ideal timeline for a happy relationship

Image: Oleksii Hrecheniuk/123rf

Often, we read about women who got married in their teens, had a baby in their 50s, or perhaps, have never been on a date in their lives. Just what makes these articles newsworthy? Perhaps, it’s the fact that these women have supposedly deviated from the norm, and more specifically, the ideal relationship timeline that exists in people’s minds.

A new study done by Getting Personal showed that not only does this timeline exist, but also almost one in four women surveyed have admitted to leaving their partners because their relationships were not adhering to the timeline. Out of the 2,000 women polled, three out of four women had already mapped out how they would like their love lives to turn out. So what does this ideal timeline look like?


Let’s use fictional couple Jane and Andy to illustrate this. Jane meets Andy for the first time, and develops a crush on him. To her delight, he asks her out. They have a fantastic first date. In Jane’s mind, however, she would ideally like to go on dates with him every five days for the next six weeks before they become an official item.

After three months of calling each other boyfriend and girlfriend, she wants Andy to say “I love you” first. When they hit the five-month mark, Jane expects Andy to be ready to meet her parents, after which they will go on their first holiday together to celebrate their eight-month anniversary. After one year and nine months of being attached, Jane is ready to move in with Andy.

Fast forward two years and four months after the start of their relationship, according to Jane’s ideal relationship timeline, this is when she should be engaged to Andy. They should also get married after 15 months of being engaged, and have children one year and ten months into their marriage.

Preferences-wise, Jane would like Andy to propose with a ring he picked to surprise her, which should ideally cost around $3,500. Also, Jane wants Andy to ask her father for permission to marry her before he pops the question. When they finally start a family, Jane’s ideal is to have two children. Sounds stressful? Perhaps you should take all this information with a grain of salt.

A spokesman for Getting Personal also said: “When a relationship is going well, it’s natural to have an idea of how you wants things to progress. Having a plan is great in principle, but it can cause stress later on if things aren’t going as expected. It’s important not to fret too much over the details, as often the surprises of life can be much more exciting. There’s a satisfaction in just seeing what will happen, and you never know what might be around the corner.”   

In another study done by Zoosk, more than 3,300 people were surveyed on their ideal relationship timelines. The results were displayed according to the number of months a couple had been together. It showed that in the first five months of dating, couples expected to make it official, and to meet each other’s families.

Between the fifth and tenth month, couples would ideally have discussed their personal relationship history with each other, said “I love you” to each other, and have taken a vacation together. Between 10 to 15 months of coupledom, they would have liked to move in together, discussed having children and making a life commitment to each other.

But are these ideals backed by statistics? Let’s find out. Both of the previous studies found that in general, couples preferred to move in together before marriage. However, a 1992 study published in the Journal Of Marriage And The Family revealed that couples that stayed together before marriage ended up in less satisfying marriages. In fact, 46 per cent of them were more likely to get a divorce than couples who moved in together only after marriage.

At the same time, these results may not apply to all women. According to the National Survey Of Family Growth, women aged 25 to 29 were most likely to marry the men that they had moved in with as opposed to women under 24, who were most likely to break up with their live-in partners after three years. The conclusion? Moving in together before marriage predicted more success for women above 25.

So what about the best time to get married? A study done by the Journal Of Political Economy in 2008 found that for each year a couple delays marriage, it lowers the risk of them getting divorced eventually. A 2013 Family Relations study also discovered that delaying marriage till both parties in a relationship get their college degrees lessened the likelihood for divorce as well.

Results from another study by the Pew Research Center suggested that people who got married before 23 are more likely to split up. A 2006 study published in the Dissertation Abstracts International showed that people who dated longer had more satisfying marriages. The verdict? Marrying later in a relationship, and only when both parties are in their late 20s or older, and after both have received at least a college degree made the marriage more likely to last.

Do you have your own ideal relationship timeline? If so, has it panned out for you? Hopefully, these studies have helped put your milestones into context.

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