How Long Is Too Long to Wait to Get Engaged?

The truth of the matter is that there is no right or wrong length of time to wait to get engaged. Some couples wait six years before making it official, while others date for just six months—it all depends on your unique circumstances. (Though, if you're one of those people who wants to put a number on it, one study showed that most couples decide to marry after about 2.8 years of being together.) Here, Amy Van Arsdale, Ph.D., a licensed psychologist in Washington, D.C., gives her cheat sheet on when to move forward and when to take a moment to reevaluate your relationship.


Put a ring on it: You value each other's life goals

You don't have to co-author a book on marriage, but your values need to overlap when it comes to major points such as spirituality, family roles, career, and aspirations.

Think it over: You're rarely introduced as "the girlfriend"

No excuses for this one. Should your partner repeatedly neglect to introduce you, or mention you to important people in his life he deserves the boot. You shouldn't have to convince him to change his status update, either.

Put a ring on it: You've talked about the past

While it's smart to let go of something that happened 10 years ago, any turbulent events need to be disclosed—no matter how embarrassing. If you still feel traumatized, it's especially important to work through those feelings. Hiding these things from one another, and then revealing them later, can cause severe problems in marriage.

Think it over: You have unfinished business

Perhaps your parents went through a difficult divorce or you've had a painful breakup that still gives you night sweats.  These types of issues can seriously hamper one's readiness to get married. Unless you work through these emotions, they will negatively reflect in your current relationship.

Put a ring on it: You've been heard

When you plop on the couch after a long day and vent about your boss, does he tune in or tune out? Listening is more than sitting across from one another while one person talks and the other nods his head. A true listener reads between the lines of a conversation to fully understand what it is that you're trying to explain. What's more, it doesn't mean he has to agree with everything you have to say, as long as he respects your point of view.

Think it over: You're still growing

Not everyone is lucky to walk through life knowing exactly who they are—for most of us, it's a complex process of trying on different shoes until something fits comfortably. Figuring out what you want out of life is hard enough and you shouldn't put your aspirations on the backburner to fit into someone else's mold.

Put a ring on it: Your sex drive in sync

You are satisfied (pun intended) in the bedroom department. While sex before marriage is no longer taboo, having those honest conversations about wants and needs between the sheets is not always natural for everyone. Sure, you may need time to be truly comfortable with these discussions, but you're going to want to work out the kinks before committing to a lifetime of monogamy.

Think it over: You're not your best self

Do you act differently with you partner than when you're hanging out with your family or best friends? It's normal to have a different vibe with your guy as long as it remains positive. If you pick up that you're suddenly snarkier or more judgmental when you two are together, perhaps it's not an ideal fit.

Put a ring on it: You've had a really big fight

Arguments are important aspects of a healthy relationship—even Disney movies have quarrels. It's completely unrealistic to think that your marriage is going to be rainbows and unicorns as long as you both shall live. Fights are practice runs for learning how to deal with conflict. Admitting fault, finding a resolution and apologizing are all important components of being a grown-up—a prerequisite for getting married.

Think it over: You avoid conversations about the future

Skirting discussion about where you'll be as a couple a year from now is sketchy; dismissing potential vacation plans months down the road is a big red flag. Living in the present is awesome, but you can't sustain it if you want to remain in a meaningful relationship.


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