My wife and I dated for about 2 years before we got married. We were both in our early 20's at the time, and both in college when we met. The desire to get married quickly became apparent, but the timing was also essential. Getting married may be the right thing-a subject outside the purview of this particular article-but the timing itself may be bad.
There are a variety of things you need to consider to determine how long you ought to wait before getting married.
AGE OF BOTH INDIVIDUALS
To be blunt about it, the younger you are the less experienced you are about life, and the more time you need to make certain realizations about each other.
Knowing your own mind and understanding life better is a very important factor in the timing of marriage. Many marriages fall apart, not because the couple failed to love each other, but because inexperience and uncertainty got in the way.
The older you are, the more settled you are and the more able you are to make wise and smart choices. The average age that a couple gets married in today's society is between 26 and 30. A hundred years ago, the age was around 18 or 19. The difference is that a hundred years ago people were forced to grow up sooner. But today, we have forty year olds who live and die just to play computer games and little else.
The odds are, the older you are the more likely you are to be smarter about decisions in life. Having more understanding and experience about life is important to consider. You may think that love will sustain you, but you'll doubt that when you have to move back home with mommy and daddy because you can't make it on your own, or when another pretty or handsome face starts catching your attention and you start wondering what it might be like...
STABILITY IN LIFE
Immaturity and financial instability are things to consider before marriage. Money is one of the top five reasons people seek divorce. Immaturity indicates that a person's mind hasn't settled enough to really know what he or she wants. They're more likely to jump ship later. Immaturity indicates that their character is still growing. You don't want to marry someone who can't show up for work on time. One day, he just may not show up for you.
Typically, women mature faster than men do. This isn't always the case, but it is something to keep in mind when considering marriage at a young age or even soon after meeting someone.
You also need to consider current situations such as: college, career, living with parents, job history, and so forth. Sometimes waiting until these things are resolved will help the marriage last.
SPIRITUAL, EMOTIONAL, AND MENTAL INTIMACY
Most couples get married because of the physical attraction or of shared interests. But more needs to be known of each other than just if she looks pretty or he looks handsome.
Do you know each other intimately emotionally, mentally, and spiritually? If you don't, you aren't ready for marriage. The physical is not nearly as important as these factors. One of the reasons I waited until marriage to have sex is because I didn't want the physical to take away from getting to know my future wife in these other areas. It was hard, but we did it. I'm so glad that we did too.
KNOWLEDGE AND UNDERSTANDING OF RELATIONSHIPS
Most people just haul off and get married without ever realizing that they really don't know how to make a relationship work. My wife and I went through premarital counseling, read many books, and made a study of solid relationships before we got married. We're still very, very happily married after 11 years.
We go to college for years and years to prepare for a lifelong career. But we spend little time studying to have a lifelong relationship that we call marriage. How many books have you read? How much counseling have you gotten? How much time have you spent studying people with successful marriages? How many lectures have you attended?
Most people seek answers to relationship problems after they have the problem. By then they've already been hurt and the pain can often blind us to obvious solutions. Don't let that be you.
I do a lot of counseling of relationships. When a couple asks me how long they ought to be dating, I take in consideration these four factors. Too soon would be anything where the issues of these four factors haven't been ironed out appropriately.
I'm not sure there is a connection between the length of dating and divorce. The connection lies more in the issues that haven't been resolved before they actually get married.
The younger you are, often the longer it takes to iron out these issues. Someone in his fifties and sixties may be settled in these areas and can have a very successful marriage with only a couple months of dating. It's possible. For younger couples, at least 2 years seems to be the norm to figure out the issues listed above.
Greg S. Baker is a Pastor, Counselor, and Author specializing in building and strengthening relationships.
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