The journey to the altar can vary greatly between couples. Some choose to marry quickly after meeting, while others spend years dating before tying the knot. As more couples choose to cohabitate and postpone marriage, it is increasingly important to understand the factors that influence their decision-making process. This meta-study analyzes available data on the average length of time couples date before getting married, drawing from a variety of sources.
- US couples on average are in a relationship for 2.8 to 4.9 years before marriage (depending on the study/data).
- The majority of people (51%) dated for over 3 years before getting married, with 29% dating for more than 5 years, and 22% dating for 3-5 years.
- A significant portion of people (48%) dated for less than 3 years before getting married, with 12% dating for less than a year, 19% dating for 1-2 years, and 17% dating for 2-3 years.
- Australian couples on average date for 5.2 years before marriage.
- UK couples on average date for 4.5 years before marrying.
- Couples who dated for at least three years before getting engaged were 48% less likely to get divorced than couples who dated for less than a year.
- Couples who dated for one to two years were 21% less likely to get a divorce compared to couples who dated for less than a year.
- Most relationship psychologists and experts recommend that couples date for at least 12 to 18 months before considering marriage.
Average Length of Dating Before Marriage (different studies)
|Source||Year||Average Length (Years)||Sample Size||Sample Origin|
Findings on the average length of dating before marriage
- Average Length Varies by Country and Study: As the table illustrates, the average length of time couples date before marrying varies depending on the country and study. In the U.S., estimates range from 2.8 years (CDC) to 4.9 years (PRC). In Australia, the APS found an average of 5.2 years, while the UK’s ONS study reported 4.5 years.
- Factors Influencing the Length of Dating Before Marriage: Several factors can impact the length of time couples date before marrying. These include age, education, income, cultural background, and personal beliefs. For example, couples who meet at a younger age or have higher education levels may spend more time dating before getting married.
- Trends Over Time: While historical data are limited, it is evident that the average length of dating before marriage has increased over time. This may be due to shifting societal attitudes toward marriage, the rise of cohabitation, and an increased emphasis on career and financial stability before settling down.
Though the average length of time couples date before marriage varies by study and country, it is clear that the duration has generally increased in recent decades.
Couples should consider their individual circumstances and desires when determining the right timeline for their relationship.
Dating before engagement in the US, State-by-state
Top 10 States with the Shortest Average Time of Dating Before Getting Engaged:
- Indiana – 14.8 months (1 year 2 months)
- Washington – 15.3 months (1 year 3 months)
- North Carolina – 16.4 months (1 year 4 months)
- Utah – 18.2 months (1 year 6 months)
- Missouri – 18.7 months (1 year 6 months)
- Louisiana – 20.8 months (1 year 8 months)
- Tennessee – 21.5 months (1 year 9 months)
- New Jersey – 22.9 months (1 year 10 months)
- Nevada – 23.3 months (1 year 11 months)
- Georgia – 23.7 months (1 year 11 months)
Top 10 States with the Longest Average Time of Dating Before Getting Engaged:
- Ohio – 47.5 months (3 years 11 months)
- Alaska – 42.7 months (3 years 6 months)
- Maine – 42.2 months (3 years 6 months)
- Oklahoma – 41.4 months (3 years 5 months)
- Rhode Island – 41.4 months (3 years 5 months)
- Iowa – 40 months (3 years 4 months)
- Mississippi – 38.5 months (3 years 2 months)
- South Dakota – 37.3 months (3 years 1 month)
- Vermont – 36.8 months (3 years 1 month)
- Colorado – 36.4 months (3 years)
|US State||Dating before engagement|
|Ohio||3 years 11 months|
|Alaska||3 years 6 months|
|Maine||3 years 6 months|
|Oklahoma||3 years 5 months|
|Rhode Island||3 years 5 months|
|Iowa||3 years 4 months|
|Mississippi||3 years 2 months|
|South Dakota||3 years 1 month|
|Vermont||3 years 1 month|
|Colorado||3 years 0 months|
|Montana||3 years 0 months|
|Maryland||2 years 11 months|
|Massachusetts||2 years 10 months|
|Nebraska||2 years 10 months|
|Kansas||2 years 9 months|
|Arkansas||2 years 9 months|
|Wisconsin||2 years 9 months|
|Idaho||2 years 9 months|
|West Virginia||2 years 8 months|
|Hawaii||2 years 8 months|
|New Mexico||2 years 8 months|
|Arizona||2 years 8 months|
|Florida||2 years 7 months|
|North Dakota||2 years 7 months|
|Alabama||2 years 7 months|
|Oregon||2 years 6 months|
|Michigan||2 years 6 months|
|Virginia||2 years 6 months|
|Pennsylvania||2 years 5 months|
|Wyoming||2 years 4 months|
|New York||2 years 4 months|
|Minnesota||2 years 3 months|
|Connecticut||2 years 2 months|
|Illinois||2 years 2 months|
|Kentucky||2 years 1 month|
|South Carolina||2 years 1 month|
|California||2 years 1 month|
|Texas||2 years 0 months|
|Georgia||1 year 11 months|
|Nevada||1 year 11 months|
|New Jersey||1 year 10 months|
|Tennessee||1 year 9 months|
|Louisiana||1 year 8 months|
|Missouri||1 year 6 months|
|Utah||1 year 6 months|
|North Carolina||1 year 4 months|
|Washington||1 year 3 months|
|Indiana||1 year 2 months|
Does the length of dating before marriage determine success?
To answer the long-lasting question of how long people should date before getting married we took a look at several studies looking at correlations between the length people dated before married and survival rates.
After analyzing the articles, it seems that the length of time spent dating before marriage can have a significant impact on the success and longevity of the marriage.
Here is a summary of the key findings from all online publications:
- Couples who dated for at least three years before getting engaged were 39% less likely to get divorced than couples who dated for less than a year [The Divorce-Proof Marriage].
- Couples who dated for one to two years were 20% less likely to get a divorce than those who dated less than a year, and couples who dated for three years or longer were 39% less likely [How Long Do People Date Before Getting Married? We Found Out.].
- One study found that the highest risk of divorce belonged to couples who got married less than six months after they began dating [Do Marriages Last Longer If the Couple Dated for Longer First?].
- A longer period of dating was associated with a higher probability of a happy marriage [Do Marriages Last Longer If the Couple Dated for Longer First?].
- Couples who dated for about five years before getting married have more chances of maintaining a stable relationship [Length of dating before marriage statistics to point out].
However, it’s essential to note that there are exceptions to these findings, as some couples with shorter courtships have had long and happy marriages.
Most relationship psychologists and experts recommend that couples date for at least 12 to 18 months before considering marriage.
The reason for these recommendations is that a longer courtship period allows couples to get to know each other better, discover potential deal-breakers, and make a more informed decision about their compatibility before committing to marriage.
In conclusion, while there is no definitive “golden” time frame for dating before marriage, research suggests that longer courtships are generally associated with more successful and lasting marriages. However, exceptions to this trend exist, and each couple must ultimately decide for themselves when they feel ready to take the next step in their relationship.
Additionally, the study that almost all online publications quote for their statistics have long been misunderstood.
The screenshot below is of Table 2 from the study, showing that if we look at the bivariate model we actually find that:
- Marrying someone after dating for 1-2 years decreases the likelihood of the marriage ending in divorce by 21.2%, compared to couples who have dated for less than 1 year before marrying.
- Marrying someone after dating for 3 years decreases the likelihood of the marriage ending in divorce by 48.2%, compared to couples who have dated for less than 1 year before marrying.
Dating Duration for People Before Marriage: A Cohort-Based Analysis
When examining how long couples date before getting married, it is helpful to look at the duration that different cohorts of people date before marriage. In this section, we will focus on these age-based cohorts using data from our study:
|Duration||Percentage of People|
|Less than a year||12%|
Key findings summarized in bullet points:
- 12% of people dated for less than a year before getting engaged.
- 19% of people dated for 1-2 years before getting engaged.
- 17% of people dated for 2-3 years before getting engaged.
- 22% of people dated for 3-5 years before getting engaged.
- 29% of people dated for more than 5 years before getting engaged.
This data shows that couples date for varying duration before deciding to get engaged, with a sizable portion of them dating for over 5 years.
It’s essential for couples to ensure compatibility and make a well-informed decision when choosing a lifelong partner, as waiting longer to get engaged can help reduce the chances of divorce.
Average age at marriage have increased since the 1970s
With the average age of first-time marriages increasing over the past 50 years, the duration of relationships before marriage has also expanded.
People in their 20s are now waiting longer before getting married, and this section highlights some key data and insights:
- In 1970, the average age of first-time marriages was 23.2 for men and 20.8 for women. In comparison, the average ages today are 29.8 for men and 28 for women.
- Most couples in their 20s date for two or more years before getting engaged, with many dating anywhere from two to five years.
- Living together before marriage is more common and socially acceptable today, with two-thirds of married adults stating that cohabitation was a step towards marriage.
Experts suggest that couples should spend time living together before marriage, especially if they have only experienced a long-distance relationship, in order to gauge compatibility and learn how to navigate conflicts effectively.
|Age Group||Average Dating Duration Before Marriage|
While there is no one-size-fits-all approach to the ideal duration of dating before marriage, data indicates that people in their 20s are waiting longer to tie the knot. This allows them to build stronger foundations, achieve personal goals, and ensure compatibility before committing to a lifelong partnership.
Dating Duration Before Marriage in Your 20s
When it comes to determining the ideal dating duration before marriage for people in their 20s, relationship experts suggest waiting at least 1 to 2 years.
This timeframe allows couples to get to know each other better and ensure that their goals and values align. Moreover, research indicates that couples who date for 3 or more years tend to have a longer-lasting marriage and a reduced divorce rate by as much as 50%.
Although there is no universally correct age to get married, it is essential for both partners to be on the same page regarding their values and goals.
The average relationship in the 20s lasts around 4.2 years, with periods of breaking up and making up. Ultimately, the decision to get married depends on the couple’s comfort and excitement about their future together.
- At least 1 to 2 years of dating: This allows couples to build trust, get to know each other better, and ensure that their goals and values align.
- 3 or more years of dating: Couples who date for this duration tend to have a longer-lasting marriage, with divorce rates dropping by as much as 50%.
- Consider values and goals: Make sure both partners are on the same page regarding their values, future plans, and life goals.
- Be open to different relationship timelines: Each couple’s journey is unique, and there’s no universally correct age or timeline for getting married. Prioritize your comfort and excitement about your future together.
- Maintain open communication: Discuss important topics such as children, monogamy, conflict resolution, and family relationships before deciding to get married.
- Understand the benefits of waiting: Longer dating periods can help couples learn more about each other, maintain a sense of independence, and achieve financial stability for their future wedding plans.
How Soon is Too Soon to Propose?
There isn’t a one-size-fits-all answer to how soon is too soon to propose.
However, experts recommend waiting at least a year, as this can significantly increase the odds of a successful marriage.
Couples who date for one to two years before getting engaged are 20% less likely to get divorced, while those who date for three or more years are 39% less likely to divorce.
Signs You’re Ready to Propose
- You’ve talked about marrying each other
- You think of your future as a unit, instead of as an individual
- You know you both want the same things
- You’re on the same page about all the big stuff (e.g. children, finances, religion)
- You like how they treat people—not just how they treat you
- You’ve experienced making decisions together
- Your conflicts rarely get nasty
- You’re starting to think about married life
- You’re open to premarital counseling
Red Flags to Watch For
- Avoid proposing during the honeymoon phase, as this can cloud rational decision-making
- Ensure that you and your partner have had deep conversations about important topics and align on what matters most to both of you
- Pay attention to how your partner treats others in their life, as this can be indicative of how they will treat you in the future
- Make sure you have a strong foundation for conflict resolution and respectful communication before getting engaged
- Be open to premarital counseling as a way to set your relationship up for success
It’s essential to be fully prepared and confident in your decision to propose to your partner.
Here are nine signs that it might be too soon to propose:
- You’ve known each other for less than a year.
- Your relationship is highly passionate.
- You haven’t met the important people in their life.
- You’re not sure about their values.
- You’re still not that familiar with the details of their life outside of you.
- You’re more excited about the idea of getting married than about your actual relationship.
- You sometimes have arguments that turn ugly.
- You have never argued at all yet.
- You’re not sure how your partner feels about marrying you yet.
Remember, a proposal represents a lifelong commitment to sharing your life with this person, so it’s crucial to approach the decision with the necessary knowledge, shared experiences, and open conversations to ensure a strong and happy partnership.
Enhancing Intimacy Before Marriage
The journey leading up to marriage is a unique and special time for every couple.
It’s a period of discovery, understanding, and deepening intimacy.
While statistics provide a general overview of how long couples date before tying the knot, it’s essential to remember that every relationship is unique.
What’s more important than the duration is the quality of time spent together.
Here are some ways to enhance intimacy and connection during the dating phase:
Exploring New Avenues of Pleasure Together:
One of the joys of being in a relationship is the shared exploration of pleasure.
Whether you’re looking to spice things up or discover new sensations, there’s a world of toys designed for couples.
Deepening Emotional Connection:
Physical intimacy is just one aspect of a relationship.
Emotional connection forms the foundation of a lasting bond. Engage in activities that allow you to connect on a deeper level.
Playing sexual board games can be a fun way to learn more about each other’s desires and boundaries.
Experimenting with Role Play and Fantasies:
Every individual has unique fantasies and desires.
Sharing and acting on these can be a thrilling experience for couples.
Creating a Safe Space for Exploration:
Trust and safety are paramount when exploring new aspects of intimacy.
Ensure you have open communication about boundaries.
Planning for the Future:
As you approach marriage, it’s also a time to think about your future together.
In conclusion, while the length of dating is a factor to consider, it’s the quality of time and experiences shared that truly deepens a bond.
Exploring intimacy together, both emotionally and physically, can set the foundation for a fulfilling and lasting marriage.
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) – Link
- Pew Research Center (PRC) – Link
- Institute for Family Studies (IFS) – Link
- Australian Psychological Society (APS) – Link
- Office for National Statistics (ONS) – Link