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How long should the marriage engagement be?

Part of our regular schedule includes fielding a wide range of media interviews across platforms about relationships and marriage. That includes being quizzed about our own marriage for those that take particular interest in us.

Earlier in the week we had to talk about our relationship, specifically on what the jock called “one of the shortest engagement period she’s heard of”. We really don’t find anything fascinating about it, perhaps because we’ve gotten so used to it and we’re exposed to even shorter engagement periods with other happily married couples.

On this very platform, we’ve repeatedly written about our 10 months of dating before tying the knot, having met for the first time in the first month of the ten. We first met on 24 March 2004, started dating on 27 June, got engaged in November and said our “I do’s” on 02 April 2005. Now, if you understand what goes into organizing a Black African wedding, especially of a couple whose partners are from starkly diverse and complex cultural backgrounds like us, we were hard-pressed for time. But by God’s grace, we did it.

The direction of the radio discussion ended up trying to address a very complex and subjective matter about how long should an engagement period be, before tying the knot? It made great discussion for radio, but we were left with lots of individual cases on our inbox and email by various frustrated listeners.

Frustration for most of them ranges from an 11 year old relationship with someone who’s still undecided, to a six year old marriage engagement where he’s not saying a word about what the future holds. In fact, one particular person confessed to have resorted to cheating on the relationship because of the frustration. Complicated!

In spite of our own decisions around the subject, we believe there is nothing necessarily wrong with a long engagement as long as it’s by mutual agreement and certain things are taken care of in the marriage preparation process. A longer engagement period can provide greater perspective with which to choose whether to marry or not. It’s possible for a short engagement to mask issues within an individual’s personal character, or within the dynamics of the couple’s relationship. Having it longer could even reveal that it really isn’t a good idea to marry the person you thought you would. It’s better to discover that before marrying than afterwards.

And “long” in our books would be anything beyond two years. After that, you’ll probably get nagged to death by both sides of the family, and your nosy friends.

Romantic relationships typically progress in three stages. Firstly, at the beginning of the relationship the couple experiences euphoric “honeymoon” feelings as they feel very in love and excited to be together. Secondly, they gain a deeper knowledge of each other, including each other’s flaws and weaknesses. And lastly, they decide if they want to commit to marrying the other in the full light of the good and bad characteristics of each. This is a healthy progression in the process of deciding to share a life with someone.

However, personally, we opted for a very short engagement period for two simple reasons. Firstly, because we didn’t want to have marriage experiences outside marriage – and that goes beyond sex. Secondly, we had asked, observed and satisfied one another enough on our deal-breakers that we decided it was all systems go. We believe in dating with intention, which should result in a marriage that’s also to be pursued with the same level of intentionality.

Long relationships, especially in the process of engagement, can be frowned on as indecisiveness, unwillingness to act on the commitment, misunderstanding of what the engagement period means, or simply stringing someone along while engaging in self-indulgence. When you’ve decided to be with someone in a lifetime commitment, you wouldn’t have time to play. And that will show convincingly to your partner, in an infectious manner.

We simply cannot understand a long engagement period when you have done all the necessary work that should have been undertaken before going down on one knee. We always joke that people who wait for years may not even be together by the time of that date. We know of many couples whose marriages have lasted less time than some couples choose to be engaged.

However, there are risks and benefits for both long and short engagement periods.

Perhaps most importantly, we believe before you can ask and answer how long an engagement should be, you should first ask yourself some questions about how well you really know each other. Do you have a common understanding of what marriage is, and its purpose? Are you in tune with who you are in terms of your own identity and purpose in life?

Are you practically ready for both the wedding and marriage? And have you two observed one another, asked and answered key questions about each other like, your value systems, maturity levels and do you have a vision and purpose you can share and rally your lives around in marriage? Your inner witness, as well as that of others including family is also a critical indicator.

These to us, easily determine how long or short your engagement should be, or whether you two should be engaged in the first place.

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Email: info@moandphindi.com

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