Some of you might be wondering, “What exactly does it mean to be pre-engaged?” We consider pre-engagement to be the period of time when a couple has become seriously interested in pursuing marriage, but they have not yet reached the point of engagement. Relationships often go through these stages, in order: meeting; forming interest; dating; courting, ending with a period of deciding if marriage should be pursued; engagement; and then culminating in marriage. Pre-engagement is the period of decision; it is the fork in the road between, “Do we go our separate ways?” or “Do we get move forward toward marriage?”
Once couples are engaged, the decision has a sense of finality – with the exception of a few couples who decide it is best to break their engagement. Many couples enter into the engagement stage without spending enough time in the pre-engaged, or decision, stage. Though it is culturally common for couples to seek counseling only after engagement (called premarital counseling), we have found that the best time for a couple to seek counseling before marriage is during that decision stage. This is before the wedding date is selected, the dress is bought, the church is booked, and the invitations have been sent out. This is the time when a couple can look at their relationship objectively and realistically without as much emotional cost if they decide to part ways. More often than not, once the engagement ring goes on, most couples push through to marriage – even if deep concerns are discovered during their engagement period.
A pair of terms that are often confused are dating and courting. Today, many people consider courting to simply be what dating was called a long time ago with either no differences or only a few differences. There are similarities in the two, but they are actually quite different stages. When a couple is dating, it is a very casual relationship – they are just friends hanging out, getting to know more about each other. Starting a couple decades ago, especially in the church culture, this stage has often been unhealthily merged, and lost, with courting.
Previously, guys and girls could go on dates with three different people in a single weekend and no one thought any ill of them – because people understood that they were not in a committed relationship, but were just getting to know each other. In modern days, again – especially in the church culture, once a person goes out with another person a few times (and in some cases, just once), it is implied there is an exclusive commitment between the couple. Once people find out Susie and George went to Wendy’s and shared a meal together, the church ladies begin planning her bridal shower. Too many young couples have been pushed towards marriage by well-meaning people who offer far more advice than they should. Dating should be fun, not full of drama!
After traversing the dating stage, you may start to see serious marriage potential in a particular person. Courting is the stage when a guy and girl become serious about each other and commit to become an exclusive couple. During this time, they are growing towards marriage, but have not yet become engaged. Without the dating stage (where they can get to know each other without any strings attached), couples can easily transition from attraction to marriage with little time to evaluate a long-term relationship. Courting gives the couple a chance to grow together and to look at life realistically, not for the perpetual romantic fantasy that the media paints.
In the midst of the initial intoxicating attraction, it is unlikely that a couple is going to deeply discuss things such as child rearing, home upkeep, plans for relocation, or that crazy family member, just to name a few. After the initial intoxicating attraction turns to engagement, it is still unlikely that a couple is going to fully discuss many important topics. Pre-engagement coincides with the courting phase. This is the time when a couple really believes that they could be heading for marriage, but wisely decide to look at their relationship from all sides before deciding to get engaged. In almost every wedding I’ve ever attended, I’ve heard the pastor say that marriage is a holy (set apart) institution, not to be entered into lightly – it is a vow unto the Lord until death. For something as life changing and important as marriage, good preparation is essential. There is no foolproof way to be prepared for everything life may throw at you; however, the more time you spend getting to know your partner before entering into a marriage relationship, the more smoothly you can move through the difficult times when they come.
My husband and I work with couples in that pre-engagement stage as well as the premarital stage. We both have Master’s degrees in Marriage and Family Therapy. Our goal is to glorify God by assisting people to prepare well for marriage (including what to look for in spousal selection). Churches and organizations provide, what they call, premarital counseling. Though, not categorically discounting all of those programs; in reality, many of those programs are, at most, premarital discussion facilitation or premarital education. The curriculum we have developed and tested will bring the couple through a deeper counseling process.
We are located in central Virginia and meet with our clients via Google Hangouts (via Google Plus) or Skype. Our service is especially helpful if the couple has found each other online. Even if the couple does not live near each other, they can still receive a quality pre-engagement counseling package that will allow them to discover whether marriage is something they should pursue. Additionally, after the couple completes our pre-engagement counseling process and after they are engaged, they are eligible to continue to the premarital counseling package which helps the couple to dive even deeper in preparation. You will know the other person well after going through our counseling packages. We have even found it beneficial for newlywed couples who have not been through a thorough pre-engagement and premarital counseling process to go through our packages.
If you are interested in pre-engagement or premarital counseling, please click one of the above links to find out more about our services. Additionally, if you know of another couple who may benefit from our services, please share this with them!
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In any case, we hope that this PreEngaged.com resource blog will be beneficial to you and your boyfriend/girlfriend and or you and your fiancé/fiancée… or even, you and your spouse! If this is the first post you’ve read, please keep reading others – in fact, I recommend starting with the Must Read Posts. The majority of the posts on PreEngaged do not focus on our services; rather they focus on those topics that are relevant to your period of decision (whether current or future) and maintaining a healthy relationship. So, enjoy and happy reading! Let us know what we can do to assist you in your relationship!
Glorifying God by helping couples prepare well for marriage — Eric and Heather Viets