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I don’t think it will ever be appropriate for me to get engaged while I’m in college.
That’s not to say I think it is a bad thing to be engaged. If you can do it and you have someone you love enough to do that kind of thing, go for it, by all means. Being engaged can be a very rewarding part of someone’s life, and though I am not ready to be engaged again quite yet, I do not think it is necessarily any harder than being in a long-term relationship on campus. I’m just not ready for it.
I know this from a very short-lived experience.
I was engaged to my partner of two years this time last year. That relationship dissolved three months later, right before the spring semester at Radford started. At the time, I believed our relationship was stable enough to survive the various difficulties I was suffering. I believed that my partner and I would have gotten married anyway, given the duration of our relationship and the level of commitment we shared. However, I was not ready to be engaged. Other things happened that led to the breakup, but had I known I was not ready to be engaged, I likely would not have proposed. It was a foolish decision based on an unwarranted sense of security in my relationship. Though my ex and I are still friends, we are no longer committed to one another, and that is a good thing.
But I also know plenty of people who are engaged and still have happy, fulfilling lives with their partners.
Engagement is not necessarily a problem while you are in college, but my opinion is that far too many people jump into it thinking it will improve or stabilize a relationship. The thing is, engagement actually does quite the opposite; it destabilizes. It adds on new facets to the relationship. It adds new stresses on a relationship and also adds the implication that the relationship will last “forever.” If relationship problems are ignored for any long period of time, it will lead to stress in the relationship which can make a person who isn’t ready for that level of commitment end the relationship.
It really is very different from the normal way relationships work, so you have to be prepared for that to be the case. If you have been together for a while, saying you will “get married eventually” is all well and good, but if you are not ready to do it within the time frame of a normal engagement, then you are not ready to be engaged. For instance, the time frame of an average engagement is about one or two years, to allow for wedding planning and the like.
But in the end, you have to weigh the costs with the benefits. Do you know you want to be married? Are you ready to get married within an appropriate time frame? Are you willing to work out any issues in your relationship that being engaged might bring to the surface? Then getting engaged can provide you with a certain degree of happiness and stability that just being “in a relationship” does not provide. It is messier to break up an engagement, particularly if there are rings and leases involved. The relationship is, or at least should be, relatively stable. It is clear the two parties love each other, otherwise the topic of being married would never have come up. And though there are plenty of difficulties that come with being in that interim stage, those issues need to come up in order to build a healthy relationship.
If you are ready to be engaged in college, then there’s no reason not to be. However, you have to weigh the costs and the benefits before that can happen. Make it a discussion. You do not want to get married to someone who only said “yes” because she did not want to embarrass you in that restaurant, and you don’t want to get engaged to someone who is not ready to take that step. Many people feel that refusing a proposal is something that should end a relationship, but if the two people truly love one another, then it is a little silly to end something beautiful and fulfilling because one party is not ready for the commitment that being engaged requires. If you have the maturity to make an engagement work and you know you want to marry this person, then go ahead and do so. There comes a point where you really need to just look at something for what it is.
As for me? Well, I likely will not ever get engaged again. I will probably just get married in a courthouse, then plan the wedding if I decide I want one.