Is there a politically correct waiting period between the ‘just engaged’ and ‘just married’ stages in a couple’s life? The getting-to-know-each-other juncture between engagement and marriage is very crucial and couples take their own sweet time in going about this. But is there an expiry date for this in-between phase? As Jason Segal and Emily Blunt proved on celluloid recently, there is such a thing as being engaged too long. So, how do fiancés and fiancées decide on the right time to take the next step?
Love Vs. Arranged
Ideally, in most arranged marriages, alliances are fixed between families which have identical expectations, similar balance sheets and equal status in society. And in the majority of such cases, the elders decide on the engagement date and the kalyana muhurtam and the couples are happy to go along with it. The six to eight months gap between the two events gives ample time to the would-be groom and bride to court each other while the families go about making arrangements for the marriage ceremony. So it turns out to be a win-win situation for all.
The spectrum of love marriages is totally different and encompasses a lot of aspects. It all boils down to the age factor and the level of maturity of the couples. College goers are the most vulnerable to rushing into a marriage they inevitably regret later on. In the heated flush of first love, the world looks rosy and promising and parental opposition is viewed as a needless spoke in the wheel. Elopement and a hasty register marriage seems the only way out. It is only after reality comes crashing down that the lovers realise their naiveté in taking things too fast.
Being in love, however, does not mean being foolhardy always. There are couples who realise that a whirlwind romance, a snap engagement and a hasty exchange of vows, all sound good in romance novels but in real life things do not follow a smooth course. A proper job, a dream house, a car and a decent bank balance are prerequisites for leading a smooth life and keeping loan sharks at bay.
“My husband and I were classmates in college. We were quite convinced about getting married but did not want to take the plunge amidst financial uncertainty. So we got engaged after graduation and then focused on our careers for the next three years. When both of us were settled financially we went ahead with our marriage plans,” says Chennai based voice and accent trainer Zyn Milan Sarvanan.
With societal broadmindedness taking tremendous strides, cohabitation is no longer viewed as living in ‘sin’. Although orthodox communities fear that living in has undermined the sanctity of marriage, youngsters look upon it as the perfect option to stay committed without inconvenience. “Moving in with my fiancé has been the best move for me,” says 23 year old Meena, who works as a software professional in Bangalore and has been engaged to Ravi for the past two years. “My fiancé and I are also colleagues. So it made a lot of sense to halve our utility bills and save for a happy married life in the near future.”
Living in seems to be the ideal middle path but what about couples who live apart? Does it lead to a heightened sense of insecurity among the duo as to what each is doing behind the other’s back? It depends a lot on the personality of your would be spouse, says Zyn. “My husband is a reticent guy, bashful in the company of ladies but comfortable with his gang of guys. So, I never had any trouble trusting him. Had he been this extrovert, outgoing man I may have felt very insecure and would have hurried into marriage,” she says.
The Shaky Suitors
According to Hyderabad based accountant Rashmi Rai, before committing three to four years of your life to a man, decide if he is worthy of it. The acid test is to differentiate between genuine reasons for delaying the wedding and bogus ones. Says Rashmi, “I was engaged to a man for almost five years. We got engaged just after my graduation and initially all was well. Then, the excuses started pouring in thick and fast: inadequate salary, improper living conditions, illness of family members. And all this, when he was the VP in an MNC and owned an apartment in the posh Banjara Hills area! Sensing something amiss, I confronted him. He confessed to having fallen in love with his colleague and wanting to marry her. I ended the relationship then and there. Now he is happily married to his colleague. I don’t regret walking out on a potentially loveless future. I only wish he had the guts to tell me the truth when he realised it. I would not have wasted precious years staying engaged to a man who did not want me.”
Sometimes, genuine obstacles prevent couples from taking their relationship to the next level increasing the dangers of the relationship turning stagnant. It is vital to keep the romance alive during this phase. Sending sexts, exchanging gifts, handing out cuddles and hugs, taking short breaks together: find anything to keep the love embers glowing.
No matter how understanding you are and no matter if you have zero expectations, there still comes a time when you have to sit down and analyse the duration of the waiting period. Be honest about the delay: is there a compatibility issue? Does he show signs of being commitment phobic? Has the affair staggered past the expiry date? If you feel you have outgrown the relationship, it is best to call off things than to enter into a monotonous marriage.
Marriages may be made in heaven but the time is decided on earth. Experts concur that a one to two year gap between engagement and marriage is ideal. Any time more than that should have your antennae working in overdrive.