How Long should an Engagement be?

Photo Courtesy of Aaron Robert Photography. Copyright 2013. www.aaronrobertphotography.com

Can an engagement be too short?

Absolutely. 

Can an engagement be too long?

Absolutely. 

Unfortunately for my wife, I didn’t really put too much thought into the length of our engagement.  We had discussed marriage, and although a winter wedding seemed practical to me, Rachel had other plans.  After a time of reflection (or let’s call it – enlightenment), I realized that in order to have Rachel’s fall wedding, I had to immediately propose.  Luckily, I already had purchased a ring and asked for her parent’s approval.

While an engagement can be too short (or too long), the length is not as important as what you do during that time.  As a couple, you must discuss what is right for you.  So if you are planning an engagement period, here are some positives and negatives for either a long or short engagement period.

Thoughts Concerning a Short Engagements 

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Limited Time to Process – Marriage introduces a ton of change into the lives of the couple, and these changes take time to process.  While less time might be a blessing for doubters or those who struggle with anxiety, a short engagement can cause others to neglect thinking through the commitment that they are making.  (Read more on the Purpose of Engagement)

Limited Time to Plan – Becoming one requires a lot of work by the bride and the groom.  If both partners are working full-time, the extra workload of fulfilling the extra responsibilities during engagement will be extremely stressful.  Even the simplest of weddings requires many hours of preparation.

Limited Period of Sexual Tension – While I believe it is best for a couple to remain abstinent before the wedding, the engagement period is a time when emotional, spiritual, and sexual boundaries in the relationship need to change.  As a couple become more physically involved, their bodies will naturally lead them towards sexual fulfillment.  A short engagement helps the couple maintain their boundaries.   (Read more about the relational changes during engagement, Engagement is Awkward.)

While there is a lot of work to accomplish during this period, one emerging adult said, “If you keep a short engagement Christ-centered and smart, it can be wonderful.”

Thoughts Concerning a Long Engagement 

Time to Process and Plan – A long engagement allows the couple to fully explore their relationship and the commitment they are making.  The couple is not focused entirely on the day-to-day or the looming ceremony, but they are also able to think through their decisions and discuss the changes they are experiencing.

Photo Courtesy of Aaron Robert Photography. Copyright 2013. www.aaronrobertphotography.com

Time to discuss tough issues – Engagement periods can be a time when the couple is faced for the first time with conflict when their values clash as they are forced to make decisions together.  Sometimes couple who rush through their engagement will bury problems until later because they know there is not time to fix the problem.

More Living Expenses – Unless one or both of the couple are living at home, living separately can often be a financial burden to the couple.  Emerging adulthood can be an expensive phase of life with little income, and so it is wise to save whenever possible.  I wouldn’t necessarily move up your wedding, but you might want to live with family or friends until the big day comes rather than pay rent at two places.

Difficult to maintain physical boundaries – One EA states, “Some of the long engagements I have seen have been so hard on the couple – specifically the struggle with sexual sin as the months pass.”  Even for couples who maintained clear boundaries while dating find it difficult to remain sexually pure once a promise is made.  A long engagement will require them to regularly discuss their physical boundaries, and the sexual tension between them.

There is no right or wrong answers, but each couple must decide based upon:

  1. How long have you known each other?
  2. In what capacities have you known each other? (Are you together regularly, or are you long-distance relationship?)
  3. What do your friends and mentors believe about your decisions?
  4. How well do you as a couple deal with stress and waiting?
  5. What do you sense God is leading you to do as you pray?

Whether long or short, your engagement can be all that you dreamed as you both seek God and follow His leading.

 david in hat - blackDr. G. David Boyd is the Founder and Managing Director of EA Resources, a non-profit designed to provide resources to Emerging Adults, and those who love them.

 

 

Beyond Mentoring – Marks of a Symbiotic Relationship

Photo Courtesy of Aaron Robert Photography. Copyright 2013. www.aaronrobertphotography.com

Last month, I shared how the church needs to think beyond mentoring to engage emerging adults.  Mentoring often gives the impression of an omnidirectional relationship where one person gives and one receives.  Our economic mindset has also set the image of a mentor as one who stands in authority over another, and who serves as a gatekeeper for wealth, knowledge, or fame.

The church needs to go beyond mentoring.  Rather than succumbing to our western society which values independence, the church needs to rediscover its roots in our interdependence.  God created the church to do more than gather together, but to need each other.  One picture used regularly to illustrate the interdependence of the church is the body of Christ (see 1 Cor 12; Rom 12).

Christians should be seeking symbiotic relationships, where each partner benefits from the relationship without assumptions of power, rank, or importance.  A symbiotic relationship is a connection that is for the mutual benefit of each individual.  Here are some marks of symbiotic relationships:

Relational versus Programmatic

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We were designed by God to be in relationships with others.  Church leadership needs to manage less programs, and become more relationally perceptive.  Shepherds need to see who within our community would naturally connect in symbiotic relationships.

In nature, symbiotic relationships develop because both animals see the need, and are drawn by the natural benefits of the relationship.  Those seeking relationships must ask, “Who has God placed near me?” and “Who am I naturally drawn towards?”

Authentic versus Staged

In typical mentorships, the mentor must come with the gathering staged or set.  Whether it is a set list of questions, a specific topic, or even to allow the meeting unplanned, the mentor feels responsible for setting the stage.  When this responsibility is laid solely upon one member, it can lead to a lack of authenticity.

Symbiotic relationships still require intentionality, but the responsibility is shared.  Intentionality turns hanging out with a friend into building spiritual intimacy.  Someone must lead the discussion towards our faith, and then allow the Holy Spirit to steer the time towards sacred space.

Learning versus Teaching

In symbiotic relationships, participants approach the relationship saying, “What can I learn?”  Teaching is the natural outflow of two different parts of the Body of Christ working together, occurring without a lesson plan as the Spirit speaks through His word, the conversation, and sharing life.

Purpose-giving versus Purpose-driven

Rarely do people want to be someone else’s purpose-driven spiritual project.  Unfortunately, sometimes mentors believe that they know exactly what their partner needs.   (For instance, “I need to show them…”, or “They need to learn…”).  One individual controls the relationship rather than letting God work freely.  God always set the agenda of symbiotic relationship.

Symbiotic relationships provide personal significance.  Our motivation for the relationship is not because I am supposed to do it, but because I see how my life matters to another person.  As we walk away from a symbiotic relationship, both people are thinking, “Wow, I needed that.”

Many people who use the term “mentor” have already moved beyond the stereotypical and possibly unhealthy uses of the role.  Regardless of the term you use, as a member of the Body of Christ, seek interdependent relationships.

david in hat - blackDr. G. David Boyd is the Founder and Managing Director of Emerging Adult Resources.  He resides in Apple Valley, MN with his wife Rachel and three boys.  If you would like to contact him, you can reach him at gdavid@earesources.org.

Questions to Consider Before You Get Engaged

“Sadly, some couples rush toward marriage as soon as they taste the initial burst of romance. They may have only dated for a few months, but their blissful feelings convince them that they are destined for each other.”

The article comes from Dating with Pure Passion: More than Rules, More than Courtship, More than a Formula by Rob Eagar, Copyright 2006.dating with pure passion

For those considering engagement, here are some questions to consider:

1.  Are you both married to Jesus?

2.  Can you resolve conflict together?

3.  Have you both dealt with your baggage?

4.  Do you have the support of family and friends?

5.  Have you sought pre-engagement counseling together?

6.  Do you bring out the best in each other?

7.  Is leadership properly established in your relationships?

8.  Are you truly passionate about each other?

Read the article HERE.

While I don’t agree with everything stated in the article, I believe that it is important to carefully reflect before stepping into engagement.

Dr. G. David Boyd is the Founder and Managing Director of EA Resources.  david in hat - black

The Purpose of Engagement

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He buys the ring.  He asks her parents for permission.  He gets down on one knee.  He asks the question.  But what does it really change?  What is the purpose of engagement?

A betrothal (or engagement) period has been around for many centuries, and is well documented during the time of the Old and New Testament.  In Matthew 1:18-21, we are told that Joseph and Mary were betrothed.  Betrothal was, “a binding contract established between two families and sealed by the exchange of gifts. During this period the couple did not live together; sexual relations with each other at this stage was regarded as equivalent to adultery.” (Reference)  A betrothal was so sacred that unfaithfulness during this period was punishable by death.

Engagement is a vital step for the health of a life-long relationship.  So if you think a ring is in your future, here are the four purposes for the engagement period.

1.  Prepare our communities.

Engagement is a time when the couple’s community is alerted to the couple’s commitment.  One emerging adults said, “The purpose of engagement in my mind is a formal declaration of intent.”  It is the formal act whereby a couple announces to parents, relatives, and friends that they are taking active steps towards marriage.

Weddings were never meant to be a private affair, but something to be supported by an entire community.  Community support for the wedding is important because marriages are not lived out in isolation, but always exist within the framework of community.  As Western society breaks down community in favor of an individualistic lifestyle, our perspective of marriage has been twisted into a private matter lived out within the confines of our suburban home guarded by the fences between us.  We must begin realize that a marriage is strengthen by strong public ties to others.

2.  Prepare for life together

Engagement is a time when you begin to make preparations to live together.  As a couple, you begin how to make decisions together, learning how to compromise, and to resolve conflict.  Questions that you need to answer include:

  • Where will we live?
  • Will we have money?
  • What will we eat?
  • What will we drive?

However, your questions must go deeper than the practical everyday decisions.  Your preparation must include preparing yourself emotional, mentally, and physically for a healthy marriage.  One emerging adult said, “There are certain parts of you (deep spiritual and emotional things) that aren’t necessarily healthy to share with someone who you are just dating, no matter how long.  Engagement is a great period of transition, where for the first time, there is a promise of forever attached to a relationship, which allows you to move towards each other spiritually and emotionally.”  I believe that there are not just physical boundaries that couples should observe, but emotional and spiritual boundaries that should not be crossed until marriage.   (For more on this, see Premature Intimacy.)

Faced with such decisions, not all engagement periods are easy, and many couples find themselves in need for a third reason for engagement – counseling.

3.  Premarital Counseling

Photo Courtesy of Aaron Robert Photography. Copyright 2013. www.aaronrobertphotography.com

One EA says that premarital counseling, “pushed us to discuss the harder topics.”  Dating and engaged couples often stay away from problem topics either to keep everyone happy, or because they are unaware of relational landmines surrounding them.  Premarital counseling will examine issues in your relationship including:  communication, conflict, finances, marital roles, and past family dynamics.

Although you may feel overwhelmed preparing for the ceremony, good pre-marriage counseling is worth every minute.  (Many states give a discount on the marriage license to couples who spend time in premarital counseling.)  Notice that I included the word “good.”  Be selective about who you choose to do your counseling.  The main factors for choosing a counselor should be:  relational (Do they understand people?), comfortable (Do I feel as if I can be authentic?), experienced (Do they any experience working with marriage?), availability (Will they care about me and my partner?), and location (Are they too far away?).

4.  Plan the Wedding

Photo Courtesy of Aaron Robert Photography. Copyright 2013. www.aaronrobertphotography.com

The last reason for the engagement period is to plan the wedding.  While it is the most obvious, it is not the most important.  No one will remember the décor or food at your wedding; so don’t let these details keep you from enjoying the other aspects of your engagement.  It is hard work to plan a wedding, but many families cave to societal pressures, and make it harder than it needs to be.

As you approach engagement, please know that the process of becoming one may be difficult.  One EA says, “Engagement has proven for both of us to be the time that we’ve both experienced our greatest doubts and also our greatest joys with one another. However, there’s a new level of safety in the fact that we’re both on the same page preparing to commit to one another that has allowed for deeper honesty (even in the hard truths and confrontations) and has resulted in a greater spiritual and emotional connection.”

david in hat - blackDr. G. David Boyd is the Managing Director of EA Resources.  He is supported by a group of emerging adults who speak into his articles in order to help others.  If you are interested in joining his team of contributors, you can contact him at gdavid@earesources.org.

4 Ways to Know When God is Resetting Your Parental Narrative.

Senior couple and their dautherI found this article, and I know that it will be a great encouragement to both Emerging Adults and their parents.  It is a great reminder to parents that worth is not based on the outcome of their children, but in the fact that the God of the universe loves them.

Is your identity based solely on God, or are you still seeking to find it in your children? Pastor Tom Goodman offers four qualities of parents who are no longer seeking validation from their children’s behavior.

1.  You can rejoice with other parents.

2.  You can react patiently to ignorance.

3.  You can decide when you have done enough.

4.  You can take pressure off other children.

Take a moment and recenter your worth, identity, and purpose in God alone.

 

Sex in the Church

Sex, Millennials and the Church: Five ImplicationsEarlier this week, I shared an article from Thom Rainer about the changes in the sexual standards and beliefs of Millennials.  While the article shows how things have changed, it doesn’t explore how to respond.

Few Christians doubt that society’s views of sex have changed.  The bigger question is, “How does a church respond?” Continue reading

4 Lies Church Taught Me about Sex

I found this article well-written, and true as I work regularly with those who were raised in the church, and are now married.

Two Quotes:

“Those of us who choose to wait do so because we hold certain beliefs about the sacredness of marriage and about God’s intentions and wishes for humanity, and we honor these regardless of whether they feel easier or harder.”

We do not refrain from sex because God will bless our sex lives.  We seek to glorify God with our lives before we are married by remaining pure.  We glorify God after marriage by enjoying His gift of sex.

“In the meantime, we in the evangelical church has a lot of work to do correcting the distorted ways we talk about sex and sexuality, especially to our youth.”

No youth pastor has ever tried confuse their students about sex, but it happens.  Even if we are careful about what we teach, we cannot control how it is heard.  However, perspectives like this are helpful as we try to address the sexual purity that is so desperately needed in our society without directing our sheep into other errors.

Read the Article here.

Dr. G. David Boyd

Last minute Gift Ideas for MOM beyond a trip to WALMART.

mom and sonMother’s Day is almost here.  So before you run out and buy the typical potted plant or new shirt, here are a few ideas for those who are on a low-budget.

Technology assistance – Is there something that she can’t do without your help?  I recently took the time to download a few games on her tablet, and she couldn’t have been more thankful.  Sit down with a computer and show her a few tricks about how to get out of annoying Facebook conversations, or see just the people she wants to see on her feed.

Handwritten Card – Anyone else suffering sticker shock from greeting cards?  Avoid them altogether.  Your mother remembers your cards from childhood with misspelled words, and stick people.  A hand-written card still has the same affect today.  It doesn’t have to be poetic, or grammatically correct.  Just put your thoughts down.

Facebook Adoration – While this does not count as a gift or personal interaction, showing that you are publicly thankful and proud of your mother will definitely lift her spirits.

Time Alone – Schedule a time alone with mom where the two of you go for a walk, or spend time doing an activity that you enjoy together.  If you can’t do it on Mother’s Day, then schedule a special time and date so she knows that it is coming.  Avoid problem topics, and just reminisce on your lives together.

Personalized Jewelry – While you could pick up a necklace as you walk through Kohl’s, it will probably after a few weeks end up hidden in her jewelry box.  However, a personalized piece of jewelry will melt their heart, and will stick around a while.  Here is a company that I highly suggest.

Surprise Visit – If you are away at school, pack your bags and make a trip home just for her.  (Make sure you don’t bring her your dirty laundry like I did once…or twice.)  Ring the doorbell, and wait for her to come to the door.  Mothers love their kids, and what is better than extra time.

Work Together – Is there something you know how to do, that could help her out?  Helping mom get that closet clean, or washing the windows.  Some chores are accomplished better when you are not alone.

If you thought this article would solve Mother’s Day as easily as walking into a department store, I am sorry.

Whatever you do, make sure that it is tailored specifically to your mom.  Walmart can’t do that.  Target always misses the mark.  The perfect gift really only comes when you spend time planning it.

Only you know your mother, and can make her Mother’s Day special.

Written by:  G. David Boyd

Dad and Mom aren’t the best source for your Marital Advice.

hand_hands_wedding_It seemed as if the honeymoon would never end.  However, marriage is not as easy as you once thought.  You have discovered that your spouse does have an opinion and they have the audacity to believe you are wrong.  So when the honeymoon bliss turns to marital strife, where do you go for help?

A strong marriage requires a strong support system which can include: parents, friends, relatives, and counselors. In order to survive, many couples need outside support or they will crumble.  Although you need your parents support, asking them for help in times of conflict can become unhealthy rather quickly, and here are the reasons why.

1.  Marriage requires Leaving and Cleaving

Autonomy is the ability of an individual to make their own decisions and to deal with the consequences.  It is essential for the development of you and your marriage.  As you mature, the relationship with your parents needs to redefined, and you should be making more decisions, and dealing with the consequences.

In a marriage, the couple forms a new unit as they leave and cleave.  Genesis 2:24 states, “For this reason, I man will leave his father and mother, and cleave unto his wife, and the two will become one flesh.”  One emerging adults describes this as, “when you marry your wife, she becomes the most important relationship in your life (other than with God) no matter what.  I feel like going back to your parents to resolve relationship issues in marriage is a dangerous road to go down.”

It is important for new couple to develop their conflict and communication skills.  One recently married emerging adult states, “Families tend to take sides and have strong opinions. We want to work out our true ideas and communication skills.  …going to our parents too often splinters our relationship.”  Involving your parents can also establish an unhealthy pattern for years that will be harder to break.

2.  Marriages need Objective Advice

Many parents are able to give godly counsel.  However, few if any parents are able to provide objective advice when it comes to their children.  One parent explains, “Parents are naturally biased towards their own children.  I don’t know if it’s fair to ask a parent to be objective in a situation that affects their child’s happiness.”

While counseling an EA, he responded, “I hear what you say, but my dad’s advice resonates with me.”  I wanted to laugh, but I was able to refrain.  There is a reason why dad’s advice resonated with him. Advice received from parents matches the values of their marriage and home.  However, a new marriage requires objective counsel that would incorporate the values of both partners in the marriage relationship.

3.  Forgiveness and Reconciliation

Involving your parents can also make a small problem, into a bigger one – involving more people.  Matthew 18:15-17 talks about how we are to seek resolution with the person who offended us.   One emerging adults says, “It’s not hard for me to leave parents out because it’s not their place to be in the middle of my and my fiance’s relationship. That’s just plain unhealthy.”  Involving other people–even parents–can lead to people taking sides and make things messier and more complicated, especially since third parties often have limited information about the conflict.

Another danger of involving parents in your marital conflicts is that your parents will be hurt, but unable to participate in the healing process.  This will cause feelings of hurt, and bitterness towards your spouse, even after you have been reconciled.  One newlywed expresses her protection of her husband by limiting what she shares to her parents.  “After I got married, I need to be protective of our relationship and respectful of him when sharing with others.”

  4.  Look Around

You don’t need to struggle alone.  There are additional sources of encouragement including friends, mentors, counselors, and pastors.  Who has God placed in your life that might be a source of encouragement to you?  Each phase of marriage is different, and God might have brought them into your life in order to help you on your journey.

Getting help requires courage.  I pray that this gives you the courage you need to step out and get help.