engagement
Elizabeth Fogarty

Whether you’ve been dating your partner for a few months or several years, you might be wondering if and when he or she might be preparing to propose. If you’re extremely excited about this prospect and ready to say “yes!” good for you! But if you’re not totally sure how you feel about it, it might warrant asking yourself a few important questions before you get engaged. “With half of marriages ending in divorce, it's important you understand what is important to you,” says Ann Ball, RMT-certified life coach. “You need to understand who you are and what your life goals are—and be selfish because you only have one life!”

Before you get engaged, here are some of the questions you should ask yourself, according to relationship experts.

Why do you want to get married?

While this seems like a rather obvious question to be asking yourself before you get engaged, it’s surprising how few women do, according to experts. “Of course you love this person, but love isn't the only reason to get married—it's about your quality of life,” explains Ball. “Getting married and starting a family because everyone else is doing it, isn't a good idea, and, in fact, that peer pressure can be difficult to deal with.” At the end of the day, your decision needs to be something you’re truly happy with.

Do you want to say “yes”?

This is the next most crucial question to ask yourself before you get engaged, according to Tina B. Tessina, Ph.D., (aka "Dr. Romance") psychotherapist and author of Dr. Romance's Guide to Finding Love Today. “If you’re not ready or willing to commit right now, even if your partner has yet to propose, figure that out so you can let him or her know,” she says. While he or she is likely to be disappointed, it also saves him or her the embarrassment of going through all the motions only for you to say “no.” If your relationship has gone on long enough that you think your partner might propose, Dr. Tessina recommends that the two of you talk about the possibility of an engagement, which involves being clear about what you feel and what you want. “If you want to say ‘no,’ figure out whether or not you want to end the relationship or just ask for more time,” she adds. “ If you’re asking for more time, you can probably do that and still be engaged.”

Do your core values align?

If you think you’re ready to spend the rest of your life with one person, it’s important to make sure that your values align before you get engaged. “Dating and relationships will be hard work at times, and connecting with your values can renew your strength to move back into the game when you’ve all but given up,” explains Lauren Korshak, LMFT and online dating expert. “Values can give you a direction too, so you’re less vulnerable to getting knocked down by situations that don’t align with your values in the first place.”

Do you share a similar life vision?

Have you and your partner discussed your life goals? Are they similar? While this is another question that seems obvious, it is important to your quality of life and that of your partner, according to Ball. “If your life goals aren't similar, there will be a time where one of you needs to be willing to concede to the other in favor of keeping the marriage alive,” she says. “It's therefore important to weigh how important your goals are, and if you are prepared to leave the relationship for them.”

Do I feel respected by my partner?

Does the person you are going to marry see you and your relationship as a priority equal to themselves? This is important, according to Korshak, as is the ability to listen to and respect each other's needs and adapt when difficult situations require it. “A big way to reframe and understand this question is ‘does my partner listen to me and take into account what I have to say? Are their actions and responses to me influenced by my input and my sharing?’” she adds.

Is the sex good?

If you’re not enjoying the sex you’re having with your partner, it’s a serious red flag. In fact, relationship experts agree that sex is the glue that keeps a marriage together and the ultimate difference between a marriage and a friendship. “If you have issues with sex, get them out in the open now,” suggests Ball.

Do we handle finances efficiently?

Next to sex, money is the biggest generator of problems, arguments and resentment in long-term relationships, according to Dr. Tessina. “Different financial habits (one likes to save, the other spends more, or doesn't keep track) can become a source of argument,” she says. “You can split expenses evenly, or work out a percentage share if your incomes are different—whatever works, but don’t wait until you’re married to have the discussion.”

How do we handle anger and conflict?

We all get upset from time to time, but it’s how we deal with these moments of frustration, anger and disappointment that make the difference, according to Dr. Tessina. “If you are usually good at diffusing each other's anger, and being supportive through times of grief or pain, your emotional bond will deepen as time goes on,” she says. “If your tendency is to react to each other and make the situation more volatile and destructive, you need to correct that problem before you live together.”

Can we grow together?

Last, but certainly not least, you should try and picture yourself growing old with your significant other—before you get engaged. If it’s easy to imagine, great! If not, you might want to question whether or not he or she is right for you. “Look at how you and your partner navigate growth points individually and together and think about what it would be like to go through tough growth points with this person,” suggests Dr. Tessina. “Ask yourself if you’re ready and willing to face those challenges, and are they ready and willing to face those challenges with you?” If the answer is yes, proceed with little caution, but if the answer is no or you’re not sure, consider taking more time to decide whether or not you’re ready to say “I do.”