There’s no right or wrong length of time to date someone before taking the next step – but researchers think they’ve discovered the ideal relationship timeline. Interestingly, the data has changed in the last 30 years.
In the ’80s, researchers documented 168 relationships and happiness levels over 14 years, starting in 1981. The study, named the PAIR Project, found that the most happily married couples dated for about 25 months before getting hitched – this included the engagement period. Back then, two years was the magic number to know that you could spend the rest of your life with someone.
But here’s where it gets interesting: a 2008 study of 633 educated and married women found that the ones in happy marriages dated their husbands for even longer – about 3,6 years. Shauna Springer, the survey’s author, also found that the honeymoon stage of a relationship can now last up to two full years. That’s one hell of a honeymoon.
The bottom line? Dating for at least a couple of years is probably the best way forward if you want to guarantee a successful marriage. By then, you and your partner will have been through enough to know that you can resolve conflict and get along just fine. Big decisions – like which flat to rent or whose family to spend Christmas with – have usually been made within the first few years, so you’re setting yourself up well by waiting those out.
Remember: it’s not so much the amount of time that matters as it is what you’ve experienced in that time. If you and your partner have dealt with some sort of conflict, spent a ton of time together and know that you see eye to eye on important issues, you may be ready for marriage. After all, some happily married couples got hitched after a month or two of dating, while others date for what seems like forever and then still break up. There’s probably no ‘magic number’ – so just do what feels right for you.
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