Maybe you've been together for two weeks, or maybe it's been eight years, but if marriage is a goal for both of you, when is the best time to make that happen? As idiosyncratic as romantic couples and their experiences are, scientists who study relationship processes are aware of questions that couples grapple with as they consider their future: When should a couple get married? Is there any reason to wait? In other words, if dating is an important part of determining if someone is right for you, after how long will you have enough information to know?
Although their primary focus was the costs of a wedding, they included other factors predicting marital dissolution. Compared to dating less than one year before a marriage proposal, dating one to two years significantly dropped the future likelihood of divorce , about 20 percent lower at any given time point.
Dating three or more years decreased the likelihood of divorce at an even greater rate, to about 50 percent lower at any given time point. This suggests that it can be helpful to have at least a few years together prior to entering a marriage. If a couple meets at age 21, that's different from meeting at 31, which itself provides a different context from meeting at Further, some couples meet as strangers, while others have been friends for a long time prior to introducing any romantic element.
Adding some clarity, the perception of knowing a partner "very well" at the time of marriage reduced the likelihood of divorce by 50 percent at any given time point as well. The subjective judgment of knowing someone well, then, needn't correlate with time. Instead of focusing on how long you've been dating, consider these other ways to evaluate whether you're both ready for marriage.
Do you view marriage as a relationship reboot? Your wedding might be magical, but becoming married isn't a magical experience that will instantly transform an unstable, unhealthy relationship into a stable, healthy one. One reason some couples experience sharp declines in satisfaction during the first two years of marriage Huston et al. Do you know many sides of each other?
One problem that can detour a marriage that seems to be headed in the right direction is the introduction of unexpected new knowledge about a partner. Do you know, for example, how your partner thinks about and values money, or how he or she would approach being a parent? How happy do you think you'll be? In other words, don't discount your personal assessment of future happiness: It's tied to underlying processes you're doing now that will later affect relationship well-being.
Any signs of "fatal attractions? Research Felmee, examining these "fatal attractions" has discovered that they often take a certain form. When a partner is dissimilar from us in a specific way, or has traits that are extreme — "She's super enthusiastic! Prior to entering a long-term commitment, consideration of you and your partner's long-term compatibility along the dimensions that connected you could be an important step in identifying potential "fatal attractions.
Do you expect that things will be different in marriage? Before you get married, consider how your relationship typically operates. Specifically, are you a low- or high-conflict couple?
In support for this enduring dynamics model, they observed that levels of negativity are generally stable in couples over time, but that increases in disillusionment differentiate couples that stay together versus those that fall apart.
Do you want to test out your relationship first by living together? It's common for contemporary couples to live together before marriage, but their reasons for doing so appear to predict how happy their marriage will eventually be.
When couples use cohabitation to test out a relationship, or when they cohabitate for practical reasons e. Couples that are already highly committed, and cohabitate for other reasons — e. A one-size-fits-all time frame for when couples are ready to transition to a greater commitment like marriage isn't appropriate.
Couples enter into relationships at different ages and stages in their lives; however, evaluating how well you know your partner, your relationship certainty, what you're expecting marriage will do to your relationship, and what you see as the current and anticipated quality of a relationship could be more useful ways to judge if it's truly time to take the plunge.
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