I get asked a lot of relationship-themed questions given where I work, and one of them is from women with boyfriends who want to know how long to wait for the ring. These aren't women who have been dating for two months, but rather women who are in long-term relationships. They have seemingly great mates who have jobs and call their moms and open doors to restaurants — but haven't yet popped the question. The relationship is traveling into their third (or sixth) year and nothing is wrong per se, except these girls would like to take the relationship to the next level and their men have yet to agree. Are these guys patient or just stringing them along? How long should they wait?
As it turns out, there isn't a lot of recent research on the courtship length prior to marriage. Decades ago the statistics ranged from six to fourteen months. Ted Huston, a leading researcher on transitions in relationships, marriage and parenthood, followed couples for 13 years starting in 1979. He states in his study that happily married couples dated for approximately 25 months before getting married. Unhappy couples were split into two groups. Couples who were unhappily married soon after they said "I do" and quickly divorced more often married at or after three years. Couples who fell fast in love were engaged after nine months, and married after 18 months. These couples usually made it to their seventh anniversary before divorcing sometime later. Is there a difference between couples that met recently and those in Huston's study? eHarmony: 10 Essential Online Dating Tips To Remember
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Currently I co-run a longitudinal study of marriage and family development, started in 2008 and ongoing, and the answers couples gave me about their engagement ranged from several months to several years. On average, the couples in my study decided to marry 2.8 years after they first showed romantic interest (many couples knew each other before they dated, but that isn't counted). This may reflect growing trends in the delay of marriage. Much has changed in the last thirty years, and those in my study are still reporting general satisfaction in their marriages. There is actually a lower divorce rate now than in the 80s, and what marriage means on a societal level is also changing.
Read the rest of the research on eHarmony: How Long Do You Wait For The Ring?
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Written by Heather Setrakian, MA for eHarmony.
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