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An engagement is a huge milestone in and of itself. But before you hit it, our experts say, there are a few big moments you must experience. Here are six of them.
1. You're comfortable with one another's friends and families.
Before you get engaged, you should reach a place where you're comfortable in each other's social circles, says Jane Greer, Ph.D., relationship expert and author of What About Me? Stop Selfishness From Ruing Your Relationship. "You want to be able to bring your partner to family events and happenings with friends, and you want to feel like they're becoming a part of your network," she explains. "It's important that they not only meet these people in your life, but that they begin to demonstrate their compatibility."
2. You've taken a trip together.
A little getaway is not only good for your relationship, but "traveling together is a great way to get to know each other outside of your safe bubble," says April Masini, a New York-based relationship and etiquette expert. "When you run up against the unexpected — whether it's lost reservations, missed planes, facing danger on a zip line or swimming with sharks or sting rays, or some other more banal surprise like a food poisoning or simply bargaining with street vendors — you learn a lot about your partner."
3. You've hit a financial groove that works for you both.
You don't have to (and probably shouldn't) join your bank accounts before you get engaged. But, says Geer, "you should be able to establish a working financial plan that makes room for your individual as well as joint needs. If you're not living together, you can still have this in place. For example, perhaps one person pays for dinners out while the other pays for weekend entertainment." The important thing is, she says, "it feels balanced for the both of you."
4. You feel secure sharing a living space.
You don't have to live together before you get engaged. But it's important to hit the milestone of being comfortable in one another's living spaces before you talk about combining your households, says Greer. "If you're visiting each other's homes, then you should see each other helping out with responsibilities, like making the coffee in the morning, making the bed, and more," she says. "Get a sense of how well you're able to be considerate of each other's needs, like if someone needs privacy to talk on the phone."
5. You've babysat together.
If you want children one day, it's a good idea to gauge whether you can take on this important task with your partner, Masini says. "Babysitting a neighbor's child or a niece or nephew is a great way to see how you each are with kids," she says. "If you want to have a family one day, this experience will give you insight into his feelings and his way with kids, and it also gives him the opportunity to see you in a new light. Many times couples have no idea how their partner will be with kids, but this experience hedges against that unknown."
6. You've had one big fight — and pulled through.
No one likes to fight. But having a serious disagreement and proving to one another you can pull through is an important milestone before marriage, Greer says. "Have at least one, if not more, big disagreement where you had a hard time seeing your partner's point of view, but you were able to accept your differences and move forward," she describes. "Be in a problem-solving mode with your partner so you know you can resolve each other's differences without it being an ever-present area of contention."