Wow, what a BIG question. Let’s see how the experts answer this question. Father & daughter duo, Dr. John Van Epp & Dr. Morgan Cutlip, give some practical answers to help you think about through this decision.
Dr. John Van Epp & Dr. Morgan Cutlip of MyLoveThinks.com answered this question in a recent interview on the Codependency No More website. Here are their responses:
Dr. Morgan: Yeah. I think there’s a lot of individual variation that comes with that question, a lot of things to consider – where you are in your life, what your values are, and a lot of individual preference when it comes to that question. But one thing that keeps coming to mind for me is – has the relationship existed long enough for you to see patterns in your partner? Have you been together long enough to see how they react to conflict? Can they make changes when it benefits you and the relationship, and really give time for this relationship to unfold and for you to see all parts and sides of this person?
Dr. John: I would say the Three T’s are important. They’re about how to get to know somebody. You practice these Three T’s; talk, togetherness (in different situations or in a variety of situations), and time. I would kind of bring that to this area of commitment and say, ‘Have you had enough time? Have you been together in enough settings to where you see how the person acts not only in different situations but also in different moods and emotions so you know the patterns? Have you talked through a significant number of things?’ If you have that, I think then the bottom line is, ‘Are happy with what you have?’ because the likelihood that it’s going to change a lot is not very high.
It sounds terrible to say, but usually if it’s going to change, it’s in ways you don’t want it to change. You think, ‘Uh, I don’t like that. That was kind of hidden and it wasn’t there when we were dating.’ A lot of times, the bad surfaces, but the good, if anything, goes away.
So you want to say, ‘Look, do I have enough confidence in this person?’ Commitment ought to follow confidence in what I know; how reliable they are, how I trust them, how they’ve formed a consistent pattern. Do I have enough confidence in the Three T’s to really take the step of saying, ‘I’m making a commitment now to go for a life with this person? This is going to be my life partner.’
Questions: A couple of follow-up questions. You both mentioned time. Is there a guideline about time? Is there a minimum amount of time you should never consider committing before x-amount of months, years, or days?
Dr. Morgan: There are exceptions to every rule but when you look at research, the golden amount of time is about a year and a half of dating. That seems to have the lowest divorce rates.
Dr. John: I think that goes along with the fact that in the first year you can only get to know a person so well because there are calendar events that repeat in the second year. If you just think of that alone like a birthday, a Valentine’s Day, or holidays – this is not the sum total of a relationship but these things only repeat once and so you’re really not quite sure about a pattern until you start getting into the second year. As Morgan said, I would say as a rule of thumb, the minimum is to go for one and half years to two years before you make that step of commitment to engage.