The time between your man making it clear he intends to marry you and him actually popping the question can be everything from exciting to crazy-making. Girl game here focusses on patience, keeping up fun girlfriend standards and not sliding into wife territory. He's all but asked you - and that's a big but!
I've been here once before and made a hash of it (my whole first marriage was a hash, and boy have I learned). This time round I'm actively focussing on checking myself. Here's a few handy hints I'm sticking to this time. (For info purposes, my man briefly mentioned marriage from months 4-8, he initiated a serious discussion on it around the 10mth mark and from 12months on it's been all "we'll have another 6mths of dating," "you'll be Mrs HisLastName by the time we take that holiday" and so forth. I basically have about 6-9months of girlfriend status left, for the last time in my life, and I'm all about staying patient, staying cool, staying fun, and not getting ahead of myself. Meanwhile, there are things I can do to better myself and pave the way for even more future happiness for us.)
- Do a very last double or triple check of what you want vs what is being offered. I can't overstate this. Yes, you should have all your red flags well out of the way by this point but just do a recap of your relationship. Be very honest with yourself. Are you guys on the same page regarding values, life plans, kids, all the major questions? Is he aware that you either will not live together before engagement/marriage, or does he know that you feel it prudent to live together first? These discussions need to be had.
Do yourself a favour and clear the way for your eventual engagement to be full of happiness, wedding planning and shopping, exciting house hunting and feeling very blissed in love - get the big conversations and negotiations out of the way first.
- Clear out. Physically clear out your house of clothes/undies/pjs that are unfeminine/he doesn't like, knick knacks you know he hates, books you don't need, letters and photos from exes, etc.
Make some space physically and mentally. Obviously don't chuck out family heirlooms, sentimental bits and pieces, and important things, but get used to letting go of things. Pare down your stuff.
If, like me, you won't live together before engagement then you're going to have a double whammy in a couple of months and it is sensible to get admin things like clear outs done so you arent dealing with the triple threat of packing/clearing out/wedding planning. It eliminates one step - it's time saving, it's practical, and it feels like you're doing something to curb your impatience, you're taking an active step towards your future without it having any sort of pressurising impact on him at all. Personally I havent told my man I'm doing this - he's noticed I'm more organised lately but I havent said "Im getting ready for when you propose and we house hunt!" Eww. No. Stay cool.
- Sort your financials. Be a bit more frugal, save a bit more. Consider not doing any more decorating/household items purchasing now (if you're not living together yet, that is)
Draw up your budget of personal necessities (what you need and expect to have available for personal use, not household use). This will make later discussions on admin, budget and running the house much easier, especially if like me you are a mostly stay at home mum with a very part time job and your SO is planning to support the family mostly by himself for the foreseeable future.
On this note, do everything in your power to up your credit score. Eliminate debt and/or get a repayment plan nailed down, stick to it, check and refine your credit score as much as you can, don't be in a position where you apply for a joint account/card/mortgage together and it's you that lets the side down. I say this as a woman who had significant debt when my first marriage broke down and it's taken me years to get back on my feet.
Lose that weight you want to lose, tone up, do whatever it is that you have been thinking about. Once you have a beautiful engagement ring and dress fittings etc start, you don't want to be altering sizes much at all - just get it out of the way. Again, this feels like you're being majorly productive and contributing to your future happiness together and it has zero pressurising impact on your SO. All it does, is free up your engagement to be a source of joy, not a source of panic about weight etc.
Get your recipes and menus down-pat. You should already be cooking for him at least once a week, preferably more. I've had a steep learning curve with cooking as a vege cooking meat for her man, and I've now got 5 solid recipes I can do with my eyes closed for him, adding a new one in every few weeks. Build up your repertoire - again, make it easy for yourself especially if you're both going to be working full-time and it's still you doing the cooking. Now's the time to experiment.
And a few donts:
Try not to have preconceptions about rings, unless you are absolutely adamant about something which he needs to know, e.g. a metal allergy. Let him lead, yes even in this (it's painful I know...!)
Don't start planning the wedding. Don't create a Pinterest board. Save it for your engagement, let the exciting part happen when it's all official and the rock is in situ!
You can start saving up quietly if you plan to pay for the wedding yourselves, but don't make a big thing of it - I haven't even mentioned it personally. I wouldn't lie if asked though.
Lastly, don't forget to ENJOY this phase of your life. You are in the last throes of Phase: Sexy Girlfriend. No matter how awesome an RP woman you are, I firmly believe some of the sexy status does decline slightly with the fiancee and wife statuses (I don't mean sex frequency goes down).
Make the most of this time, you right now are who he fell in love with. Women tend to get ahead of themselves. God knows, I was imagining wedded bliss to my SO on our fourth date but you have to keep a hold of yourself. Men mostly live in the moment - and women in the future - when it comes to romance. Take a leaf out of his book.
Before all the planning, shopping, and household admin and management starts to dominate your conversations and free time with your SO when you're engaged - just enjoy him, enjoy your current role (personally I'm enjoying it so much more now there's an expiry date on it!!) and enjoy your RP relationship.
Marriage is a sacred thing which should last your lifetimes, but this honeymoon phase will never come again.