How long before engagement
Posted by lovewitness on April 4, 2008
Wait three years. Wait five. When you know you just know. Two years is good enough. Marriage is about commitment; the length of dating does not matter. Wait at least a year. A baby takes nine months before being born; a good relationship should take the same. Six months. Three months. Seven years.
These are some of the answers you are likely to get if you decided to ask people the ideal length of the dating period. One recent research done by The National Wedding Show actually showed that the average couple gets engaged two years, 11 months and eight days after first setting eyes on each other although women felt ready to tie the knot even sooner – after just two years, seven months and 24 days.
Alexandra Campos of the National Wedding Show said: “Men everywhere should be getting ready to buy that ring and get down on one knee if they are anywhere near the three-year anniversary.
“If you really want to earn some brownie points, you could pop the question a few months earlier as this research shows that’s when women think it’s the perfect time to get engaged.”
The poll also revealed that one in ten has even set a time limit on when they get engaged and if their partner hasn’t agreed to marry before the self-imposed deadline, more than 75 per cent would end the relationship.
A lot of people though believe that the ideal dating period, dating here defined as the period of going out before making a commitment towards marriage, should not be defined by any hard or fast rules.
“It is about you two. And it will depend on different things, like how much time you spend together, your past experiences, your age and your goals. People who have goals to get married in the next three years may not waste a lot of time during dating like those who are in no particular hurry to settle down,” says Anthony Muriungi a teacher in Nairobi.
Muriungi goes ahead to explain that circumstances such as one or both partners being in school or out of the country, lack of finances or lack of support from family can also affect the dating period.
“A man will not propose to his girl before he is sure he can maintain a family. Some men feel they should own a home, have a certain income, have accomplished certain things, sometimes even to have reached a certain age. Once he proposes, it is a matter of time before the wedding. Everyone keeps asking when is the wedding. That pressure can be intimidating.”
Other people campaign for whirlwind romances being of the school of thought that the commitment to marriage is more important than any amount of similarity between a couple. Such people feel that length of time does not really matter so long as the parties decide to stick with each other no matter what. They then go ahead to point out examples of couples that new each other for barely three months before they tied the knot, and ten years later, they are still together. The argument is that if you two know you are meant for each other, whether you wait for one day or ten years, then there is no difference as nothing about you two will change. Why waste time?
Gichana Kiunjuri a pharmacist in Nairobi believes that the decision to marry is something a man knows, at times the moment he lays his eyes on a woman, other times with time.
“I can see a woman and at that moment decide she is the one I will marry. The rest is to wait until the right time to ask her to marry me. Otherwise she will think you are a lunatic.”
On the other hand there are people who will say that if forever is the intention, there is no need for hurrying. Such people feel that marriage is such a weighty matter that one should be totally convinced before embarking on anything. Many women though complain of the torture of waiting and waiting, sometimes for what seems like forever for the man to propose. At times, they bow to pressure and pop the question themselves.
Stages of dating
Drs Henry Cloud and John Townsend, authors of Boundaries in Dating warn against accelerated relationships, which they say have the capacity to make a couple too short sighted to see relationship issues and problems. The authors encourage couples to pace all the stages of their relationship slowly and instead of compacting everything into a brief but concentrated period of time.
Such a period some argue should take one year, others two to three. Mr Dennis Franck, director of Assemblies of God Single/Young Adult Ministries says that the ideal period should be one year. In an article on the website, Mr Franck says that dating has five stages: Infatuation, illumination, evaluation, maturation and preparation. The infatuation period is the time of initial and continual physical awareness and usually last from three to five months depending on the experiences of the two and the frequency of time the spend together. The second stage, that of illumination last 4-6 months and involves discovery: of strengths, flaws and weaknesses, differences in opinions, values, entertainment activities, and personal habits of eating, working or spending. During this sage, crisis situations begin to show up as both speak their opinions and perspectives that are in disagreement with the other person. Franck advises that any relationship should progress to this stage before emotional commitments are made.
The third stage, that of evaluation last two to four months. Here the couple actively and volitionally evaluates the differences they have encountered and determines if the relationship is worth the difference both of them recognise. If they get beyond this, they get into the fourth stage where they settle into the relationship. This, Franck writes, is a time of decisional love, not just emotional, romantic love.
“The syrupy, romantic infatuation type of love has evolved throughout the previous stages into the mature, steady, forgiving, serving love,” Franck says. “Each person is now intent on what they can bring to the relationship and give to the other. This is the acceptable, ideal time for an engagement to occur. If it occurs much before the fourth stage it is usually premature and based upon wrong and incomplete conclusions.”
So what is the ideal time frame before a couple should become engaged? “it is wise to allow a relationship to develop at least 12 months before engagement,” Franck concludes.
Of this school of thought also is Mrs Agnes Kang’ori a family counsellor. She says that before any two partners embark on the marriage path, they should have first studied and discussed basic issues such as temperaments, finances, family background, likes and dislikes and any secrets each might hold.
“Any time less than one year could be too short to learn a person. More than three years when both are working- then there is no much commitment. You need to sit down and discuss the way forward,” says Agnes.
She is though quick to add, “ Nothing is likely to happen if they date for a very long or short period if both are serious on what they are doing. But they need to be watchful and set smart goals which must be attainable by both of them.”
Another family life professional Ms Nancy Pelt, in her book Smart Love puts the stages of dating as friendship, casual dating, special dating, steady dating, pre-engagement, formal engagement and lastly marriage. She advises a couple to date for two years prior to engagement, ideally spending a total of one year on stages 1,2 and 3.
One year, she feels is long enough for any masks that had been put on to fall off.
“Many people can successfully mask negative tendencies for a year. Only rarely can such game playing go beyond that. Therefore when a couple rushes into marriage too quickly, they are marrying a virtual stranger, someone who will likely turn out to be a stranger than they ever wanted to know. Marrying in haste, without taking sufficient time to check a person out, is jumping into a relationship based on assumption. Assumptions make appalling marriage partners.”
Long dating periods on the other, some which last six, seven and eight years are not altogether alien. While some people feel that they give one ample time to know their partners and plan for a future together, experts warn that the relationship can quickly become boring or can result in cohabitation where formal marriage is never reached. This is because mature adults and any relationship needs to grow through the stages. Staying at one level for too long feels stagnant and moribund or, conversely, too intense for comfort. In either case, it’s not healthy for the relationship or the partners in it.
“You will never completely know a person. So if you wait until you have no more doubts in your mind, you can wait forever,” says Mrs Ann Kiguatha, who dated her husband for one and a half years before they got engaged.
She continues. “Once the two of you have agreed on the most basic things and you are still willing to get married, I believe you should.”
On second thought she adds. “I would rather you spend enough time dating. Then even if things go bad, you will not blame yourself for rushing.”
All said, the man may exceed your three-year deadline, and still there is no ring in sight. You can opt to give him the benefit of doubt- afterall just because you are ready does not mean he his. The perfect proposal is about the two of you. If you still believe he is worth the wait, the best you can do is make most of your waiting period without having to literally beg for a ring. It does not make sense to put your life on hold. Be among the few courageous ones and propose yourself. If you can’t, take your time to do all the things that singleness allows you to do. Maybe he is just under pressure to make the perfect proposal. But then like someone once said, “Relationships, like anything else, involve timing. If you’re cooking something, you watch to see when it bubbles and take it off the stove at just the right time. If you wait too long, the pot boils over and the consistency is forever changed. That makes the difference.”