Every time my husband, Alex, and I hear someone superficially imposing a proper dating or engagement timeline for getting married—we cringe.
Only one year had passed from the time Alex and I met online on CatholicMatch to the time we were married. Just about every time we stick up for no-nonsense happy couples like ourselves, we’re told that we’re an exception.
Each couple must properly discern what timeline God is calling them to, but if you feel God is calling you to a shorter dating and engagement time here are some tips we have offered our friends and some red flags to watch out for to avoid impulsiveness.
Strengthen the Relationship. The process of dating and engagement should be relationship focused instead of event-driven. Instead of focusing on all the fun you’re going to have together on your next date or your wedding, focus on how your significant other was raised, their discipline in their spiritual life, their communication style, their excitement in having your children, their work ethic, their ability to forgive and forget, and their willingness to adapt and grow with you and others.
If you’re right for each other, having fun won’t require that much effort (trust us), and the specifics of those events alone won’t lead you to sainthood. Thriving in your relationship will always require focus and work like it’s your job.
Focus on their areas of strength in virtue and character, and note all the areas that need improvement. Be honest in this reflection about yourself. If you’re having trouble identifying those areas, ask your close friends or family members for help. Be humble in accepting correction, and seek out steps towards bettering yourself. Forgive yourself, forgive others, and move on to that cherished life God so desires for you.
Prudence is often thrown around as an excuse to delay the dating and engagement process. But all that prudence says is that your decision should be carefully considered and calculated. A couple can get married in a year or less and still be exercising prudence if they have thoughtfully considered all that the vocation to marriage entails.
In our case it would have been imprudent to wait any longer, as it would have allowed us to be selfish and greedy in delaying God’s will for us, not to mention, missing out on our awesome children!
Discern Courtship Length. God doesn’t rule by a heavy hand, but through the cooperation of our free will. In the secular world, the common advice from many media outlets is to wait.
Wait until you’ve dated through the seasons (does that only apply to New Englanders?), wait until you have X amount of money in the bank, wait until you’ve had your time to party, wait until you move in together, wait until he can afford THAT ring, wait until you can afford THAT reception or honeymoon, wait until you have the down payment of your first house saved, wait, wait, wait.
Does anyone else get the creepy feeling this advice is just another way to avoid procreation, the ultimate gift of self? Anyone else sense that contraceptive mentality sneaking in, even before a couple exchanges vows?
The truth is anyone can come up with any amount of reasons to wait, and the secular world will applaud you for it. Everyone is aware of the downfall of following their passions unbridled by reason. We’ve been learning about this since toddler-hood. But are any of those reasons to wait building virtue? Are any of those actions giving glory to God above and beyond the sacrament of marriage?
Instead of asking, is it prudent to wait, ask yourself, is it imprudent to cut to the chase? Discern with the help of a spiritual director, and then decide.
These tips will not only help you in discern the dating and engagement process, but it will also help you throughout your marriage, especially as you become parents together. If you’re in the habit of waiting and putting things off, you’ll be quite shocked when you realize children aren’t capable of waiting for you to get your act together.
Accept this humility now, and that humility will pay you back in ease of parenting a hundredfold. Set the habits now that you’ll want in your marriage, and set the example that you want for your children.
Looking back eight years now, we’re so happy we didn’t take one minute together for granted.