When Engagement is Bittersweet

On New Year’s Day, just past the stroke of midnight, my then-boyfriend, Pat, got down on one knee and asked me to marry him, using the ring we had picked out together at a trendy consignment shop. I said “yes,” and committed my life to him.

As a single woman, I had spent many hours praying for a husband — someone good and kind who shared my faith. And within two months of meeting my fiancé, Pat, I knew that I wanted to spend my life with him.

But as happy as I am — the answer to my prayers has come with a bittersweet tinge. Here are three challenges to my identity that have come with getting engaged:

1. Saying yes to marriage has changed the vision I had for myself. I work with the disadvantaged and have a crusading, save-the-world mentality. My heroes are Susan B. Anthony and Dorothea Dix, ladies who bucked social norms and pursued big dreams. As a single person, I worked long hours and knew that I served a greater good.

Getting engaged changed that self-perception. I was no longer the solo superhero in a suit. Now I was going to have a husband, two dogs, and (eventually) kids. I was going to be “normal.” It was hard to not feel like I was headed toward the mundane.

2. Being in a committed relationship requires compromise and a loss of independence. No surprise there. But as a single person I did only things that I wanted to, at the times that I wanted to do them. At work I was the boss. I tried to volunteer and serve my community, but the reality is that I was living a very selfish life.

Pat was already looking for a house when we met, so during the early days of dating, we were confronted with a major decision. He wanted the country; I wanted the city. All of a sudden, I couldn’t make a unilateral decision. My rationales for why my opinion was better, or more logical, or more right didn’t make a difference. We ultimately found a house that was a compromise, but for the first time in awhile it wasn’t all my way. First world problem? Yes. But also something I had to work through.

3. Engagement meant closure to a chapter of my life. Change, even good change, is never easy. One of the first things I realized was that by saying yes to marriage, I was leaving the ranks of single sisterhood that I had shared with my best friend. We had prayed together and for each other’s husbands. We had gone on retreats together. We had encouraged one another. Getting engaged felt like breaking a pact, or somehow betraying my relationship with her.

I also had to come to terms with the loss of some of the plans I had created for my imagined future-self. I had started building a presence within my community, planning to run for city council and serve in civic life; now I had to start over in a new place, and my family life would take precedence.

Thankfully, getting engaged is more sweet than bitter! Rather than being the solo superhero, I am embarking on a new adventure with Pat as my partner and biggest supporter. The loss of independence has been replaced with someone to lean on, whose wise counsel I can trust. And I’m looking forward to the next exciting chapter of life where friendships may not be exactly the same but can still thrive. Mainly, I trust that God’s plans for my upcoming marriage are better than what I could have dreamed up on my own.

Getting engaged feels to some extent like stepping into the unknown because I am no longer the sole captain of my own destiny. But I never was in the first place; God was in charge all along.

Joanna SaulJoanna Saul lives in Columbus, Ohio, and is a graduate of THE Ohio State University (Go Bucks!) and Georgetown Law. She works in state government to help the disadvantaged and has recently started a walking program for her local community. As a recently-engaged 30-something, she is passionate about using her time to serve God’s people. Her blog, Modern Ruth Project, provides encouragement to single Christian women looking for love later in life.  

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