It is never easy to gauge how prepared you'll be for any life-altering event: the loss of a parent, moving away from home or even getting married. Some people may feel completely prepared to marry at age 18, only to discover how much trust, sacrifice and maturity is actually involved in a successful marriage. Others may not feel ready at age 35, only to be surprised at their innate skill at making a lifetime partnership work. What often matters more than chronological age is a combination of emotional maturity, self-actualization and a desire to move into a new stage of adult-level responsibility.
Some people put off getting married until they have accomplished a number of personal goals, such as pursuing a higher education, landing an entry-level job or establishing an independent lifestyle. Getting married before having the opportunity to establish your own adult identity can lead to an atmosphere of resentment or frustration during the marriage's early years. It is important to ask yourself if you are satisfied with your accomplishments as a single adult and are prepared to share your life with another person on a similar journey of self-discovery. Marriage doesn't have to mean abandoning your individual goals or aspirations, but it can mean learning how to play a supportive role instead of the lead.
Living together without the legal benefits of marriage may seem like an appealing option, but it often creates more problems than it solves. A legal union offers couples a number of protective measures not available to couples simply living together. If you have been in a harmonious and exclusive relationship for a number of years, you should have developed the level of intimacy necessary for marriage. On the other hand, if you have only been involved in a serious relationship for several months and you have not developed a certain level of trust, you may want to hold off until you've weathered a few storms as a couple. A wedding will not magically save a troubled relationship, so be realistic if your current relationship continues to run very hot and cold.
Couples who have reached a certain level of intimacy and trust may be able to discuss getting married in a very straightforward way. They can openly discuss the pros and cons of marriage, and even agree that they may not be ready to take that step yet. If you and your partner find it difficult to broach the subject rationally, then you may want to hold off on taking your relationship to that level. Many couples who enter into successful marriages feel that it was a natural progression of a deepening relationship. No one should get married as the result of familial or peer pressure.
If you believe that you have found someone who is in sync with your true personality and is capable of maintaining a long-term commitment, then you are most likely as ready to become married as anyone else you know. As long as you realize that it requires a lot of hard work, some compromises and a deep sense of trust, then there should little reason to put off enjoying the benefits of legal marriage.