Questions to Ask Before You Get Engaged – Dr. David Gudgel


Choosing the person you want to spend the rest of your life with is one of the biggest decisions you could ever make. On this one-day Focus on the Family broadcast, Dr. David Gudgel offers insight and wisdom into things you’ll want to consider before making a lifelong commitment to your future spouse. From communication styles to spiritual beliefs, Dave encourages you to examine your own heart before giving it to someone else..




you can both say we’re christians, you know, and that’s wonderful. Um, but what about those practices? How does that translate into things that you will do then? That will be a demonstration of your love for God. Welcome to the focus on the family broadcast, helping families thrive. John choosing the person you want to spend the rest of your life with is probably one of the biggest decisions you’re ever gonna make aside from accepting christ as your personal lord and savior, which I hope you’ve done that. But I’m really curious what was that moment for you like when you proposed to Dina? That was jim a non moment. I really, I never really proposed. We went from, if we get married to when we get married. I do remember asking her dad one night if, if I could marry her the next morning. It just was like, yeah, we’re gonna get married. I didn’t give her much of a choice. Did you have panic? I liked her dad. Yes. Okay, good. I was gonna say that, but I waited until he was tired. You were already playing. I was, I was, I did all that. I went to Gene’s mom and dad and asked and then I took actually the ring and we went up to santa Barbara. There was a huge oak tree there. I thought, okay, that’s what I want my marriage to be represented by this huge oak tree that will never be blown over. So it all worked and she said yes. Which was amazing. Well Dina would tell you, I never really asked her, but she said yes. Anyway, Okay, well, we’re looking forward to today. We are. And we’ve invited David Google to be our guest. He’s really excited about preparing couples for engagement. He serves as the director of Church health for northern California Venture Church Network. He’s a counselor for hundreds of couples and the author of the book that will form the foundation of our conversation today before you get engaged. And we do have copies of that here at focus on the family. Give us a call, 800 the letter A and the word family or stop by our website. The details are in the show notes, David, Welcome to focus. Welcome back. It’s really fun to come back. Let’s start with that distinction between, like, premarital counseling and here you’re hitting the step before, like, pre engagement. And is there something people need to know about the pre engagement? Well, I think so, you’ve written the book. There’s not many books out there in that space. There’s a lot of premarital materials, but this is the question before you pop it there. Yeah. Most churches have premarital counseling. Very few churches have pre engagement counseling of some kind of pre engagement classes. It’s difficult either way, you know, as soon as you put it, like a blurb in the bulletin, which we don’t have any more the the letter or whatever it is, as soon as you put that in there. Uh it kinda causes a little bit of anxiety to be thinking about that if a couple is beginning to get serious. And so you have to creatively figure out how to suggest this is a good idea. It really is. Yeah. In that regard, you counsel a lot of young couples, what’s that distinction between, again, the, you know, the premarital counseling, they’ve already decided to be engaged. You’re taking one step back and saying, well before you are engaged, here are things you need to think about, what, what some of the research that you’ve seen with the young couples before they ask the question, what are they experiencing? Yeah, I know that if they’re getting serious, they’re beginning to think about, is this a possibility that we might get married someday, You know, so I think that even early on in relationships becomes something that they’re thinking about and maybe even talking about. Um and if not, then they’re going to perhaps move in that direction at some point. So to get into their minds, the thought that a little bit of help could be helpful for them as they move down this road in their relationship uh is something that we’ve been trying to help couples see that there’s a lot of value to this really comes out of my son’s experience Brent and his girlfriend at the time, Danielle, we’re trying to sort that out and actually, and as they were sorting it out, they went to a wonderful church that had premarital counseling and they thought, well, maybe this will help us decide if we should ever get engaged and if it’s your marriage might be in our future and that kind of thing. And what happened was they got into the class and, and it only lasted a few weeks until they really felt pressure. They felt like most everybody in the class was already down the road on that, they had already made the engagement decision. So they were engaged. And so it made sense to have premarital counseling, but they had Brent and his girlfriend, Danielle had not made that decision. They weren’t even sure if it was actually going to be something for them in the future and all they felt was pressure. That’s what the class did just created. No, you don’t want to be rushed. That’s the last thing you need. So it’s nice to be able to sit with a couple and just say, hey, what’s happening in your relationship And as you begin to go down the road of possibility, what kind of things would you expect that that other person is going to need for you to be able to say, hey, maybe this could be um married someday. See this would have been easier for us, john if we had done this, we would have not fumbled around perhaps as much you have an analogy with cars and engagement or pre engagement. Something about the gauges. So what, what was that analogy? Yeah, that analogy just is connected to the whole matter of? Well, would you marry you that question? You know, one of the first questions we should ask is are we the kind of person that someone would want to marry? It’s a huge question, you know, extroverts gonna go. Of course I married myself. The introvert maybe. No, I don’t think so. That’s so funny. Oh well, and it really comes back to uh are you trying to be somebody You’re not? Are you growing? Are you changing? Let me just say it this way. Are you moving in a good direction? The gauges help you decide that in a car? Well, you know, when I bought my first car wanted gauges, I didn’t want those lights, They call them idiot lights at the time? Yeah, not a good, that’s probably not something we use anymore, but it’s not good. It’s not. But the point is is that with gauges, you could see if something is full or empty essentially. And so how are your gauges spiritually? How are your gauges relational lee how are your gauges in your identity, your personal identity, where you at on the spectrum of, you know, somebody who’s moving in a positive direction? Is your relationship strong. When it come your relationship with God, what’s your uh friendships? Like, what are they like? Are you somebody who’s relational, do you care about others? Do you ever even ask the question of? So what are you doing lately? You know, is it all about you and you’re constantly focused on you And as a person? Have you found your, your groove, your niche? You know, do you have any sense of where God is taking you and those kinds of matters? I think need to come into play man. Some of those questions can be tough in your 20’s. I don’t know that I had those answers figured out at that point. One thing, uh, that is obvious is how much faith plays into that concrete foundation. I think gene and I with, you know, our normal ups and downs, we’ve been married 35 years. It’ll be 36 years. And I think when we both talk about this, I mean, faith has been the most critical aspect of our relationship and I’m not just saying that, but it helps you through difficult times through dark moments. Um, you know, things that happen in the family, those kinds of things. I can’t imagine, uh, not having the right tank or the right gauge. If Gene and I either of us weren’t topped up when it came to our faith in christ. That would be a very different experience. Absolutely. My granddaughter and I were talking about this topic, She found out that I was going to be here to talk about the subject of engagement. I said Haley, what’s the most important thing that she’s out of high school, high school? What’s the most important thing you would be looking for in a guy And she without hesitation said where he’s at spiritually because we need to be connected spiritually said it’s that important. You would put that like at the top now I would, you know, but I was delightfully surprised. So that was yes. If you don’t have the spiritual connection, you’re all alone in this thing, in a sense, your son Brent who co authored the book with you, He said he expressed or identified a need for secure identity with his wife, Danielle. That’s interesting to beginning to form your identity. What was he driving at with that comment? Yeah, I still remember him talking about that because he wanted to become the person that God wanted him to be. So he was, you know, at the time trying to sort that out in terms of the direction his life was going, he knew that he loved God. Uh he knew that he had an interest in this girl and he didn’t want the relationship to pull him off track, so to speak of where he felt that God was working in his heart and the direction that the Lord was potentially taking him. So he was, he was pretty serious about, you know, getting an understanding of where she was in terms of her own sense of. Well, this is what I feel like I have to contribute in a relationship and this is who God’s made me to be. How about you? Yeah, that’s great. Okay, let’s get right to it. You had a dog named kelly that actually taught you something about marriage. Now, this is funny. Lay it on us. Oh boy. You know, we thought we were dog people and then we had kelly. Ann and kelly. First of all, who names their dog kelly. I don’t know. It was it didn’t come to us as a pop. Okay, so king. Yeah. It was named by somebody who wanted to give this dog to somebody else. Okay, So we got gifted kelly and we weren’t aware of all that kelly had, you know, in terms of dysfunction or whatever. But so kelly. Uh, we we’re all around the table eating as a family. It was a spaghetti dinner. We loved spaghetti kelly was in the room. They’re watching us eat, you know, wanting some, somebody came to the door and I, I think I went to the door and after a couple of minutes everybody came to the door. So we vacated the table and the Spaghetti and Kelly saw the moment and that was he seized the moment. Yes, totally on the table. And we came back after about 10 minutes. It was spent a long time at the door and all of the spaghetti was gone. First of all, kelly could care less. There was an intruder, no run to the door. She was so happy, you know that the face was all full was tomato sauce. And you know, anyway after that we just started asking ourselves, are we dog people? I mean, you know, dog people would be okay. I mean they would fix it and all of that sort of stuff and maybe have a moment there. But we just said, I don’t think we’re dog people. And really how this connects is you’ve got to come to a place where you are ready to make a serious commitment and they’re gonna be times that are going to be tougher than the kelly situation, okay. And you can walk away from it. And that’s ultimately what happened was we realized we weren’t dog people. So we gave up kelly, which is funny. It’s a fun way to look at those things. You also had a story in there about marriage goggles. What was that about? Yeah, that’s Brent’s language. And one of the things in the book is that he and Danielle, his girlfriend at the time there now his wife. Yeah, so they were truly trying to sort this out. It wasn’t just let’s let’s write a book or something together. It was, they were trying to sort it out and even after the book was done, they still had to have time to sort it out. It may have been a year afterwards and they finally got engaged. And so uh it was wonderful. But one of the terms he used was marriage goggles, which basically could cause you to think that you have something that you don’t, you know, it could sort of cloud your view of the other person. So you see them differently. Or maybe you see them as you really want them to be, you know, before marriage. That’s right. Yeah. So and that makes me think of a couple that I worked with and we went through pre engagement material, but they had an airplane relationship. It just came out of them flying back and forth. They lived in different cities. And so their relationship was built on those wonderful moments together. And and you know, people were different at that time. They never really had those crazy moments where it’s a kelly moment and I really don’t know if we wanted to go down this way. Well, this is focused on the family with Jim Daly. Our guest today is David Google and he and his son Brent wrote this book before you get engaged and will encourage you to get a copy of that. Our number is 1-800 the letter a and the word family were stopped by the episode notes for all the details. Let’s move to infatuation. That’s part of the book. You know, that’s that’s kind of how it goes, right. You know, I think psychologists would tell us that it starts with a notice and a connection and then it moves to holding a hand and then it continues down until hopefully you’re married. And then you have more physical intimacy. But um but talk about infatuation and how that’s temporary in our brain chemistry. Well, it’s really good to know that just like chocolate is temporary too, right? So I think there’s some kind of connection here chemically, but you gotta give it time. I mean, you just have to give it time and that’s why it’s so important to not get into the relationship with the physical. Uh if you go down the physical road, it could cause you to believe that you have something that you really don’t. You mean as a result of moving down that road quickly or whatever it is uh block the spiritual in your relationship. I mean, if you’re a christ follower, you’ve got to somehow do damage to your relationship with christ, if you’re physically involved, you’re compromising your beliefs and so forth. But you also stunting emotional because it may be that you aren’t connecting emotionally at a deep level where you’re really beginning to help one another and understand each other be empathetic um And work through your challenges together in healthy ways. Yeah, and I I so appreciate that because I think we hear from, you know, 20somethings where particularly the woman, you know, she has given in to what she knew what was right to do. But he talked me into it and we were gonna get married, but guess what? It broke off and she gave everything and the marriage never happened. That’s a fairly common descriptor unfortunately. And so I I just want to re emphasize the strength for both the men and the women not to give into that to honor the Lord. And thankfully Gene and I, we were able to do that. You know, it wasn’t easy, but we did it and we didn’t, we didn’t have those moments where we had to show regret. We kept it. I mean, I shook her hand for the first three or four dates because that I wanted to send a message. This is what it’s gonna be about. But that’s a great foundation. And I know it’s hard, I know it because I experienced it and but I just wanna encourage young couples who are pre engaged or thinking about it. Don’t fall prey to giving in to each other too soon. Save it for the wedding night. Let God give you that special present for your wedding night. It’s a great way to go. Yeah. You know, I’m working right now with a couple where uh they just have a wonderful friendship and uh if if he could, I’m sure he would love to have physical relationship with her more than just a kiss totally is. And but he’s also not a christ follower and we’ve had conversations where he is probing the spiritual area and has an interest as a seeker I guess, but he’s still not there and but she’s holding the line, you know, she’s fine with being a friend and that sort of thing. But she’s made it absolutely clear. This is a conviction for her and she’s not going to compromise and marry him or even get seriously into a relationship until possibly if it ever did happen until he comes to faith in christ Well, and I think again, one of the, one of the good things for us as men to remember is it shouldn’t be the girl’s responsibility to draw the line. Maybe we should draw. Yeah. In terms of our leadership that sets the tone for the relationship to. But again, I let’s move to you and Bernice. Let’s go to personal experience you had, I think a negative communication situation where you had some difficulty communicating with each other That me versus us kind of attitude. So what, what was going on and what was the revelation for you? Yeah, there are many different revelations. I’ve been married now for 46 years. So which one do you want to me to us, that’s that kind of thing. I know which one you’re talking about. You’re talking about my tendency to say to Bernice, what would you like to go for dinner? You know that one? And I already had something in my mind and if she didn’t give me the location, my mind. Yeah, that’s it wasn’t really fair conversation. Uh, you know, I would say, well, how about and She just finally got the point of saying, listen, if you got something on your mind, would you just say it. You know, we don’t want to go down this road of 14 guesses and maybe we’ll go there just Dave come on that was it. So can we, can we improve Communication Somehow? That’s good. And that gets us to the five levels of communication? Yeah. And by the way, I should have known these when I got married, you know, and brought them back because this was like I was a sociology major and this was one of the books that we read that had to do with these different levels of communication. But still we can get hung up in cliche conversations level five, which is nothing superficial kind of conversation reporting the facts. Uh, is the second one, you know, hey, well, you know, I could go home and report the facts. Yeah, took an airplane there and uh I sat in las Vegas for five hours. I do have some feelings about that and but you know, reporting the facts, my ideas and judgments level three. This is where we begin to talk about, you know, um how do you really feel about Covid and what we should do right now my ideas and judgments. Now we’re not going to go down that road here. Kind of dangerous territory. You get to know each other, you find out a lot at that point and then my feelings is level to kind of gut level, I mean, now you’re getting two more into the core of your being and how you feel about it and that that’s important. I need to know what you really feel. Bernice was expressing her feelings, she felt disrespected when I would say to her, so where do you want to go to have dinner? You know? But I had something in mind that it didn’t address her feelings and her desires and address mind me me me what you were saying and level one, of course, is the most personal. It’s just open, honest communication. So when she said to me, Dave, you know what, why don’t we just go wherever you want to go, that would be peak communication came from her gut. And you know, she’s really just being candid, Well, what you’re describing is allowing somebody to challenge you to and how important is that, that’s an important part of a relationship. If you can’t be challenging or be challenged. If you can’t be challenged by this person that you are thinking about marrying someday, uh you’re gonna miss out on what could be in your relationship and in that respect. I mean, what’s interesting here, you’re kind of laying out a roadmap, you and your son Brent your co author laying a roadmap out and you might want to be purposeful in creating some of this environment. So you’re talking about important things, it’s not haphazard in other words, you can talk about those five levels, but begin to include, you know, the spiritual dimension, you gotta start talking about that at some point and you know, uh you’re trying to clarify where a person is, I definitely am attracted to you, I look at you and I feel my heart race. That’s good. That’s the starting point. But now we’ve got to start talking about what’s underneath, what, who are you? How are you wired? And you do need to create environments where you can have those discussions. Yeah. You got to get to this level one truly, you gotta be there. I love what you’re suggesting there jim because you’re saying there are so many things that you need to know about each other to be able to take that step of engagement, working toward marriage and you know, it could be your value system. Certainly, it means communication has to be something that you can do. You gotta work through conflict so many different areas. Yeah, and it’s so good. And I guess infatuation back to the rose colored glasses, you’re describing a while ago, if you go through your pre engagement courtship, you’re dating time and you’re not driving towards that. I know young people who have said to me that’s a waste of time. I mean, why wouldn’t we be purposeful, especially for the christian young christian community who believe in jesus, I mean, yeah, I wanna, if I’m gonna date, you I’m dating you with a purpose. It’s to find out whether or not we are meant for each other. And so then you can begin to uncover some of those things more quickly perhaps. But I’m thinking that infatuation particularly because I would think young couples, they stay there. They don’t go deeper. They’ve already said yes to the engagement. Now they’re in premarital counseling and now they’re wobbly going, I don’t think I knew him in that context. What advice do you have for that couple? That’s in that spot? I mean what if you know and jean and I in our pre marital situation, we had about four couples that got up and walked out of the room at one point because they realized they weren’t right for each other. That person did their job, That instructor. Because that’s what you’re trying to sort out. And so for that I I’m just thinking of that woman, you know that 20 something woman that’s sitting there going, I don’t know if this is right now. Some of those E B G. B. S are normal, but how how does she really filter out? I don’t think I should be at square three, I should be back at square one and what do I do? Yeah. I think that’s a yellow flag. If nothing else right? Perhaps isn’t a red flag saying no, don’t go forward. It could be the flag to say wait, you gotta back up. You need to be cautious right now. There are things here that need to be sorted out clashes 3 15 says let the peace of christ rule in your hearts and that word rule means to be the umpire. It was used to describe the umpire on the field, the one who had the final call, well, piece or a lack of it could be what you don’t have right now and if you have it great, then keep moving forward. If you don’t pause, go back and say what is creating this disturbance in me, Don’t ignore it because it may be a gift from God to protect you in terms of where you’re gonna end up. In fact, you you speak about three spiritual areas, beliefs, commitments and practices, so hit those really quick. Yeah, this is so important because we say that we want to marry a christian and we should and and I pray that we all do that. You do you marry another person who loves christ uh, but it’s not that like, but that’s not the only thing when it comes to connecting spiritually. It’s also your beliefs, it’s also your practices and it’s also your convictions or your commitments and so you need to explore all three of those areas. So you can both say we’re christians, you know, and that’s wonderful. Um, but what about those practices? How does that translate into things that you will do, then that will be a demonstration of your love for God. Are you gonna go to church together? Are you gonna give, are you gonna be in a small group with others? You know, what is it? Are you gonna do some bible studies together? Do you pray together? All those kinds of practices and and commitments? What level of commitment are you going to make in your relationship with God and with each other? It could be just a sunday thing, you know, Dave, this has been so good. And again for the listener, the viewer, this is about helping. Maybe not you because you’re married and you’ve already been there, but maybe it’s your adult Children or maybe even your grandkids like Dave was saying earlier, what a great resource before you get engaged. We’re not talking about the commitment of engagement. We’re talking about speaking to young people prior to that and what they’re looking for or in that hopefully lifelong spouse that they’ll have especially wrapped in faith in christ and this is a great resource. So if you can help us financially, a monthly commitment is great or one time commitment. Uh let us know, send that to us and ask for before you get engaged. And that’ll be our gift and our way of saying, thank you for being in ministry with us, join the support team as you can donate as the Lord leads and ask for your copy of that book before you get engaged when you call 800 the letter A and the word family. 802 326459 or check the episode notes for further details. You know, john another resource. And if you know nothing about focus on the family, know this. We are a just a treasure house of resources. And so we have something else called Ready to wet, which is pre marriage curriculum. You’re a pastor. This would be great for your church. And if your mom and dad not a bad idea To let your young people see this and view it. So again, ready to wed something created by focus on the family. And the research is great. If a couple has 10 hours or more premarital counseling, their chance of divorce is very small. I mean it is a great way to kick off their relationship. Ask about ready to wed when you get in touch and again our phone number 800 the letter a and the word family. Dave. Thanks again. This has been terrific. Thank you my honor. Well, thank you for joining us today for focus on the family. I’m john fuller inviting you back next time as we once again help you and your family thrive in christ

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