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Why Being Pre-Engaged is Actually Awesome

Every time we talk about being pre-engaged, I feel like I have to write a little disclaimer. We use the word pre-engaged on APW in a tongue-in-cheek way. Once upon a time, I was sent a marketing email aiming at selling useless crap to the “pre-engaged.” I vomited a little in my mouth, and then promptly reclaimed the word to describe that very of-the-moment phase many of us go through: when you’re pretty sure you’re going to marry your partner, but one or both of you isn’t quite there yet. It’s the time when you’re sneak reading wedding blogs (hi there y’all) trying to figure out what you think about weddings and marriages. It’s when people are pressuring you to get hitched (back off people!), and when you’re continuing to learn about your relationship. So today, we have Erica talking about why taking your time is actually awesome (because it is).

The other day I was watching a morning news show and the hosts started talking about a horrifically awkward YouTube video making the rounds. In it, a girl is proposed to on the Jumbotron at a basketball game. The camera finds her and her boyfriend in the audience, he goes down on one knee with a ring box, and then… nothing. She gets a pained look on her face, covers her mouth with her hands, and then gets up and walks off screen. This was a proposal that was clearly not only unexpected, but evidently unwelcome.

And it got me to thinking about the hype surrounding engagements. If you want to see how over the top this has gotten, look no further than a recent New York Times article about “proposal planners.” It seems that, in the case of the couple at the basketball game at least, the guy was so focused on planning an unforgettable proposal that he forgot to figure out the important things, like whether or not his girlfriend actually wanted to be married to him and was ready to say so.

I had a long time to think about being pre-engaged, in fact, I had six months longer than I would have liked actually being pre-engaged to think. But now, from the other side I can tell you that pre-engagement is maybe the best thing you have/will ever done/do for your relationship.

My partner and I moved our relationship at light-speed for the first six months or so. Two days after we met I got fired from my job, which meant that I had a very short time to figure out what I wanted to do with my life. It also meant that I had an inordinate amount of free time, which I spent mostly mooning over him. A week and a half after we met we went on a three-day backpacking trip in the desert, and a week after that he dropped the L-bomb. Four months after our first date we had moved in together and had a dog. A year after that he picked up everything and followed me to graduate school 500 miles away.

But after awhile the more typical relationship timeline kind of caught up with us. Two years in, we were still living together, with the dog, spending weekends puttering around the house and watching Netflix. I started to feel like something had stalled, that we were no longer moving forward. And, more importantly, while I had always wanted to get married, I suddenly found that with my partner I was more excited about being married. To him. So I went a little nuts. Like many a sane, rational, reasonable woman before me, I kind of lost it.

Over the next few months, I dragged him to a jewelry store to look at rings, and then spent weeks worrying that we’d never be able to get married because there was no way we could ever afford anything. In an effort to soothe my anxiety, he confessed that he actually had a ring, from his family. You’d think this would make me feel relieved, but instead it threw all sorts of doubts into my head. Then why weren’t we engaged yet? What was holding him back?

And so we talked. A lot. About all of the normal things, money, kids, careers, our families, and what we imagined our lives together would look like. At some point, while I never actually stopped thinking about it, I resigned myself to the fact that it probably wasn’t going to happen for a while.

Which, of course, is when it did. It couldn’t have been more perfect. And now that I’m in the thick of wedding planning, with all of the attendant insanity, I’ve never been more glad that by the time we finally did get engaged I felt like we knew each other incredibly well. And I know that we are, and always will be, a team.

So pre-engaged ladies, take heart. And be glad that you’ll never have the entire audience of a basketball game, and the internet, watch you run away from an unexpected proposal. I mean, I hope.

Photo by: Moodeous Photography from the APW Flickr Pool

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