Committing to get married is an important step in a relationship. The right time can help the commitment and subsequent marriage, without further setbacks. If you ask several couples how long they left before committing, it is likely that you will get a different response from each pair.

However, there are some general guidelines that can help you decide when to get married.

Timeframe

Although each couple is different and has to find the time of commitment that works for them, experts recommend meeting someone at least one year before committing. Young couples who were not ready for marriage, or who were separated for considerable periods of time while they were dating, may want to wait longer.

Mature couples who feel confident about their compatibility and have the support of trusted family and friends can feel comfortable committing sooner.

Importance

Couples who commit themselves too early in the relationship may discover later that they are not perfectly compatible as they thought, that one person has significant flaws that the other did not know or that the love they feel for each other is not the enduring love that can sustain.

Such couples may have to postpone or cancel their marriage plans to allow more time to get to know each other better. On the other hand, those who fear commitment and postpone it continuously may generate doubts about the relationship and potentially lose their partner.

Conceptual errors

Some people are committed because they feel pressure from family, friends or society to be married at a certain age because they believe that the commitment will make them look more mature, because they can hardly wait to plan their dream wedding or because they have been in a stable relationship for a long time.

In fact, none of these are good reasons for commitment, and there is no certain time in a relationship, or in life, to commit.

Considerations

The right time for a commitment depends on the couple’s preparation for commitment and marriage, and how strongly they feel they have found the person they want to commit to. Couples may want to consider whether they are ready to handle the excitement and expectations of family and friends who want to push them to plan a wedding or criticize those who may begin to doubt the relationship.

Couples may also want to engage during a time when both are free from major life stress, such as work or family crises, so they can make sound decisions and enjoy the experience.

Couples who are thinking about committing should consider whether they are both ready for marriage. They should know their partner (and themselves), their strengths and weaknesses, should bring the best of each other and be able to handle conflicts and unexpected events in life and have similar goals and dreams for marriage.

Although the proposal itself may come as a surprise, many couples discuss the idea of commitment ahead of time, and some even choose to go to pre-commitment counseling meetings. This helps ensure that your expectations are compatible and that they talk about such important issues as finances, children, religion and family relationships.