Marriage

How Long Should You Date Someone Before Getting Married?

So you're head over heels for someone special and you've got marriage on the mind. How long should you wait to take the plunge? Six months? A year? Three? Science has some answers if that's your question, but we're here to tell you that's probably the wrong question to ask.

Goin' to the Chapel

In 2015, Emory University researchers Andrew Francis-Tan and Hugo M. Mialon published a study in the journal Economic Inquiry involving 3,000 couples. The study looked primarily at how wedding spending affected marriage length (the moral of the story: spend as little as possible and invite all the people you can).

It also looked at other variables, such as the length of time couples dated before popping the question. That study found that, compared to dating for less than a year, dating 1–2 years before proposing cut a couple's risk of divorce by 20 percent. Dating three years or more slashed their divorce risk by half.

Before you pop open a new tab and start engagement-ring shopping (the Emory University study suggests not spending more than $2,000, by the way), you should know that there were other factors just as important as dating length. For example, couples who said they knew each other "very well" at the time of marriage also cut their risk of divorce by half. As you might have guessed, when it comes to marriage, relationship length isn't everything.

What's In A Number?

In Jane Austen's "Sense and Sensibility", the character Marianne Dashwood says, "It is not time or opportunity that is to determine intimacy; it is disposition alone. Seven years would be insufficient to make some people acquainted with each other, and seven days are more than enough for others." Of course, that's a teenager defending her brand-new romance, so take it with a grain of salt.

But there's a lot to be said for disposition when it comes to relationship success. A 1995 study by Diane Felmlee at the University of California, Davis found that some of the traits that attract people to their partners at first are the same ones that cause the end of a relationship. The most common of these so-called "fatal attractions"? "Exciting" and "different." A free spirit who goes against the grain might be great when your biggest concerns are which bars to frequent, but that quality could be something else when you're applying for a mortgage.

That brings us to another fact about marital success: the smartest couples think hard about the future. A 2017 study from psychology researchers Laura VanderDrift, James McNulty, and Levi Baker found that how satisfied you think you'll be with your relationship in the future is linked to your level of commitment and the work you'll do on your relationship today.

As relationship expert and university professor Eli Finkel told Business Insider, "The degree to which you're compatible right now isn't any sort of guarantee whatsoever that you'll be compatible even in three years or five years." If your goals misalign, you could be headed for a conflict and not even know it. Each couple has to decide where their priorities lie; if the relationship is important enough, you can adjust on the fly and make the sacrifices you need to ensure your love thrives.

For more sound advice on love and relationships, check out Eli Finkel's book The All-or-Nothing Marriage: How the Best Marriages Work. It's free with a 30-day trial of Audible. Every click supports Curiosity!

Why Is Everyone Waiting to Get Married?

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Written by Ashley Hamer December 4, 2017