Relationship Timelines: Dating, Marriage, Babies…

Is it just me or does it seem like when you are in a relationship and (1) get to a certain age (between age 25-30, at least) or (2) have been dating someone for 3 or more years (past age 21), people seem to ask the same basic questions regarding your relationship?

“How long have you guys been dating?”

“When are you guys getting engaged? Have you discussed it?”

“When are you guys getting married?” 

“When are you guys planning to have kids?”

And then after one child, “When are you guys planning on having more?”

As annoying as these questions can become, I am guilty of asking my friends these questions as well.

Let’s assume these are natural questions to ask (although I am not certain of that). The problem I have is when the questioner doesn’t think my answers are sufficient and proceeds to ask more questions. This ultimately ends with me feeling like I need to defend my timeline and the strength of my relationship. “Sufficient” answers in this context is hilarious to me because sometimes we really believe we know how another person should live their life; but most times, we barely even know how to live our own.

Listen, if you are in a great relationship, you need to feel that with certainty and not allow yourself to be swayed by other people’s decisions for your life. Yes, I have a great relationship, but that doesn’t mean my timeline choices make it any less wonderful! Usually people don’t even know the reasons why you make certain timeline decisions, yet they jump to conclusions and dole out timeline suggestions that you probably never asked for.

People can be in very different places relationship-wise– some single, some in new or long-term relationships, some newly engaged, engaged for a long time, newly married, married for a few years, not interested in marriage, in positions where they cannot have children, or with someone that is not interested in marriage or children. As I talk to friends about relationships, I find myself living by and sharing the same piece of advice: “The best thing you can do for your relationship is to stop comparing the relationship and timelines to other couples.” 

Disclaimer: With that said, do not use this statement as an excuse or justification for staying in a jacked up or abusive relationship! Every couple’s relationship dynamic and timeline might be different, but love is clearly identifiable and distinguishable. Disrespect, cheating, abuse, degradation, and selfishness are not characteristics of love. While you should not compare your relationship to others in aspects of timeline and dynamic, you should look to great relationships for positive traits of love. There is no ” thin line between love and hate” in a relationship. If you feel that you love and hate a person at the same time, then it is probably a sign you need to re-evaluate that relationship– fix it or end it. Trust me, I have been there and done the love/dislike thing and my conclusion is that a relationship like that is full of cracks!

For the most part, comparing your relationship and timelines to other couples’ is not a good idea! If you have found a great life partner– which should be the ultimate goal and requires more than chemistry [I wrote a post about this]– chances are you are destined to have a life journey unique to you as a couple. I believe that’s God’s ideal plan. So, chasing another couples’ timeline/journey means that you have stepped off your path onto theirs and at some point you will either (1) discover that your shoes weren’t built to last on their road or (2) that you missed out on the many blessings your road held because you were so interested in traveling on another couple’s path. In general, people need to live according to the timelines that work for their life.

Many years ago I started witnessing couples I adored (and swore had a strong relationship) go through divorce. In most cases, everyone loved the couples together. On the outside they were the perfect couples… or so we thought! After years of marriage (ranging from 1-15 years), we all were shocked by the news that they were getting divorced. From celebrities to people we know, we all have witnessed relationships we covet fall apart. Feeling hopeless and scared for my own relationship future, I decided that I would learn from other people’s relationship successes and failures, but that in the end I would do what works best for my relationship. Here I was comparing my relationship to ones that looked great on the outside but was suffering internally. However, all the while my relationship was working for me, my life, my journey, my purpose, and my happiness. I learned that if I am going to compare my relationship to others, it might be beneficial to know the details of what is really going on behind closed doors. 

I am not a relationship or a statistics expert, but based on what I have observed throughout my life, I know that having a successful long-term relationship requires more than simply checking something off on a timeline or list (engagement, marriage, babies, house, etc.). It seems more important to work toward things that will make my relationship last long-term versus working on a timeline or checklist.

Personally, I think couples’ timelines vary based on a few factors. So, before we go judging, questioning, or pushing someone into a particular timeline, we should consider some factors:

  1. the mental/emotional readiness, finances, health, and career trajectories varies from person to person and couple to couple making it difficult to force someone into a timeline and
  2. meshing two personalities, two families, two different careers, two different sets of life experiences, and two different life purposes in order to yield a strong relationship that is built to last is not something that should be rushed or taken lightly.

Photo Credit: Jurgen Appelo

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