Before You Get Engaged

by David Gudgel, Brent Gudgel, and Danielle Fitch
Reviewed date: 2008 Apr 17
216 pages
cover art

Before You Get Engaged is a Christian relationship book. The basic idea is to give some guidance to couples thinking about getting engaged. David Gudgel writes the book, with interspersed comments from his son and his son's girlfriend, who are (as of the book's writing) considering marriage.

The Organization
The book is broken down into four main sections:

  1. Are you individually mature enough and ready for marriage? This encompasses things like being spiritually mature and in tune with God, being ready to give up dating and settle down, being ready for lifelong commitment, being financially ready, and being free of prior commitments (like overseas military service.)
  2. Are you a good couple? Gudgel spends a chapter talking about the difference between infatuation and love, and he says that three kinds of love--physical (eros), emotional (phileo), and sacrificial (agape)--are required in a healthy marriage-bound relationship. Gudgel spends several chapters on communication issues and pitfalls, one chapter explaining why your core values and goals need to align, and then an entire chapter on spirituality--that is, are your spiritual beliefs, values, goals, etc. compatible?
  3. The third section talks about the importance of getting counsel and advice from God, family, and friends.
  4. In the fourth section, Gudgel advises couples that if they see potential problems, they should end the relationship. It's easier to end things before an engagement than after the invitations have been sent, and it's far easier than a divorce. Or, if the couple is ready for marriage, Gudgel advises young men to make the proposal a big deal.

The Advice
The quality of the advice in Before You Get Married is generally good, but not outstanding. For a Christian book, it's surprisingly light on Bible quotes. Gudgel talks more about personality and relationships than about Scripture--which, I suppose, is the right thing to do. This is a book designed to help you choose a spouse, and the Bible doesn't have much to say about that subject.

I am concerned about Gudgel's use of James 1:6-7.

But when he asks, he must believe and not doubt, because he who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. That man should not think he will receive anything from the Lord

Gudgel interprets this to mean that those with doubts should not pray, because it would be wasted effort. (That's a bad interpretation.) He then uses this to support his statement that those who have doubts about engagement should not get engaged. (That's good advice.) I'm not objecting to Gudgel's advice, but I question his handling of the Bible. Fortunately, this is a minor point and detracts little from the book.

The Gimmick
And now the gimmick. Most of the book is written by David Gudgel, but occasionally the text is interrupted by comments from his son Brent. The Brent sections are written conversationally, a jarring change of tone. The idea is that these sections can give us a personal glimpse into the thoughts of someone who is going through the process of deciding to get engaged. It should help to vividly illustrate the points Gudgel is making in the main text. Unfortunately, it does not. Brent is too reserved about himself, choosing not to divulge any significant details about his relationship with Danielle (and I don't blame him!) This makes the Brent sections pretty much meaningless. Of course they had to be included, even though they weaken the book: the book is too short to be published without these sections.

The Conclusion
There's nothing really bad in Before You Get Engaged, but nothing to recommend either. I suggest you find a different book.

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