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Being engaged is like being in limbo. You’re excited to be engaged but more excited to be married. It’s a season of anticipation and possibly a lot of frustration if you aren’t careful.

My husband Tyler and I just celebrated our first wedding anniversary. I can confidently say that being married is way better than being engaged. As we reflected on our first year of marriage, we also talked about the time leading up to the wedding. We also discussed what we would’ve done differently during our engagement.

Do yourself a favor, and consider some of these tips so that you can enjoy more and be annoyed less.

1. Set Strong Boundaries ASAP

You’ll be surprised who comes out of the woodwork once you’re engaged. People you haven’t talked to in years ask when and where the wedding is (fishing for an invite). Relatives say “we’ve waited so long for this” (like they also got engaged). Plus, family members have a list of questions a few hours after a ring is on it (wanting to take control and get the ball rolling.)

Before you start trying to answer all of the questions rolling in, have an intentional conversation with your fiancé. Decide together what you’re going to say to the random friends in your DMs, to the distant relatives, and most importantly, the role you want your parents to play. 

One of the best pieces of advice I can give is to delegate some of the tedious legwork to your parents or go-getter friends (bridesmaids, groomsmen) on the front end. This will give you time to think about the questions that will follow. (All the while, you still get to make them feel important and a part of what’s happening!) For example, ask your parents to start making a list of who all they think needs to be at the wedding. Of course, mention you and your fiancé have the final say, but I would really appreciate their help. 

One important boundary to set for yourself is permission to say no, I don’t know, and I’m not ready for that yet. If you don’t want the help, don’t have the answer, or aren’t at that place in the planning yet, then speak up about it. You don’t have to decide on the spot to appease someone.  

2. Spend Quality Time Together

Tyler and I had opposite shifts at our jobs and didn’t live together before we got married. I would go in to work as he would get home from work. Unfortunately, this left very few times (normally once a week) that we could see each other during our six-month engagement. When we did see each other, wedding planning dominated our time. We didn’t get to enjoy being engaged as much as we wanted to because we prioritized work and sleep, which hear me out, I recognize is super important. However, some sleepy workdays would’ve made a world of a difference. If a day full of yawns here and there meant we got to hang out and just do life together rather than only plan a future life together, I think our relationship quality would’ve been better. We both do.

When you’re engaged, if you’re not living together already, you are ready to. That’s a part of the excitement about getting married! So we fought against the nature of what we wanted and felt like we needed by not squeezing in more time to date each other. Plus, when you are only answering questions from family, friends, vendors, etc., it’s easy to get overwhelmed and be short with each other. I promise you won’t regret setting aside time. I suggest that you spend time together at least once a week (whether it’s in person or over FaceTime). Here’s the catch though—like a game of Taboo, you can’t bring up the wedding!

3. Have A Couples’ Shower Or Party with Close Friends

Brides get a lot of the attention during this season and on the wedding day itself. I’m not saying I didn’t love it. Looking back though, I wish I had made celebrating my man just as much a priority. At the time, he so didn’t mind. Tyler is humble and never wants to be the center of attention. In fact, it was a win-win to him that someone could throw me a bridal shower and he could get all of the gifts without the small talk.

We also thought the rehearsal dinner would be the perfect time for everyone to celebrate us together. However, we recently decided that as perfect as our rehearsal dinner was, it was hard to talk to everyone! And, we loved being celebrated together. Looking at each other from across the room and talking to our friends and family as a couple was so sweet. We’d had a taste and wanted more!!

If you have a lot of friends that live near you, I would consider doing a local Couples’ Shower, pre-wedding party, or whatever you want to call it! Embrace the joys of the engagement together.

If we had been better about those three things, we could’ve really enjoyed our engagement season for all that it was. Congratulations on your engagement! 

I hope your engagement season has minimal stress and maximum joy!

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Being engaged is a season of anticipation! You feel all kinds of excitement, right? You can’t wait! Before the wedding arrives, that and the honeymoon are all you can think about! (Plus, you can’t wait for all those wedding questions to stop!)

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What happens when the one you love isn’t your dream guy? Well, there might be The One, but then there’s also the one you actually marry.

“The One” is where things are going really great, you’re into him, and he seems to check a lot of the boxes. He’s cute, your heart races when you see him, and you get butterflies being around him. You think, “This is it, right?” This is the fun and exciting, sweep-you-off-your-feet, true love that you see in the movies. It’s finally happening to you!!

But then it ends.

He didn’t choose you, or you decided not to choose him.

A little back story – my boyfriend is tall with dark brown hair and hazel eyes. He smart, athletic, and hard-working. He dresses a little outdoorsy and preppy- absolutely no hipster or granola (which I thought would be a quality of my dream guy). I can’t even get him to try on joggers. What matters most is his amazing character and his heart- but we’ll get to that later. 

So I transferred to Andrew’s college in the middle of my junior year. Even though I told myself that I would never follow a boy to school, the move was better for ME. (Whether Andrew was there or not, that decision was what was best and healthiest for my life.)

When Andrew graduated, (a year before I did), he moved to Greenville, got a big boy job, and decided to live at home with his parents to save money. Now that I’ve graduated, I’m thinking about where I want to be. I’ve considered all the paths I can take & thought about the ones I truly want. I have always loved the thought of moving somewhere far away, whether it’s Vancouver or India, but I know that no matter where I went or what I did, it wouldn’t change anything between Andrew and me, because what we want is each other.

So, we have talked about a plan. We’ve known we want to marry each other for a while, but we both have talked about how we’re not ready to get married yet. We want to work and live on our own after college, because we think we’re young and still have some growing to do when it comes to responsibility and maturity. He’s saving money for a ring, we’re both saving because we want to get a house when we get married and we have no money to our names.

We’ve talked about things. We’ve communicated our goals and what we want. And, most importantly, we’re on the same page.

We are best friends. We can trust each other, we have the same purpose and goals in life and want to be teammates in pursuing those goals, work well together and balance each other. Love and forgiveness is at the core of our relationship, even when it’s hard and when the other person messes up. We’re together because Andrew sees my heart and that’s what he wants to be with, and I see his amazing heart and I’m so lucky to have found it. He is one of the best people I have ever met. 

His character is incredible and amazing, which is more important than if he wears joggers or not. You get to figure out what are deal-breakers and what are not.

Andrew does not have the personality I would have chosen; we are complete opposites and don’t understand each other easily. He is not what I imagined my dream guy would be, but I love him. It took and still takes a lot of communication and work. But I have learned to love and appreciate, and even sometimes need, his differences. Who Andrew is as a person and will be as a husband and father one day, is a deal-maker over and over again.

Our love is so much better and even more romantic than the movies, because it is real. Andrew has shown me love in deeper ways than Hollywood movies do or what I imagined in my daydreams. We’ve loved each other even when it’s hard, which makes our relationship even better and stronger.

I’m glad it’s not perfect. The One isn’t Prince Charming where the stars align and you see the signs and everything is right – it’s the one you choose to marry because you see who they are and they see you and both of you are excited about doing this life together. That’s why it will seem right.

I do not have to be with Andrew. I really don’t have to be. If I were on my own, I would be doing the same things. I would be who I am. I would want what I want. I’m not with Andrew because I’m afraid to be single. (I actually sometimes think it’s easier to be single, because relationships take work and it’s easier to get away with being selfish when you’re single.)

I’m not with Andrew because I’m afraid I won’t find anybody else. I know what’s best for me, I know what’s healthy, I know Andrew and I are a really good thing. I’m glad he’s in my life and he’s the person I’ve created a relationship with. We didn’t have to, but we chose to because we love what we see in the other person and life is fun to do together. 

And that’s the difference between the one you love and your dream guy.

Looking for more relationship resources? Click here!

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Okayyyyy ladies… Let’s talk about dating & The One. Does The One actually exist?

You probably grew up believing that one perfect person exists who you had to fall in love with and marry. They are our Soulmate, aka, The One.  And there is this fear that we won’t end up with the one we’re supposed to end up with, so we take this mentality into the dating game and freak out about making sure we pick the right one.

And that’s exactly what I did. I went on a quest to find my Soulmate, the guy that was exactly right for me, have a perfect love, and live happily ever after. Seriously.

I always dreamed that the guy I would end up with or The One would be a tall athletic guy with blonde hair and blue eyes. He would be outgoing, adventurous, and into photography and traveling like me. He would want to live in different countries and live a non-traditional lifestyle and dress like an outdoorsy, granola hipster.

The One can understand all my emotions, read my mind, and know exactly what I am thinking, and I dont even have to say a word. He would do and say all the right things because he was, The One. Duh.

When this didn’t happen…and it didn’t, I would FREAK. OUT.

When Andrew and I first started dating, I freaked out all the time. “OMG, should I stay with him? Or should I date someone more outgoing, or someone that talks more, or someone who does photography too?” (All valid considerations.) I was like “Ugh, is this right? I don’t know…”

But then I started to rethink The One. I noticed it in the little things and I realized it in the important things, that I could really see myself being with him. Instead of figuring out who I’m supposed to be with, I get to choose who I want to be with. I know he is The One because he has become my person. I would like him to be mine for a long time. (But I won’t say he is The One out loud until we are engaged.)

I expected that when I met The One, I would know, and he would know, and that it was meant to be. We had found the one we had been looking for and it happened easily, obviously, and “just like that.”  So I tried to look for all the signs to figure out if this was the guy I had been looking for- The One that was the right one, that I’m supposed to marry, oh, and he knew I was The One, too.

LOL, OK.

Andrew may not fit all the qualities as the one to find by destiny. I instantly knew he could not achieve perfection. But check it out– He is the one that I got to know and build a relationship with. He is the one I want to choose to love and grow a life with. So it never started with, “Yes, he’s The One I’m supposed to stay with.” It was “Yeah, we like this and work to make it work and it’s good.”

There’s a big difference between those two mindsets. Dating isn’t about finding The One; the trick is to find the one who you can make it grow with.

Looking for more relationship resources? Click here!

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“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 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 more likely to enjoy the journey and be at peace with your decisions.

Looking for more engagement resources? Click here!

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Dating. Is. Hard. There’s no way around it. On the bright side, you meet a variety of people, learn more about yourself and have some good (and often laughable) awkward stories. So, when you find yourself thinking about forever with that very special someone, it may be tempting to trudge forward with emotions and skip the inner-reflective monologue. But, there is one question every dating person should ask themselves: “Do I really want to marry this person, or do I just want to be married?”

Before you start psychoanalyzing every nook and cranny of your current relationship, be aware that it will take time to answer this question. Let’s talk it through a bit.

The desire to be married often comes from an overarching desire for companionship. We all know life can be pretty heavy due to bills, stress, family issues, health concerns, career disappointments, etc. There are some nights that bar-hopping, movie-binging, or venting to a listening ear just doesn’t sweeten the bitterness of life. Marriage can look like a really good and long-term way to have a sturdy hand to hold from day-to-day. And even though you may not see eye-to-eye on your faith, finances, priorities, or the hopes and dreams you have for your future family, marriage may appear better than the alternative… being alone FOREVER.

The desire to be married can create a monster. This monster will give you blinders that allow you to look past the red flags and past all of the things you originally thought you would never settle for in a spouse.

This post isn’t meant to negate marriage. I think marriage is a wonderful thing, and it really is meant to be a sense of support, security and unconditional love. But a successful marriage requires a lot of work on the front end, including patience and discernment while dating so that you can find a person who inspires you, cares for you and truly helps you be even more like yourself.

When you can examine your relationship and easily see how it is mutually beneficial for both people involved, consider it a good indicator that you’re on the right track. And, maybe you really do want to marry this person.