“Am I ready to be married... to this guy?”
“Should I take the next step of marriage with her?”
“Am I sure? Is he ready?”
“We get along really well, but he hasn’t gotten his career off the ground yet.”
“She and I have so much fun together, but she isn’t sure if she wants to live in the city or the suburbs.”
“I reeeeally believe that I want to spend the rest of my life with him, but the rest of my life may be a long time. “
“How can I make the perfect decision at the perfect time about the perfect person so that I may have the perfect life?”
I get it. Making the decision to get engaged is huge. No, it's not marriage, but it is obviously a major (and I mean major) step in that direction. Often, there’s a ring involved, engagement parties, questions about a timeline, etc. There’s an announcement to the world, usually in the form of a post on social media, and a celebration with our circle of influence indicating that there has been a decision made that this is the right guy or the right girl. And once that decision is made, it’s often followed by questions, judgment, self-doubt, uncertainty, and the risk of humiliation and failure.
If you ask yourself questions like, “What if I’m not ready? What if I don’t know my partner well enough? What if there’s still more within me that I need to work out?” please know that these are all real and valid questions to ask! But I’m not sure they are the only questions you need to be asking.
If you approach engagement and marriage from the perspective of making the right choice and creating a risk-free decision, you might be setting yourself up for a disappointing marriage. If you look to check every single box on your never-ending checklist, both personal and relational, then, sadly, you might end up marriage-less.
While I do not presume that I can give you an exhaustive list to foolproof your decision to get engaged, I can, as a married man of 14 years who’s also a premarital education facilitator and premarital coach, offer some things to think about...
“Do I feel genuinely safe with this person?” Can you be your full self emotionally, spiritually, psychologically, and physically when you are with them? Are you able to be vulnerable? Or do you constantly feel the need to hold back because you’re not sure how they’ll react? When you experience emotions, either positive or negative, does your prospective spouse walk with you through the emotion in a way that helps you grow as an individual? Are you clearly a better person as a result of this relationship?
“Is this someone that I want to learn how to do life with?” Notice, I didn’t ask if this someone that you can do life with. If he or she is bringing a healthy version of themselves into the relationship, then the two of you are more likely to be able to learn how to navigate through all of the ups and downs of life, through all the successes and failures. You have no idea what life is going to bring in the decades ahead. What you can evaluate now is how your prospect handles the challenges of life now and how you’ve handled them during the course of your dating relationship. Have you become selfish or do you value one another’s thoughts, feelings and wants? How do you handle the unexpected as a couple?
“Are we both ready to fervently help one another be our best selves?” If you’re looking to marriage to help you be complete and whole, then once again, you’re setting yourself up for disappointment. But if you love this person so much that you want to bring all of who you are into this marriage to love, support, and encourage them to live their best life, and not from a place of pride, but a place of humility and joy, then you may be in a good place. Are you ready for that type of relationship? Are you secure enough to not lose yourself in that journey?
Don’t try to find these answers out alone. Talk to healthy married couples, close family, your inner circle of friends and yes, with the one you’re thinking about getting engaged to. Don’t necessarily look to them for answers. Instead, let those around you help you talk out your thoughts, fears, and emotions.
There’s nothing wrong with premarital education BEFORE GETTING ENGAGED. In fact, I know many who appreciated taking that route because it prevented a lot of embarrassment from calling off an engagement after they realized that this wasn’t the person they wanted to marry. There’s no rule that says you can’t have these conversations before deciding to get engaged. And if you have these conversations prior to getting engaged, you’re a lot more likely to enjoy the journey and be at peace with your decisions.
By Reggie Madison