Sunday, May 20, 2012

So, When Are You Two Going To Get Married?

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No, no, I'm not asking you that. I was only imagining that's the question Mark Zuckerberg and his wife, then girlfriend, had to answer a lot of the time. They dated for over nine years, and for a lot of people in America, that is a loongg time, longer than some marriages. In Nigeria, where overly long dating/courtship/engagements are not really encouraged, I can imagine the question would be even more common to long term but unmarried couples.

When two people are exclusive with each other for a long time, and are open to others about their relationship, those around them begin to mark time for them. People assume the lady is wasting her time and chances with other men, plus her biological clock is ticking. Others think the man is using her, and will dump her when he finds who/what he really wants.

Many believe they are sleeping together, and for those who think that way, this devalues the worth of the woman in the man's eyes, after all, why buy the cow when you can get the milk for free. I certainly do not subscribe to this way of seeing things. Then again, is there some sense behind societies' disapproval of long dating/courtship/engagement periods?

According to those who have studied these things, two years is the optimal time to date and get to know each other. These researchers say this gives enough time for those in a relationship to really get a fix on each other's personalities and stuff like how people react under stress. However, I don't think time is the only factor, and may not even be a determinant, at all. A couple can date for 3 months and within that period, one loses his job, or develops a health problem, something traumatic that they're able to overcome together. This will certainly bond them closer.

So, length of dating/courtship and if it graduates to marriage depends on individuals and their specific circumstances. If a couple meet in university, it is more likely they will date for a longer time, than those who meet at thirty. My parents got married after just a few months and they are still happily married. And then you hear of some couples that date for 10 years, get married and then are divorced within the year. True story.

Some of you may already know ours. I met Atala on a messageboard and we sorta, kinda, anonymously knew each other for a year online before we tentatively started talking. That lasted for two months and then broke down. We got back together one month later and began to build the foundations of a real relationship. Four months after that, he proposed and we got married two months later. It's a confused timeline, but I like to peg it at 6months of dating.

That's quite short by some people's standards, but at least we didn't get the whole, "so, when are you two getting married?" I think that question puts a lot of pressure on the couple, and especially on the woman about marriage. This can skew the couple's perspective and prevent them from really focusing on the important things.

The time to begin to think about marriage is when you feel you know the person well enough that you are confident that they are the person you want to, and you CAN, spend the rest of your life with them. All the rules about dating and timing really become obsolete when things click between a couple.

In such a scenario, rather than the number of years a couple has been together, it's more a question of finding out if both of you have compatible relationship goals, what expectations you have about marriage, and whether each partner, as an individual, is mentally prepared to be life partners in a marriage.

But what if all these things align, and you and your boyfriend/girlfriend/fiance are exclusive but there's no ring, no proposal and no firm wedding date after two years? How long will you wait? Three years, five years, seven, ten, or more? What will you do, give an ultimatum, or just walk away?

To the general readers, how long do you think a couple should know each other before they fix their wedding date, (and I mean a date no more than a year or two from the engagement)?  I'm interested in the opinions and experiences out there. In terms of experiences, I want to hear it from the married peeps.

Hope you all had a good weekend, BTW? Congrats to the Chelsea supporters sha, make una enjoy, *under my breath* for now.


Myne Whitman - award-winning blogger, bestselling author, columnist, and founder of


  1. Personally, I would love a long courtship. My parents dated for 7 years and have been married for almost 29 years (29 in December) that's 36 years of knowing each other and my mother says, you cannot know someone enough as my dad still manages to surprise her (in good and bad ways) all the time. However, I'm much older now and can't do my parent's style of courtship. Two years is definitely appropriate just to get a feel of the person. It is not about the period of courtship but what happens during the courtship and how you feel about the person. A friend broke up her engagement because it just wasn't right. A broken engagement is better than a broken marriage anytime. But I would like to take the time to really know who I'm getting into what with.

  2. I enjoyed reading this - Thanks, Myne! Hubby and I dated all through college and got married a couple years after college. That was perfect for us:). But like you said, every situation is different. I don't think there's any magic formula, the "ideal" time depends on so many factors.. I agree with CherryWine - Better a broken engagement than a broken marriage! Wishing everyone many many years of joyful romance :)!xxx

  3. I have been in a relationship for a little over a year and i've actually started getting that question.It doesn't really put pressure on me though because i know what i want.As for the length of time one should date before fixing a wedding date,i'd say it's relative to the people involved.It's possible to know someone for less than a year and sometimes you need more than a year.The most important thing is you should be mostly certain you can live with the person you chose before fixing a date for your wedding.

  4. You know, I used to think why buy the cow when you get the milk for free before.. but now i think differently. time to date varies from one couple to another, I for one do not like the century long dating/courting but it doesnt mean it cant be good for others... Getting to know a person is not a function of time, i think its a function of connection on several levels... thats my 1penny!

  5. I've always had this feeling that no matter how long a couple courts before marriage they cant get to know every thing their partner is capable of. The duration of a relationship should be determined solely by those involved. Can they live together,through it all,bearing in mind all they know about themselves?? That to me is important I would like to do one year / one and a half years.

  6. Sorry for sounding a bit mathematical .....but I think the length of courtship should be inversely related to the age of the couples (especially the man). It's all about maturity and I think younger men take longer to get their head round the commitment expected from marriage.

    So, I would advise a longer courtship if the people involved (the man especially) are younger than 25 years old

  7. You should be ready. That can't be explained or predicted. Just ready. Someone's ready in 20 years old, someone in 55... that's very personal.

  8. I have to agree with N.I.L.
    Getting married while one is still "Growing up" is's like adopting a puppy vs an adult dog. With the puppy you never know what your going to have at the end of the day or two years (puppy will grow and temperament may change). on the other hand you have the adult dog. who is set in its ways and schedules. what you see is what you get...
    I think two years is enough time to know what and if you want it/him/her. But again there are other factors.. I know a couple who have a daughter together but are not married. The decision for them stems from the fact that the man has horrible credit while the woman's credit is what they will use to buy a house and so on. if they marry now, those goals will take longer to achieve.

    1. I love this analogy with puppy and adult dog..LOL!!

      Maybe i have read too many romance novels :) but i believe sometimes you just know that you want to spend your life with someone in months. Sometimes it creeps up on you. For me, I think I'll go with 1-2 yrs of dating and courtship. LDR are another matter altogether.

  9. Lol... Who asks that question in the USA? Who cares?

  10. Hi,

    I think it depends on the people involved and as Myne noted earlier, their ages. I met my wife @ 22, we started dating @ 23 & got married 4 years later (and there were a couple of break-ups in between). I think when one's clear about the direction of the relationship, the courting period shouldn't be too long (a year or two max), i know i had 4 year courtship but like I said earlier we were young folks so we had the luxury of time. Once we were certain that we had the basic requirements to live as husband and wife, we tied the knot. The truth is that the length of a courtship doesn't really determine the success of any realtionship and when it's dragging to long, it's rather ominous. I know of cases where the partners court for 8, 9 years, they end the relationship and 6 months later we hear the other party heading to the altar. So, my advice, short & simple (except you're Mark Zuckerberg) of course.


  11. i think the period of courtship is relative to the couple and their location. A couple residing in the same geographical location would get to see regularly and spend more time together and get to know each other pretty wwell, but if the reverse is the case a little more months wont hurt

  12. Not a fan of long relationships..not because I think they are wasting their time, just a personal choice.

    But when you look at the age of the couple when they start dating, Long term relationship makes sense.

  13. For a Christian couple, I think that question is significant because of the underlying issues the bible warns against - marriage honourable and bed undefiled. Foran ideal relationship, there is growth in physical intimacy with time and if as a christian, you are not careful, you could fall (let him that thinketh he stands take heed lest he falls). This is why amongst Christian Born-Again, Children of God, it is not encouraged to stay too long in a courtship.

    Its been five years in mine but we dont suffer too much temptation cos of the distance. Sincerely, if we're together, we'd have been married a long time ago. Probably I'd have converted my PhD to part time to fend for our home. So, no ideal time is safe or unsafe; the goal is to know the person well enough to be sure God's brought you together forever; and most importantly, marriage honourable with the bed undefiled.

    - LDP

  14. It all depends on so many things. But if the spiritual, financial and mental aspects are sorted,then both parties are good to go. All these are not actually a function of time but readiness.
    Just like you said, there are couples who have dated for ages, yet still end up divorcing.

  15. hmmmm..... i used to think I wanted a long courtship but you know we didn't. we got engaged about a year after we met and 9 months after dating and when I said yes I kept thinking what are you doing but I knew I was doing the right thing. .....

    I agree with you in time not being important, it depends on both of you.. but people in long term relationships will have to decide for themselves.. what are their plans.. i have too much to say about this...

  16. Thanks for writing this, Myne. For me this is the part that summed it up:

    "The time to begin to think about marriage is when you feel you know the person well enough that you are confident that they are the person you want to, and you CAN, spend the rest of your life with them. All the rules about dating and timing really become obsolete when things click between a couple.

    In such a scenario, rather than the number of years a couple has been together, it's more a question of finding out if both of you have compatible relationship goals, what expectations you have about marriage, and whether each partner, as an individual, is mentally prepared to be life partners in a marriage."

    Right now I'm just trying to be the best me that I can be, so that when Mr. Right comes, I will be ready, esp emotionally. Thanks again.


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