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After a time of male/female friendship traditionally there is a time when the growing relationship is formally recognized, indicating the intention of marriage in the future – with the man initiating ‘will you marry me?’ Then upon a ‘Yes’ response, the giving of an engagement ring to his sweetheart. The couple now enter a period of getting to know each other even more in the area of spirit and soul, prior to marriage with its physical union. God’s ideal is to wait until after the wedding to enter into a sexual relationship, as opposed to the world’s ‘living together’ approach, which does not involve self-control or enhance the relationship. If we want God’s best, we must do things His way.

In Bible times, this pre-marriage period of betrothal was more binding than the engagement concept of today, with often a dowry or bride price agreed on between the two families involved. Joseph initially though Mary had violated her betrothal and was considering divorcing her, even though they had not consummated their relationship (Mt 1:18,19).

See also: courting, living together, marriage, romance, self-control.