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Every phase of a relationship has its own joys and challenges–singleness, dating, engagement, and marriage. I recently transitioned from “In a relationship” to “Engaged” on Facebook. The newness of it all since the proposal has dimmed some, but the question has lingered, “Now what?! I’ve never made it this far before!”

For those of you who have, kudos! But for the rest of us, here are some things to know about this new landscape that has opened up in our relationship.

1. There’s a lot of planning

I don’t know if anyone has told you, but engagement is the time of preparation for marriage, primarily planning the wedding! I went into engagement grossly underestimating just how much planning goes into a wedding (and ours is by no means extravagant!). There are so many choices that must be made, so go ahead and brace yourself. Yes, it is a stressful process, but it is also the greatest joy because you are PLANNING YOUR WEDDING!!! It’s finally happening, and you get to decide what color palette to use, what kind and color of flowers to use, where to get a venue… and it’s for you and your spouse-to-be!

Tip to the dudes from a currently engaged dude: Man up and get involved in the planning process. Your partner needs you (and wants you) to participate–now is not the time to slack off. Jump in with both feet and help your partner out because there’s a lot to be done.

2. There’s a lot of intimacy

The greatest thing about the engagement period is that a whole new level of intimacy opens up between you and your spouse-to-be. The deepest parts of your personalities surface–especially in stressful situations like planning–and you get the chance to learn each other on such a deep level. My fiancée and I are becoming so much closer as we are on the planning path to becoming one. I am growing to love her so much more as we begin the process of building a life together, and it is a beautiful thing. Relish this moment and this season of engagement because it will be stressful, but it will be some of the sweetest time with your future Mr. or Mrs.

3. There’s a lot of family

I’ve heard it said many times, “You don’t marry INTO the family, you marry THE FAMILY!” but I never realized exactly what that meant until engagement. Kels (my fiancée) and I had to spend quite a while coordinating with both of our families to set a date that worked well for them–talk about a task! There is also more involvement from both of our families as we are knitting them both together. Kels and I even talked about how to share holidays between our families–THAT’S a new concept for me.

Don’t expect the welding of two families to be an easy process–there are two very different cultures of people being united into one. Just like it takes time for two people to get to know each other and learn how to interact with each other, it is the same with families. Have patience and boatloads of grace.

4. There’s a lot of compromise

I’m not a particularly opinionated person, but I still have preferences on occasion. Kels, on the other hand, knows exactly what she wants (even if she doesn’t actually want it…) and I love her for it. Throughout our relationship we have had some disagreements, but even more so during engagement because there are so many more decisions and opinions that go into planning a wedding. But alas, all is not lost! There is a solution to the disagreements. Learn how to compromise with each other. And I don’t mean you each get half of what you want (although sometimes that works). Often it means being willing to say, “You know what, let’s go with your preference.”

There are two kinds of compromise–one of which is an imposter. The first kind (the imposter) approaches a disagreement with the attitude “Well, if I can’t have it all my way, I may as well get it half-way.” This is selfish. It doesn’t solve anything. It just leaves two people unhappy. The real compromise approaches disagreement with the attitude “I want us both to be happy. I’m willing to give up what I want to make that happen.” This method solves problems, and it is a valuable skill to learn for marriage (if you haven’t learned it already!).

5. There’s a lot of doubt

If you aren’t sure that you want to marry the person you are dating, don’t get engaged. Engagement is not an extended time to see if you want to marry someone. It is a time of planning a marriage and starting the process of becoming one. That being said, I knew Kels was the woman with whom I wanted to spend the rest of my life before I got down on one knee. But during our engagement she and I have both experienced moments of doubt and fear and insecurity–marriage is a scary thing! We will be spending THE REST OF OUR LIVES together. I will only be married to HER. And she will only be married to ME.

If that doesn’t give you pause, you haven’t thought about it enough. It’s a HUGE decision. So anticipate some doubt, but don’t let that scare you away. Sometimes you need to make a decision and stick with it. I would encourage everyone to step into engagement with certainty, and then be faithful to the person to whom you have made the pledge of commitment.

6. There’s a lot of joy

Many of these tips seem to have a negative vibe to them, but don’t think for a second that engagement is a drag. As a man currently in the engagement phase, I can tell you that, even with all of its challenges, it is the greatest joy and privilege and adventure of my life. I am stoked out of my mind to be marrying Kels. I am blown away that she is willing to spend the rest of her life building a life with me. Relationships are hard. Engagement is hard. Life is hard. But it is totally worth every moment. I am growing more in love with Kels each and every day–and dang is she getting more beautiful every day, too! I can’t wait to marry her, live in the same house as her, wake up to her, laugh with her, cry with her, get sick with her (it happened this last weekend!), have children with her, raise those children with her… and the list goes on. I have found my treasure, and I’m going to treat her like the precious jewel she is.

7. There’s a lot of everything

As you may have noticed from reading, or from personal experience, engagement just has a lot of everything. A lot of smiles. A lot of tears. A lot of planning. A lot of intimacy. Just a lot. Everything is amplified during this beautiful season–both good and bad. Roll with the punches. See it all as an awesome adventure. Even the bad things will be fond memories when you look back on it. Because it’s totally worth it.

Featured photo credit: Lemuel Cantos via flickr.com

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