I remember when I was in middle school, dreaming about the day I would get engaged and the perfect wedding I would have. When you’re 10 you don’t understand that getting engaged is not all about the ring, flowers and fancy wedding gifts. When a couple chooses to become engaged they are agreeing to be the other’s life partner, emotionally and sexually, possible parent to their children, sharer of finances, and family to their family. This is a big decision and a big leap of faith, especially considering the divorce rate in the United States is 50%. So how do you know that you are ready to marry and that you’ve found the right person to marry? Researchers have found there are a few different benchmarks to know if you are in a relationship that will last the test of time.
Speaking of time – it is a major indicator of marital success rates. Multiple studies have found that couples who dated for at least 2 years before they were married were not only significantly more satisfied after being married, they were 20% less likely to be divorced after 7 years than couples who had dated for less than 2 years. These researchers found that couples who had made it through 2 years of dating had time to learn about their partner’s communication and conflict style. This is not to say that you can’t otherwise have a successful marriage; however, it suggests that it’s important to take the time to really get to know your partner.
Relationship maturity is determined by each partner’s maturity level in a relationship. This maturity can come with experience from past relationships, learning from parents or friends who have a healthy relationship, or from gaining a level of insight into yourself and your own relationships. Someone with relationship maturity is more likely to choose a partner who has similar values to their own, is accepted by their close friends or family members and is not abusive or controlling. Some signs of strong relational maturity: being aware of your wants and emotional needs, being empathetic towards your partner, demonstrating both connectedness and independence and having the ability to support yourself and your partner through difficult times.
On top of time and maturity, in order for a relationship to really thrive through all phases of life, there needs to be connection. As humans we have an innate desire to connect to others around us in an intimate way. Couples who have a strong sense of connectedness often have a strong friendship base to their relationship and are satisfied with the physical and emotional intimacy in the relationship. Couples feel more connected when both partners feel safe and secure in their relationship and feel valued and loved no matter what they share or express. A strong connection is a high predictor of marital satisfaction and success.
If you believe that you and your partner have what it takes – time invested in the relationship, relational maturity and have a strong emotional and physical connection, the last thing you need to consider is your readiness. Are both you and your partner ready for marriage? This is a discussion you should have before someone gets down on one knee. It’s important to ensure that you both feel ready for this next step in your relationship and life. Some critical items to include in that discussion should be expectations about children, married life, finances, faith and anything else that is important to you as you join your life with your partner’s.
If you have read all of this and know you are ready to get engaged and married – congratulations! If not, that’s ok. Every relationship moves at its own pace and it is better to take your time understanding your and your partner’s needs before rushing into an engagement. If you think you could benefit from some support in having these discussions, I recommend my online premarital course or scheduling an appointment with one of these highly trained therapists who can walk you through the process in person and help you achieve the marriage you’ve always dreamed of!
If you’re already wedding planning, check out our post, four ways to avoid letting wedding stress get the best of you.