How Long You Should Wait To Get Engaged? 5 Questions To Ask Yourself Instead
A few years into your relationship, the possibility of getting engaged might pop into your mind. The fantasy might sound nice: the romance, the celebration, the sense of security. Then, you remember that 40-50 percent of married couples get divorced, and you wonder if you could be one of them if you don't give it enough time.
How much time is enough time to wait before getting engaged, though? Obviously, the answer to this question is highly individual, because it's not really about how long you've been together. It's about what point you've reached as a couple during that time. That said, the more you get to know each other and figure out how you work as a couple, the more confident you can be in your ability to form a lasting relationship.
"Research has found that people who have a longer courtship period before they decide to get married tend to be happier in their relationships and have a lower risk of divorce," Dr. Justin Lehmiller, a research fellow at The Kinsey Institute and author of Tell Me What You Want, tells Bustle. "In other words, dating for a longer period of time seems to be linked to happier and longer-lasting marriages. To be clear, longer courtship doesn’t guarantee these things — it’s just linked to better outcomes on average." So, if your primary goal is to make your marriage last, the best way to do that may be to hold off as long as you can.
However, we don't know for sure that people who dated for shorter periods of time got divorced because of their shorter courtship periods, Lehmiller points out. Plus, there are more important things to consider than the amount of time you've been dating. Here are a few questions to ask yourself to figure out if you're ready to get engaged.
1. Have You Made It Past The Honeymoon Phase?
The reason people who date for longer have longer-lasting marriages is probably that people tend to form passionate connections when they first fall in love, which fades after a few months or years, says Lehmiller. If you don't stick it out through those months or years, you may not figure out if your relationship can outlast the honeymoon phase.
"When people rush into a marriage while they’re still in the throes of passion, they might find themselves disillusioned when the passion begins to wear away," says Lehmiller. "Had they waited for the intense passion to subside first, they may have found that the relationship wasn’t quite right for them before they made a long-term commitment."
Some signs you've made it past the honeymoon phase are decreasing excitement and passion and awareness (and, hopefully, acceptance) of your partner's negative traits. If you still feel like you're seeing your partner through rose-colored glasses, you may not be ready to get engaged.
2. Have You Met Each Other's Families?
Marriage and family therapist Marissa Nelson usually recommends that couples get to know each other's families before making a big decision like getting engaged. "Family is a very big component in married life, and your success as a marriage is exponentially supported if you have a very good relationship with each other's families," she tells Bustle. Your in-laws may soon become a big part of your life, so you need to get an idea of what that'll be like. You don't necessarily need to like each other's families, but if you or your partner's family causes conflict in your relationship, you need to know how to deal with that.
3. Have You Made Major Joint Decisions?
Before you get married, you should be "thinking as a unit," says Nelson. This might mean living together, making a big joint purchase, or deciding where to live to accommodate each other's careers. "If you're still kind of stuck in the present, you're not ready to get married," says Nelson.
4. How Old Are You?
One factor that tends to predict a marriage's success is how old the people are when they get engaged, says Lehmiller. So, you might consider whether you feel like you've had enough life experience to be sure you want to commit yourself to one person for the rest of your life.
5. Are You Sure You Want To Get Married?
Marriage isn't for everyone, and it shouldn't be something you do just because of social convention. "A lot of people make long-term commitments because of social pressure from their families or because they see all of their friends doing it," says Lehmiller. "Do it when it truly feels right for you, not because you think you’re supposed to."
So, there's no specific number of years to wait before getting engaged. What's more important is that you feel certain of the decision you're making.