How long should you date before you marry?

I’ve known him for almost two years now, and I still find new stuff about him. We were sitting on my couch the other day, with Princess resting her head on my knees. We were watching cartoons, and suddenly, we all started singing:

Mama had a chicken, Mama had a cow

Daddy was proud, he didn’t care how!

I stared through the rest of the song. It was anything but a loving gaze.

See, I hate this cartoon. And when I say hate, I mean detest. It’s silly, tasteless, and utterly pointless. It’s also alarmingly popular. So when I was sang along, it was habit. I’ve heard the theme song so often I can hum the instrumentals. Sure, I like Cousin Boneless, and some jokes are hilarious, but mostly, the show is just annoying.

I pointed out all the dumb things in the show, and Princess ignored me, because she likes it. Mr 3CB just smiled his adorable smile and said, ‘It’s awesome. Cow’s voice is so soothing.’

[That made me blush – of course – because I have the one man on earth who likes a baby voice. You would have to hear me speak to know how much of a comfort that is.]

Here’s the moral of my story. I’ve known him for more than a year, but at no point did I ask:

“So, what’s your favourite cartoon? Any thoughts on I Are Baboon?”

It just doesn’t come up in conversations.You ask about favourite colours, preferred foods, maybe even ex-girlfriends, but you would never ask something as random as Cartoon Network.

Some people have a ‘first date list’ of all their deal breakers, and they will include questions like:

  1. Are you married?
  2. Have a girlfriend?
  3. A boyfriend?
  4. A deranged half-sibling with claws?
  5. Clubbed toes?
  6. Artificial hair?

That kind of thing. Cartoon preferences don’t come into that. Of course there are things that you should know before you marry. Stuff like how many big heads children she’s willing to push, how deeply he’s sunk into soft loans, or whether he’d root for you or your mum-in-law. Unfortunately, stuff like that doesn’t come up in conversation either, so you might be shocked that he wants to keep going after your sixth baby, or that she’s spent your entire marriage on the pill.

You could know someone for years – even centuries – and you wouldn’t know how they love Pingu until it shows up on TV. You could have sleepovers for months and never know he has halitosis, because he brushes his teeth while you’re asleep. You could date a girl for decades and never know she sleeps in stockings, because she does her hair when you come over.

In the good old days, marriage was forever, and you couldn’t divorce over smelly feet. You could get your sister as a co-wife and make him sleep in her hut instead of yours, but that was about it. But now we have ‘irreconcilable differences’ and we can claim we’re no longer compatible.

Here’s the thing: you will never know anyone well enough to find all their faults. If you do, they’ll just find new ones. And you’ll never really know someone till you’re married. Come-we-stay is a whole different ball game, because subconsciously, you’re still hiding stuff to get that ring on your finger.

Lengthy courtships only help if you want illegitimate children. They won’t show you that you’re suited for each other. Pre-marital counselling helps, but I don’t know any couple that stopped the wedding for issues in counselling. Most likely, they just found another priest.

All you can do is find someone suitable to marry. Your reasons are your own. Could be he has beautiful eyes that you hope he’ll pass on to your baby, or a big healthy pay cheque, or childbearing hips for the ladies. Once you find them appropriate, get on with it. You could find she’s an ogre by night or that he has an extra nipple, but dating him longer wouldn’t help you with that. You could marry him sober, then he ends up being a drunk … mostly because you turn into an ogre by night. Or you could find a guy that ‘chills’ only to reach the wedding night and learn you both hate sex. Scary.

Marriage – like love – is a decision. It’s your choice if you go or stay, but dating time [or strange acquired habit] has little to do with it. The best way to know a person is to be with them, and to be at ease enough to sing along to Cow and Chicken, even as she gives you laser eyes that beg you to stop.

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Crystal Ading' is a professional author, editor, rock lover and mother. Her work is available through