Photo by: Juno Photo
In a certain respect, human relationships are a lot like hurricanes, beaver dams, and other natural phenomenon. While each is slightly different, they all tend to follow certain patterns. This makes it possible to compare one to another, and notice what makes some relationships successful and others less so. That’s what we’re going to do here, in our brief examination of the milestones that mark the way along most relationships, which our friends at Wedding Journal Online recently researched.
Before we get started, let’s establish that the milestones we’re discussing, and the times we’ve attached to them, are averages. That means that roughly half of all couples will hit the milestones ahead of time, and half will arrive late. There’s no reason, in other words, to lose any sleep worrying about whether your boyfriend is going to propose within the next seven months, or whether you’re due to have a big argument before next Tuesday.
Let’s also note that some of these milestones are easily measurable – we can see precisely when everyone’s gotten married because there’s a mountain of paperwork to prove it. Measuring when couples are first professing their love for one another is a bit trickier; but we can still glean a rough idea from polling data. With that in mind, let’s begin.
Meeting ‘The One’
Most women meet ‘The One’ when they’re in their late twenties. Of course, when we say ‘the one’, we’re not implying any cosmic significance; we simply mean the person that the woman ends up settling down with. On average, couples at this age will have had two serious relationships, during which they’ll have learned about themselves and romantic interaction.
This one is a source of understandable insecurity for many of us. According to a YouGov survey published last year, around 28% of men will have sex on the first date, compared with just 7% of women. Opinion is spread fairly evenly between one and seven dates, with women being slightly more reluctant on average than men. Just 9% of men want to wait until they’re in love, compared with 21% of women. Of course, 9% is still a significant minority, so don’t assume that he’s going to want to have sex just because you are.
Saying ‘I love you’
Casual declarations of love – perhaps at the end of a phone call – are often a reliable indication that the relationship is going somewhere. But the first time can be tricky. For most of us, it’s at the five-month mark. But sometimes a delay can occur, for the simple reason that both parties are worried that the other will react badly, and thus they become trapped in a stalemate.
If you know that you’re having serious feelings for your other half, but things have been dragging on for awhile without the three words being uttered, then take our advice and just say it – if they don’t feel the same way, then you need to know about it.
Having a Big Argument
Most couples have their first blazing row around six months into the relationship. By this time, pent-up frustrations will have had a chance to bubble to the surface. Of course, there’s never really a good time to wind one another up – but it’s often better to get your feelings out in the open than it is to keep them bottled up. That way you can test how well you are able to handle conflict and work together towards compromise and reconciliation. Far from screaming at each other every other day, these arguments should be dealt with as calmly and positively as possible.
Moving in Together
Couples on average move in together at around seventeen months. There are myriad factors which might influence this figure. If you’re both living rent-free at your parent’s houses, you might be tempted to wait a little bit longer while you scrape together the deposit for a mortgage. Conversely, if you’re both renting separately it might make financial sense to move in together.
If it’s been years and he still won’t entertain the idea of cohabitation, it’s worth asking him straight if he wants to live with you at any point in the future. If he doesn’t then you can be fairly certain that the relationship is going nowhere.
Most modern couples get married in their early thirties, with 31 being the average age, which is a considerable shift upwards considerably compared to the 1970s when the average age was 23. This might be explained by the rising number of couples are choosing to live together before officially tying the knot. In fact, in the UK, 3.3 million couples are said to be cohabiting without a marriage certificate, which is double the number in 1996. Put it down to cold feet, difficulties in securing mortgages or simply the rising costs of putting on a big white wedding, it’s clear that more of us than ever are opting to wait.
It’s perfectly fine to have a non-standard relationship. What matters is that both parties share the same expectations and desires. If you’re looking for different things from the relationship, trouble is sure to result: particularly with regards to time-sensitive topics like having children or your career. Besides that, it doesn’t matter too much just when you say ‘I love you’ or decide to have sex - it all matters that you and your partner are happy on the path you are on.