Many couples interested in a lifelong commitment may wonder if they are the right age to get engaged. By examining themselves individually as well as their relationship together, they can discover whether or not they are ready for the first step toward till death do us part.
There is No Right Age to Get Engaged
The first misconception many couples struggle with is that there is some predetermined age that is appropriate for a marriage proposal, and that they may be too old or too young for such a step in their relationship. In fact, couples get engaged at many different ages and for many different reasons, and the right age is one that is right for that specific couple. Their individual ages as well as the age of their relationship will have a tremendous influence on whether or not they are the right age to get engaged.
The ages of both individuals in a couple should play a part in whether or not they are ready to be engaged. By the nature of life and adult experiences, someone who is older will have more world-wise knowledge of a life other than their own - they will be experienced with paying bills, holding down a job, furthering their education, and other goals. A younger couple, however, may be wrapped in the novelty of their emotions and not have as good a conception of how to build a life together without help from parents or other sources.
At the same time, individual circumstances can vary widely: a 23-year-old who has lived at home during college and taken summers off may be less prepared for the adult commitment of being engaged than a 19-year-old who got their first apartment at age 17 and has been on their own ever since. It is important, then, that personal maturity as well as individual calendar age should be a factor in making a commitment to be married.
The age of a couple's relationship is also crucial when they are contemplating engagement, regardless of how old they may individually be. A couple who are both 26 but have only known each other for a few weeks may be less ready to get engaged than a couple who are both 20 but have been together for several years. Ideally, a couple should be together long enough to see one another in circumstances beyond the first flush of dating - events such as family holidays, career changes, lengthy separations, and even the occasional argument can help a couple's relationship mature beyond the infatuation stage. Each event gives the couple insight into one another to discern whether they are ready for marriage. For some couples, just a few months may be long enough to decide on this type of commitment, and for other couples it may take several years before they feel comfortable becoming engaged.
A couple that has age discrepancies has additional challenges when they consider engagement. For example, while one person may be older and ready to be engaged, the other person may be too young to truly evaluate the relationship and commitment logically. In this case, the older individual needs to recognize the needs of their partner and help them grow individually so they can decide if a deeper commitment is what they truly want. Rushing into a commitment because of an arbitrary age can lead to a broken engagement or unhappy marriage. Age differences can also lead to different philosophies about critical aspects of a marriage, such as individual careers, religion, parenting, finances, and other key issues. Any couple with an age difference of more than a year or two should carefully consider these types of issues to ensure they are able to work together for a happy relationship without obvious misunderstandings or assumptions.
When Age is a Problem
Even couples who feel they are ready to get engaged and have worked out issues between themselves may find their ages pose a problem to others, particularly if the couple is very young or if there is a blatant age discrepancy. Before rushing to condemn cautious family members, however, the couple should demonstrate their individual maturity and the maturity of their relationship by acknowledging and discussing these concerns with their parents or other uncertain family members and friends. While family members and friends should not automatically judge a couple's intentions based on their ages, establishing a dialogue about concerns rather than creating ultimatums, making demands, or using the "just accept it" attitude can go a long way toward assuring everyone that the couple truly is ready to get engaged.
The only right age to get engaged is an age that feels right to the couple involved, regardless of when they were born or when they met. By understanding how individual ages and the length of the relationship can affect the engagement, however, a couple can smooth over age-related bumps as they prepare to grow old together.