The dangers of rushing into marriage
FRANCES Abbott stunned friends, family and the rest of Australia when she announced her engagement to Olympic rower Sam Loch in November last year - just two weeks after the couple met.
The daughter of former prime minister Tony Abbott took to Instagram to share the happy news. Alongside a photo of the couple the 26-year-old wrote: "'Two weeks was all it took to know that forever with you was a mighty fine idea."
Loch, 34, followed her lead, posting a selfie with his future wife and captioning it, "With the soon to be Mrs Loch".
Abbott admitted the news took everyone by surprise.
"But it feels so natural to me. His energy, it's so grounding. When I am around him, I am like, 'This is what it's meant to be like.' Life is short, and love is special, and sometimes you just need to follow your instincts."
The pair tied the knot on Valentine's Day at a Melbourne registry office. They exchanged their vows for a second time on Saturday in front of friends and family in a ceremony at Palm Beach. And they're not the only ones to speed down the aisle.
George Clooney married wife Amal after dating for six months, despite saying he would never marry again (he was married to actress Talia Balsam from 1989 to 1993). Today show host Karl Stefanovic put a ring on girlfriend Jasmine Yarbrough's finger after 12 months of courtship. And let's not forget Pamela Anderson and Tommy Lee, who got married after knowing each other a whole 96 hours (they divorced three years later).
So how fast is too fast when it comes to heading down the aisle?
It's a hard question to answer, as like many things to do with marriage, everyone has their own opinion.
However, according to researchers from Emory University in the US, couples who dated for more than three years were significantly less likely to divorce than those who had only dated for one.
The study found that couples who dated for one to two years had a 20 per cent lower chance of divorce than those who only dated for one year, and those who dated for more than three years were 50 per cent less likely to divorce.
Jayne Ferguson, senior clinician for Relationships Australia Victoria, said that there is no prescribed amount of time when it comes to making a lifelong commitment.
"It's not necessarily about time," she said, "but more about the investment you make in the relationship early on."
She warned that it can often be years before secrets and issues such as family violence come out.
"There's a danger in saying 'If you've known each other for three years, then you're more likely it's going to work'. Well, in actual fact I think all couples should be doing some preparatory work in order to make sure they've got every opportunity of making it work and knowing the person well enough."
Relationship expert Nikki Goldstein agrees that there is no "right" amount of time and that knowing each other intimately is crucial.
A two-week courtship, although romantic, is unlikely to lead to a successful marriage.
"We've all heard these stories of people who met and got married quickly and have been together forever," she said, "but I actually feel like those stories are from the generation before us."
These days, thanks to online dating, people are always looking for something or someone better.
"Think of Bachelor in Paradise - everyone's waiting for the next best thing and that's kind of the dating landscape at the moment."
People who get engaged and married quickly tend to be impulsive, and as a result are more likely to opt out of a relationship quicker too, Goldstein said.
"Because we have made it easier to divorce and easier to re-partner after divorce, if it doesn't work you can get out, you can jump on Tinder and find someone else."
Instead of diving into marriage headfirst, take the time to talk to each other and make sure you're on the same wavelength. There are big questions you need to ask each other before exchanging rings and names.
Questions like: "Do you have the same outlook in life? Do you have the same morals about family, finances, child rearing?" Goldstein suggested. "Also, what are your expectations of marriage?"
The findings of Emory University scientists showed that couples who know their partner "very well" are 50 per cent less likely to get divorced than those who know their partner less well.
Getting to truly know somebody, Ferguson said, also means understanding their good aspects as well as their bad aspects.
Having a realistic expectation about marriage and understanding that it isn't always going to be easy, is also important.
She recommends couples embarking on a long-term relationship complete a specialised program to identify and address any issues that may become problematic in the future.
The Prepare/Enrich Program, according to Ferguson, forces premarital couples to ask the "hard questions" of each other.
It involves an online questionnaire, which is then analysed, followed by a three-hour session with a facilitator or councillor.
"My experience is those couples who have had those hard conversations [before marriage], just like people who study well for an exam, are much more likely to succeed," Ferguson said.