When I give talks on how to make wise decisions about love relationships, the burning question that someone almost always asks is, “How long do I have to wait?” The phrasing of this question illustrates the fact that waiting can feel like working against the tide of biology and the romantic rush of falling in love and making it official.Couples who fell fast in love were engaged after nine months, and married after 18 months.
One recent research done by The National Wedding Show actually showed that the average couple gets engaged two years, 11 months and eight days after first setting eyes on each other although women felt ready to tie the knot even sooner – after just two years, seven months and 24 days.
These are some of the answers you are likely to get if you decided to ask people the ideal length of the dating period.
(The average length of courtships in the study was two years, four months)…Speed can become a problem when it is driven by romance and fantasy because, unless one is extraordinarily lucky, the suitors discover that the partner was not as lovely as they had imagined.
Long courtships, Huston argues, are rarely long because the partners are exercising due caution.
To this question, I respond that most of the things that are worth achieving in life require us to delay gratification and to prioritize restraint over indulgence in more primitive drives.
Recall Walter Mischel's marshmallow study which showed the value of the ability to delay gratification.* Mischel offered a group of four year-old children one large, puffy marshmallow but told them all that if they would wait for him to run an errand, they could have not one, but two, lovely marshmallows.
I’ve been getting into it recently with some readers who have a slightly different take on when people should get engaged. One reader on my Facebook page wrote: “When a man’s in love he wants to propose as soon as he can.” Needless to say, I disagree with that. If you expect your marriage to be otherwise, you’ve got a big surprise waiting for you.
There are MANY men who propose as soon as they can when they’re in love. In it, Professor Ted Huston studies 168 couples for ten years. “Researchers saw some typical changes that take place in all marriages during the first couple of years: fewer overt displays of affection; less sex; and fewer leisure activities together, as the relationship evolves from a romantic, recreational relationship to something like a working partnership.” This is all normal and predictable, says the married dating coach.
Muriungi goes ahead to explain that circumstances such as one or both partners being in school or out of the country, lack of finances or lack of support from family can also affect the dating period.