How Long Should You Date Before Getting Engaged?
An expert weighs in on rushing to the altar.
Wedding season is upon us—but why does it feel like so many couples are rushing to put a ring on it? Case in point: Ariana Grande and Pete Davidson. These two were in what sources said was a “very casual” relationship in late May, but then got engaged about three weeks later.
Or take Bachelor Nation’s Ashley Iaconetti and Jared Haibon. After dating briefly three years ago, they maintained a flirty yet platonic friendship. Next thing we heard, they coupled up romantically in March, and Haibon got down on one knee earlier this month in Mexico.
Congrats to both of these madly-in-love couples. But with such short courtships, can these relationships last? Terri Orbuch, PhD, author of 5 Simple Steps to Take Your Marriage From Good to Great and a professor at Oakland University in Michigan, tells Health that speeding to the alter sends out a few red flags.
“It may mean that Pete and Ariana don't really know the other well,” she says. “They are blinded by the passion, lust, and excitement that occurs when relationships are new and novel. They are motivated to get engaged because of the sexual desire and passion between [them], and lust is almost an obsession of wanting to be with that person all the time. You are thinking of that person non-stop and you can’t see life without them.”
These couples—or any couple in a hurry to get hitched—should ask themselves three questions to help determine how ready they really are to walk down the aisle, Orbuch suggests. First, do you trust one another? Second, do you handle conflict and stress well together? And third, do you share similar values?
“Two months is not very long to build trust, identify whether you have similarity in key life values, and handle disagreements and conflicts together well,” she says. “When couples are in the throes of passion or lust, they can’t really see, observe, or know the real partner. Instead, they are blinded by the passionate love and idealize the other partner. The partner can do no wrong, and the partner is the best.”
Strong passion is definitely something both of these couples share, at least judging by their social media output. From Grande and Davidson commenting on each other’s Instagram posts to Iaconetti and Haibon documenting their moments together on Instagram Stories, it’s clear that they are really into their partners.
Of course, being passionate and devoted to a partner is one thing; really knowing the person and developing soul mate–worthy trust and comfort takes time. “Studies show that it takes at least 12 to 18 months before the passion and lust decline and you can finally see your partner for who they really are, faults and all,” Orbach says.
Marissa Nelson, a marriage and family therapist, previously told Health that at the three-month mark, couples tend to transition to the “attachment” phase of a relationship, and they start feeling a sense of companionship that goes beyond physical attraction.
Because Grande and Davidson and Iaconetti and Haibon haven't yet reached that attachment phase, putting a ring on it so soon is risky. They may not have similar key life values, which could cause conflict and unhappiness. And because they haven’t endured a considerable amount of stress together, their ability to work through disagreement hasn't been tested.
“In the future, when something major happens or a traumatic event occurs, will they be able to lean on the other and handle [it] well?” Orbuch asks. “How about the meaning of trust and commitment? Do they share similar views? Can each of them rely on the other? There are no guarantees that couples will stay together if they have what I call a ‘trust chat,’ but it increases the chances if they have had the discussions and can observe each other over time.”
Still, Orbuch maintains that if each partner knows who they are and what they want, a couple with only a few months under their belt can potentially last a lifetime.
“As an individual, you may know exactly what you want and need in a partner, and when you find it, that’s it. Get engaged. No back and forth, no wasting time,” she says. “Getting engaged early could mean you knew yourself well, and have found the partner with the qualities you need. You found it, you commit.”