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Love, factually: how long should you date before getting engaged?

by | 7 January 2017 | Lifestyle & Relationships

If you’re wondering how long you should date before you get married, you’re not alone. Unfortunately, there’s not a tried and tested formula. But there is a load of research into marriage and divorce that may just give you the insight you’re after. So this week, using the U.S-based research that’s out there, I’m looking at love, factually.

Yesterday’s research: ‘happily married’ if you date for 25 months’ before engagement

One of the first people to generate insights about marriage was Ted Huston, a professor of psychology and human ecology at the University of Texas.

As part of the PAIR Project, Huston followed 168 couples for 13 years starting in 1979. And the results showed that the couples who dated for about 25 months before getting married still considered themselves ‘happily married’ by the end of the 13-year study.

But that was a long time ago. What does research suggest today?

Beautiful dark skinned couple dating

Today’s research: couples date for an average of 32 months before getting engaged

According to a blog on eHarmony, which is based on an ongoing study of marriage and family development since 2008, today’s couples are waiting an average of 2.8 years – or 32 months – to tie the knot.

And a 2014 study suggests something similar.

The study, called ‘A Diamond is Forever’ and Other Fairy Tales: The Relationship between Wedding Expenses and Marriage Duration asked thousands of recently married (2008 or later) and divorced Americans questions about their current or ex marriage.

And the result? A series of potential reasons why marriages might fall into disarray. Hint: the cost of a wedding and the size of the guest list might just give you a clue as to whether the couple will make it or not.

But the stat I was most interested in was in response to the question: how long do you date before you get married? And, according to the results, couples who got married after dating for 3 or more years were 39% less likely to get divorced than couples who dated for less than a year before getting engaged.

Yet some couples still choose to get married in a hot minute (Katy Perry and Russell Brand for example). So, looking at the other side of the coin…

Gay Couple in Love

Does a short, pre-wedding dating period affect a marriage’s success?

Turning again to Huston’s 1979 study, he found that, out of the 168 couples he spoke to, the ones who fell fast in love – engaged after nine months and married after 18 months – stuck marriage out until the 7-year mark!

So, in this study at least, although early lovers’ bliss might not guarantee a happily ever after (our condolences Perry and Brand), it might just be associated with a longer road to divorce.

What’s the secret behind a happy marriage anyway?

A successful, long-lasting marriage isn’t something that just happens; it’s something that two people work on together. In light of that, the final set of love facts I came across come from gerontologist, Karl Pillemer who, in 2015, conducted the Cornell Marriage Advice Project.

During the study, Pillemer interviewed 300 people who had been married for 30, 40, 50 or more years; his aim being to capture a set of wisdom-of-a-crowd insights into what makes a marriage successful.

You can read about Pillemer’s full findings in his book. But, in a nutshell, the studies revealed 5 (arguably commonsensical) secrets to a happy marriage, including working as a team and communicating effectively, with the overarching message being that, a successful marriage is all about how much you love the other person and are willing to make things work.

Beautiful Place For Outside Wedding

But, despite the research, facts are facts and love is love

However much we love the play on words, I don’t think you can look at love factually. I also don’t reckon a successful marriage is about time. And, although this research into relationships is interesting, the bottom line is you can’t compare statistics to emotion: facts to love. You can only draw parallels.

How long did you date your partner before getting married? And do you think a successful marriage has anything to do with how long you dated before saying ‘I do’? Share your thoughts in the comments box below.

About the author

Jo Wigley

From her word-nerd studio (way) down under in New Zealand, the copywriter in Jo crafts websites, advertising campaigns, scripts, blogs and brochures for businesses across the world. While the creative consultant in her helps brands, big and small, find their voice in one heck of a noisy world.


Lifestyle & Relationships Love, factually: how long should you date before getting engaged?