Engaging in in-depth discussions on everything from having kids to combining finances helps you ensure you’re with a compatible partner, but while these moments should be checked off the list pre-nuptials, they take time.
That may be why a 2014 study found that couples who dated for at least three years before getting engaged were 39 percent less likely to get divorced than couples who dated less than a year before getting engaged.
According to the study, published in Social Science Research Network, couples who dated for one to two years before their engagement were 20 percent less likely to divorce than couples who dated under a year. This number shoots up to 39 percent when you tack on another year of dating.
This finding should be a warning to all those eager to jump into marriage moments after meeting each other. The years preceding your marriage are when you get to really know each other.
Without that time forming a bond and gaining a deep understanding of your partner, experts say you could be marrying someone that’s not truly right for you. And that often doesn’t end well.
Marriage and family therapist and author Sharon Gilchrest O’Neill says in her experience, couples who only dated briefly before marriage “were more likely in therapy to admit that they had not known each other well enough to have made such a serious commitment.”
Gilchrest O’Neill explains that these couples “come to realize how they idealized their partner in the beginning of getting to know each other, yet didn’t allow themselves to acknowledge the unlovable behaviors/characteristics of their partners.”
She agrees that three years is generally a good amount of time to gain a deep understanding of your partner, which allows you to make an informed decision when choosing to get married.
“The benefits to a few years of dating before marriage is learning about any warning signs. Eventually, the honeymoon phase wears off, and the true colors shine through,” says relationship expert Lauren Peacock, the author of Female. Likes Cheese. Comes with Dog.: Stories About Divorce, Dating, and Saying “I Do.”
“It also can be a benefit because you can prepare yourself and take baby steps with the bigger, more exciting events, like moving in together or buying a house.”
There’s no question that getting married can be a life-changing thrill, but it’s also one of the biggest decisions you can make.
With that in mind, it may be worth taking a little extra time to build up to that moment so that you’re confident in the partner you’re choosing.