5 Rules of Engagement

One of the things I love about my job is the opportunity to talk to students as they are working through their decision process on dating.  It’s so fun to talk about having a crush and romance and marriage – and these students are awesome with their questions and thoughts.

Over the years I have come up with some hard standards about dating relationships.  Here are five of them, set down for posterity:

1. Your spiritual beliefs must align. This foundation sets the tone for how you react in conflict, in joy, in parenting, in grief.

2.  If you don’t know if they’re “the one” within dating for six months, you know they’re NOT “the one.” People are always questioning this.  At a certain point they start to feel like they’ve invested too much in the relationship to not move on toward marriage.  However, if you don’t know within six months of dating – even if you can’t actually get married right away – then the reality is that they’re NOT the one for you.  Knowing is overwhelming.  It’s scary.  But it’s incredibly compelling!  If you haven’t gotten there, then it’s time to cut ties and move on so that both you and your partner can meet the person they’re supposed to be with.

3.  The pain of change has got to be less than the pain of staying the same in order for change to take place. Breaking up is hard to do.  (It’s harder to be the person who breaks up with someone than they person who is broken up with – that makes YOU the bad guy!)  Break ups won’t take place until it’s harder to continue in your rut than it will be to learn new habits, skills, and behaviors.

4.  Engagements should last less than six months. I believe so strongly in short engagements!  Once you’ve made the decision to share your life with someone the waiting is so hard to do!  It’s even worse if you’re aiming toward keeping your hands off each other until you tie the knot.  Long engagements are opportunities to spend more money on the wedding because you have more time to plan.  Keep it simple, keep it short.

5.  Don’t worry about the wedding, worry about the marriage. When you’re dating you tend to be focussed on moving toward the “next level.”  You consider whether you should be engaged, when you will be engaged, how you will become engaged…  Once you are engaged you shift attention to when the wedding will take place, how the wedding will take place, etc.  Once you’re married you move toward when you’ll have a child, buy a house, so on and so forth.  HOWEVER, there will come a time when there’s not a new level to look toward and it’s just you and your spouse, sitting in a house that’s not nearly as nice as the one you grew up in, eating beans because there are five more days until payday and you need to generate heat! Spend more time planning the marriage than the events and make sure you’re marrying someone you want to snuggle with in the fox hole of life.

Those are five of my recommendations.  What do you think – agree or disagree?  What rules do you have for relationships?

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