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The Best and Worst Parts About Being Engaged


We sat side by side in the front seat—not touching, not talking, just sitting—the silence almost as hot as the temperature outside. Almost, but not quite.

House hunting sounded like a fun—especially for two people who appreciate design and hospitality more than the average couple. We had high expectations for our weekend. We’d laugh and dream, talking about where we’d put our things, and the friends we’d gather around our massive dining room table.

We’re space-creators, lovers of celebration. House hunting for us should have been like kids in a candy store.

But it wasn’t. It was hot, and we were tired, and it was many things, but not at all what we expected.

People ask us often if being engaged is hard. I understand the question. Before we got here, engagement got the same level of recommendation as a root canal.

Before you get engaged, it sounds like fun! A sparkly ring, lots of parties, piles of presents, and pretty dresses. The whole thing sounds like one big celebration—champagne for everyone!

But those who have been there have a different perspective.

“It’s all the responsibility of marriage with none of the perks,” was the nugget of wisdom most often shared.

Married couples would look at us with pity and understanding in their eyes. “Are you stressed?” was the question most often asked by people who would know how it felt.

But for the most part, we’ve disagreed with their assessment. For the most part, being engaged hasn’t been that hard. Wedding planning has been a lot of work, but not miserable, and we’ve fought an average amount throughout the last several months—not constantly like we were told to expect.

But that day in the hot car, being engaged was not fun. It was not champagne and gifts and pretty dresses. It was stressful and it was hard—really hard.

That day, as we house hunted, I swear we weighed 1,000 pounds collectively. We were looking for a home in a town we knew nothing about, driving through streets that looked unfamiliar, and past houses that didn’t contain any of our friends. We toured apartments we couldn’t afford, and discussed budgets we didn’t have. We talked about jobs we hadn’t yet secured, and stared at a future with more questions than answers.

Hot, and tired, and with every bit of our life feeling tippy and uncertain, we would have given engagement the same gold star rating (or lack thereof) as everyone else.

We aren’t frequent bickerers, not normally. But that day, everything we did and said was intensely offensive to the other. Patience was not one of our virtues that day—and our fuses were dangerously short.

I wanted to get out of the car and kick something and give God a piece of my mind. I wanted to lie on the ground and throw a full-on temper tantrum, angry at the unfairness of life and engagement. Where’s the champagne and the dreaming? This is just NOT what I thought this would be like.

This season has been easier and harder than I expected it to be—in every single way. But it’s not engagement that’s been hard—necessarily. It’s life that’s been hard.

That’s what I’m learning about relationships these days—life doesn’t stop for them. I thought that engagement came with a crossing guard complete with an orange vest and a hand-held stop sign. It’d hold off traffic and stress and the normal chaos of life, giving room for our relationship to blossom and flourish—for us to enjoy uninterrupted kisses, and lingering dinner dates.

And in the car that day, sweaty and tired and mad, I realized that this just isn’t the case.

The world doesn’t stop for relationships, engaged or not. Life didn’t ask Carl and I if we wanted to lose our jobs while we were engaged, or if we wanted things to be a bit smoother, less life-shatteringly different.

Life didn’t ask if we wanted plenty of money and steady jobs as we looked for our first home together. It didn’t consider the fact that while looking for a home, and a job, and trying to answer huge questions about our lives and our future, that addressing and stuffing wedding invitations would send us right over the edge.

Life didn't stop because we got engaged. Life kept trucking along, sometimes easy, sometimes ridiculously hard, just as it always had before.

But something clicked that day in the car. As our tempers were hot, and every bit of us was knotted up with worry about the future, I realized something profound: there’s nobody I’d rather be in that car with.

The Lipstick Gospel

No matter how frustrated we get, or how late we stay up addressing invitations, or how long we have to look for apartments, or how low our bank accounts get, there’s nobody else I’d rather go through it with than Carl.

And that's the point, I'm learning.

Engagement hasn’t been a string of champagne toasts, or a pile of presents (not yet anyway), but it has taught me something profound.

Life isn’t easy, and it doesn’t stop in the name of love. But the beauty of marriage is that you have someone in the car next to you, and you get to go through it all together.

(First and last photos are by the lovely Katie Rowland, and were taken at our very first wedding shower—an evening that surpassed all of our engagement expectations.) 

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Add a Comment
  1. Liz says:

    Oh my goodness this is all so beautiful and true. Sometimes I almost hurt with the jealousy I feel for other people who seem to have it easier or better or more stuff or whatever I happen to be envying at the moment. And then I’ll look at my husband and he’ll make me laugh or say something so perfect it moves me to tears because of how grateful I am for him and how, on my most wise and honest days, I wouldn’t trade our life for anything. I love your writing, Stephanie. It’s so honest and lovely. I don’t know where you’ll live or what job you’ll get, etc. but just don’t stop writing 🙂

  2. Kacie Lynn says:

    I love you and I think you handled that day marvelously. Thanks for setting an example I’d want to follow 🙂 you’re a treasure of a friend and I love you AND your relationship with Carl. Thanks for sharing the inner dialogue so the rest of us know it’s really, truly normal if things feel shaky and hard and confusing and the only things in focus that keep us moving are “I love Jesus” and “I love him.”

  3. Hi – Just thought I’d wish you luck. I’ve been married 15 years. For what it’s worth, I think you have a HUGE advantage in marrying a fellow believer. My husband is not a believer, so our world views are so different. I have found Jesus, thank God (pun intended), because I needed a truth to stand on. But it has not always been peaceful. So many people say it, but let me be the first to really say it today, at 2PM Los Angeles time, that it’s not the wedding. It’s the person who you are marrying that makes the difference. Who wouldn’t want a beautiful wedding? I did. Many do. And so do you! But what comes after “I do” is what counts. And I’m happy you found someone to share your journey with from the best starting place there is – Jesus!

  4. Stephanie-

    I just stumbled across your blog and have been hooked all morning, reading your posts here and over at your World Race blog. Love the way you have written through your journey of being so totally sold out for God– from giving up journalism to then traveling around the world and then going back to writing, etc. Having a similar story, I resonate with so many of your words and so appreciate the bravery and transparency of your posts. Hope your first month of marriage has been bliss, and I look forward to reading more of your work!

    • Stephanie May says:

      Hi Kristin! Thanks so much for reading! That makes me so happy! 🙂 I’m glad it resonates with you. 🙂

  5. Anne says:

    This just put words to my thoughts. I just emailed it to my fiance. Thank you for affirming that it’s okay for it to be hard and beautiful all at once, but that in the end, if there’s no one I’d rather go through all of it with than my fiance (and there’s not), then it’s totally all worth it!

  6. Catwoman962011@hotmail.com says:

    How do u know if ur ex is the one god has for u to marry?

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