When you first started your long dating search, finding someone to share your life with probably sounded like a long shot. Especially after so many terrible dates that left you feeling hopeless, the idea of getting engaged felt more like a pipedream than a reality. So now that you’re in a happy, healthy relationship with someone who you adore, respect, and trust, the idea of marriage doesn’t seem so impossible after all. There are a few questions to consider before you get engaged and more than a handful of things to know before marriage. That’s why it’s important to consider pre-engagement advice and to wholeheartedly answer the ‘Am I ready to get married?’ question with conviction.
Here, some things to consider before getting married and to dive deep into your relationship (and yourself) on your path to a lifetime commitment. After all, it’s one of the greatest decisions you’ll ever make—if not the most important—so make sure you’re in it for the long run:
1. You both have full lives.
It takes two whole people to make a whole relationship. This means you enjoy a full life with friends, family, career, and a social life that fulfill you. You’re confident, and you don’t expect marriage to instantly fix your problems. Some people may consider getting engaged too soon as a way to fill a void in their heart or in their life, but this is a mistake. It’s healthier to want your partner—but not necessarily need them. This will bode well for a marriage, where there will be times when your responsibilities require more independence, whether when your schedule takes off at work or you have a child. Whatever the cause, confidence, and a support system outside of one another is important to create before getting engaged.
Though age is just a number, many wonder ‘how old do you have to be to get engaged.’ This is mostly due to having a level of confidence, maturity, and experience before you pair yourself with another person. Past the age of 18 (or in some states, younger!) is the legal definition, but many experts share post-25 is a better time to say ‘I do.’ And the closer you get to the 30, the less likely you are to get divorced.
2. You like him or her for who they are.
At the top of things to know before marriage, accepting and loving your partner for who they are at their core—good and bad qualities alike—is essential. Getting engaged doesn’t magically, instantly change your boyfriend or girlfriend into a dream-like human, and with all of the added stress of wedding planning, you might seem some ugly sides come out. Add on adjusting to married life, and really respecting and adoring someone becomes that much more important. That’s why this is one of the most important questions to consider before you get engaged: ‘Do I like this person?’
What irritates you about your guy now will really grate on you after you’re married. Or about your girl. He’s a total slob? She’s a night owl when you’re an early bird? Don’t kid yourself into thinking he or she will change once you’re hitched — that’s a blueprint for disappointment, says sex therapist Lisa Paz. “Assume that any negative qualities you’re seeing will remain negative, and be realistic about what you’re willing to live with,” she says. So consider this pre-engagement advice and what’s a dealbreaker and what’s not before your boyfriend becomes your husband, or your girlfriend becomes your wife.
3. You enjoy everyday moments.
One of the things to consider before getting married is what it actually means. Unfortunately, becoming man and wife isn’t just one long, romantic, rose-colored date. It is full of ups and downs, ebbs and flows, patience, compromise, changes, and countless other experiences you can’t really predict. Getting engaged isn’t just saying ‘Yes!’—but it means that you truly enjoy each other’s company. You’re okay with just being together sometimes, even while running errands or doing chores. You would rather wake up to them when they’re sick and cranky than to any other person. That’s where ‘liking’ becomes as important as ‘loving’—you know you’ve answered the most important questions to consider before you get engaged when you would choose everyday, complicated, ridiculous, life with this person over a glamorous one without them.
4. You’re not wondering what else is out there.
If you didn’t know this already: marriage means being exclusive with one person for the rest of your life. But this pre-engagement advice isn’t just about who you can sleep with or be intimated with. In many cases, it also means forsaking contact with exes and anyone else who may threaten your union. If the idea of monogamy makes you feel secure and confident in your relationship, getting engaged is a comfortable next step for you. But if you’re still asking ‘Am I ready to get married?’ because you’re still holding a torch for another person, it is wise to hold off on getting engaged too soon.
5. You bring out the best in one another.
Yeah, yeah—cheesy, we know. But this is one of the most important to consider before getting married. Someone who makes you smile pushes you to be a better human person, who is always there, to be honest, and yet, kind—that’s the type of person you want to marry. Getting engaged means you’re both more patient and more pleasant to be around when you’re with one another. If this person makes you upset, makes you feel less or you have anxiety around them—why would you want to spend the rest of your life around that energy?
6. You’re team players.
Compromise isn’t always 50/50. Sometimes it’s 100/0. If you want to vacation at Disney World but your mate would rather go to the Bahamas, then a 50/50 compromise leaves you both adrift in the Atlantic Ocean. You’re in a healthy spot to consider getting engaged if you can handle not getting your way sometimes. It’s not about winners and losers. It’s not about being a doormat. It’s about using ‘we’ statements and serving someone besides yourself. Things to consider before getting engaged include knowing what areas you are willing to release your control on and which ones you would need to be a stick in the mud. The best pre-engagement advice about meeting in the middle is being able to communicate what matters to you—and be with someone who respects you for it.
7. You can talk about anything.
Here are some important questions to consider before you get engaged: Can you talk about the tough stuff? Can you disagree and find a route to working it out and still like each other? Are the things that you have come to see about your partner which annoy you tolerable enough and are they heavily outweighed by the things you like in them?
Before getting engaged, you need to have a relationship where there are no off-limits topics with your main squeeze. You can get real about your worries, dreams, frustrations, and mess-ups without fear of being judged. You can cry when you feel like crying. In marriage, living as a 24/7 partnership, there’s no way you can keep your guard up all the time. If you and your significant other enjoy a ‘you can tell me anything’ relationship, then that’s a great start. In other words, you lessen the likelihood of divorce if you spend enough time being in the relationship that you’ve had time to test what real day-to-day life is like. For most couples, this is likely a minimum of one year.
8. You’re each other’s greatest fan.
Getting engaged isn’t just about saying ‘I love you so much and you’re perfect and yadda yadda’—it’s actually volunteering to be someone’s cheerlead for the rest of your lives. One of the things to know about marriage before getting engaged is that marriage requires a special attitude for your number one. No matter what, you will always stand in their corner.
Before you swap rings you should already be each other’s biggest fans. When your sweetie masters a level of Guitar Hero, you’re there with a high five. When you complete that 5K run for charity, your honey surprises you at the finish line with a gift certificate for a massage. If they don’t show up for you, you might be considering getting engaged too soon—or to the wrong person.
9. You share similar values.
One of the hardest things to know before marriage are values. These can be difficult to rationalize, especially if in many ways, your partner is ideal for you. However, values is where many deal breakers derive from—family, finances, sex, you name it. Before getting engaged, you have to be on the same page to avoid conflict.
You both want kids. Or you both don’t want kids. You’re both savers. Or you’re both spenders. You two don’t have to share a brain – after all, part of the beauty of things to know before marriage is that you’ll complement each other’s strengths and weaknesses. Even so, it helps to be headed in the same direction. If you already agree on the big stuff, then smaller issues, like who does the laundry, will be easier to tackle.
10. You would elope.
Of all the words of wisdom and pre-engagement advice, here’s a biggie: Do you want a wedding or do you want to be married? The event is fun, but it lasts only one day. Would you still want to spend the rest of your life together even if there were no dress, cake, and Cha Cha Slide? If so, then your desire to get hitched is probably coming from a pure place.
You don’t want to marry Mr. I-Suppose-He’s-Right just because you’re caught up in bridal excitement, or because it seems like the logical next step or because everyone you know is tying the knot. To be sure it’s the guy you want, and not just the Mr or Mrs title, take a glance at these questions to consider before you get engaged : Can you imagine any other man or woman in your wedding/honeymoon/married life plans? Would you still want to marry your guy or gal if it was just the two of you at the courthouse? Think carefully about your answers before taking the next step.
11. You don’t have cold feet.
Or maybe you do. Plenty of people—even those in a great relationship—experience cold feet before getting married. It’s normal, but it should be addressed as one of the things to know before marriage. If your religion doesn’t require premarital counseling, consider enrolling, anyway. Your clergyperson or a secular marriage therapist can address common premarital issues and give you a safe place to bring up other concerns. If your partner refuses to go, then opt for individual counseling and evaluate how much of a team player your future spouse really is. Go on a date, reserving one night a week to not talk about the wedding. Instead, play a board game together, catch a movie, or just hang out at a bookstore over coffee. This downtime will help you to reconnect as a couple and rediscover why getting engaged was the next step in your relationship. After all, dating is what led to the engagement.