Question #3: Should I be engaged to this person?
If the answer to Question #2 was yes, you will be in an exclusive, committed relationship with that person and looking for the answer to Question #3. This is the time to really get to know each other on a deeper level. Hopefully to this point you have been very honest and real with each other–none of that “best foot forward” crap.
One thing that Aaron and I did while we were dating long distance was email each other every day: three of our strengths, three of our weaknesses, one random fact about ourselves, and one thing we MUST have in our future mate. (I will post in the future a list of things Christ-following women should be looking for in a future husband. Maybe Aaron can do a guest post for the vice versa.) Some of this could be discussed at the dating level, but really needs to be discussed at the committed relationship level to determine if you should continue on the path to marriage.
During this stage, you should try to experience each other’s character and personality in as many situations as possible. (But not physically; no sexual touching at all should occur. I know I sound crazy and old-fashioned, but it really can make things messier and more painful than they need to be.) Do you both want children? How does your boyfriend handle the holidays? Does your girlfriend really trust you or is she constantly jealous? Is your boyfriend’s mother overly involved in his life? These and other concerns should be discussed and observed.
During this stage it is important to learn how your boyfriend or girlfriend handles conflict. If you do get married, you will face a lot of it because that’s just how life works. You need to know if you will be able to face challenges together as a team or if you will be constantly battling each other. Take the time to learn how to listen well and to “fight fair”.
If you haven’t before this point, you should each have a mentor of the same sex who is in a healthy marriage that can walk alongside you as you progress in your relationship. Meet with your mentors separately and as a couple. Also, it is very important to continue fostering close, healthy friendships with members of the same sex. Set aside at least one night a week to spend apart from each other, to have alone time or to spend with your friends.
If your answer to Question #3 is yes, be excited as all get-out but prepare yourselves for one of the most challenging phases of your lives.
If your answer to Question #3 is no, it will of course be even more painful than if you had broken up at the previous relationship stage. But again, it must be done thoroughly and without a lot of delay. Avoid breaking up and getting back together, as this can cause a lot of confusion, heartache, and/or problems down the road. (Again, I know this one from WAY too much experience!)
Stay tuned for the last question…