Dating: What's wrong with a long engagement?

Is there anything wrong with a long engagement? (Photo: Getty Images)
Is there anything wrong with a long engagement? (Photo: Getty Images)

A Millennial's Dating Diary series explores real-life interactions and the hurdles of dating in Southeast Asia. The series features the dating stories and misadventures of Arika – a 26-year-old, straight female marketing manager with a penchant for over drinking — and fellow millennials.

Throughout my life, I’ve always been the sort of person that knew what I wanted to do.

Whether it was the subjects I wanted to study, the school I wanted to go to, or the job I wanted, I’ve always been able to envision my future and what I wanted for it.

That said, I also knew I never really wanted to get married.

Don’t get me wrong, I have nothing against marriage. In fact, I love when two people affirm their love and commitment to one another this way.

However, I’ve borne witness to one too many failed marriages, and as a child of divorce myself, my views on marriage may have been slightly affected.

Relationships are complex. If you’ve ever been in a long-term relationship, thinking about all the time and and effort spent in developing and growing it could often deter you from ending it, even if things start to get toxic and unhealthy.

This, as we all know, is extremely unhealthy.

Whether it’s based on the concept of sunk cost fallacy or the fact that divorce procedures are generally messy and painful, to me, marriage adds an extra layer of complication that I think could be avoided entirely.

All this being said though, I surprised myself when I said “Yes!” to my partner, *Mark, when he proposed to me back in April.

While I knew I wanted to be with Mark for the rest of my life, I was surprised at how I’ve grown to accept that marriage is on the horizon for me. In all honesty, I would have been content with a long-term and stable partnership if Mark never proposed.

To me, us living together and just enjoying what our relationship is like as of late has been an absolute highlight.

Questions cause panic

Following the engagement though, I’ve been feeling overwhelmed.

Each time someone congratulates me or us, they also ask if we have plans for marriage and if we’re planning on having kids someday.

I know these questions aren’t meant to be malicious but I can’t help but feel a slight sense of panic each time I get asked.

Let’s be real, getting engaged is a huge milestone in any relationship, something a lot of people plan for a long time before deciding to take the plunge and purchase the ring.

Plus, if you’ve ever been engaged, you’ll know that a ring takes about six weeks to complete, and honestly, that’s a lot of time for things to go wrong.

Still, I think the people asking us these things might not have known that I had only recently changed my stance on marriage.

When I tell them I only see myself getting married perhaps three or four years from now, they look at me like I’ve murdered their firstborn child.

Maybe it’s an exaggeration on my part but they make me feel like I’m an abomination for even thinking that.

What’s so wrong with a long engagement, though?

A friend of mine, who literally got engaged two days before I did, is already planning her wedding for next year.

Less than a month into her engagement, she’s already booked a wedding venue and sent out RSVP notices. Now, she’s looking for dresses, figuring out the logistics of her wedding, all while working a full-time job and training professionally as she’s also an athlete.

When I asked her why she was rushing to get married, she told me her parents had insisted it was bad luck to stay engaged for too long.

In her culture, once a couple gets engaged, it sets off a timer of sorts for when they have to get married.

Pretty much every day, she tells me she’s exhausted, and jokingly says she’s going to run away and find a sugar daddy to care for her.

While this is all funny, I can’t help but think she might just be trying to manifest this.

A 2018 US study polled 1,000 people and found that 20 percent of engagements get called off before the wedding. Plus, the longer you’re engaged, the more time there is to call off the wedding. For some, the pressure that comes with having to plan everything can take away the joy of being engaged. The transition from being in a relationship to being engaged is a big one and something I think a lot of couples should seek to enjoy.

A separate study also found that divorce risks are higher within the first two years of marriage. According to counsellor Christine Northam, who responded to the survey, younger marriages tend to be a lot less stable and possibly not strong enough to begin with.

“Perhaps one of them wanted a wedding, or there was a pregnancy or peer pressure,” she said. “It all feels too much, too soon, and one starts looking outside the marriage.”

It was also found that couples who marry too soon after getting engaged have a higher risk of divorce, according to a 2006 study by the North Carolina State University Forum for Family and Consumer Issues journal.

Personally, I’m of the opinion that couples should be getting married because they want to, regardless of cultural beliefs. Think about it, up to the point they got engaged, couples were doing just fine, moving at their own pace, and doing what they wanted. How strange is it that once they get engaged, the opinions of other people suddenly influence what the couple chooses to do?

While I completely understand that families naturally do get involved, I sometimes think couples just be allowed to just… be. Whether it’s a year, two or three, how a couple chooses what they want to do next should be up to them and when they feel comfortable enough to take the next step.

In the Singaporean context, getting married means being able to move out of your family home and while that’s all fine in the grand scheme of things, it’s also worth considering if what your actual priorities are and if marriage is a means of escape from the grips of your family.

What do you think about long engagements?