What Is the Difference Between Dating and the Engagement Stage?

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Though you are imagining your life together as Mr. and Mrs., you're not there yet -- you're in that strange twilight stage called engagement. Spouses-to-be often notice a whole new wave of emotions that surface during their engagement, advises the National Healthy Marriage Resource Center in the article "Newly Engaged? Get Ready for an Emotional Roller Coaster Ride." You'll tackle tough issues related to your family and relationship that didn't emerge during the dating phase. It's helpful to be aware of some of the typical issues that arise during engagements, issues that definitely aren't limited to planning a wedding.

Your Relationship Will Attract More Attention

Now that you're engaged, it's likely you'll start to feel that your relationship is public property. Your relationship is official in the eyes of your family and friends, which can warrant plenty of good attention in the form of well-wishes, parties and presents. You and your relationship will probably also garner more respect. However, you will most likely also encounter more unsolicited advice than you'd care to. People may even funnel their own needs through your upcoming nuptials. Say your best friend is hankering to get hitched or your mom is pining for the wedding she never got. The National Healthy Marriage Resource Center recommends setting boundaries for what attention is positive and what is destructive. Your marriage is about you and your partner, not the opinions or feelings of others.

Some Things Won't Change

Certain things in your relationship won't budge an inch after you get engaged, according to "Woman's Day" editor and relationship writer Meredith Bodgas in the "Glamour" article "5 Things That Change When You Get Engaged (and 3 Big Things That Don't)." You're likely to experience an intense post-engagement glow. You and your partner will drive your friends mad with your blissed-out happiness. That said, you'll revert to your same dynamic and find that being engaged feels a lot like dating in the sense that your day-to-day life will be much the same, wedding planning aside. This includes picking up the same arguments you may have had before you got engaged. Preparing to marry doesn't preclude conflict.

Family Dynamics Will Shift

You're probably looking forward to being supported by your family during this happy time. You may be surprised, then, to find that you're clashing with your family more than ever. The reason is that your family dynamic is now changing. Your spouse-to-be is now the number one person in your life. Your family may feel left out, abandoned, or as though they're losing you. Their feelings can manifest in a variety of contexts, most likely including the wedding planning. If you and your mother keep butting heads about the cut of the dress or the color of the bow tie, the issue might not be fashion but her feelings of alienation. Don't be afraid to talk to your family about these feelings, and seek therapy if these problems are causing you much distress.

Your Identity Will Change

Spouses-to-be may find themselves surprised at how emotional they feel during this supposedly blissful time. The reality is that letting go of your former identity as a single person can set your sense of self haywire. Plus, you're in limbo -- not dating but still not married. While you might be under pressure to socialize, take time for yourself so that you can adjust, advises Allison Moir-Smith in her book "Emotionally Engaged: A Bride's Guide to Surviving the 'Happiest' Time of Her Life." Let your fantasy of a perpetually blissful engagement go, mourn your former single life, and allow yourself to feel whatever emotions arise. Doing so will give you a strong emotional foundation for your future marriage.