It feels like everyone I know is getting engaged lately, and I totally love it. Weddings are one of my very favorite things — there’s nothing better than seeing two people commit to forever, through thick and thin, for better or for worse. Call me a hopeless romantic, but I can’t get enough! Not every engagement plays out like a fantasy, though, and sometimes you might even be wondering if you got engaged too soon. There's no set timeline that works for everyone, and sometimes couples end up jumping into a commitment before they're ready. It’s a legitimate worry, but it’s nothing to panic about, so I brought in an expert to help sort this out.
There are many reasons why you might have rushed into this romance, according to Dr. Susan Edelman, relationship therapist. When you’re falling in love, your brain releases feel-good chemicals like dopamine and oxytocin that make you all giddy and happy every time you see your partner. It’s literally a biological reaction that makes us feel like we’re high. So you shouldn’t blame yourself for feeling like you want to spend forever with this person — your body is actually telling you it can’t get enough of them. Maybe you were feeling so overwhelmed with love and connection that you decided to take the leap and and get engaged.
Whatever the situation, nothing ruins those ecstatic feelings more than questioning whether you made a mistake by committing to forever. Edelmanlays out several ways to tell if you got engaged before you were ready. “Ideally, both partners have expressed their love for each other before they [have gotten] engaged,” she says. You should feel secure in your love and prepared for the long haul together. You should also be excited about the idea of getting married. “You might have become engaged too soon if one or both of you has major worries about marriage,” Edelman warns. If you’re realizing there are some emotional hang-ups you haven’t talked through — maybe one of you is reluctant or nervous about the wedding — that’s a problem you need to address ASAP.
It's also crucial to be comfortable with each other’s financial and living situations. “You should have an idea about your partner’s finances and have seen where they live,” Edelman advises. “Otherwise, you could have some unpleasant surprises after marriage about whether they’re very messy or neat.” In addition to seeing their space, the two of you should talk in detail about how you plan to live together (Who will do which chores? Are you both messy, or do you prefer to keep your space organized to a T?). You're preparing to be roommates for the rest of your lives, so these are major factors to consider. If you got engaged without spending a lot of time in each other’s living spaces first, or without talking about how you plan to support yourselves financially when you're married, you could be in for some trouble down the road.
If you have that gut feeling that something isn’t right between you two, the time to address it is now, before the wedding. Talk to each other honestly about how things are progressing. “You can ask your partner whether they have any concerns about what you still don’t know about each other and your compatibility,” Edelman suggests. See if they are having similar worries so you can mutually decide how you want to move forward.
In some cases, ending your engagement might be the right move. It’s actually more common than you’d think — a 2018 survey conducted by WP Diamonds estimated that 20 percent of engagements are called off before the wedding. There are many reasons a couple may choose to do this, but you should never feel like it’s a bad or shameful thing. Ending the engagement doesn't always mean you have to end the relationship, but it does mean you need to think seriously about how you two can proceed from here. If you choose to call off the wedding, it’s a major sign that something isn’t right between you, so be honest with yourself about whether your relationship is worth saving. In cases like this, couples' counseling can help you decide whether it's best to work through these problems together or end the relationship.
Alternatively, you might choose to stay engaged but start talking more openly about each other’s concerns and fears, possibly within the context of individual or couples' therapy. “If your partner is open to discussing both of your concerns, it can help you to learn more about each other and to create a stronger bond,” Edelman says. If you haven’t set a wedding date yet, this might be an opportunity to extend the engagement while you take some time to work on your relationship. If you’ve already set a date, you don’t have to stick with it if it’s stressing you out! Remember that your love and commitment is way more important than maintaining a plan you’ve set — no matter what anyone else thinks.
“Good communication about your similarities and differences can help you to improve your relationship and determine your compatibility,” Edelman advises. No relationship is going to be perfect, but some are built to last longer than others, depending on how well you and your partner communicate. You’ll feel ready for marriage when you’ve shared your feelings with one another openly, and you’re confident that both of you are committed to this next step. Even if you rushed an engagement, you can still take a step back before getting married to figure out a timeline that makes you both feel excited and certain.
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