Are Engagements Still Appropriate Nowadays?

The moment you find yourself in love with the person you want to share the rest of your life with, the next step is usually the engagement period. Moreover, there’s a bonus of a lovely glimmering ring that goes with the proposal. Since a number of marriages are second marriage along with blended families, I always ask the question: are engagements still important in the 21st century?

Some decades ago, getting engaged was seen as giving a friendship a whole new value. At present, many couples move in together either well before the thought of engagement or as they get engaged. Looking at this scenario, do we still need to ‘get engaged’ and by changing the value of the engagement period, does this still have an impact on the number of marriages that don’t go the distance?

At this stage I should mention, when I refer to marriage I am referring to a committed relationship when two people live as one. This may be with or without a formal marriage certificate granted by a state or country.

Let me ask you: Has today’s world dismissed the original intent for getting engaged – making it just a figurative act (and obtaining the ring)? Do engagements function chiefly to offer a timeframe for arranging the wedding?

These are a few of the questions that I have as I began my research on this subject. The material I gained and the outcome of this information have enabled me to look at the value of engagement in a whole new light. First, let me share what I learned to be the intention and purpose of an engagement:

  • deepen relationships;
  • explore similarities and differences;
  • get used to each other and build a firm foundation on which years of life will stand
  • Have a ‘preparation’ period before making the full commitment of marriage.

Along the way I also gathered that the engagement period is intended to:

  • Strengthening relationships;
  • Help us to understand who we are individually as well as how we fit together as a couple;
  • Experience how intimacy and sexuality deepens as time progresses;
  • Appreciate the spiritual connection;
  • Develop a love the comprises of integrity and honesty;
  • Understand the meaning and readiness for taking the marriage vows.

These conclusions are really revealing and thought provoking. Let us ask ourselves: is there any relationship between the growth in divorces and the decline in non-cohabiting engagement periods? Undeniably, several couples immediately decide to move in together during their first flush of attraction style love — way before this feeling can develop into the deeper love that is vital for a relationship to last a lifetime.

Have these couples gone through the journey of building a home together, joining economic commitments and even having a family before they recognise that their compatibilities, objectives and standards may not be as aligned as they first thought they were.

In the ‘good ole days’ when couples waited to co-habit, many were expected to wait the mandatory 6 month waiting period dictated by churches and had to attend the obligatory marriage preparation programs. I wonder how many relationships did not make it to the next level (marriage vows) and correctly were cut short.

At present, once joint resources, relations and living provisions are involved, it is a lot tougher to call it quits if realisation dawns, than when just wedding arrangements and a ring have been involved. I know of many pairs that never should have married, or even lived in together. They would almost surely have not taken the next phase had they spent a longer ‘incubation’ time for their liaison.

Do you think ‘try before you buy’ concept really has positive effects that most people must focus on it when moving in together? Bypassing the courtship stage and going right into the full ‘live in’ bond does have as many weaknesses as rewards.

The principal downside is inadequate period to really get to know each other before committing hook, line and sinker. Let’s not forget that from a legal perspective, defacto arrangements in many countries hold the same weight as marriage contracts after a very short time.

As soon as the first flush of love and excitement wears off, is there a deep, quality, caring and committed partnership remaining? This is especially important when it is a second (or more) relationship and children, assets or fragile emotions are involved. The rawness of previous break ups will likely be present for all involved, so jumping too soon could have a devastating effect, especially on the children if they have come to love the new partner.

Several famous personalities could have profited from the traditional engagement period such as the late Elizabeth Taylor – married 8 times. Others include ZsaZsa Gabor (married 9 times), Larry King (8 times), Jerry Lee Lewis (7 times) Demi Moore, Jennifer Lopez, William Shatner, Liza Minnelli, Barbara Walters, Martin Scorsese, and Billy Bob Thornton (at least three of them marrying again within a year of divorce) As Mickey Rooney (married 8 times) joked: “Always get married early in the morning. That way, if it doesn’t work out, you haven’t wasted a whole day.”

Have you noticed songwriters compose a lot of great songs about love, but very few about marriage? Love is considered romantic, exciting and lively. Marriage is regarded as hard work, burdensome and sometimes even confining.

An engagement period allows couples to make the journey from the love songs to the reality of day-to-day living. If this is the right transition then it can be every bit as romantic, exciting and even more fulfilling. However, if it is not, the break-up will still be painful but not have the same long lasting impact as a full ‘live-in’ arrangement can have.

Stephen and I got engaged 18 months before we moved in together. I would like to say this because we were following the intent of engagement and getting to know each other; however this was more by luck than design as we had to live in separate cities due to our children’s school commitments

In due course, we moved in together and we probably would have stayed perpetually engaged had it not been for the children on both sides who were definitely more settled once we had tied the knot. If we did not have these pressures I wonder what our relationship would have been like if we moved in together quickly without taking the time to really get to know each other.

As I cited before, I was definitely in the category of thinking that engagements didn’t really serve much purpose (I was only engaged for 3 months before marrying my first husband). However, since my research I definitely see a huge benefit or a period of commitment without co-habitation.

Some people may call me traditional or idealistic but for someone whose organisation is called A Love 2 Last, I am persistently looking at ways to identify reasons why relationships fail and to reassure couples that they can have lasting love. I have now included engagement as another tool for couples to reflect on when they have found love again and want to give their second marriage the best possible shot.

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