No matter what your relationship status is, we’ve all watched one too many rom-coms that promise a slightly winding but relatively clear path to love. While I am self-diagnosed as the exception to every rule, I do know that things are generally not as simple as the movies and every path to love has it’s challenges. Across the board, people are getting married later in life and have established themselves as individuals before becoming a family. There are so many advantages to this, but also some inadvertent challenges.
One question that everyone in a serious relationship asks at some point or another will be “how long before I know if this is forever?” The storybook answer is, of course, “when you know, you know.” I think what we all know is that this is a bunch of baloney. While everyone’s timeline looks different, there are a few milestones that every couple should experience and why experts say that two years is generally a good length of time to experience those.
OKAY, BUT WHAT DOES THE RESEARCH SAY
In a Penn State University study called the PAIR Project, Professor Ted L. Huston followed 168 newlywed couples over fourteen years and charted each couple’s relationship satisfaction throughout. Results showed that couples that had dated an average of twenty-five months before marriage were most happily married at the conclusion of the study.
WHAT DO EXPERTS SAY?
Well they agree. Ever heard the phrase “love is blind”? That’s because it kinda is. Dawn Maslar, aka “the Love Biologist,” says “When you fall in love, certain parts of your brain deactivate, specifically, your ventromedial prefrontal cortex — that’s the part of your brain that judges the other person.”
The re-activation occurs between one and three years.” Somewhere around this time, you regain control of your brand and start to metaphorically “take the love goggles off” and see your partner for who they are.
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SO WHY TWO YEARS, WHAT HAPPENS THEN?
Well, in short, life happens. There are arguably thousands of ways to categorize a relationship. The breakdown is this: Romance, Reality, Power Struggle, Finding Oneself, Reconciliation, Mutal Respect & Love. It takes time to genuinely move from stage to stage and experience things in your life that will either strengthen or challenge your relationship.
Usually around the 18-month mark, a couple settles into routines and learn to have one another in their lives on a regular basis. There is a delicate balance of being your best self as an individual, then as a couple and then back to an individual with a strong partnership. You become a co-captain who’s leading the charge to better your entire team, without losing yourself. The foundation of a strong marriage isn’t love-dovey newlyweds, it’s couples who have tested their relationship in a variety of ways and know how to a) effectively communicate with each other and b) manage conflict resolution with respect and understanding.
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Of course! Ultimately, science can only go so far. There are so many instances when arranged marriages lead two people to successful marriages and as much as I despise the premise, even shows like The Bachelor (where the one person in the relationship starts by cheating on you with 23 other people) and Married At First Sight (don’t even get me started) have occasional “success”. So what’s the magic number? There isn’t one, but if you had to guess two years (engagement included) is a good place to start.