You are probably familiar with the show, The Bachelor. One of the most persistent questions that arises among fans and critics of the show is: “Is 12 weeks long enough to know someone before asking for her hand in marriage?”
12 weeks, also known as 3 months, AKA 90 days. If you’ve never felt the rush of romance adrenaline take over your life in a matter of days, you might think, “No way! 12 weeks is nothing!” If you have fallen head over heels in no time flat, you may think, “Oh yeah. Can it be sooner?”
People are different and circumstances are—invariably—different. There is no hard-and-fast rule as to the amount of time required before engagement. However, according to recent statistics, a two year courtship has a much higher yield of successful, lasting marriages. Why so long? For one thing, keep in mind that love is, in fact, a drug. The love hormones and chemicals produced in the brain in the early months of courtship are not conducive to rational thought. It takes time to get past that initial “drugged” state in order to gain real experience and knowledge of a potential partner, rather than relying on hope and potential. The process requires patience, awareness, and grounding in reality.
You’ve heard me say it before: dating is a process with a beginning middle and end. The beginning stage is meeting and getting to know many people. The middle stage is dating for a while. The end of the dating process is finding your ideal match, engagement and marriage.
The middle stage transitions you from the blush and thrill of newness into a place where you can contemplate the question: “Is this the one?” You can’t see the future or what the last chapter holds in store, but you can take stock of the situation and let your head help your heart decide.
Below are some tips as a reminder that if the following are present in your relationship, you are ready to get engaged.
- You share values and life goals.
You are able to co-create your best love life for the rest of your life because you are compatible with your partner in terms of values and aspirations for your lives together. For instance, you may both share a value for communication in your relationship, even though you have different values about the environment. Your values do not have to be exactly the same, but the ones that are most significant to you line up with your partner’s. Relationships where there is dissonance between partners in terms of essential core values are likely to encounter trouble. But if your key values are being mirrored by your partner, you are on the right track. A few examples of essential values might be: honesty, stability, openness, self-respect, compassion.
You also share life goals, whether it’s settling down in the suburbs with two kids or traveling the world. Though life is unpredictable, your shared life goals are not wildly different. In this relationship, you are not required to give up the dreams and ideas about your future that you have held dear. You and your partner can step forward together, knowing you are on the same page. That way, you will avoid resentment creeping in. Some categories where life goals play a part are attitudes about children and finances and decisions about where to live.
- Your relationship requirements and needs are being met.
You know what you want and need in a relationship, and are able to identify something that is missing. If you have a relationship requirement of minimal drama, your healthy relationship is one in which you needn’t settle for anything less. With your relationship requirements and needs being met you feel happy, soothed, loved, safe, and valued. Perhaps your partner fulfills your need to feel loved for who you are. You both accept one another fully, allowing your relationship to flourish and fulfill you. Were you to compromise requirements and ignore your needs, you would find yourself leaving the relationship, no matter how committed you were or how much love you felt.
- You communicate well with one another.
The lines of communication are open, and though you experience conflict (all relationships do, even the healthiest!), you are able to deal with it well. For example, you can both admit when you are wrong, listen to each other, acknowledge one another’s point of view, and apologize when you have crossed the line. These habits of good communication help you gain deeper understanding of one another with each conflict you resolve together. How you communicate your needs and manage conflict is a significant indicator to relationship success or failure.
- You enjoy good chemistry – both physical and emotional.
The physical chemistry you share infuses your relationship with desire, which is a joyful requirement of a successful and satisfying partnership. While the intensity of desire can fluctuate, it is a very important element, never to be underestimated or dismissed as “not significant.” The spark of attraction is necessary to sustain a relationship.
The emotional chemistry in your relationship infuses it with a sense of deep connection. You feel seen and that your partner truly “gets” you. Sharing both physical and emotional chemistry? It doesn’t get any better than that.
- You envision a future together.
You realize that you visualize future scenarios with this person while you are standing in line at the store or driving down the interstate. You are able to vividly imagine being with this person for the rest of your life, growing old together, having kids or dogs or tropical fish, supporting each other’s pursuits and becoming true life partners. “I do” should mean forever, not just for a while. If you can’t imagine a day without having this person in your life – you have found the right partner.
Now that we have reviewed the statistics mentioned above and reminded ourselves of the list of basics for moving dating to the next level, it seems pretty clear that the essential premise of The Bachelor is misguided. The candidates are not only forcing years of experience into 12 short weeks, they are doing so under intense pressure generated by media expectations and the fact that their every move, kiss, and decision will be viewed (and judged) by millions. It might make for great entertainment, but real people living real lives need and deserve real expectations!