Here are a few examples:
Spend Time with Your Friends
This is something you can do both with and without your future spouse. Often times you might choose to hang out with the friends you ran with prior to meeting your future spouse simply for a chance to let your physical desires cool some. Be careful that these friends are good for your relationship and that they are primarily friends of the same sex. Otherwise you may create unnecessary trouble for your fiancé. In addition, spend time with other couples or in gatherings. This will give you a chance to learn how your fiancé responds in a large group of people.
Some of your time can be spent in premarital counseling. Seek out a good Christian counselor and meet with him or her regularly to discuss your future life and marriage together. Go over the list of issues detailed in the first chapter and bring them up one at a time in your counseling together. We cant recommend this strongly enough.
Read Relational Books Together
Read, read, and read. Thats what several survey respondents told us. Reading positive uplifting books on relationships is an excellent way to spark conversations and become more intimate with each other. In a sense it meets both the needs of the man and woman because the act of reading is doing something together. But the content of relational growth will inevitably cause relational talking as well.
Spend Time with Older Couples
Sometimes theres nothing like observing. Use your engagement to connect with one or more happily married Christian couple. Then observe, observe, and observe! Talk to others and include these older friends in your wedding plans to see if they agree with you. The research supports the importance of friends as a source for finding a mate. Furthermore, research showed that the approval of valued mentor friends are predictive of positive marital outcomes.
Spend Time with Family
Since family relationships are important, get to know your mates family. In the balance tradition, it will be important to spend some good time with fiancés family (alone and with your future spouse). This is where you begin to learn to appreciate and involve each others families.
This is also a good time to work through the issues and feelings that may come up where extended family members are concerned. For instance if you feel your fiancés mother doesnt like you, now is the time to deal with this at least between you and your fiancé.
Research also supports the importance of being around your fiancées family. Premarital parental and in-law support of the marriage enhances marital quality and stability. Another researcher found that parental opposition was positively related to martial problems and divorce probability. Finally, research demonstrates that the greater the quality of the family environment, the greater the couples later marital quality.
Planning the Wedding or Honeymoon
It is extremely important for both partners to spend time together planning the wedding and honeymoon. On the other hand, planning the wedding and honeymoon is loaded with conflict possibilities. Certainly this is a challenging task. In fact this was the area our survey couples ranked as one of the worst aspects of their engagement. Heres why so many engaged couples struggle in this area:
- Too many people had input in the plans
- My input wasnt considered
- I had to do everything and my fiancé didnt help me
- Trials of a long-distance wedding
- Working through a myriad of details (e.g., Setting a date, who to invite, wedding location, inside vs. outside, big vs. small, formal vs. informal, choosing china and crystal patterns, flowers, music, minister, furniture etc.)
- Trying to get everything done for the wedding and keep everyone happy at the same time
- Stress of following a time-sensitive schedule (giving the florist, musicians, pastor, etc. ample time to pull together the wedding) while maintaining a job and making future plans
Figure out Your Finances
The engagement period is a perfect time to share information about financial matters. Set aside specific evenings to share your philosophies on pertinent money matters such as tithing, giving, spending, saving, and investing. There are numerous workbooks available in Christian bookstores that will help you go over these issues in detail.
Remember, every moment you invest in this area is one well spent. Too many couples presume their fiancé had planned to save or would stick to a budget, when in reality your views on money matters may be vastly different.