Is there anything a couple can do to strengthen their relationship prior to engagement? There's a lot of material out there on pre-marital counseling, but not much on the pre-engagement process. How can you be sure you want to say "yes" when the person you're dating starts to talk about marriage? What should a couple do before they decide to get engaged?
Focus on the Family recommends that couples who are dating seriously seek counseling before they get engaged. In other words, we think it's a good idea to place more stress on pre-engagement counseling than on pre-marital counseling.
Why do we say this? Because we've found that couples who are already engaged are far less inclined to take an in-depth, honest look at their relationship. In many cases they've already purchased the ring, reserved the church and reception hall, sent out the invitations, and hired a photographer. Then there's the social stigma of breaking off an engagement once it's been announced. For all these reasons, engaged couples may have a tendency to ignore one another's character flaws and overlook potential rough spots in the road ahead. They're already committed to moving forward. In many cases this can result in a difficult marriage and possibly even lead to divorce.
How to avoid this scenario? Here's what we'd advise. If you've been dating someone for at least six months, and if the two of you feel strongly that you would like to spend the rest of your lives together, find a good marriage-and-family therapist and set up a series of counseling sessions. Our Counseling department would be happy to discuss the options with you and provide a list of qualified counselors in your area. Don't hesitate to call us.
The counseling process should include a personality test such as the PREPARE/ENRICH Premarital Inventory. You can find a sample test online at prepare-enrich.com.
Clearly, you'll need to invest a certain amount of time and money in the process. But if you think about it you'll have to agree that it's worth spending a few months in pre-engagement counseling to make sure that your relationship is really marriage material. It's much easier and a lot less expensive than going through a divorce at some point later in life.
Is the Person You're Dating "The One"?: Dr. Greg Smalley talks about how to know if the person you're dating is the right one to marry.
Premarital Materials (resource list)
Searching for a 'Sole' Mate