How the Holidays Can Tell You If You’re Ready for Marriage


A new study indicates how couples handle rituals together can say a lot about their future.

By Beth Shapouri

Loving couple enjoying Christmas


‘Tis the season to find out if the person you’re dating is marriage material, according to a study in the Journal of Social and Personal Relationships

Researchers analyzed in-depth interviews of 24 couples who had been dating more than two years (selected randomly from a larger study examining the commitment to wed in heterosexual pairs) to determine the role that rituals—like those centered around celebrations—played in how they thought of their relationship.

What they found was that these rituals highlighted three key areas: family interactions, relationship awareness, and conflict management. The couples’ behavior in those situations helped researchers determine if they were headed for marriage; their reported commitment to wed either increased or decreased according to how well their interactions went. 

Of course, the holidays are a huge source of rituals like the ones the resources studied, which means this season is scientifically a make-or-break time for many relationships. “For many people, the holidays are a stressful time, and your ability to connect and be supported by your partner during them can make a big difference [and] informs quite a bit about a relationship,” says Dr. Donna T. Novak, Psy.D., a licensed psychologist in Simi Valley, CA. 

While this year may be a bit unique because travel isn’t advised due to COVID-19 restrictions, so the traditional “meet the in-laws” moment may be off the table, there are still plenty of opportunities to put your relationship to the test this season. Read on for three “relationship indicators” – and three tips to set yourselves up for success – in order to up your chances of truly ringing in the New Year.



Indicator to look for: How much of a unit you are

Big events present an opportunity to take stock of relationship status, according to the study, so it makes sense if you’re suddenly looking more closely at your partnership. Not sure how you’re feeling? Pay attention to how much you both use “we” when discussing the future with family at holiday gatherings—that could mean you’re a packaged deal for the future. 

And there’s another clue that your partner may think of you as “the one,” according to Dr. Supriya Blair, Psy.D., a clinical psychologist in Albany, NY. “When you meet others who are important in your partner’s life, and they say, ‘I’ve heard a lot about you!’ that signifies that your partner is so excited about you that he, she, or they share their excitement with others.”

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