Many of us have dreamt of falling in love from the first sight, going on a couple of dates, realizing he's “the one” and marrying a week from meeting each other, living happily ever after. While this scenario sounds like a real dream-come-true, in reality, things tend to work differently.
When it comes to feelings and relationships, there's no hard rule on what's “right” or “wrong”. The truth is, there is no right or wrong. Every couple is different and what works for some, doesn't work for others. Some say that dating for two years before marriage is the golden timeframe that will ensure a happy long-lasting marriage. Some feel a strong connection and the “right feeling” just after a few months of dating.
However, research, experts and statistics think there are some limitations to what's the “ideal” timeframe for dating that's followed by marriage and a happy one. Or more importantly – what should you consider when figuring out if it's the right time to tie the knot.
Don't be dazed by the romantic period of your relationship
Every relationship starts with a hot few months which is often called the “honeymoon phase”. During this period, the passion is intense, you can't keep hands off each other and everything seems just perfect. The problem is: you might not think so clearly and after the initial thrive goes away (and it will), you might see your partner differently.
Successful relationships are built on a deep connection that usually unfolds after the initial lust has cooled off. You'll learn to appreciate each other's emotional side, you'll go through many situations and connect on a deeper level. If the relationship has become even stronger after this, you can feel safe about a long successful marriage.
However, when you jump into the marriage during the initial lustful period, you'll likely end up being completely baffled later as you might realize many sides on your partner you didn't know he has – and you might not like all of them.
Ian Kerner, a couple's therapist and the author of She Comes First, says that ideally, you want to have some problems emerge and see how you deal with problems together. There isn't a specific timestamp on going through various situations together but one thing's sure – a couple of months is usually not enough for that, especially when you are dazed by the initial lust.
Do the backpack test to see if it's the right time to get married
As relationships are different, time might not be the best measure to prove whether it's the right time to get married or not. What matters is how you interact with each other – how you fit together.
To put that to the test, do the backpack test. Go camping for a couple of weeks or take a road trip – put yourselves to a challenging situation where anything could happen. There's a big difference between spending steamy nights in 5-star hotels where you're pampered with the finest service and figuring out how to handle situations in the wilderness. How do you resolve conflicts? Will you fight? Or will you support each other?
The backpack test is a ridiculously easy way to see if you're ready to get married. If you can't even survive a couple of weeks in harsher conditions, it's likely that the marriage will fall apart later on. It all comes down to testing if you can survive the challenges a mutual life might bring to your marriage.
Time doesn't matter, the connection does
Though both several studies and experts suggest that 1-2 years is usually the perfect timeframe and anything below that is insufficient, the bottom line is that time is an arbitrary measurement which doesn't actually indicate the quality of your relationship.
5 years can be as deeply connecting for some couples as 5 weeks are for others. Some couples spend every single day together, some see each other every now and then. Time cannot measure the intimacy and connection between you. While 1 year may be sufficient for some, it might not be for others.
The real question to ask is whether you truly love the person. Are you willing to accept his every side, including the darker one? Are you willing to do sacrifices and compromises? Do you know him, deeply?
Instead of focusing on the timeframe of your relationship, ask yourself these questions:
1. What do you expect to get from the marriage?
The initial phases of a relationship might be thrilling, but when that first excitement passes, you might be eager to find solutions to bring back the “magic”. Sometimes, marriage might seem like the answer, but is it really the right answer?
Marriage should never be a solution to a problem – it should be the ultimate connection between two people who wish to spend their lives together in all possible ways. When you step into the marriage under false hopes, it's likely you'll end up unhappy in the relationship.
2. Do you know each other's every side?
You might think you know your partner well after a few months of dating, but usually, we only see the iceberg. After starting a mutual life, you might discover surprising aspects like your partner's view of certain things, values and beliefs. Is your attitude towards finances the same? How do you handle parenting? What's your take on politics? Even seemingly less important questions such as cleaning the house or cooking can stir up problems in the marriage.
A successful marriage is built on great communication and acceptance.
3. Are there any warning signs?
When you're dating, you'll try to see the best in your partner. Sometimes this means that you avoid the possible negative sides which might start bothering you later on. Ask yourself, what don't you like about your possible life partner? What's your dream husband like? What qualities he shouldn't have? Are there any personality traits that, in general, drive you nuts?
And then think about your partner and try to see if he has shown any of those qualities, even just a little bit. Marriage is not something you can just shake off that easily – you need to think about long-term compatibility together with all possible negative sides.
Live together first
The best way to see if you and your relationship is ready for marriage is living together. There's a big difference in spending the night over at each other's place and actually living together day after day. By living together, you can see how you work together and how you solve different situations, what your chemistry actually is like.
Take it as a test-run for your marriage – if you can handle living together successfully and happily, there's nothing stopping you from having a long-lasting and incredibly happy marriage.