Relationships: how long should you wait before having sex, meeting the parents or moving in together

Eir NolsoeData Journalist
June 23, 2021, 2:54 PM UTC

Men are more trigger happy when it comes to sleeping with a new partner for the first time, saying “I love you” and moving in together

“First comes love, then comes marriage, then comes baby in the baby carriage”, goes the old nursery rhyme. But when exactly? New YouGov data shows how long Britons think couples should wait to hit nine relationship milestones – and how long they actually wait.

How long should you wait before having sex with a new partner?

The most common answer is that you should wait a month or so, with just over a fifth of Britons (22%) being of this opinion. Of course, principle and reality don’t always line up. While only one in six Britons (17%) say it’s ideal to sleep with a new partner within a week, one in four people in a relationship (24%) did.

How long should you wait before saying “I love you”?

When it comes to saying “I love you” to a partner for the first time, a fifth of the public (21%) think the ideal time to wait is three months, which is the most frequent answer.

Around a quarter (24%) are at ease with wearing their heart on the sleeve and say you should go for it even if it’s only been a month or less. But it seems many struggle to contain their feelings – a third of those in a couple (35%) had already let the words slip by this point.

Also, a word of warning for the 11% of men who are on board with saying “I love you” within two weeks: only one in twenty women (5%) share the enthusiasm.

How long should you wait before meeting your potential in-laws?

One in four Britons (25%) say ideally you should give a new relationship three months before meeting your partner’s close family. While this is the most common response, just under a quarter (23%) think it’s fine to do it sooner.

How long should you wait before going on holiday with a partner?

A quarter of Britons (24%) say the optimal time for a first romantic holiday with a new partner is six months in, with it being the most common answer. But one in seven people (14%) are more optimistic and believe a month is plenty of time.

How long should you wait before moving in with a partner?

Three in ten people (29%) say couples should wait a year to move in together – the most popular response. But a quarter of men (24%) would be happy to go ahead after six months, compared with one in six women (17%). Among Londoners, who pay the most rent on average, 11% would be happy to move in with a partner after only three months – the highest of any region.

On a national scale, only one in fourteen people (7%) believe moving in together within three months is a good idea. That’s not to say it’s doomed - twice as many people in relationships who live together (14%) had a joint address by then.

How long should you wait before getting engaged?

Most people (58%) think waiting about two years to get engaged is sufficient, although younger Britons are less likely to think so. Only two in five 18 to 24-year-olds (41%) believe it’s long enough, compared with 62% of those aged 55+.

While new couples tend to go through the initial milestones faster than what some would consider ideal, the opposite occurs with big life decisions. While only 3% of Britons believe you need to wait five years or more to get engaged, this was the case for one in seven people who are or were engaged to their partner (14%). 

How long should you wait before buying a house with a partner? 

The most common answer among Britons is two years (23%), although in total only around half of the public (47%) would feel it had been long enough at this stage. After three years the figure rises to three in five (60%).

A quarter of those in relationships who own property (26%) waited five years or more, even though only 7% of Britons believe it’s necessary to hold off for that long.

How long should you wait before marrying someone?

One in five people (21%) say two years is the ideal time to date before marrying. But even after three years, only around half of Britons (53%) would feel it had been long enough. Young people are even less convinced, with only 39% of 18-24-year-olds believing three years sufficient time to know someone before signing the papers.

How long should you wait before having a child with your partner?

A majority of Britons (54%) say waiting four years to have a child together is enough, with the most frequent response being two years (23%).

Two fifths of people in relationships who have children (44%) had been together with their partner for at least five years before having a baby, despite only 13% of the public believing you need to wait that long.

See the full results here