While there have been exceptional cases, you shouldn’t commit to a lifelong relationship with a prospective spouse until you have known them for at least a year and a half.
In general, it takes two to four years to completely get to know someone. Then, as long as you’ve been consistently interacting at least on a friendship level, you can say you know them.
Of course, you won’t fully know a future spouse as best you can until you’ve been living together for decades, but you want some time to pass before then so you know what you’re getting yourself into.
#1 — To recognize sin patterns
The first year and a half of a romantic relationship is known as “the honeymoon phase” or how long the period of affection lasts. If you haven’t passed that yet, it’s really easy to overlook flaws.
You may notice elements of their sin pattern, but if you haven’t known them for very long, it’s near impossible to recognize the full breadth of what you’re seeing, and marrying them won’t fix it.
Any inkling of a thing you observe at the beginning of a relationship is only the tip of an iceberg of behaviors that are very present in their private lives, behaviors that will only magnify to your awareness if you get married.
#2 — So actions can back up words
Beware of the one who verbally confirms the embodiment of everything you want in a spouse, especially if you have a tendency to take people at their word. Words are powerful but limited. They need to be backed up by actions, which only time allows.
Pay attention to their reputation. How do they treat their parents? How do their siblings feel about them? What do they do in their free time? Who are their friends? What do they watch/read/listen to? A person’s actions will tell you everything you need to know.
Before any hard-to-reverse decisions are made, let enough time pass so actions can back up whatever words may be expressed. There is a clear message in how someone treats people if you have the ears to listen. Read more here.
#3 — You see them in multiple contexts
Humans are infinitely complex, so there are facets only different seasons will be able to shed light on. High stress and peace, joy and sorrow. At church, at school, at home, at a restaurant, at a park, etc.
They may be perfectly confident and on top of their game in one context, but absolutely losing it in another. Make sure you’ve seen both so you have a holistic picture of who they are, not just one side.
Since marriage is a lifetime of problem-solving, you want to know how a prospective spouse deals with life’s curveballs. If their conflict resolution compliments yours, then you should have the tactical skillset to manage life together.