The moment is here. You’ve met someone good enough to convince you that permanently deleting Tinder is a good idea. She’s funny. She’s charming. She’s beautiful. She’s smart enough to talk circles around you—and eloquently, at that. Yes, you’re officially ready to get engaged.
Pulling the trigger on a proposal is likely the most significant decision you’ll have made in your life until this point. For the first time, you’re truly committing to something—in this case, someone—other than yourself. And that changes a man, whether it’s a palpably (hey, you’re hitting the gym more often!), or more subtly (would you look at that… you’re more of a team player now!). So here are the biggest ways you will find yourself inexorably changed after you’ve slid the ringer on her finger. And please, after you pop the question, make sure you and your partner have these ten pre-marriage conversations.
As a relationship develops, finances become increasingly intertwined. You cover the cost of the first few dates and project an image of financial stability, but aren’t going to bring up how much you make or have in your savings (unless you’re looking to attract a woman who only cares about your money). Over time, you more openly discuss your financial situation, as you go on vacations or move in together and have to make choices about bigger expenditures than dinner and a movie. According to Joshua Klapow, Ph.D., clinical psychologist and host of relationship chat show The Web, “finances begin to be seen as a ‘team approach’” when a couple gets engaged. You become transparent about your income and spending. Her graduate school debt is now something you both have to figure out how to pay off and the fact you are not making as much as you are spending is an issue you both have to do something about.
“Wills, life insurance, and home-buying plans,” adds April Mansini, who runs relationship advice site Ask April. “Joint checking accounts become an issue once wedding gifts start to roll in and checks are made out to both people in a couple.” For solidifying your bank account, learn the scientifically-proven way to join the 1%.
Of course, you will also get more comfortable getting input from the newly appointed Most Important Person in Your Life. You should hopefully trust your fiancée’s advice (otherwise you might consider why you asked her to marry you) and this will be especially true of an area she likely knows more about than you do: personal grooming.
“This is a shaping process,” says Klapow. “He is going to make changes at the request of his fiancée, because of the comments of the fiancée and in order to still impress the fiancée.”
You may have been using that same aftershave or haircut since college, but now that you are a part of a team, your fiancée probably has some constructive advice about upgrading your grooming habit. Whether it’s a higher-end body wash she thinks smells good, or a suggestion that you grow your beard out a little more, in almost every case, the grooming advice she gives you is worth taking (after all, she now has to look at you every day for the foreseeable future).
“Partners influence each others’ appearances,” says Mansini. “It’s very normal to see styles changing when people get engaged. They’re more aware of others looking at them as a couple, and so they’re more tuned in to how they look, and how they look together.” After you get engaged, make sure you choose one of the best haircuts for men over 40.
“Many guys actually step-up their game before the wedding and hit the gym more,” says matrimonial attorney Regina DeMeo. “They may even get a personal trainer so they can look their best at the wedding.”
If you haven’t been taking your health and fitness seriously, getting engaged and having a wedding date—when you know you’ll have to look good for photos that may be in the family for generations—can spur some serious gym commitment. You often find a level of dedication you didn’t know you were capable of (thanks in large part to your fiancée also having a stake in your looking good for the wedding day). But whether you keep it up after the honeymoon is an open question—so narrow the answer down, by learning how fit guys motivate themselves to get to the gym.
Just as your finances become more of a team effort, other aspects of your life soon are not up to only you, but require discussion and debate with your new fiancée—plans for the wedding ceremony itself, in particular.
“Guys who are used to calling the shots may be a little surprised to see the bride really assert herself in the wedding plans,” says DeMeo. “Most women take the lead here, and this may often be the first time the guy really takes a back seat in the relationship. It’s not a bad thing, just different.”
And it’s a change that is likely to continue in other areas of the relationship, from buying a house or car to having kids. Getting engaged is a moment when you start learning to give up some control about big decisions. And after the wedding, you might find your new wife coping with residual stress, so learn the most thoughtful ways to ease her stress.
Between the sense of life-changing significance of a proposal and the pressures of preparing for a wedding, this is a time when guys will often drop the bad habits they’ve been clinging on to, sometimes for years. That smoking or binge-drinking you’ve been meaning to cut out might finally feel truly undesirable when put next to your long-term interests and desires of your fiancée. An engagement is a time of positive change—the trick is to keep those changes intact long after the wedding photos are taken and the honeymoon is over. Quitting smoking is also one of the easiest ways to boost your sex drive, and you’ll definitely want to keep that up after you get engaged!
An engagement ring is often the most expensive thing a guy has ever bought up to that point in their life—until they have to pay for a wedding. Engagement is when you start thinking about big purchases that require careful budgeting and saving. Prior to that, the biggest financial decisions you were making might have been whether to splurge on a nice meal or weekend vacation. Now you’re having to think in thousands or tens of thousands of dollars.
“Guys, who previously may have been free-flowing with money during the courtship, all of a sudden show signs of concern over the wedding budget, and who wouldn’t when we are talking about an investment of over $25,000 on average for a U.S. wedding,” says DeMeo. “Those who were already concerned with money, are going to be even more so as they experience sticker shock over some things, such as over $900 for flowers, photographers, use of a church, three hours of music, a wedding dress.”
It’s a shift in your spending mindset that prepares you for other big money questions in years to come—mortgages, kids, and more. To pad that new bank account out, read up on the 20 savviest investment moves to make right now.
Soon after the euphoria of the proposal and spreading the news to friends, family, and Facebook, you have to answer some serious questions. These range from plans for the wedding (when, where, how many people, how much can we afford) to plans for kids (when, how many). Also, one particularly uncomfortable question: prenup or no prenup?
“For some people the biggest shock is the discussion of a prenup, which is usually when I come into the scene,” says DeMeo. “I’ve been helping couples for over 18 years negotiate prenups so that it is clear what they will have together versus separate, and what they want to do about alimony, either a complete waiver or perhaps set some caps on amount and duration.”
You’ve just gotten engaged and you’re having talk about what happens if you divorce? That’s the new reality you’re living in, where awkward questions have to be addressed. According to DeMeo, “while these conversations may not be easy, they are really worth having before you commit to a partnership with major legal and financial consequences.”
Getting engaged affects how a guy thinks about his career. You may have been coasting in a position that you sensed you were overqualified for, or putting up with less pay than you knew you should be earning. But putting a ring on her finger often gives guys a burst of courage, as they realize their earnings are going to impact more than just themselves.
“It might be time to take stock of where you are on the corporate ladder and where you want to be,” says Ian Atkins, analyst and staff writer at Fit Small Business. “Once financial security is obtained for you and your future family, what else do you want? More money? Cool, keep climbing the ladder. More time? Well, start planning that next career move now.” For help on that, be sure to learn the 25 ways the most successful men get ahead at work.
Engagement may be the catalyst for a totally different career direction. You may have taken a job as a temporary stopgap that turned into a two-or-more-year gig. But after you pop the question, you start asking big questions about other parts of your life, reevaluating whether this is the career trajectory you really want for the long-term. You look at what you want out of your professional life in five, 10 years, or beyond and chances are that you realize the track you are on is not exactly where you want to be. That may mean looking to work at a bigger company or a more prestigious position at a smaller organization, or jumping into a new field altogether. Changing a career is stressful, so once you land that new gig, be sure to learn the best everyday workplace stress-busters.
Getting engaged opens the floodgates of advice from everyone in your life. Suddenly everyone who you know who has “been there before” has some tidbit of wisdom to offer you, from your buddy who got married the year before to your crazy Uncle John.
“Guys who are already rather private, are going to have a hard time taking input from assertive relatives who want to make their opinions known and considered,” says DeMeo.
But you’re going to learn to quickly get used to this deluge of advice, and take it with the grain of salt that it deserves. You’ll learn to discern the quality insights that are worth taking to heart as opposed to the unhelpful opinions that are little more than projections of what your family members or friends wish they had done differently, in their wedding, marriage, or some specific aspect of their relationship.
Committing to the woman in your life has a way of deepening your connections to certain friends, as well. Deciding which buddies should be invited to the bachelor party or be part of your wedding party helps sharpen your focus on who is most important to you and the man you’re aiming to be. Becoming a soon-to-be married couple also tends to increase your efforts to find other couple friends, making for good double dates and other such outings.
“Many guys who embrace engagement will have already begun to nurture friendships with other couples,” says Mansini. “In fact, you can always spot a guy who’s ready for a commitment because he’s keeping company with other guys in committed relationships and socializing with other couples, regularly.” While you’re at it, be sure to read our gigantic report on the slow and steady decline of the bromance.
Just as friend bonds strengthen, so do family bonds. Obviously your connections to her family deepen as her parents and siblings see you as a soon-to-be member of the family with all the openness and added responsibility that comes with that. But your connections with certain members of your own family are likely to be strengthened as you have to make plans for a wedding and make decisions (where you will live, whether you might start a family) in which your family members will have a stake. You will also be counting more on them more than you have in the past.
“Those friends and family who are especially important to you, who have you’re back no matter what, they’ll be there to help share the load,” says Atkins. “And you may find that you want to be there for them more frequently, too. In other words, your circle might grow a little tighter, but it will grow a lot stronger.”
But as strong as engagement makes some bonds, others will be weakened or severed altogether. Those guys with whom the only things you have in common is some great nights at the bar picking up girls might not be as much fun to hang around with once you’re planning a wedding. The flirty party girl who you would go out with occasionally before you met your fiancée might not make as much sense in your life as she did before you got serious about this girl. Getting engaged hardly means you have to go through your phone deleting numbers, but it is a time that clarifies what you want with your life and who you want in it to help you get it—chance are some people are just not going to grow with you.
Even if you’ve been living with your girlfriend, getting engaged to her is going to have an effect on the space you share (if you don’t live with her, you’ll be moving in together soon, which will definitely have an impact on your living space). Your house or apartment has instantly shifted from being a place where each of you share your individual characters and interests, to a place where your personality and quirks as a couple are on display. The change can be subtle, but decisions about what to put on the walls, what the third drawer of the cabinet is used for, and how the spice rack should be set up are now as much about what you want as a couple going into the future as what your individual preferences have been in the past. While you’re decorating your new space, learn from Nate Berkus, one of the best designers in the business, how real men decorate their walls.
While your relationship with your fiancée will be stronger than ever, between the pressures of planning for a wedding and a life together, along with career and financial considerations all now being seen through the lens of how it will enhance or impact that life, there’s a good chance you’re going to need to take a breather now and then. As your fiancée becomes an ever-more important part of your life, it will at the same time be more important for you to mark out areas of your life that are still just for you (and likewise for her to have her own independent parts of her life). Whether that’s a night out with just you and your close friends, or a hobby that’s just “your thing,” it is essential to both your senses’ of independence that you have parts of your life that your fiancée doesn’t need to join in. Each of you having your own lives only gets more important as these lives become more closely intertwined. And now that you’ve learned how to navigated engaged life, brush up on the 7 ways to make your marriage last forever.
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