WHEN Yvette Kayitesi and Albert Nshizirungu decided to get married after dating for eight months, Kayitesi’s family and friends went up in arms.
They argued that 8 months was too short a time for Kayitesi to know her suitor well to make such a life time decision. It’s barely a year since you met Albert and there are many things that you still need to know about him. Besides you are still young. That’s what Kayitesi’s friend told her despite the fact that she is 24 years old.
How long should one date before popping the question? Should marriage be based on the length of the dating period?
For Philomene Uwase, a mother of two boys, it boils down to the two people involved.
“The issue of the ideal dating period comes down to the two parties involved because, like in my case, after dating for a year and six months and a brief engagement period, we decided to get married though my parents had different ideas. They wanted me to first work and even get a Master’s degree. I’m not saying that it was wrong for them to have my best interests at heart but sometimes if the people involved don’t put their foot down they will never get married soon enough,” Uwase says.
Uwase says the trends have changed from the traditional ways of dating and marriage. Our parents usually tell us about how they had to first send an advance party to talk to the girl’s family without the girl’s consent. Nowadays, all a person does is propose to the girl directly and she’ll in turn just inform her parents, Uwases argues.
For partners like Zaina Batete and James Karamage, who were engaged for eight years, the proposal was enough to seal the lifelong commitment.
“We spent a long time dating before getting engaged because our situation was tricky. James had just landed a good job with the UN and I was building my career as an IT specialist. In addition to this, I’m from a Muslim background whereas James is from a Catholic background and this was such a huge problem for us. From religious beliefs to career plans to logistics, the length of time you spend dating p is a difficult, deeply personal decision,” Batete says.
Nonetheless, relationship experts say any couple should cherish dating while they wait anxiously to get engaged and eventually get married. “If a couple feels like they want to date for a long period that is fine as long as they both agree that it’s the best decision. Eventually, my husband and I managed to convince our families and they accepted. We wedded a year after getting engaged,” adds Gatete.
Eugene Ishimwe, a born-again Christian is always a subject of ridicule among his friends because he has dated the same girl for seven years now. They met while they were still in secondary, made it through university and are now both working.
“You guys have been dating like forever, is she your sister? You will wake up when she finally finds a man willing to put a ring on it,” Ishimwe’s friends jokingly tell him.
But for his girl friend, she says she will wait until Eugene popes the question, regardless of the ages they have spent dating.
“When we get engaged it will be easier for us to quickly plan everything without having doubts about each other. Eugene did his university abroad and I was here, we used to communicate constantly but that’s not enough. Certain things might have changed in both of us, so we need enough time to adjust and make a sober decision.”
Although Eugene seems comfortable with this arrangement, his approach is to make sure that he makes the right decision. “If right now we decided to go our separate ways it would be much easier than breaking off an engagement. Imagine the frustration that people could through after you go down on one knee, propose, she says yes and everyone is happy, wedding preparations are in high gear only to break it off after two months.”
Crainmer Karasira says: “There are various factors to consider while deciding on how long to date. Usually people new to the dating scene make a decision after a long time and people who have been out with many people need more time.”
He continues to say that some people will take long in the dating phase because they want to consider how factors such as cultural background, religious beliefs will affect their relationship. “It is good when couples wait and first experience the thrill of the dating phase because this is when emotions are flying high. This is also the time when they will have intense drama in their lives and if they can make it through this phase then I think they are good to go,” Karasira adds.
Jeanne de Chantal Mugabushaka aka Mama Eminente, a radio personality who advises couples on her radio show Mbigeze nte says: “It is extremely important for people not to make decisions after they’ve just met. That ‘rush period’ is not enough to determine if someone is going to be your future partner.”
She explains that making a decision about someone who is going to be your spouse takes a long time and requires deeper scrutiny because most families break-up because the couple didn’t take time to understand each other.
“If you can’t seem to understand your partner then ask around, consult with close friends, visit her family to get a picture, spend quality time together, ask her to visit so that you can see how she handles herself in front of your family,” the radio host says.
Eminente says that even though a couple is in love, they should talk about other issues such as financial issues, religious issues because some couples have strong principles that they might not be able to compromise on.
“For example, Born-again Christians might not be comfortable marrying a non-born again Christian, or some families that insist on marrying from a particular clan. All these are issues that should be discussed during the dating period,” Eminente explains.
Flavia Kemigisha however says it’s all about how deep you want your relationship to be before getting engaged and eventually get married. “Personally, I knew my husband for two years before we got engaged, and I thought that I was rushing it.”
“Occasionally, people need more time. They need to see if the other person’s mannerisms will bother them in a few weeks or if it truly is insignificant. You will never know the person you marry 100% before you get married. I wanted to know as much as I could but it was not possible,” Kemigisha says.
Pastor Antoine Rutayisire is a counselor who believes that there is no such thing as an ideal dating period unless the person in question is under the age of 21 stipulated in the Constitution of Rwanda for one to get married.
“People are usually asking the wrong question rather than looking at the real issue. It is the issue of maturity. Some people mature faster than others. The dating period can’t determine the maturity of a person. Is a person mature enough to head a home should be the question here. People need to mature emotionally, physically and psychologically among other factors. Otherwise, dating for a long period will not guarantee the longevity of a marriage if there’s no maturity involved,” the pastor says.
He added that it is imperative that couples build skills such as communication, listening and compromise because if these are developed with a high level of maturity, a couple can get married after dating for a short period.
“Other aspects like financial, religious and cultural issues will also depend on the maturity of an individual. For example, a union with a couple that is financially stable but mature, focused and willing to work hard might outlive a union of a rich couple with no level of maturity. The same applies to religious issues and cultural issues,” Rutayisire adds.
He emphasises the need for people to develop the right and not to accuse the wrong issues. “People always say that a family broke up because the couple is from different cultural backgrounds but I always tell them that the real issue is the maturity level with which they handle the problem.”
What would be an ideal dating period?
My personal opinion is that if you marry when you are still too young, say between 21 and 26 years, there are high chances that the guy will cheat on you; speaking from a guy’s perspective. Have a bit of fun and date a bit before settling down. The guys who actually commit early would be one of these: When a girl emotionally blackmails the guy, guys who think a girl is doing them a favour by dating them and seriously religious guys.
Elvis Kwizera, IT specialist
At the risk of sounding dumb, I always wonder why people even get into marriage. Isn’t dating enough stress already? I am 32 years old, I’m financially stable, straight, stress free and I date who I want when I want. I have no wife to answer to about everything I’ve ever done in my life. I think personally that children are a stress factor. I think people should just date and stop there because marriages are not what they used to be. Today, they are just for convenience and monetary purposes only. No money, no love.
Jared Tashobya, Businessman
For women, the best time to have babies is between 23 and 28 years of age. After that it gets risky. That means that the dating period shouldn’t be so long for these years to pass you by. Secondly, having a shorter dating period helps you have less ex lovers because these days very few girls are still intact till they get married. The less people a person has been with, the better, because with each sexual encounter, a piece is taken. Your spouse should have the partner wholly, not what’s left of them after years of dating.
Ariel Akaliza, Marketeer
I think it doesn’t matter how you long you date someone. My parents tell me that they dated for five months, got married and grew to love each other. If you find the right person and you click, it doesn’t matter if you get engaged immediately because in my experience people can tell if they are out to have fun or looking for a serious relationship. This depends on the intention a person has when looking for a relationship and how they both handle themselves while at it. Learning a person is not rocket science unless you don’t know what you are looking for.
Ingrid Musiimenta, Real Estate agent
The dating period matters a lot because that’s when you get time to fully understand each other. Take time and study someone, their family, their culture, and decide if they are what you want in a man. It is very easy to be blinded by love and ignore some of the telltale signs that can make or break the deal for you. On the other hand, don’t take too long until he/she is literally like your sibling. Establish grounds for closer friendship but don’t start acting like siblings do. Maintain proper standards and qualities. If things work out sooner, why not?
Alpha Ikirezi, Post-graduate student