When the man of my dreams got down on one knee — ring in hand — and asked me to marry him, I didn’t expect to spend the next two days sobbing. But I did; with make-up smearing, stay-in-bed-kind of tears.
Our engagement was no surprise — we had been together for four years and talked about getting married for ages. After we celebrated, smiled and smooched in the moments following our picture-perfect proposal, I noticed a strange and confusing sadness begin to take hold over me.
So what was happening when I was supposed to be celebrating such a wonderful occasion?
Well, as a relationship and life transformation coach, I knew something within me was trying to get my attention. Confused feelings are a normal part of getting engaged, but can create a lot of unnecessary fear, stress and anger if you don’t know what to expect. By saying yes to the man of my dreams, I also surrendered to the next step in my life. There was this instant realization that I was letting go of my past as I knew it.
This is probably a good time to clarify that this story is not about choosing the wrong guy. After a few days, tears dried up and smiles returned, and I began to get really excited about co-creating the rest of my life with my amazing fiancé.
Here's what I realized that every woman needs to know, (that nobody ever tells you!) about getting engaged.
1. No matter how great your relationship is, or how long you've been a couple, you're going to have doubts.
And your partner will too! Can I really live forever with the messy piles of clothes? Did I seriously sign up for sports every Saturday? What am I going to do when we have kids and my new mother-in-law wants to come visit all the time?
Create space for open discussion about how each of you feels, and then when worries cross your mind, openly share them. Naming the feeling can be enough to clear the air and dissolve your doubt. Having a relationship built on open communication, confidence and trust is essential to sharing your fears without creating fear in the other person.
2. You have just entered the relationship twilight zone and might feel disconnected from some of your friends.
Being engaged lands you somewhere between "understanding marriage" and "no longer waiting for a ring." Your friendships will change. Married friends become a well of advice for things they have already been through — things you never considered asking until now (like how to deal with your cranky new sister-in-law).
Your single friends may not understand what you are feeling. This is a time of readjustment for how you and your friends relate to one another, and acknowledging and appreciating that shift.
3. Planning a wedding is almost certainly going to test you.
Planning a wedding amplifies your biggest opportunities for personal growth. Maybe you are focusing on balancing your masculine and feminine energies or letting go of perfectionism. Whatever it is you are working on, you can guarantee it will be tested during this process! Instead of getting upset, angry or stressed out, take notice of the opportunities to transform your flaws and failures into the person you are finally becoming.
4. You might have an identity crisis.
Assuming the labels of “girlfriend”, “fiancé” and “wife” are massive labels of restructuring in the way a woman self-identifies. You viewed yourself one way for your entire life and suddenly everything shifts. Who is this woman that shares your first name and maybe your partner's last? What does she want for her future? What hopes and dreams will she live out in a newly formed union?
Creating a vision board with your fiancé as well as your own, is a great way to visualize your evolution together, transforming each of you into the co-creators in your exciting new adventure together.
5. You might wonder if you're abandoning your feminist ideals.
There is a pull between the paradoxical norms of society and the ultra-feminine movement. Once you’re engaged, you may realize that your dream wedding is often steeped in archaic traditions.
Rings can feel like public statements of ownership, while white dresses symbolize purity. Being "given away" and wearing a veil to shield your face begin to feel like enforcements of servitude. Modern feminism should emphasize independence, achievement and success, not inequality and outdated customs.
6. The engagement period is an amazing opportunity to tackle your emotions before they become a major problem in your relationship.
Planning a wedding can be a major distraction from dealing with the emotions of transition, but only if you allow it to be that way. Left unattended, these feelings are like a pressure cooker that will eventually explode, causing messy problems in your relationship. Your partner is a mirror reflection of your own projected experience.
Finding ways to be grounded, mindful, expressive and emotionally connected to yourself is essential for a healthy foundation on which your relationship will grow and flourish.