How Long Should You Date Someone Before Marriage?

There is no perfect time period that decides whether or not you and your partner will stay together forever. Things happen, good or bad that will always alter, harm, or strengthen whether a marriage will work in the long term, but in the dating phase, maybe put into consideration how long you've been with the other person and what you have and have not gone through, talked about, lived through, or accomplished, before you propose or say yes.

How Long Should You Date Someone Before Marriage?

Dating someone 6 months of less

There is a reason marriages tend to fail the most for those dating 6 months or less. This is the honeymoon phase for just about every couple where everything is new, fresh, and intense. You're lusting after the other person constantly. Sex is amazing and constant. Your partner is up to hang out with you and do everything with you every time you call. Your partner is on his or her best behavior. Fighting is non-existent or not major. You don't really know their family, they don't really know yours and that dynamic on your relationship. Maybe you haven't gone through the holidays with them or know much more about them then surface things everyone else can look up on facebook and know. The problem is having and holding on to the expectation that everything from the moment you say yes or propose is going to be just like that every single day of your marriage. You haven't spent much time probing and getting to know your partner above the surface level either because you didn't want to or because they never let you in any deeper then a few random tidbits about them that don't amount to much. The only people in this category I wouldn't worry too much about would be people who get married much later in life, say in their 40s and beyond. Mostly because these people have been through life, have had the kids, have their professional lives and houses already sorted out, have had the adventures and armed with that knowledge and having learned from past mistakes, tend to know what they want and who they are, and don't waste time BS'ing a partner, but opt to lay their cards out on the table from the get go.

Dating someone for one to three years

These couples, for the most part, have taken some real time to get to know one another beyond just the surface. You've had or are having those real life conversations that no one likes to talk about in public. They know your past, your secrets, when their mother's birthday is, and they have perhaps lived with you for a while so you've gotten to see what it's like to be in each others lives not just on a few dates, but on the daily. Typically your families know each other for better or worse, and you have been fully immersed and integrated into each others lives. You've had a few struggles, have been through some things, have made your decisions to have kids, not have kids, live in the city, live in the suburbs, etc. The more successful couples of this bunch don't put any pressure on a partner to either say yes, or to propose. They've talked about marriage, decided they wanted it to happen, and if/when it does, they can be confident with their yes.

Dating someone longer then 3 years

This type of dating is good for those who started to get to know each other when they were young, like in middle school, high school, or even college. Perhaps you knew at the time you met you were either legally too young to marry or you knew you were too young to settle down. These couples have a need to experience more out of life, to accomplish more things on their own, to really question sometimes if getting married again, after say a failed marriage, is for them. Often times, even the patient can become impatient at waiting for a partner to make up their minds. They may start to pressure you or you them because you feel like what else do they need to know about you or why don't the love, trust, or want to marry you...at this point. There are also the long suffering couples who just continue to make a go of it until one just proposes and they get married, but both knew it was a bad idea given their history, in the first place. Staying together for a long time with no end goal or decision to just continue to date, in site often leads to quick divorces once the rings are on. Indecisiveness, resentment, pressure, long term bad relationships, and overall dissatissfaction that one "wasted their life" waiting so long for something they thought would be great to happen, tend to kill these relationships.


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What Guys Said 31

  • I met my ex wife jan 10, 1989, I went into the military on feb 14, then I came home may 27 and proposed. We spent all but 1 day of that month together. after cancelling a couple of dates because we wanted to pay off debt, or finish school, we did finally marry. We were engaged 5 years. We were married 20. When your young, it is important to be engaged a while. or at least live together. I think living together is very important. because you cannot really know if your compatible until then. When your older and if you have been unfortunate enough to have gone through a divorce due to someone that didn't value family enough to fight, then I think you have a better judgement of what works.

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    • well said

    • just to clarify, we never lived together. I lived at home until I got married at 25, with the exception of the time in the military which really does not count. The advice I would give to my 3 boys would be live together first. Unfortunately her family resolves things by just divorcing and not fighting. I have very few people in my extended family that are divorced and she has most people in her very small family. 25 years together meant nothing. what a shame.

  • Assuming both people are living on their own and not with their parents, 6-12 months of exclusive is sufficient. Studies of human behavior consistently show that most people become "comfortable" in about 3 months and pretty much everyone does by 6 months. This hold true whether it's dating a new person, a new job, a new friend, whatever. Not a bad thing, just human nature, but the idea that it takes years to get to know someone is silly and has no basis in science. After 3-6 months of dating someone consistently you will be able to tell what kind of person they when it comes to things like morality, work ethic, whether or not they care about people or are selfish, what their motivations in life are, etc.

    Of course, this is all assuming that you know what you want to do with your life. If you're not sure where you want to live, what you want to do, if you want to have kids, what religion you are, or other big personal life choices, then of course you're not going to be ready to marry anyone, but the idea that you need years of time to decide if the person is someone you want to marry makes no sense and has no scientific basis when it comes to human behavioral patterns.

    Waiting too long to get married is just as bad. If you've been dating someone for 2, 3, 5 or 10 years, that's just way too long really have a good memory of what life was like when you were single or when you were dating someone else. On top of that, human happiness is largely based upon moving forward in life, and that's difficult to do when you're stuck dating the same person for several years and still unsure where the relationship is going. You should be figuring what your life together is going to be. Are you going to start a family? Start a business? Travel the world? Become a missionary? Start a non-profit for a political issue you are passionate about? Being stuck in the same stage of life for years and years leads to unhappiness, lack of motivation, and eventually depression.

    People waiting to get married and dating for long periods is a VERY new phenomenon. Not saying that means it's bad, but if you're waiting to get married because you think getting married soon is bad or because you think that's what everyone wants you to do, then you're doing yourself a major disservice.

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    • @Ratiocinative
      In short , the American way: meet, have an ONS, date, buy very expensive engagement rings, run to the church to marry, then if you see you don't match, you divorce. (after cheating and a lot of drama, of course) Then start over again. Serial polygamy.

  • I have to say that five years of dating did it for me, We just celebrated year 27 of marriage plus the 5 year practice run we have been together for 32 years... Now I have to also say that marriage is really just a way to form a business relationship, some people have unrealistic expectations as they relate to the impact that marriage will have.. the act of and entering into the contract of marriage should only be considered after the personal, intimate relationship has been defined. Define your personal relationships by your willingness to sacrifice things for your partner. I have found that if you take the time to really understand yourself deeply, I know that might sound counter productive, like shouldn't I get to know my partner.. but it actually is the best method available today to attract those things that compliment and mesh and support your ability to be that which others are attracted to... which will also change... I am not the man I was last week or last year I have learned that my opinions and beliefs are very flexible and I have always intentionally tried to understand what makes her feel secure, happy and satisfied so that when she thinks of me she feels it...

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    • This was so perfectly articulated. I most certainly understand your point about knowing yourself as well (I actually wrote a take about it not to long ago). Marriage really balances a lot on reciprocity. One cannot just give all of themselves and never have the same give returned to them. There has to be a balance where you recognize yourselves as individuals, but you know yourself as a couple as well, and as you said, are willing to make the sacrifices for the benefit of your marriage. This is the point in life when you are able to find and understand your equal.

    • Thank you and I agree, never allow anyone to treat you in a way that makes you uncomfortable people can have a skewed perspective when it comes to the way they are treated and how they should be treated. Marriage is great when the people really understand and accept the responsibility however, a long term relationship with some one that is based on trust, humor, love, companionship, sex , respect... is unique and totally worth the wait...

  • As you said, there is never a guarantee that you know your partner well enough to avoid entering a bad marriage. However, you can minimize the risk by spending some time in the courtship phase. However long you date, you need to have some experiences with suffering some adversities together, working on some projects together, having some disagreements and working on compromises/solutions so that you have at least a "sneak peek" of what is in store for your relationship.

    As you also pointed out, as you get older, you become more aware of your likes/dislikes, deal breakers, etc. and you have learned to not try to hide or ignore those things, so it doesn't take as long to get an indication of compatibility.

    Nice myTake!

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    • Thank you. That's it right there. I know some cultures and faiths require couples to undergo some sort of pre-marital counseling before marriage because they understand the clear importance of having those deep discussions about kids, finances, religion, and your future together, and what have you. Obviously you don't need to go there to get that, but it amazes me how many people who end up in divorce court, never had any of these talks with a partner. I mean how many of us would commit to buying a house site unseen, yet for some people, they commit to a life of marriage without ever knowing who or what situations they're getting into.

  • First I will show my hand, I don't believe in marriage but for the sake of the take I will talk about settling down and think about having a family or becoming a family unit even without having kids. On the face of it, of course the logical advice is whenever you feel ready but your rule of thumb guide seems quite good to me.
    (1) Less than 6 months/1 year - Too fast
    (2) 1 to 3 years seems about right
    (3) Over 3 years unless very young seems a bit long.
    That said we are discounting a lot of factors that make/break a relationship like pregnancy, distance but it is just outline advice so overall good advice.

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    • First, I addressed that in my opening: "Things happen, good or bad that will always alter, harm, or strengthen whether a marriage will work in the long term..." Time is clearly never going to be the only factor in whether marriage works. Second, I've never tried to convince anyone who was set against marriage, to get married. It's about the people who do believe in marriage and who want that for themselves and/or their families. There might be a 50% divorce rate, but you can't just discount the other 50% of marriages that are working. Time can help. Not forcing someone into, or not rushing into it yourself before you feel you're ready and being as transparent as possible with your partner about your past, your goals and dreams in life, and what you want for each other together can work in your favor.

    • I agreed with you, I wasn't saying I was against marriage - I just talked about becoming a family unit as being roughly the same thing - I thought the thrust of the article was very logical - Yeah I have no issue with settling down with a woman, cohabiting maybe having or not having kids but just for me personally I don't need a wedding to validate it - If other people are in favour of marriage that is their business, if they are into it, so be it.

  • In my opinion, three years is the ideal time you have to date somebody before you get married with. It depends on how old are you at your first date and if you are in a economical situation that lets you get married, so no matter if this period gets longer.

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  • A good mytake and I'd say around 2-3 years would be sufficient for me it seems like a good amount of time to really get to know one another and be around/with each other.

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  • Met wife at 20. Had four years of dating along with another year engaged. The last two years were long distance. We have been married now 29 years and will be 30 by end of year.

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  • We started 1967, married 1971

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    • Did you ever see any memorable concerts in the 60s and 70s?

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    • A few years later Brel was dead. :(

    • Yeah that's what I mean -- Wrong continent...

      But, you could always crash the party in spirit, at least, right?
      (:

  • I personally think it depends on the couple. Both people need to truly know each other before walking down that aisle. You need to ask yourself: is there a very slight chance we may part ways months or years from now? If the answer is yes, then don't walk down the aisle. You can't have a shred of doubt that the marriage will work. Any doubt means there's a chance it won't work. And this goes for both people - not just the girl or the guy. You need to be absolutely certain that you won't separate from each other for good. Otherwise, what's the point of getting married? Marriage is about being (and staying) together, not breaking up down the road.

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    • It seems very few people (and I mean, VERY few) truly understand what marriage is really about. Most people take marriage at face value like everyone else does.

  • I have a friend whose parents dated for 2 days before deciding to get married, and they've been together for over 25 years. Not saying anyone should do that, because it's rare that actually works, but just saying that something like this can happen.

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  • I knew my ex-wife for 2 weeks before proposing to her

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    • Is that why you're exes? That's not meant to sound bad by the way, I'm just wondering if you think that was part of the problem.

      And I have another question. How did you propose that fast?

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    • That's a surprisingly long time to last. Did you get to go backpacking?

    • @POTAYTOPOTAHTO Yes, we backpacked for 6 months across Europe, great fun

  • People nowadays have the wrong concept about marriage; "Let try it out and see if it works." You want advice, talk to a couple that's been married for 30+ years!
    Kids, Marriage is not a 50,50% deal, you both have to be 100% both ways to make a marriage work successfully! When you tie the knot and if one of you want to go out with your friends, ask your partner if it's OK to do so. And you men, if your love one starts a fight, keep quite, "Don't fuel the fire!" Let her vent! Making up can be awesome! I speak from experience, I was with my love for 35 1/2 years until she died of Melanoma and I was her caretaker too!

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  • I like your take

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  • Great take!

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  • Mmmmm solid 2 to 3 years for me to even begin thinking about it

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  • Years. Also a long engagement. But I ditched the idea of getting married. Marriage is dead and women killed it.

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    • @TwentySomething please explain your theory on how you think women killed marriage?

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    • @Throwaway420 Are you saying women are the soul reason for divorce? I know men and women both can be the cause for divorce.

    • @funny_strange_man Ever since 'no-fault divorce,' women have initiated over 70% of divorces with the vast majority of them being under 'no-fault' circumstances (that is, he didn't do anything wrong, she just wasn't satisfied). Right now the divorce rate is up around 60%, and when you get divorced as a man you face systemic institutional bias against you. You are most likely to lose half of your assets, your children, be stuck with ongoing alimony payments, and a whole host of other negative outcomes.

      There's literally NOTHING in marriage for men, and women have supported the feminist movement which made marriage what it is today.

  • My girlfriend and I are really strong and close despite us being teenagers, and she lives 2000 miles away, but if we stay together through high school we plan on moving closer together and getting married. But yeah a lot of you older people probably think we're stupid and too young but I can see it working.

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    • I would agree that 15 is too young to get married these days mainly because the hard stuff, living on your own, paying all your bills, living with your partner, having to decide what to do with your lives, where you want to go, and what you want have not yet really happened for the pair of you. You can't yet know how that will effect you and your outlook on life. It's also sometimes easy to do the long distance thing in the sense that you don't have to deal with the other person day to day and don't really have to attend to their needs face to face. I sound probably really negative to you, but I definitely believe in love and marriage and that it could work out for you guys with more time that is.

    • Oh I know haha definitely not planning on getting married at age 15. We said if we stay together until high school is over maybe I'll move to her and then we can date closer and if we still are a happy couple we'll get married around the age of 25. But yeah who knows if it'll work xD I really hope it does though.

  • Pre-marriage counselling is a nice idea and so is talking about marriage and relationships and how each of you perceive other's marriages the grandpas/grandmas that are still together and the broken/divorced ones. Just saying. Talk about it regularly.

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  • I will for 3+ years before marrying at least because I only plan on marrying once, if I do xD

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What Girls Said 23

  • I married my husband by 1yr and 2months. We were engaged around 6 months. We talked about the future a lot. What we wanted out of life. Our goals. Kids. Religious beliefs. The things that make us tick. There's never any guarantees you'll last forever. My brother an his gfs are engaged going on 5 years now. They've been together for 14 years. They have a twisted relationship. I don't think they should marry and apparently they feel the same.
    I don't really think there's a specific time period for everyone. It's more about how you handle your relationship. If you spend time talking about the important thing. The things that usually cause differences arguments. Like how you'd raise your kids. Religious beliefs. Values. Your dreams. Your future plans with work. You could go on and on. Most people that get married under a year are marrying for those intense feelings, thinking their lover is perfect for them. Those times you spend together falling in love should be productive if you're thinking of marriage.

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    • This is exactly what was said in my take. It is more about getting to fully know your partner. The real version of them, not the surface level version of them and feeling truly ready with no lingering doubts about giving it a go.

    • I never said you didn't. I was just saying how my husband and I did things.

    • I don't understand your comment. I said all the things you just mentioned are in my take as reasons why certain people do tend to do better than others... because they are the ones who have taken real time to get to know their partner before marriage.

  • Not sure because the duration of dating before marriage is such a subjective thing, can one actually put a time length on it?

    My grandparents met and were married all within the space of a month, they were together almost 63 years before my Grandfather died. I know of a couple who dated for 7 or 8 years, engaged another 2 years, their marriage lasted less than 2 years. He was afraid of commitment, which is what killed their marriage. Through this couple I sort of is an example for me at least of ultra-long engagements or dating periods, I see someone who can't make up their mind within a year or two as being wary of commitment, that's dating not engagement.

    To me engagement is a period of time when you get to know your future spouse a whole lot better, how they handle finances, temperament... in other words you take the filters away and see them for who they really are.

    Back to dating, I'd say that a year or two leading up to engagement of another year or two is sufficient to get to know your future spouse well enough to say "I do" or even "I don't". Just because you become engaged is no guarantee you will marry; it's a trial period for the couple to decide whether they are truly meant for each other.

    We dated for a year before becoming engaged, (me 17) with both sets of parents permission. Our engagement lasted a year and a half. Ours is a case of young marrieds only because we have known each other and been best friends since the ages of 5 (me) and 6 years old. We grew up less than 1/10 of a mile from one another, I've spent more time with him than my own family!

    When we realized we were romantically in love, it was a case of making sure we were committed to that love and each other for a lifetime not for the giddy feeling it gave us. I would have waited a lifetime to find the kind of committed love I've found with my soulmate.

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    • all that you have said including your own life example, has already been said in the take. That's the point of it all.

  • We have been dating 1 year, we made up our minds about each other pretty quickly and decided to jump into the "Marriage" talk after 5 months in.

    We are at that point of "pre-engagement," we're working on financial issues at the moment as well as looking at the prices of homes in areas we are considering moving to once the rings are on.

    I'm anxious to start my life with him but I know waiting longer won't kill me, and once we both can support each other and a household we will be ready for that final step into married life. I love this man and I'm happy to have been with him a successful and happy year

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    • First off, I am happy for you and wish you guys the best. I think you are doing the responsible thing which is knowing that you have a little work to do before you say I do and not just jumping the broom because you feel you're in love. There are just some realities to married life, like house/money/kids/religion/future plans that you need to talk about and know about your partner to help you make a full informed decision. I think you guys are on the right track.

  • Whatever amount of time to takes for you to know that this is the person you want to commit to being with for the rest of your life and for you to figure out what you want in life and where marriage fits in. I think how long that takes depend on the individuals and the stage of life they're both at. I think as you get a bit older you know more quickly whether this person is the right match for you or not because you have a better handle on who you are and what you want out of life.

    As for when you should get married, I think honk hat depends less on when you "know" and more on where you're at in life and what you want. So, if you are with the right person but you're in your early 20s and aren't financially stable yet or have goals you want to accomplish you'd want to put it off til you're a bit older and more stable. If you're in your late twenties or early thirties and want to have children, you might be ready to make that commitment after about a year.

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  • My marriage failed not because we hadn't been together long enough beforehand but because we were too naive. We thought the one would get us through everything simply because they were the one but this isn't true. Marriage requires real work and sometimes you do wanna run away but eventually you regret it.

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  • I love your take... When I met my love he was a serial dater only married 3 years and single for over 15 years. I was married for OVER 24 years we ONLY dated for less then a year, we had children, moved to Kansas , white picket fence etc... the whole nine yards, We had a happy marriage in the beginning but I was young 22 he was older 30. I really hadn't dated much out of high school. He had sewn his wild oats and was ready to settle down. I thought thats what I wanted TOO.. Unfortunately I GREW UP and realized in my 40's I am NOT happy I need more and started regressing to my younger days and wanted some freedom to explore new things. We divorced and haven't spoke since, (his is bitter) I then found myself I immersed myself in yoga, my business etc.. and didn't date for 2 years. I met the LOVE of my life on a first date, we had a 5 day date, then another 5 day date and I moved in less then two months. We have been together and living together for 2 years this April. We have been through a lot we have conquered a lot. We love each other deeply. I am READY for marriage. We have not talked about it except for one time... We were lying in bed on one of our 5 day dates and we were talking about a 5 year plan I mentioned I want to be married, he then said 'I WILL NEVER MARRY AGAIN!" (his x-wife took him for over $500,000) I then JUMPED out of bed and said well then lets end this NOW , I am NOT gonna waste my time with someone who does not want to get married. He then said WAIT WAIT I didn't mean NEVER I meant I would do it differently. I am assuming PRE-NUP? He is a successful doctor and I do understand to a point. WE HAVE NEVER TALKED ABOUT IT SINCE..
    I am NOW ready.. SHOULD I BRING IT UP AGAIN? or leave it alone? HE is very old fashioned and manly.. !

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    • If you know for sure in your heart of hearts that marriage is what you truly want and just dating and being with someone isn't enough... then your feelings about the subject aren't going to change whether you chose to talk about it, or ignore it. If anything, you may end up resenting him for it, even though it is you who wants to get married now. Even though you say you know how it feels on his end about his ex-wife, I would say don't invalidate his feelings on that. I'm sure you understand that when someone is hurt on that type of level, it can take a while to re-cover and to fully trust and love again. If anything wait until he isn't tired, hungry, upset, there is no game on, and just turn off all distractions and have a real conversation about how you feel. The only way you're going to know what its like for him on the other end, is after all, if you talk about it. Good luck to you.

    • Thank you GREAT advice ! I am gonna bring it up when he takes me to Hawaii in June for my 50th ! Maybe he already is planning a proposal? LoL

  • I've been dating my boyfriend for just over a year and a half. And I expect an engagement in the next few months, it's just something we've talked about and are both excited about. I want it to be a surprise though :)

    And we'll stay engaged until next summer when I graduate at least, so, 2-3 years is when we will get married, and that's exactly what I've always wanted/thought was best for me.

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    • But what about what he wants, what's best for him in terms of how long to wait before marriage?

    • @sunshineguy That's definitely half of the plan, haha. Half him, half me. He is serious about our future though, so he takes into account my school schedule (which is in 4 year chunks) He wants this too. The only difference is that he prefers a shorter engagement whereas I like a longer engagement.

  • Yeah, I've known my partner for 8 years, we've been together for 4 of those, and I wouldn't want to think properly about us getting married until our fifth year considering how young we are.

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    • you sound like my friends who just got married after dating for nearly 15 years. They met freshman year of high school, through college, and then after graduation due to some cultural and religious issues, the families would not "allow them" to get married, so it was a whole long ordeal with that, but finally they tied the knot and it was basically magical.

  • I agree that three or four years is the most ideal amount of time though there are exceptions. I know an older man a family friend who proposed and married the love of his life on the second date! He just said he just couldn't see himself with anyone else different times or maybe just different strokes for different folks I suppose. This reminds me of a conversation my grandfather and great uncle once had my great uncle was bragging about all the grandchildren and great grand children he has. He then said something along the lines of "Why don't you have this many?" and my Grandpa replied "Because my kids are smart!".

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  • We've been together 14 months. He proposed to me the day after Christmas. We were originally getting married in the Fall but because of reasons, we'll be getting married Memorial Day weekend. So from first date to being married will be just about 17 months.

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  • We dated for 2 years before getting engaged and were engaged for 2 years before getting married. We will be celebrating 9 years of blissful marriage this year :D

    I had known him my whole life (grew up on the same block close-knit block) and dating him forced me (for the first time) to really start thinking about my future. I was 16 & he was 18. Now we have been together for 13 years now.

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  • there's no set time for these things

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  • Just to get to know them and be financially ready could be less than a year or 3/4 years

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    • There are no definite times that will work for everyone b/c we do know that one couple who did or didn't last with each of these time frames. My only real advice over all else, is if you haven't taken the time to sit down and really get to know the other person above just favorite color and food, it's going to be a tough road if you just jump into I do. You need to know you can trust, and rely on them, and that you do in fact love them more than anything.

  • My husband proposed a month after we met and had begun dating. Two months after proposing we eloped. Been married nearly 6.5 years. We are often told our marriage is better than many others who had been together for years. I've had a few friends marry high school sweethearts and divorce after a year.

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  • For me it would be minimum three years.

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  • I think more than 1 year works for young couple from high school but if we are financially stable & above 25, then why wait? I go with 6 month or less.

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    • you do know marriage is much more than if you can pay your bills together or not, right? This is someone you're committing to presumably for the rest of your life. You might want to actually know more about them then just their bank account status. That doesn't tell you if they want kids, or how they will handle a verbal fight with you, or what their life plans for you are, how they treat others, etc. That's the case I would make for waiting longer than 6 months, but of course, to each his or her own.

  • I think it depends on the person. For me, I think it's a compromise. What do you think, @hifromkai?

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  • For me personally I would date for a year and a half to two years

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  • My husband and I were married after 1 year and 2 months but apparently he knew he wanted to marry me after the first date, it took me a couple months for him to convince me of that. We got engaged at 3 months and would've been married the next day if we could but I had already planned to move the next month so that made it complicated.

    Regardless we didn't know each other very long but we are very happy together because we promise to always work out our issues and talk about them.

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  • I would say you definitely need to live with the person first, to really know someone.
    A minimum of like 2/3 years?
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