What Is An Appropriate Relationship Timeline?

When getting to know someone, it can be difficult to know what steps to take, and more importantly, when. How long should we talk before we have our first phone call? How long should we talk before we meet in person? When should our families be involved? How much is enough time to know if you actually feel a connection with this person? The questions are endless, and a tiny bit nerve wracking. As a rule of thumb, I believe in the rule of 3’s.

The First 3 Weeks

I recommend giving someone at least 3 weeks of your time before you come to any sort of conclusion about your future. 3 weeks of consistent talking is usually a good indicator of if there is any potential with this person or not. Many of us like to decide if there is a “spark” after our first conversation, and I strongly advise against this. Many factors come into play during your initial discussions- nerves, inexperience, having a guard up, etc. Be cognizant of this and know that most people need time to warm up before they can really be themselves, especially when talking to someone you have a romantic interest in. Also, on the flip side- if there is a *magical spark* in your first discussion, this does not mean it will last and that there is real relationship potential here. Regardless of how your first interactions go, give it at least 3 weeks time.

3 FaceTime Or In Person Sessions

If you make it past the initial 3-week period, congrats! By this point hopefully you are both more comfortable with each other, and are ready to explore further realms of communication. If you have the advantage of being geographically near each other, I recommend meeting in person (be mindful of your families customs and traditions when taking this step). If you are at a geographical disadvantage, FaceTime is a great way to bridge the gap. You learn so much about a person through “face to face” interactions. Body language and facial expressions are important parts of how people communicate. You may vibe really well via text or over the phone, but not have the chemistry you hoped for face to face. If you are meeting in person, avoid activities like watching a movie or activities that doesn’t involve much communication. Opt for something that leaves space to talk with one another, such as meeting for coffee, or going out to lunch. Aim for at least 3 of these “face to face” sessions before progressing further.

The First 3 Months

3 months in, you should know if there is great potential for a real future with this person. By now you should have communicated enough to know if your core values align, and if you feel a real connection. If by this point you still feel a big sense of uncertainty, then you probably aren’t meant to be with each other. If after 3 months you feel things are going great and you both want to continue forward, this is a great time to have families involved, if they aren’t already. I never recommend making any sort of formal commitments until your families have met each other in person. A good way to start this process is by having the maternal figures in your life speak to each other on the phone, and hopefully set up a day to meet. Traditionally, the man’s family will then come to the home of the woman’s family, but this process is different for everyone, so follow the customs of your families. From here, things will likely progress and be more serious because once families get involved things tend to speed up. It’s important to articulate your thoughts and feelings to each other throughout this process, as it can be a little overwhelming. Try to act as a team throughout the formalities because you don’t want to leave room for misinterpretation.

Months 3 To 6

These months are typically for you, as well as your families, to get to know each other on a deeper level. Usually big conversations are had here, and you figure out if the whole picture fits together, because you’ve now left the bubble of just the two of you. Throughout this period, you may also discuss taking a formal step, such as an engagement.

Months 6 To 9

In this period it is great for a formal commitment to be made. This may look different for each family but some type of “engagement” is recommended by month 9.

After Engagement

After your engagement, I recommend coming to an agreement on when you will be wed. I don’t recommend waiting too long to do this because long engagements can lead to complications. But anywhere between 5 months to a year is probably an okay time frame.

It is important to note this is just a timeline blueprint that may be helpful for some. Every relationship is different, and if you are following a different timeline that is totally okay. Many factors come into play while moving through a relationship, and can definitely impact your timeline. At the end of the day, go with your gut and take the steps that feel right and comfortable.

Hoda Abrahim