Some couples date for just a few short months before becoming engaged while others spend the better part of a decade in the courtship phase of their relationship. According to experts, neither one is the "right" thing to do. "Couples vary in how often they see each other as they are dating and how much they really get to know each other during that times—some couples might see each other once a week and only scratch the surface of topics and the depth of the topics they discuss and share with each other during those times," explains Terri Orbuch, Ph.D., relationship expert, professor at Oakland University and author of 5 Simple Steps to Take Your Marriage from Good to Great.
At the end of the day, Dr. Orbuch says that what really matters is that the couple knows each other well, that they've seen each other through the ups and downs of life, and that there's plenty of connection and passion. Still, we're curious about what pushes some couples to take the plunge so much sooner than others. Here, we asked couples explain how timing played a part in their engagements.
Some couples know they're meant to be from the very first date, and they're ready for marriage shortly thereafter. That was the case for Hope E., from South Carolina, who met her now-husband on OkCupid. It was around the time of their two-year dating anniversary that she told him she was ready to become engaged. He took her seriously and popped the question just days later. "We were both on the same page and even started planning our future wedding before we got engaged!" Hope says. "We've always planned way in advance and so, what better way to get the ball rolling?"
Christina S. also wanted to expedite her engagement to her now-husband Matt, but it was due to their ages. By the time they'd been dating for a little over a year, she was 27 and he was 34. "By this point, we both knew what we had wanted in life, which included children," she explains. While they didn't want to rush because of their desire to create a family, they didn't see a real reason to wait either. "If we had met when we were much younger, say, in our early 20s, we may have stayed together much longer before getting engaged, but we're happy with when we decided to take the plunge."
But if you're grappling to decide on your own proposal timeline, Christina urges couples to remember that getting engaged is a different experience for everyone. "I suggest that you start talking about your future when you think you could spend the rest of your life with them, which includes finances, location, jobs, and children," she says. "If you're on the same page with all of that, you should feel ready to get engaged."
For Amiira R. and her now-husband, Greg, timing had everything to do with illness in the family. Greg's mother was dying of cancer, so they decided to expedite their engagement plans so that she could be at the wedding. "Had the element of illness not been a factor, we probably would have dated for another six months before getting engaged," she says. The same was true for Kimberly R., who says that neither she nor her now-husband were in any rush to get engaged until they learned that her father had cancer. "I thought that if he could see me get engaged—his last daughter—that it would help him rest easier," she explains.
Of course, experts agree that timing is not always on everyone's side, but the most important factors you and your partner should consider before making the life-changing decision to become engaged is whether or not you love each other and can see yourselves spending the rest of your life together. Those elements, coupled with other important factors—such as wanting the same things out of life, being secure in your finances, and having respect for one another—will be the glue that keeps you together through the decades.