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Tortilla ChipsThis past weekend, a few friends and I pulled together two tables at a Mexican restaurant on Capitol Hill. We gathered ’round complimentary baskets of tortilla chips and spent an hour or so chatting and laughing and eating cheese quesadillas. All but one of us are single, so the conversation naturally (with a little help from a not-to-be-named blogger) turned to dating.

After a particularly deep discussion about the implied intent behind side hugs versus front hugs (we Washingtonians discuss only very serious, important issues), the non-single of the group shares that she has found “the one.”

As in, the one.

The one that she’ll marry. The one she’ll stand with, hand in hand, to proclaim their lifelong commitment to one another before family and friends. The one she’ll start a family with. The one she’ll grow old and retire with. Yep, that one.

Good for her! Hip hip hooray! A round of salsa on the house! Let’s celebrate!

But wait. Before we get this party started, I’ve got to ask an important question: When do you know you’ve found the one?

My friend apparently only needed a month. As in four weeks. As in 30 days! And I’m left to wonder: HOW? Because let’s get real: I’ve known people  for 30 days before I’ve even learned their names, let alone the important, deep stuff about them. Seriously, woman with brown hair and glasses at church, what is your name?! I’m really sick of calling you “Heeeey! How aaare yooou?” every single Sunday. (And I’m sorry!)

How long does it take to get to know someone? In a romantic sense, how long does it take to know someone well enough to commit to a future together? A future bigger than just “going steady” or “wearing his varsity jacket.” A future in marriage — ’til death do us part. I mean, how long does that take?

I’ve asked this question to so many people. And more times than I care to count, I’ve heard this reply: You’ll know when you know.

Um… no duh. How could you know before you know?

From my inexperienced, single-minded (literally), perhaps naive perspective, 30 days is a bit quick. I don’t think there’s a specific time frame per se, but a month? Doubtful. My friend will likely go on, get married and have a kid before I click “publish” on this post. But I must still ask the questions. It’s just this stubborn habit I have to practice responsible journalism.

So I ask again: How long does it take to really know someone? To trust them? To understand them?

LeavesSomeone once told me you should date someone through at least four seasons. No, not at the Four Seasons (though that’d be nice) — through four seasons. Summer, Autumn, Winter, Spring. Experience all the annual events in each other’s lives, every holiday with your families, every bright and sunny Summer moment, every dreary and cold Winter moment. I suppose the theory here is what you need to really know someone is time.

Aaaah, time! Who has it? Not me! Clock’s a tickin’, folks. Meet someone! Get married! Have babies! Wither up and die!

For me, the “you’ll know when you know” moment comes when you’ve covered all the relationship must-haves, and you’re mutually happy with what you see. I’m not talking about the long lists of what you want and don’t want. I’m talking about the important stuff.

      • Shared faith and a lifestyle built around putting that faith into action
      • Romantic chemistry
      • Shared views on family and children
      • Supported career and financial goals
      • Compatible personalities

And getting through that list has got to take more than 30 days, right? I’m thinking six months minimum. Unless you spend every waking moment with the person (which can’t be healthy) — then possibly three months.

On the other side of the coin, I’d like to propose the alternative but equally confusing: You’ll not know when you don’t know. Wait, that can’t be right. That might be a double, nay, triple negative. Regardless, the point I’m making (terribly) is: There comes a time when you know they’re not the one, when you know they don’t match up to all the important areas listed above. It’s that time you know you have to walk away. And I’d argue that this can absolutely be determined within a year.

I can feel the glares of disdain coming through this computer screen from all you long-term relationship readers, all you “We just celebrated our four-year dating anniversary” folks. I’m not going to apologize for this. You’re already winning! You are snuggling up to your special someone every night and I’m sitting here alone in my apartment blogging about you. You win!

So in summary: My professional take is that you will know if someone is the one within 3-12 months of dating. Any less and you’re just scratching the surface. Any more and you better put a ring on it.

What’s your take?

~Ruth