Like it or not, relationship milestones are the common way to measure progress in romance. Of course, love isn’t straightforward. Not every relationship meets certain criteria, and love can’t be measured by society’s checklist. But if you’re on the same page as your partner, and wish to demonstrate commitment, there comes a time when you may start to think about the biggest commitment of all: marriage.
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Society’s relationship with marriage has changed dramatically in recent times. In 2020, marriage rates in the U.S. dropped to their lowest ever. And the average age people get married has increased, from around 20 years old to closer to 30. Despite this, marriage remains the ultimate expression of love, the seal of approval, and the symbol of your desire to remain loyal to your partner.
If you’re in love and feel the romance, you may feel the appeal of getting married. And if you’re considering marriage, you’ll likely be contemplating how soon is too soon to propose. While there’s no right or wrong answer, there are important things to consider, to make sure the time is right to pop the question.
How Long Does the Average Couple Wait Before Getting Engaged?
As social animals, it’s natural to compare. When considering how soon is too soon to propose, it helps to know what other couples choose. The celebrity world is full of stories of A-listers getting married after only months, or weeks, together. But what about the real world? A study of over 3,000 Americans found the average dating time before proposing was around 2.5 years.
Interestingly, there are significant differences, state by state. In Indiana, for example, the average is just over 14 months, while in Ohio, the average is 47 months. This might only be half of the picture, though. According to Pew Research Centre, one of the most significant signs of a successful marriage is living together before proposing, with two-thirds of couples saying cohabitation was a step toward marriage.
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The promising news is that, out of the couples surveyed, those who decided to marry reported higher levels of relationship satisfaction. So, despite the declining numbers of people getting married, it seems marriage has a positive influence on a relationship. According to these statistics, the unhelpful answer of how soon is too soon to propose looks like… it depends.
Questions to Consider Before You Propose
The truth is, there will no doubt be couples who have got married in the early stages of their relationship, who end up in happy marriages. And there will be those who get married after years together, who end up in divorce. Statistics are useful to gauge what most people do, but they say little when it comes to what decision you should make for your relationship. A better way to test this is to consider a number of key questions.
What is Your Underlying Motivation for Getting Married?
Thankfully Pew Research shows that romance isn’t dead, as most couples marry for love and companionship. However, some couples marry due to financial convenience, and the legal rights that come with the documentation. Others made the decision to demonstrate commitment.
Are You and Your Partner on the Same Page?
Naturally, proposing is a risk, with high excitement. You never know if your partner will say yes, and when it comes to rejection, the stakes can’t be higher. That’s why it pays to consider, are you and your partner on the same page? You don’t have to completely kill the romance, but at least have a few conversations about what marriage means to you both individually, and what it could represent in your relationship.
Marriage isn’t a magic fix, either. Are you considering marriage, believing that the ritual itself can improve your relationship? Or do you feel, considering the current health of your relationship, that marriage is the logical next step? If you are in a healthy, committed, and loving relationship, that alone is a strong sign it’s not too soon to propose.
Signs You’re Ready to Propose
If you’ve read this far and you have a feeling of excitement or butterflies in your stomach, it’s a clear indication you’re emotionally ready to propose. Considering marriage is a balancing act of the romantic and the practical. One extreme might be the cliche of flying to Las Vegas and being married by an Elvis impersonator. The other would be avoiding marriage purely on practical terms, such as finances. If you’re dedicated to getting married, you can find a way that works.
Do You Already Live Together?
According to research, a big question before considering proposing is whether it’s too soon to move in. If you already live with your partner, and successfully navigated the honeymoon period, the odds are in your favor. Cohabiting is a significant step before marriage, and if you’re enjoying sharing a home with your partner, the chances of a healthy marriage are high.
Can You Handle Rejection?
Another unconventional sign you’re ready to propose is knowing you’d be okay with your partner saying “no.” Why is this a sign? Because it demonstrates that your trust in the relationship isn’t dependent on your partner saying yes to marriage. It shows that you understand marriage is a big commitment, and if someone isn’t ready, it doesn’t mean that they don’t love you, or even that it’s personal. It shows you trust the way you both communicate and navigate difficult emotions, all signs that you’re in for the long haul.
You Plan For the Future
And then there are the classic signs: you naturally plan for the future, feel sure that they’re the one, and the thought of commitment is exciting, and not scary. Marriage isn’t the be-all and end-all. But in a world of increasing fears of commitment, disposable relationships, or lack of true intimacy, getting married is an act of love, a demonstration that love stories do still exist. In the words of Kahil Girbran:
“You were born together, and together you
shall be forevermore.
You shall be together when the white
wings of death scatter your days.
Ay, you shall be together even in the
silent memory of God.
But let there be spaces in your togetherness,
And let the winds of the heavens dance
This is your love story. Look deep within your heart, look into your partner’s eyes, and trust your gut. How soon is too soon to propose? Deep down, you know the answer to that question, don’t you?