Getting married is a serious step and not one that should be entered into lightly. Once you have got married you lose your easy bail out route. Unlike a relationship if your marriage is not working it is a lot more difficult, time-consuming, painful, and expensive to walk away from, so you need to be certain that you are right for each other. The way to be certain about each other is by first dating when you realise that you might have something, then to courtship when you find out more about each and come to terms with your feelings for each other, and finally engagement which brings everything together and gives your time to adjust your minds to spending your life together. So if the ultimate goal is marriage, then how long should the courtship be? As long as it takes.
I suppose the next question should be, what is courtship? There are a number of definitions, so I’ll stick with my thoughts on the subject. For me, dating is the first step, it’s where you find out enough about each other to believe that there could be something more. Courtship is essentially when you are going steady, your bond is deeper than it was when you were dating, and subconsciously or not, you are now looking to assess whether or not you are able and willing to share your lives together.
If you want your goal is marriage then you need to be sure that you can be compatible with each other. Opposites attract but they also have the highest rates of relationship attrition. You need to know that you are capable of, and that you want to live together for what could be decades. It could be that your sense of duty to each other could be enough to keep you together, but where is the point of being together if you cannot be happy together? You not only have to like your partner, but they have to be your best friend. How long should the courtship be? That depends on how long it takes to get to know your partner.
Just how compatible are you? Do you share interests, do you like similar things, are you comfortable together, do you enjoy being together, do you have a similar outlook on life, do you have share the same long-term goals for your relationship. If there are areas where you have opposite needs then you can see if you can negotiate a compromise. If you are unable to negotiate compromises on what are major issues for you, then is it worth carrying on if you are not going to be happy. You will have disagreements once you are married, and if you are unable to settle discord during courtship, then will you be able to do it in marriage. It is also important to remember, if you want a healthy marriage, that you are both equal partners and that neither of you can dictate what happens, that is the road to misery, resentment, and divorce.
Your courtship is a learning process where you can discover your partners positive and negative side. Once you can understand who your partner is, and where they are coming from, then you can to a certain extent develop fairly realistic expectations for your life together. Courtship gives you the chance to become familiar and comfortable with each other, it gives you the opportunity to learn to accept your partner for who the are.
If you rush into marriage, what could happen? You would essentially be committing yourself and your future to someone who you do not know, you might have had some great dates, a real whirlwind romance, but what do you know about them? Now, I admit that you could be lucky, and it’s possible that you’ll both have a wonderful life and live happily ever after. That’s if you are lucky. Back in the real world, there is every chance that your decision to marry was based purely on physical attraction, that might make for a good date, but not a long-term commitment. If you have nothing in common, no shared, interests, no shared ideas or beliefs, or nothing to talk about then you will never be able to form a lasting bond. You will become yet another addition to the divorce statistics, and this experience could leave you with baggage that you can never achieve closure on.
If the goal is marriage, how long should the courtship period be? That is impossible to say as each couple is unique. If your partner is taking longer than you to come to terms with their feelings for you, then don’t push them, give them the time, help and support that they need. In order to move your relationship forward you have to move forward together, so that you can arrive together. Marriage is a serious commitment and you need to be certain of your feelings before you say I do. But if you are comfortable with each other, if you are each others best friend, if you can both commit to creating the best possible marriage that you can, then you should be okay.