You might be thinking,
“did you guys make that up?”
And to that we would reply, “Yes. Yes we did.” We are describing the sometimes ambiguous middle ground where you have already entered into a formal commitment with someone (boyfriend-girlfriend) but you are not officially engaged. There occurs this ambiguous phase, a noticeable shift in the relationship. You're pretty serious. You're talking about a future together. You're trying to figure out if you want to spend the rest of your life with this person. This limbo between dating and the proposal is what we're dubbing Pre-Engagement. It's a stage in a relationship's progression that plays a critical role in your discernment of marriage. The goal of this stage is to answer the question “how do I know if my partner is the one?” and we will explain how to best utilize it for discerning marriage.
Portions of proximate prep content are often offered to couples during formal marriage preparation once they get engaged. But remember, the couple just got engaged...that means there's going to be a wedding. And weddings take planning. And planning takes time. But engagement only has so much time. Since most engaged couples are busy with wedding prep, marriage prep often gets pushed to the wayside. The marriage prep gets added to the to-do list somewhere between the cake tasting and wedding dress fitting.The well-intentioned but busy couple is occupied with trying to learn and execute the skills of a professional event planner, and they do not have not have the time or deeper emotional energy to devote to diving into each other’s dating history or to think about the connection between the Liturgy and the wedding vows or to understand the implications of the way that each person’s parents’ argued. This stuff is important, though.
We think that the solution to this quandary is to move this preparation out of engagement and encourage people to pursue it with their serious dating partner. If discussed before the couple has a wedding date on the calendar, they will have the luxury of time to focus these conversations. They can use the information they find to help determine if they really want to marry the person and, if so, it will also make married life much smoother if discussed thoroughly before marriage. This will make for a much more intentional engagement period and a more fluid transition to marriage.
Intentionally acknowledging and utilizing pre-engagement can be incredibly beneficial for the couple’s relationship. It can help couples feel more confident in their discernment of a spouse, it can help them be better prepared for marriage, and it can allow them the flexibility to use their engagement to plan their wedding while also diving deeper into more intimate topics of discussion beyond the basics of traditional marriage prep.