Entries in engagement (9)
Discussing the future of one’s romantic relationship—including the possibility of marriage—can be an exciting, novel experience for couple members.1 But it can also be incredibly stressful.2 As a couple grows closer and their relationship becomes more serious, it’s entirely natural to discuss future plans. But are some discussions more helpful than others on the path to a (hopefully) happy and long-lasting relationship? And is there such a thing as planning too far ahead?
As part of a larger study on engagement and weddings (find more details here), we asked currently engaged and married individuals to reflect on how much they discussed a range of topics before they became engaged. Specifically, participants were asked how often they talked about:
- the possibility of getting married,
- the possibility of when or how a marriage proposal might take place,
- the type of ring (or token) that might be exchanged when a proposal did take place, and
- the details regarding the wedding they wanted,
Each question was responded to on a scale from “never” to “very often,” with options of “rarely,” “sometimes,” and “often” in between.
We wanted to determine whether discussing these future events prior to becoming engaged was associated with couples then being happier with each event when/after it occurred. Further, we wanted to explore whether discussing certain aspects of getting engaged and married before experiencing the commitment of actually becoming engaged might also be associated with the overall quality of their relationship. So, we also asked how satisfied individuals were with the proposals, their engagement ring(s), and their actual weddings (which had already occurred for married individuals and which were currently being planned for engaged individuals), as well as how satisfied they were in their relationships overall and how committed they were to their partners.
From Saying “Yes” to Saying “I Do”: An Exclusive ScienceOfRelationships.com Series on Being Engaged and Getting Married
From the moment two people decide to get married through their wedding day, partners face a host of unique experiences during their engagement period, including more in-depth interactions with in-laws, making important joint financial decisions, and preparing for a publically declared, lifelong commitment. Yet, despite the significance of the events leading up to the big day, only a few empirical studies have focused on the unique experiences that comprise the engagement period.1,2,3 And though private companies like The Knot have surveyed their subscribers about their engagements and weddings,4 these studies represent a select group of respondents. In an effort to more broadly address the question of “What’s it like to be engaged in the 21st century?”, ScienceOfRelationship.com, in collaboration with researchers from the Loving Lab at The University of Texas at Austin recently recruited nearly 400 newly-engaged or newly-wed individuals from around the United States. The research team asked individuals a range of questions, some of which are reviewed below (with a sneak peak at a few results as well!). Over the coming days, we will be posting the latest findings on being engaged in the 21st century.
1Burgess, E. W., & Wallin, P. (1944). Predicting adjustment in marriage from adjustment in engagement. American Journal of Sociology, 49, 324-330. doi:10.1086/219426
2Knobloch-Fedders, L. M., & Knudson, R. M. (2009). Marital ideals of the newly-married: A longitudinal analysis. Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, 26(2-3), 249-271. doi:10.1177/0265407509106717
3Wright, J. (1990). Getting engaged: A case study and a model of the engagement period as a process of conflict-resolution. Counselling Psychology Quarterly, 3(4), 399-408. doi:10.1080/09515079008256710
4Bennett, C., & Perciballi, J. (2015, March 12). The Knot, The #1 Wedding Site, Releases 2014 Real Weddings Study Statistics. Retrieved June 23, 2015.
Taylor Anne Morgan - Ph.D. Candidate - The University of Texas at Austin
Taylor Anne’s research focuses on different stages of romantic relationships, with an emphasis on the associated cognitions at each transition point. Specifically, she is interested in how fluctuations in relationship evaluations over time affect relationship and individual outcomes.
Liz Keneski - Ph.D. Candidate - The University of Texas at Austin
Liz's research centers around the intersection of romantic relationships, social networks, and health. Specifically, her research interests include social network support and romantic partner support processes, romantic relationship development and transition norms, and psychological and physiological resilience to relationship stress.
- the proposer asking the father or parents of the proposee for his/their permission or blessing to marry the proposee
- the proposal is a surprise
- the proposer getting down on one knee
- the proposer presenting a ring
- the proposer asking, “Will you marry me?” 1,2
If any of the elements are missing, especially if there is no ring, then outsiders might think the engagement is not legitimate or the relationship itself is weak.1,3 Although people who are less traditional are fine with not having a ring, many think that the lack of a ring indicates a lack of sincerity on the part of the proposer. 1 Where did the notion that there needs to be a diamond ring start?
My husband and I got hitched this past June, which I can honestly say was one of the happiest and most transcendent experiences of my life. However, we both agree that whereas the wedding was awesome, the wedding planning process was decidedly not awesome. Navigating the wedding industry can be quite frustrating, in part because of the relentless pressure to spend fantastic amounts of money on anything and everything wedding-related. As a relationships researcher, I was particularly interested in, and baffled by, the rhetoric that many vendors use in order to sell wedding services and products.
Many of the sales pitches boil down to the idea that couples in love should want expensive weddings. Vendors will argue that if you truly love your partner, you should be willing to go to any lengths (at least monetarily) to properly celebrate that love on your “special day”. For example, maybe you want to show your love for your partner by getting a fancy gilded guestbook for your guests to sign, or personally monogrammed hand towels for the reception bathroom. Sometimes the rhetoric even goes so far as to suggest that an expensive wedding guarantees you true love. With a perfectly straight face, some vendors will tell you that your wedding day will “set the tone” for your marriage, and you should be willing to do anything it takes to start your marriage off “on the right foot”. For example, perhaps you should set the right tone by hiring a 20-piece orchestra for your ceremony, or limos to transport all your guests to the reception.
Examples of this sort of advertising can be traced back to the 1940s, when De Beers diamond company launched their infamous “Diamonds are forever” campaign. Indeed, many of the social norms around marriage proposals—such as the arbitrary benchmark of two months’ salary that men should spend on an engagement ring—come from De Beers’ successful advertising efforts. Like the wedding industry more broadly, the diamond industry relies on the premise that spending a great deal of money shows love for your partner and predicts relationship success. This idea is widespread in our culture, likely because it is a marketer’s dream: who wouldn’t pay any price to ensure marital bliss? What’s less clear is how accurate these notions are. To what extent do high levels of spending actually predict marital bliss?
When is the right time to get married? My boyfriend and I are currently in college and have been dating for 3 years. He talks about getting married and starting a life, but when is it too soon? Don't get me wrong, I love him and it's not that I don't want to be with him, but our career paths couldn't be more different, and in order for us to be together we would have to move, meaning one of us would have to give up everything (most likely me). He wants to become a physicist and has to attend many more years of schooling, while I'm going to graduate with a B.A in AD/PR. Either we get married and he'll be in school studying, or we wait until he gets his Ph.D. and is settled down.
Making a big life decision like this is not easy, and I am happy to see that you are looking at this practically rather than just romantically. When trying to decide when the “right” time is to get married, it might be useful to first consider what risk factors there are for divorce. Researchers have identified a number of socio-demographic factors associated with divorce that have remained stable over time, such as marrying too young, co-habitation before marriage, not having a religious affiliation, living in an urban area, and growing up in a household where there were not two continuously married parents.1 Other marital stressors also play an important role in predicting divorce, such as financial strains and career demands.
As my wedding draws closer, I find myself immersed in a number of nuptial planning activities. There have been photo shoots, cake tastings, dance lessons, and more uncomfortable fiscal negotiations than I care to recall. If I had a dollar for every time I asked a potential vendor, “How much does that cost?” I’d be wealthy enough to no longer need to ask. When I am able to surface from the sea of never-ending wedding details, decisions, and deadlines, I often wonder how important these matters really are. In 20 years, will I care what stamps I chose for the invitations or who sat at what table during the reception (probably not)? With that in mind, I decided to dedicate some of my preciously scarce time and rapidly diminishing budget to what I felt really would matter, a premarital preparation course. Think of this as Marriage 101, and yes, even “relationship experts” can benefit from a little help.
I once had a (very brave) student ask me if I was familiar with the old saying about teachers. You know the one, it goes a little something like…Those who can’t do, teach. I begrudgingly admitted having heard the saying. Before I could even begin mounting a defense or rebuttal, she continued on with her playful, but oddly poignant, musing: “And Dr. Leder, you teach about relationships. What does that say about you?” Ouch. I put on a brave face and bantered back about how it made me the master of her classroom destiny for that semester. However, her off-hand teasing really got me thinking. Upon reflection, I realized that her jesting about my relationship prowess was surprisingly insightful.
I was watching the interview with the newly engaged Prince William and Kate Middleton on Youtube, when I noticed Prince William engaging in the very behavior I study-- invisible support.1 It’s like he knew I’d be watching! The basic idea behind invisible support is that it’s support that is very subtle and flies under the radar-- so much so, that the person receiving it may not even realize that they’re being supported. It doesn’t look or feel like one person providing support to another person.