According to Ben and Courtney, the newest engaged couple from The Bachelor, it’s the current status of their relationship. Believe me when I say I only care about these two lovebirds (a match only possible in
hell Hollywood) because I’m concerned about future implications in my love life.
How long before “engaged dating” becomes a relationship status option on Facebook? How long before men everywhere see engagement as just another relationship move to avoid breakup rather than what you do before you actually get married? Maybe I’m jumping the gun here but I bet it only took one or two co-eds to coin the term hooking up before it became a legitimate way to describe one’s sexual yet non-romantic relationship. And if you think it’s hard to move past hooking up to something more substantial, think about how hard it will be to move past engaged dating to married.
So what is engaged dating?
Ben says he and Courtney are “still getting to know each other and taking it slow.” Really? Last I checked, that’s just called dating. You’re not engaged to someone who you’re still getting to know, right? Because once you make the decision to get married you’ve already decided you know as much as you need to know and you’re ready to make the commitment to spend the rest of your life with that person. And while it’s true that you’re always learning new things about your partner, no engaged or married couple would ever describe the status of their relationship as “still getting to know each other and taking it slow.”
The engagement period is the definition of taking things fast. You set a date. You drop thirty grand on the sickest party for two hundred of your closest family and friends. You get married. And fast. Because you’re ready and you’re happy and the feelings of being in love are so powerful that you want to sign the dotted line before there’s time for any glimpses of imperfection to seep in and taint the best thing that’s ever happened to you.
I get it. Or at least I think I do. Which is why I know there’s a clear distinction between dating and being engaged and I don’t want Ben or Courtney to have the wrong idea. You’re allowed to fall in love under The Bachelor settings. I imagine it’s probably very easy to “fall in love” with someone, even Ben, if we were in Costa Rica one week and Switzerland the next. But that’s exactly why even with proposal pressure for the season finale, both parties need to keep a level head and be brutally honest about their feelings for each other and where they want the relationship to go. I don’t want to put all of this on Ben, though he has now proposed twice to two different women on The Bachelor. Courtney bears just as much of the responsibility for this engaged dating nonsense as he does.
I don’t know if I’m like most women or not. I do know, my friends and cousins are constantly telling me I need to apply the brakes when I start making outlandish statements about some guy being the one after three weeks. I fall in love or it’s some variation of like and love or “loke” as I call it — within moments. Yes, moments. Love at first sight. There’s no other way to do it. But I also know that the initial flood of amorous feelings and hormones at the beginning isn’t real. It takes more than five weeks to know you want forever with someone. And it’d be nice if during that five-week period he weren’t also dating and being intimate with a dozen other women. I’d also prefer not to view any video footage of his many indiscretions because once the season airs there goes the thought that what I had was special. Though I suppose if a camera crew followed my crush around 24/7 and I had enough material to produce a two-hour long segment for ten weeks, I’d have to watch it. But I assure you, he wouldn’t be the object of my affection any longer.
I understand Ben and Courtney’s hesitation to be engaged with no qualifiers. The engaged period is hard enough to come by without having your dirty laundry aired on ABC and written about all over the web. But creating a new relationship status to make yourself feel better about having proposed marriage to someone you don’t trust is like trying to hide your dog’s heart worm medicine in a slice of cheese. If he’s smart, he’ll eat it the first time. But if he’s anything like my dog, he’s smart enough to know when he’s being fed something he wants with something he doesn’t want; and he’s smart enough to spit it out and leave me plotting how to outsmart a 12-year old dog.
Maybe that’s not such a good example. Dogs are insanely smart when it comes to sniffing out food. Labeling your forced engagement to a woman you distrust, “engaged dating,” is like buying a house you can’t afford. Now there’s an analogy that makes sense in the housing market bust. You fell in love. You wanted to make it work despite some pretty strong indications it could never work. You took out the loan. You furnished the house. You paid the escalating heating and electric bills. Things got hairy. And then you called it something else, like a bad investment, when you realized you’d have to get out. So you looked into a short sale to avoid foreclosure. You looked for light when there was none to be found.
I get that, too. But a mistake is a mistake is a mistake. And not being man or woman enough to admit that you made a mistake is yet another mistake whether it takes form in overextending your credit for a house you can’t afford or accepting a proposal from a man you met five weeks ago on a competitive dating reality show. Engaged dating is also a mistake. Whether this mistake is a precursor to marriage or the inevitable breakup is something we’ll learn in due time. I just hope everyone is taking note on what not to do.