Back in 1979, Ted L. Huston, a researcher on how intimate relationships change over time, studied the relationships of couples for 13 years to see how the length of their relationships before marriage affected their relationship after.
The study, called the PAIR Project, involved 168 marriages and had some interesting findings.
Couples who dated for 25 months had the happiest marriages. On the other hand, couples who dated for three years before getting married had unhappy marriages while those who fell in love quickly and married after 18 months were often divorced by their seventh year together. Huston gave the term “early exiters” to couples who divorced anywhere between two and seven years of marriage. They were also the kind of couples who did not keep “exclusive” relationships and used marriage as a means of rekindling their lost romance.
Huston also found that couples that dated for an average of 18 months became engaged in half that time, with men falling deeply in love in the early stages. This was something that Huston found influenced the length of marriage, with those who fell quickly in love sticking out marriages when they begin to falter.
In comparison, eHarmony recently ran a study to find out how long couples these day were waiting before tying the knot.
The study, which first began in 2008, found that couples decided to get married after approximately 2.8 years together. Couples who knew each other before this period were included, though the time spent knowing each other before a romantic relationship wasn’t counted.
eHarmony’s study found that couples reported being happier in their marriages than those of three decades ago. This also coincides with the findings that the divorce rate (in the US) is lower than it was in the 1980s.
Ian Kerner, a therapist, sex and relationship specialist, told The Knot that couples should wait between one and two years before getting engaged.
“I’ve worked with a lot of couples who have strong relationships, and they met and fell in love quickly and really got to know each other’s friends and family,” said Kerner. “They got to experience what it’s like to live with each other or spend a lot of time with each other, go through some life cycle issues, like the loss of a family member or the loss of a friendship, or going to a wedding or funeral and really getting to see each other in a lot of different contexts and feel like it’s a good match.
“Generally, that can happen in a year… You want to have some problems emerge and see how you deal with problems together. For me, it’s more about the range of experiences that lend themselves to compatibility rather than the amount of time.”
A 2014 study by Emory University found that couples who dates for more than three years were 39 per cent less likely to divorce, while couples who dated for two years were 20 per cent less likely to divorce.
If you’re wondering if there’s a magic number for how long you need to date before getting married, it really just depends on who you are, as an individual and a couple.
Between two and three years seems to be the most successful, but at the end of the day, it’s not about time, but about how much you love each other.