Time Is Your Ally in Choosing Mate

Published August 7, 1980.

QUESTION: I have gone out with a fellow on three dates, and he is already beginning to talk about marriage with me! Don’t you think this is a little soon? We have gone together just a few weeks, and I am wondering what is an appropriate time for a couple to date before making a decision about marriage?

ANSWER: One thing that has continually amazed me about mate selection is how rapidly it sometimes occurs. Young persons spend 20 to 25 years growing and maturing and then, in a matter of weeks or even days, make a decision which dramatically affects the rest of their lives. I have even known of situations where the decision was literally made in hours. One couple met at a party and within four hours decided to marry. They married within two weeks and unfortunately divorced a few months later.

We are witnessing another trend in the United States which concerns me. There are marriages lasting not years or months but sometimes just weeks. Over the years I have talked to couples married just a short time who have been devastated by the experience. I have personally known couples married two or three weeks who were seriously contemplating divorce.

If these couples and others who became disillusioned during the early stages of marriage had given a little more thought to choosing a husband or wife, I wonder if they would have been so disappointed. Young people can find out enough about each other before marriage to make an adequate choice for marriage. But such decisions take time and usually more than just a few hours, days, or weeks.

How long it takes to adequately get to know a person before marriage depends on several factors. The age and maturity of the individuals involved matters as does the depth and frequency of the discussions prior to marriage. A couple could date for several months or even years on a superficial basis and never really get to know each other.

On the other hand, I have known couples who were in their middle or late twenties who dated for a few short weeks. During this time there were long, in-depth discussions about each other, their goals, and the expectations and aspirations for marriage. At the end of three weeks they were confident that marriage to each other would be wise. Coupes on this level of maturity are rare, however, and usually are the exception.

In general, most marriage counselors and educators suggest that a couple know each other for several months, perhaps a year, before they marry. This is not an absolute rule but a guideline. Time is usually an ally in getting to know another person and making marital decisions.

A couple should know each other long enough before marriage so the emotional highs of the romance will be tempered by the long-range realities they will encounter. In essence, we have to give equal time to our heart and our head in making our decisions.

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