I don't see myself getting married for a long, long time. Honestly, I can't even imagine the steps I would need to take before I could get to that point.
What I've come to realize, though, is that no one really knows. It comes suddenly and when you least expect it. I know that sounds like fairy tale nonsense, but the more people you speak to, the truer you realize it is.
Suddenly, a switch goes off in your head, and then you'll know. Isn't that how it always is?
Back me up here, fellas.
I got mad and yelled at her for some stupid shit because I had been in a toxic relationship prior to meeting her and I thought that what couples did (scream & argue). I expected her to yell back at me, but she just stared at me for a moment and asked if I was done. I said I was and she proceeded to explain to me that people who love one another do not treat each other that way. We can disagree with one another, but there's no reason to be mean. "If we're going to be together, please don't be mean to me again." That was 26 years ago (we've been married 25 years).
I've been married just over a week, so I've been telling this story a lot lately.
We were three days into a month-long backpacking trip in southeast Asia. We're staying in a seedy hotel in Bangkok and she gets a bad case of food poisoning - it's coming out of both ends for 24 hours.
I, of course, am now designated as her nurse. I'm refilling her water bottle, getting her soup from the restaurant outside, keeping her company and, most importantly, emptying the trash bin she keeps puking into.
After one trip to empty her vomit bucket, I come back into the room and she's asleep. I looked at her and thought to myself "I'm not even bothered by this. I'd do anything for her. This is the woman I'm going to marry."
She's a disgusting barf fairy, but she's my disgusting barf fairy. Zero regrets.
The day she took off work to help me go through a dumpster. I had accidentally thrown my keys in the trash while cleaning out my car.
Things were going really well, and I was saying to myself "If this keeps up, I think next summer I'll pop the question."
Then, my mother had a stroke. We were all sitting in the waiting area outside the ICU, because only 2 people were allowed in at a time. It was my now-wife's birthday, and a Wednesday, and she didn't hesitate to take the day off to sit with me and my family.
I went to visit my father at home, and she came with me. Her Italian instincts kicked it, and she brought a load of groceries and a lasagna with her.
My father was a mess at the hospital, and it fell on me and my siblings to speak with the doctors and make plans.
I would get home, and pour myself some bourbon. She made me dinner, and just sat with me while I silently sobbed.
It wasn't about how great we were when things were good, it was about how perfect she was when things were bad.
I bought the ring 2 months later.
Edit: Forgot - this all happened just before Christmas. Since my mother was still in the hospital Christmas Eve, I got a last minute reservation to my father's favorite restaurant. GF was with her family, but we got to the table to find a note that she had called ahead to buy us 2 bottles of wine.
I lived in a half decent apartment in Hell's Kitchen in NYC. The place had a tub that was massively stained when I moved in. Every chick I "dated" tried to get that stain out. This was in the 90s when I was young and single in NYC... so that means plenty of women took a shot at it.
My future wife came out of the bathroom one day and nonchalantly said, "cleaned the tub"... I ran into the bathroom and couldn't believe my eyes. "That was my Sword in the Stone! How did you do it???"
"Meh. I don't give up."