How long is too long to be engaged?

Sheila was engaged for over two years, and in that period, she had done nothing but dream of the beautiful happily-ever-after she was about to embark on with her fiancée.

This is why she was shocked when her eyes started to wander off, slowly losing interest in the man who once held a special place in her heart.

“Our relationship grew stale as time went by, we no longer felt strongly for each other like how it was at the beginning,” she says.

And when she met another man, she didn’t hesitate—she decided to break off the engagement.

Engagement is when a man proposes marriage to a woman in a few months, not when he puts a ring on her finger and scares other men away for the next five years…this is witchcraft!!!..This hilarious post amused many on Facebook. And many agreed with it.

Some may argue that a long engagement avails ample time to know your partner before tying the knot; however, others have reasons to believe that an ongoing engagement can lead a relationship into a state of insubstantiality.

A longer engagement may give you time to get to know your future partner even better, but this can be done during the period of dating not after the couple has agreed to the idea of marriage, Ariane Isimbi says.

A column on the Brides website quotes relationship expert, Jane Greer, highlighting that most wedding and relationship experts agree the majority of engagements span nine to 18 months. Longer than that, and an ongoing engagement ‘can keep you locked into a state of impermanence’, without really tackling some of the heavy decisions that go into planning your future.

“It keeps you living your life in the present, rather than laying down roots for the future. One of the things about getting married is planning a future together. If you just stay engaged, you’re not building your life, rather, staying in the here and now,” she notes.

So, should an extended engagement be cause for alarm?

Why would anyone decide to get engaged and wait for many years to get married? James Mugisha, a programme manager, appears to be confused asking this question.

“I don’t think it’s a case of wanting to know each other more. I believe by the time you propose marriage to someone, you already know them and have decided that they are the ones you want to spend the rest of your life with,” he says.

Aisha Kobusingye, a businesswoman, says if she was to get engaged, she wouldn’t accept waiting for long before walking down the aisle.

“If a man took his sweet timewith the wedding, I would doubt his commitment and wouldn’t sit around waiting for him to make up his mind,” she says.

Sarah Tuyishime thinks otherwise. She believes that since planning for a wedding requires a lot, a couple taking their time to actually walk down the aisle is entirely fine.

“I don’t think a long engagement should be a cause for alarm because people lead different lives and therefore have different reasons for doing what they choose to do. Taking ample time to take a step as big as getting married is reasonable for me,” she says. 

It should zero down to the couple’s goals.

Prossy Mbabazi believes setting a final date for a wedding depends on stability.

Are you financially stable for the marriage functions? Are you two stable to start up a family and all that? Because marriage has a lot of pressure and responsibilities, she says.

She is also of the view that after engagement, the couple needs to sit down and talk for clarification on the way forward.

“They should sit and decide on whether they should wait and for how long they should take. This also should be backed up by how the two feel about each other,” she says.

“Patience is needed in everything, there are a lot of people out there that have dated for long and even have kids together but not legally married, so I don’t think there is need to rush marriage,” she adds.

Edward Nimusiima, a journalist, thinks the entire process should take a minimum of three years.

“One year for dating, and the rest for engagement, then marriage can come in. I feel one year is enough to fully make up your mind, nevertheless, people shouldn’t rush into marriage because it’s a lifetime decision,” he says.

Nimusiima also believes that a couple taking their time to finally walk down the aisle actually gives them room to understand each other’s flaws and strengths.

“You don’t want to learn about your spouse’s habits when you’re already into the marriage,” he adds.

Sylvia Elizabeth Nabiwemba, a customer care assistant, says a couple should wait for marriage until they are emotionally, spiritually and financially ready.

That also depends on how strong their relationship is. Marriage is not a trophy, and it’s for a lifetime. A strong relationship will stand through that kind of wait, she says.

She says if she was to wait through a long engagement, she wouldn’t worry too much nor would she barge the man for the real wedding day.

Marie-France Niyonizera, a blogger, says such a decision should depend on the couple’s goal and how their relationship is.

“I think a couple can wait until  they are ready to commit to marriage. Marriage is a very wide thing and it’s something we should be careful for, being engaged doesn’t mean you are ready to get married. At times, men give the ring when they want to secure the woman,” she says.

Though Niyonizera is not against the idea of waiting, she points out the downside of a possible breakup in cases where one can get tired of waiting.

“One can give up on the relationship or they can even meet someone else but this all comes to the type of relationship you have and it’s foundation. If it’s a real one, it can stand the test of time because even if you are married and the foundation is not good, divorce can happen.”

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DOES IT MATTER HOW LONG A COUPLE IS ENGAGED BEFORE MARRIAGE?

I don’t think it does. As long as both parties know each other well and are ready for commitment, I think it is what matters.

It can be a year or more as long as the couple agrees to it.

Aida Kayitesi, Mother

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It doesn’t matter because factors that lead to marriage are different for different people.

For some, it could be the issue of money and they could need ample time to prepare for the marriage ceremonies.

Pie Kombe, Reflexologist

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The time spent in engagement should be limited because the more a couple delays to walk down the aisle, possibilities of their relationship breaking up increase.

In my opinion, couples should get married in less than a year after getting engaged.

Jackline Mukabalisa, Administrator

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Engagement period should be as long or as short as the couple wants it.

Relationships have no formula that they should be done a certain way. So whether they get married in one or more years, it should entirely depend on them.

Ismail Itinywe, Stylist

editor@newtimesrwanda.com