A discussion over on the Dating a Widower Facebook group got me thinking about the time people spend between dating and marrying. The conventional wisdom seems to be to date as long as possible to make sure you really know the person.
Having gone through a long courtship (the late wife) and a fast one (Marathon Girl) I've learned that the amount of time you date isn't as important as knowing what you want in a future spouse and not wasting time with someone who isn't compatible and doesn't meet your standards.
Though the late wife and I knew each other for years, we didn't start dating until we were both in college. (I was a junior; she a freshman.) After a year of steady dating, I decided to serve an LDS mission to Bulgaria. Had I not done that, we probably would have spent another year dating before we got married. When I returned home, our relationship picked up where it left off. I could have asked her to marry be a few months after returning home.
But I didn't.
It took over a year before we finally tied the knot because I was worried about being able to finish school, pay the bills and still find time to get to know each other better. Even though we were both crazy about each other, I thought it would be easier if we could save more money and get as much schooling out of the way first.
Looking back, the only regret I have about the marriage to my late wife is that we didn't get married six months sooner. All my fears were unfounded. After we married, we both worked two jobs and attended school full time—albeit only for a semester. Somehow, despite our busy lives, we still managed to find time for each other and build on our relationship. If anything, going through the pressure that came with our hectic lives actually brought us closer together in ways that waiting another six month or a year never could have done.
After the late wife died, I stumbled back in to the dating waters. I met Marathon Girl. Our courtship lasted a total of nine months. If it wasn't for a handful of widower-related issues, the total time from dating to marriage might have been two or three months sooner.
After the second time around I learned that the amount of time we were going to date wasn't nearly as important as making sure we were compatible in ways that were important to each other. After a month of serious dating, I realized she was perfect for me.
• I was physically attracted to her
• We enjoyed a lot of the same activities
• We shared similar views about money and finances
• We had the same religious, moral, and philosophical values
• We shared similar views about family and parenthood
• She had the emotional qualities that were a good compliment to my own
Once I realized Marathon Girl matched up in all the important ways, I knew I could spend this life and the next with her. Dating was fun but having been married before, I realized we could build up our relationship more as husband and wife. I asked her to marry me six months after we started dating. She accepted and we set a date 11 weeks down the road. (Yes, friends and family on both sides of our family worried we were taking things too fast or that I wasn't ready to move on but the mostly bit their tongues, respected our decision, and wished us luck.)
February 28th will mark seven wonderful years together. Waiting a few more months or even another year to tie the knot wouldn't have strengthened our relationship or made ourselves any surer that we were meant for each other. All it would have done is dragged out the inevitable.
Once you meet that special person that meets your criteria for a future spouse, it's not going to matter if you date them for 2-3 years or 2-3 months before getting married. If the person is right for you, you'll find a way to work together and enjoy the good times and the bad. We all have one life to live. The question, then, is how we choose to live it.
As to my whirlwind courtship with Marathon Girl, I have no regrets.