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 Naijastories.com.