Social Question

nikipedia's avatar

What are your suggested timelines?

Asked by nikipedia (27327 points ) March 12th, 2012

I often wonder about this when people make big life decisions (especially when I’m judging them for it), and it seems like everyone has an opinion on it:

What do you think is a reasonable timeline to marriage? How long do you need to know someone to know someone?

And then what about babies? How long should two partners be partners before they take that leap?

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20 Answers

wundayatta's avatar

Seems to me you should know someone at least six month before marrying them, but I would prefer a year or two.

Babies—well, I say the sooner the better. You never know if you’ll turn out to be infertile and that will cause a big mess and a lot of heartache. Better get started sooner rather than later.

Nullo's avatar

I ballpark marriage and family-starting between 20 and 29. A year or so dating/engagement is good.

MollyMcGuire's avatar

You should know someone three years before thinking about marriage. That doesn’t mean you know them, but you should know that you are compatible or not. Babies—not until five years after marriage. No babies without marriage. A “partner” is not a spouse.

funkdaddy's avatar

Actually thinking it through, to get married (if you want to stay married) I think you should date them at least a year and if possible live with them for a while unless you have some reason not to. You don’t really know what living with someone will be like until you do, there’s just no way to talk about everything that entails. If you’ve woken up next to someone for six month, argued about the trash and dishes, and fought about money, then you pretty much know where you stand.

Babies are a whole different game and should be whenever you’re ready. You just have to commit to making sure your life is stable enough that you can give them the time and love they need. Kids are resilient, but they know when you’re unhappy and they know when they aren’t wanted.

A parent’s responsibility on the first is just to make sure it doesn’t linger, the second should never happen.

(especially when I’m judging them for it) – are you getting married?

JLeslie's avatar

I think around two years is good before you get married if you are under 25. I think the older someone is, the more likely they are to know if a relationship is marriage material, because the people themselves have a better grasp of life and of themselves.

As far as kids go, I generally say have them as young as possible once married, stable, and sure you want kids. I would say wait at least a year after getting married to get pregnant though, unless you had lived together for years already.

Cruiser's avatar

I don’t think you can put a timeline on this as everyones place in life is so full of variables that it would be near impossible to quantify undying love in a time line. I married my first wife after going out for over 8 years and we were divorced in 14 months. I married my second wife after dating barely 2 years and we will celebrate our 18th anniversary this year. I also think it very presumptuous for anyone other than the blissful couple to have a say so in this matter.

nikipedia's avatar

@funkdaddy, not unless you’re asking!

JLeslie's avatar

@Cruiser That happens a lot, people who date for 6+ years, and divorce quickly after marrying.

Cruiser's avatar

@JLeslie Well I sure was surprised as hell when she left me for a heroine addict. You would think you knew someone after 8 years of living together.

JLeslie's avatar

@Cruiser Ugh, that sucks. What I usually observe is the people come to a point where it is break up or get married, and neither can do the break up, so they get married. Then they realize it was a mistake. Usually they know it is a mistake before the marriage, but they just go ahead. I do know couples who dated for years, married, and stayed together forever. Most of them started dating while in school, and so were not going to get married while in school, so circumstance was why they did not marry, it was not that they just never got married, and then finally did. I don’t know your situation of course.

Nullo's avatar

@funkdaddy Cohabitation is linked to higher divorce rates, in fact.

rojo's avatar

I would say give yourself 5–6 years to enjoy each others company then have children.

Blackberry's avatar

From observing others, it seems like no one actually fully plans for this, it just happens when they feel it’s right. Of course people tend to wait until they’re somewhat stable (and some don’t), but in general it seems that “life just happens”.

The more I get to know myself, the more I try to solidify my timeline, but one thing I keep hearing from older people is that you can’t always prepare for the future. This won’t deter me, because I feel my timeline is “right”, and I’ll stick with it, but there’s not much I can do if I make a mistake that drastically alters my life.

To summarize: I think my timeline is determined by my financial security. This seems important whether you want a family or not. Until I reach a certain level, I do not plan on getting married or having kids. But I do plan on having a long-term relationship without kids, because one of my goals is to have a significant other I can have freedom with.

Haleth's avatar

I’ve always wondered about the timeline thing. Plenty of people my age (24) are starting to get married and settle down, and a few people in my graduating class are starting families. It seems like having a timeline creates external pressure on a relationship if you say “I have to accomplish x by y deadline.” Like, one of my co-workers is scrambling to find a guy because she wants to be married by a certain age. It seems like she cares more about being married than being married to the right person.

The way I think of timelines is “x comes before y.” Before I even think about marriage, I want to have a college degree and a career. I want to be well-off enough to raise a child by myself before I have a child. For that to happen, there doesn’t necessarily have to be a guy in the picture.

cookieman's avatar

Recognizing up front that there are so many variables for each couple…

Firstly, get yourself in order (school, career, save some money).

Marriage after two to five years of dating and at least after age twenty five. It helps if you’ve traveled together, helped each other achieve some goal, and gone through some rough times together.

Children after being married for at least three to five years. Spend some time being spouses before you become parents. You’ll need that foundation when the kid(s) eventually move out and you’re empty-nesting. And, of course, I always advocate adoption as the way to go.

As such, my plan works for both gay and straight couples. :^)

ucme's avatar

It’s not a question of placing timescales on such significant decisions.
Those life choices are only taken upon careful consideration of a number of factors, compatibility/financial status etc.

wundayatta's avatar

I find that people use the lack of financial security as a reason not to have children. It’s an excuse. It means they probably, secretly, don’t want children. If people truly want children, money (or lack thereof) is never a barrier. People always find a way to take care of their kids if they really want them.

Another thing women seem to want is some guarantee that their husband will stick with them throughout the child-rearing years. I think this, too, is a chimera. I don’t know if there are algorithms that can help you predict if your marriage will stay together—I’ve heard there are—but when it comes down to individual cases, I doubt if they can be very accurate.

You have to just decide. Use your gut. Flip a coin. It really doesn’t matter. But my advice is that if you want kids, have them. The genetic material of the father almost doesn’t matter. The only thing that matters is his education level. It doesn’t matter if he stays with you or not. The magic variable is education level.

For the rest of it—money, daycare, housing, whatever—you’ll figure it out. You have no other choice.

funkdaddy's avatar

@nikipedia – hell yeah, let me get a permission slip from my wife real quick… you like kids?

@Nullo – it’s a good point and I’ve heard it before (here I think) but the study seems to conclude that the type of people who are ok with cohabitation before marriage are more likely to get divorced, not that one leads to the other.

So, on the flip side, people who have some moral, family, or religious objection to people living together before they get married are less likely to divorce when they finally do. I’d say those groups by nature have learned or decided that one of those things is more important than themselves. That trait can help a marriage get through a lot of tough times. Also, I’d say those same folks are less likely to leave a “bad” marriage because of pressures and judgement outside the relationship.

I have a lot of respect for both groups, so this isn’t a judgement on either. But I think the statistic has more to do with the convictions of those who won’t live together than the actual time spent under the same roof. There’s no way to measure how many people wisely decided not to get married after realizing they weren’t as compatible long term as they were in smaller doses.

nikipedia's avatar

Thanks for the answers so far. To clarify, I meant a timeline like “must date for 1 year before marriage” rather than “must be married by age 30.”

annewilliams5's avatar

Well…My husband, of 25 years, asked me to marry him on our 3rd date. We were married about 9 months later. Our first, and as it turns out only, child was born 2½ years later. And no, I do not suggest that for everyone. It has worked for us. Marriage time lines are tricky. The trick isn’t the timing. It’s the amount of work you’re willing to put into the relationship. It’s the ability to want to be together, and not feeling unwanted when the other person needs to be the person he or she wants to be. Not everything can be about the needs of the other. There has to be a partnership when it comes to the needs of both. It’s either there or it’s not.
Oh, and the back door, of separation and divorce, shouldn’t be so easy to get through. When the going gets rough, all hands need to be on deck.

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