Two years ago, I wrote about the importance of having a rough plan in life as early as possible, even at an age some cultures might consider ‘weird’ (thinking about life in your 30’s and beyond as a 20-something year old). That article has aged well, so it’s time for an update and some further thoughts on how life has been and how I see it going.
To recap, I think a person starting out single needs at least 3 years to settle on a significant other for a long-term relationship, and another 2 years on top of that to have their first kid. In the example I gave, a person who starts looking when they’re 28 would, under a very optimal scenario, find someone to settle down with by the age of 31 and have their first kid at 33.
I stand slightly corrected: the search duration of 1 year is very conservative and can be drastically minimized to about 3 months with an active search in the right market (i.e., the right age when you’re likely to find someone who wants to settle down too and right place where blatant discrimination such as race is not a factor). On the other hand, settle down time is realistically closer to 2.5 years than just 2 years. However, those corrections balance each other out and that makes 3 years from start of search to settling down about right.
Real-life scenarios: Time to marriage
Since writing that article, I’ve made observations on friends I know and new people I’ve met – and I can say the timeline above is fairly accurate for couples who started new relationships in their late 20’s. Here are 6 instances I know from real life:
- Former coworker (soon to be 30, he’s 31?): At early 28, found a guy she started dating and moved in within 3 months. Married after less than 2 years at late 29. Time to marriage: 1.5-2 years.
- Coworker (soon to be 30, he’s 31?): Similar to the above, started dating current boyfriend at early 28, moved in within 6 months and is 29 going on 30 now. While I’ve not met the guy (pandemic and all), sounds like things are going well and the couple have stable careers, routine, etc. Purely a guess but I expect they’ll get hitched in summer 2021 at age 30. Time to marriage: Will be 2-2.5 years.
- Friends (both about to be 33): Met each other at 29, got together within a few months, moved in together after a year, got married at early 32. Time to marriage: 2 years.
- Distant friends (he’s 30 soon, she’s 28): Met each other at age 28 and 26 respectively, moved in together under 2 years. Another guess but I wouldn’t be surprised to see them announce their wedding in 2021 where time to marriage will be 2.5-3 years.
- Former coworkers (he’s 32 soon, she’s 30): Met at mid 29 and 27 respectively, moved in within 1-1.5 years, engaged after 1.5 years at the start of the pandemic. They haven’t had a ceremony but time to marriage would have been 2 years if you discount the pandemic.
- Friends (both soon to be 30): Started dating at 29, appear to be progressing fine (especially considering this year’s pandemic). I’ve heard a hint they might move in together next year. No pressure but based on data projections, they’ll get married at around age 31 or 2022.
There’s definitely multiple caveats and small details to note here. For example, it’s a tiny sample size and all pairings are middle-class or higher and work in white collar.
Some interesting observations are:
- None of the couples knew each other at all prior to dating: 2 of them met at work and 3 on dating apps. The 6th couple were introduced by a mutual contact and went to the same college, but did not know each other back then (I think).
- 3 of the couples are white, the other 3 are Asian. Of which, one pairing is mixed race.
- Time was measured starting from when the couple became ‘official’ since ‘search time’ is highly subjective. But I can say there was very little time between when the couples met and decided to be together (under 3 months).
- 2 of the pairings are ‘power couples’ with both individuals having exceptional careers (with a combined pre-tax income in excess of USD 200k a year… don’t ask me how I know). There may be a (weak) correlation between joint income levels to time-to-marriage, which I expect to hit the upper end of the scale (2.5 or more years) as a result of earning a lot.
- At least one person in 2 other pairings comes from a privileged background (call it upper-upper middle class). As far as I can see now, this is just trivia and doesn’t have a direct impact on the timeline.
- There looks to be a pattern where all the couples knew they would settle down and/or proposals were made by the time the woman reached 29 on average, and at latest, age 30.
If you take the data above and apply it to the example from the original article, it’s very plausible that, on an optimistic timeline, a person who starts their search at mid 27 and finds someone they might want to be with at 28 will move in within a year and a half (mid 29) and decide to settle down by age 30.
Bonus example: There’s a prominent internet-famous person I follow, and take a lot of inspiration from for how to live life, who met his girlfriend at early age 31. Not sure how old his girlfriend is, looks late 20’s, but she moved in with him by the end of the (first) year. He’s 32 this year, has spent a quite a bit of this year looking to buy property with this girlfriend, and (currently nearing 2 years being in a relationship) has heavily implied they will settle down together. This closely matches the statistics above.
How about me?
In the 2 years between the original post and now, I’ve managed to get into one relationship, much to my own surprise. That lasted a bit over year and I learned things about dating and myself during that course. Each of us had our own problems and broke up (I’ll discuss that in a standalone piece).
I’ve since met someone new and though it is fairly early, I’ve already been getting the gut feeling that she’s the one. Yeah she’ll tell me that I’m getting way ahead of myself if she ever were to read this (and god forbid she does, with the amount of non-politically correct stuff I write on here) but she’s got me hooked on both a feeling and practical level so let’s see how it goes.
Assuming she’s the one, there’s a couple of things that could delay our timeline (pandemic being a big one), but I would see us settling down by 2023/24 which is fine by me. I have some more interesting thoughts surrounding relationship dynamics, so stay tuned for those.