Were you waiting around forever before tying the knot with your significant other? Or did it just seem that way? And if you’re wondering why a ring has to seal the deal, you probably haven’t heard this story. Now, a survey from Bridebook, a UK-based wedding website, suggests that these days UK couples typically date for 4.9 years before walking down the aisle. Interestingly, the divorce rate is at its lowest level for nearly 50 years, and some therapists believe the reason could be that couples now enter marriage knowing their partner and relationship better than ever before.
“Four years of time is a nice chunk of time to flesh out a relationship,” says Manhattan-based relationship expert Rachel Sussman, LCSW about the Bridebook’s findings. “A lot of men I work with don’t even talk about settling down until their thirties, and that’s very average. I’m seeing longer courtships and people marrying a lot later, not earlier.”
According to Refinery 29, both men and women in the UK marry far later in life now than they did over 50 years ago. Today, the average first-time bride’s age is 30.8 and groom is 32.7 years. In contrast, back in 1971, the average UK couple married at 22.6 (women), and 24.6 years (men).
In questioning 4,000 British newlyweds, Bridebook also discovered that the majority of couples—89 percent—lived together before getting married. They also both had previous serious relationships before marrying “the one,” and 84 percent openly discussed marriage before the proposal. Additionally, in the UK, there’s an uptick in the number of couples who marry by consensual choice (83 percent) and not because they feel pressured by society, or family, to wed.
Average marriage age, stateside
The United States is following similar marriage trends. A Pew Research Center study found that today, the average marriage age for women is 27, and 29 for men. But in individual states, the data varies considerably; it’s no secret that Manhattanites, for example, tend to marry later than couples in smaller U.S. cities and towns. While there’s no hard-and-fast rule about how long couples should date before getting married, according to Psychology Today, some marital experts say that two years can be enough for most people.
According to Sussman, sex drive and that “head in the clouds” feeling when you’re so in love starts to wear off between year one and year two of a relationship. “You want to date someone through good and bad times, after the spark dims a little bit, when you’ve had some problems to see if you have the capability to work through them.”
Careers and dating apps affect dating
Thirty years ago, many couples were marrying at 24 and 25, says Sussman, but that’s not the norm today. “Most of my early 20s clients are still cycling through relationships and figuring out what they want. We go outside the city, we find people marrying earlier. Thirty years ago, there really was no Internet, no dating apps, women were starting careers. Today, it’s very socially acceptable to live with a partner, and to have several serious relationships before getting married. In the ’90s, traditions started to change, and even parents said to their young adult children, ‘You should have more than one partner, you really should experiment before settling down.’”
She also advises those who fear marriage—especially if their partner wants to wed—to consider meeting with a couples therapist. “You always want to question if your fear of commitment is cold feet or more.”