The Three-Month Expiration Date

In my very short history of dating, I have never had a “relationship” last longer than three months. Like clockwork, whenever it came closer to the three-month milestone, the other person would gradually pull away, before dumping the familiar “I’m sorry I think it’s best we should be friends” cliché apology.

I have watched the same scenario happen to those around me, which has led me to conclude the existence of a three-month rule when it comes to dating. When I Googled for more information to support my anecdotal evidence, I found articles stating that the three-month rule applies to breakups, in not pursuing relationships in the immediate three-month post aftermath. I came across this short blog post about how three-months is the critical time frame to gage how successful any major decision is, which I wholeheartedly agree with. Any partnership or big decision – such as dating, a new job, moving houses – can only truly be assessed after three months.

I also found this article on why the first three-months is important in dating in order to discern the character of the other person involved. The whole tone of the post, however, was obviously geared towards helping single women ‘find their soulmate’ and promoting the three-month rule in relation to not sleeping with the other person. It was not exactly what I was looking for. (It also made me feel quite sorry for the desperation many women feel in finding ‘the one’, thanks to being inundated since exiting the womb on how our worth is tied to locking down a man.)

Maybe it’s the algorithm, or perhaps I have poor research skills (or patience), but I failed to find my discoveries in dating articulated or explained.

A few months ago, I was passionately describing to a female and male friend why the three-month rule almost always applies in dating. The male had recently broken up with a partner after three-months, further convincing me of the legitimacy of my findings. His response to the three-month rule was, “of course, usually after three-months it’s when the crazy size of a woman comes out or not.”

(*The unpacking of this sentence – which makes me insides squirm – is content for a future essay rant.*)

The three-month rule, in my perspective and experience, is the critical turning point which decides whether the relationship will continue or not. Everything up until that point is all fun and games, love and chase, hormonal highs, and empty (although endearing) confessions of infatuation. It feels amazing, but it’s not real. And oh, how many times have I mistaken the first-three months as an indicator of how the relationship will evolve!

It is at three-months in which most people (either consciously or unconsciously) ask themselves the question: what are we? What does the future hold for us?

For women, or at least speaking for myself, this is almost always being framed in the context of security. It is when the relationship – situationship, whatever – starts to show the cracks, and hence women want to secure it and lock it down to feel safe. Perhaps, as some men love to proclaim, this is when ‘the crazy’ side of women tends to come out, if by crazy, they mean wanting to have consistency and a stable attachment. The easy, breezy, non-chalant personality is wiped away, to be replaced with a clingy and desperate need for validation of the relationship through security.

We have on the other side – and of course a late disclaimer, I am only talking about heteronormative relationships as that is my only experience – the man begins to slow their pursuit, the interest and seduction of the other begins to wane. With the conquest won, assuming they have slept together already, the desire for freedom and autonomy from the relationship increases. Patterns of avoidance rear their heads, which activate behaviours of anxious attachment in the other.

This is the breaking point of most casual relationships or dating rendezvous. Even though it sucks, it saves both parties a lot of time in the long run. Without the three-month testing period, any extreme incompatibilities inevitably arise later on in a more painful way, since more time and emotional investment is involved. In the first three-months, anything goes. It’s a period of flirtatious courtship which is fun and alluring in those rom-com sappy ways. But you can’t predict where it’s heading in those first three months. Only when and if it reaches three months can you legitimately ask about the possibility of continuing a relationship with this person long term.

Listening to friends talk about their men with goo-goo, love-sick eyes in those first three months, I have to smile. I can relate because the first three months is the only experience of a romantic relationship I’ve ever had; I know how heart melting, butterfly inducing, chemistry addicting the other person is. But I quietly know it hasn’t reached the three-month expiration date yet. Only then can you actually tell whether this person is going to stick around or head for the hills. And if it’s the latter, good riddance. They won’t ever get to see the best parts of you. Because only over time – and by time, I mean much longer than three months – do you ever get to witness the real truth of one’s identity and character.

Header image: Fernando Gomez


  1. Omg this has always been my theory and my friends have always just casually agreed but you explain it so well here (and thanks for the interesting blog links)!

    I’m now married but all my relationships between my first long term bf and my husband had been around 3 months in length. I also feel like the 3-month timeline is equal to the ubiquitous 7-year itch in marriages that is often talked about!


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