other people around but in the same way some of the arguments you had as friends may have been instigated or prolonged by others.
How Long Is Not Long Enough to Date?
Most people would say that two or three years is long enough to find out most things about your partner. By then you should know if they have any bad habits or little idiosyncrasies that you can’t deal with. It is also plenty of time to change them or feel confident to tell them how you feel. If you are not able to speak honestly to them by then it may be that the relationship is not all it should be. Most people will spend the first few months together both acting on their best behavior and trying to impress. It is more than likely within the first 6 months you will meet all their friends and family and be doing all you can to make them like you. After that the real person will start to come through and it is time to be honest.
If It’s Not Broken Don’t Fix It
After more than 10 years of dating many people would expect to be married and should certainly know if they believe their partner is the person they want to spend the rest of their lives with. The relationship must be working so there could be problems caused if it is changed. The stress of arranging a marriage can be enough to cause the end of some relationships plus there is the extra responsibility of being in a legally binding relationship. However much people disagree about it, when dating or just engaged, there is the feeling that they can easily walk away from the relationship but the change in the laws over the years means that it is not as easy as they think.
Attitudes to marriage have changed and it is no longer seen as the only way to have a committed relationship. At one time living together was seen as a bit risqué and not the sort of thing most people did, but over the last 20 to 30 years it has become more acceptable. Even when there are children involved they are quite often given the father’s name.
Factors Outside Your Control
There may be other people or situations to consider when deciding on marriage. It is possible that the person you are involved with is going through a divorce. This is unlikely to be easy under any circumstances but if you are the reason that the marriage ended there will be a lot of animosity to deal with. Even if the split was before you met, the other partner may suddenly change as their position is different. If they hoped for reconciliation they will have to accept that this will not happen now and they might decide to make things as difficult as possible. Children may also now have to accept that their parents will not get back together and try to split you up.
In some cases different faiths may be the problem. Trying to have a secret relationship is not really compatible as planning for the future and finding the right moment to tell families will be difficult. Finding the money to get married may also mean that the courtship is longer than was originally planned. The idea that it will be family and close friends only often goes out of the window and this can add months or years onto the length of the relationship before the knot is tied. It is not surprising people used to run off to Gretna Green to get away from all the conflict.
If Things Have Gone Wrong in the Past
If there has been a history of infidelity that can mean one party will want a little extra time to consider their future. It can take a long time to build up the trust again and this could mean the two or three years most people wait will be extended. The wronged party may want to effectively start the relationship again and wait a couple of years before deciding the trust is back. It can be said that everyone deserves a second chance but as many people will say you should never go back.
Is There an Ideal Timescale?
In conclusion it seems that as we are all different the length of time needed to decide we are ready to marry will vary from couple to couple. What is right for one pair will not be for another. Age and maturity, finance and family plus the amount of time you can spend together before making the decision can all be a factor. We are told at an early age that when we find “the one” we will just know that it is right. No amount of waiting should change that, yet still there are concerns about the marriage not working. It would be interesting to read a study of the time most couples wait and alongside this a study on people who marry on more than a couple of occasions. Whether or not this would give a conclusive answer can only be guessed and it is more than likely that there will be the same amount of marriages that fail after long courtships as the amount that fail after short ones.