How Long Should You Date Before You Get Married?

older married couple
Love

In today's relationships, it seems like sex isn't the only thing worth waiting for. In fact, according to USA Today, more and more couples are putting off marriage, and extending their courtships by a number of years (and years, and more years). It used to be that a man who took too long to propose was considered a relationship slacker. But just the other week, Crown Princess Victoria finally got married to her beau of eight years. And Prince William has been dating girlfriend Kate Middleton for nine years, with no sign of a ring on the horizon. And apparently, this isn't the trend with royalty alone.

Which we were already sort of aware of, but the more interesting question is why. Why are people waiting longer to take that walk down the aisle? What's running through their heads? Here are a few questions the long-term daters are asking themselves:

Will it work? People used to frown upon premarital cohabitation, despite young couples' insistence that it was the best way to test out long-term compatibility (also known as The Ability To Avoid Homicide Charges After He Leaves The Seat Up For The 37th Time). Now, couples are throwing out that very same excuse for their extended courtships... and we gotta admit, to some of us, this makes perfect sense (though how long does one really need to figure this one out?). Together Forever But Not Married? Advice You Need

Will it last? This one is about more than the logistics of living together. It's about the reality that divorce statistics are high, and many relationships don't last. Will your relationship become just one more negative statistic? In fact, Telegraph posits that this is, in fact, the reason that Prince William has held out for so long. He's a child of divorce, and is perhaps afraid of repeating history. What do you think?

Will someone better come along? This one's a biggie, especially considering that most romantic comedies teach us that when we meet The One, we'll just know. Because of magic and confetti and hearts and romance and stuff. Talk about pressure. Such an idealized view of romance is making more and more women question what's in their hearts. They ask themselves: I love him, but am I in love with him? And speaking of pressure, being together without that extra level of government-mandated commitment carries significantly less pressure than vowing to be together forever and ever (and ever). It's so much easier to break up when things go sour, than to divorce. Poll: How Long Did You Know Your Significant Other Before Getting Engaged?

Will my career get pushed to the background? With more and more women making their careers their top priority, it's only natural that love is forced to wait. 6 Reasons To Put Love Before Your Career

The USA Today piece covered these reasons and more. But we think there may also be another reason. Perhaps, for many, marriage is no longer the be-all-end-all. Between open relationships, domestic partnerships, and other permutations of couplehood, people seem to be learning that it's OK to make their own rules when it comes to love. 

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Or maybe we're wrong. According to a 2008 report from the University of Michigan, most young people still plan to get married. "Based on a survey of 2,300 high school seniors across the USA... 80 percent say they will marry and believe they'll stay married to the same person for life; 4 percent say they won't marry. The rest aren't sure." Want the inside scoop? Get the daily YourTango newsletter!

Why did you wait for marriage?