Christian Dating: How Long Before Engagement?

We know what it’s like to wonder when something might happen. The intensity of that wonder is only amplified when it comes to marriage. That’s why we thought it was essential to create an article on engagement timelines; we want you to know when you might be nearing that significant point of decision in the relationship.

In our previous article about engagement, we discussed some important Christian considerations before choosing to pop the question or say “yes” when the question is popped. This article assumes you’ve read that one and discusses an appropriate timeframe for couples to consider before becoming engaged.

This article has guidance for both groups of readers. Whether you’re the one asking them or the one being asked, we want to provide you with some helpful insights about when you should be preparing for the big question itself. We’ll start by discussing the primary stages of the dating relationship.

woman with a ring on her finger

Stages of the Relationship

Every romantic relationship goes through three primary stages. As Christians, we understand these stages to be incremental steps towards creating a future marriage. Each of the steps in the dating process has a moment of decision where either person can choose to end the relationship.

All three of the stages are important, but the intensity builds throughout each stage. The first stage covers the start of the relationship. The second stage is where the bulk of relationships succeed or fail in their marriage momentum. The third stage is what this article is all about. 

We’ve taken to calling these three stages: It’s Official, To Be or Not to Be, and The Engagement Process.

Stage One: It’s Official

We all know what it means when someone says, “it’s official.” It means that the relationship is now public information. It usually means linking to each other’s Facebook and Instagram accounts or whatever other trendy social media platform that’s being used. 

This is the beginning of the relationship. It’s a time when you slowly tell your friends and family about your significant other and answer any questions they might have about them. It’s commonly dubbed the “honeymoon phase” of the relationship. You enjoy everything about them, and they enjoy everything about you; you can’t get enough of them, and they can’t get enough of you.

This stage should last anywhere between 1-3 months. After the three-month mark, you’ve likely realized that they’re human and fallible, and there’s probably a thing or two that irks you about them in some small way (or perhaps a big way). Usually, at the end of this stage, you’ve shared enough time with one another to know if the relationship should continue.

Stage Two: To Be or Not to Be?

This is the longest stage of the dating relationship and for good reason. It’s the period when you learn their core personality, unique mannerisms, moral fortitude, family lifestyle, spiritual convictions, and experience life together. In short, this is when each person really gets to know their partner. 

This stage should probably last between 1-3 years. Anything shorter than 1 year is too soon, and anything longer than 3 years is too late. Someone desiring marriage in less than one year is moving too quickly, and someone unable to make a decision about marriage after 3 years is moving too slowly.

The exception to this rule is long-distance relationships. We advise against getting into these types of relationships, but sometimes an unfortunate event forces the couple into this situation. Under these conditions, the normal timeline for dating has been disturbed and turned the relationship into an unconventional one.

Stage Three: The Engagement Process

This is the final stage of the dating relationship. Afterward, it will have hopefully transitioned into a loving marriage. This period is for finalizing your wedding and preparing for the future together. 

This stage should last for roughly one year. That gives people enough time to plan for a wedding, but depending on the circumstances, you might have to extend it due to family affairs. This is a time of anxious expectation in a good sort of way.

But you’ll never get here if you don’t ask them to marry you or get asked that big question.

Asking the Question

This section is for the person doing the asking. If that’s you, we know your nerves are probably high-strung right now just at the thought of popping the question to her/him. The fear of rejection is a deep one, but hopefully, this article helps you overcome a small part of that fear.

Just like every relationship is different, every timeframe to engagement is different also. Only you will know when you should ask. We tried to give a suggested timeline in Stage Two above, and you might find yourself emotionally and spiritually ready to pop the question at any point during that timeframe. 

If it takes you longer than that, there might be cause for concern. It could be that you are dealing with issues beyond the scope of this article; commitment and trust issues are common for people who have been hurt in the past. However, it also might be the Lord’s way of telling you that this person isn’t the one for you. If so, we pray you’ll have the courage to obey. 

Answering the Question

This section is for the person doing the answering. If that’s you, you have the anxious pleasure of trying to anticipate when the question will be popped. This is definitely the easier of the two options, but it can be just as jittering. 

Couples consist of two uniquely crafted individuals. They often come to the same conclusions at different times, and you may find yourself ready to say “yes” at a sooner or later date than the person asking you. Remember the timeline above from Stage Two.

You should be entertaining the thought of marriage after one year. You might not be ready at that time, and if they ask, you should be honest with them and ask for more time. If you haven’t gotten the question asked during year three, you may want to ask them if the relationship is leading anywhere at all.

They may hold the power of the question, but you hold the power of the decision. Wield it wisely.