I was shocked, and really sort of heartbroken last week when we talked about proposals for the first time. Why? Well, because so many of you commented, or emailed me to say that you hadn’t had the reaction you expected after the proposal, and you were overwhelmed with guilt.
Whoa. We are clearly laboring under a collective illusion here of ‘how you should feel’, and we need to stop.
Here is the thing, getting engaged is big, and it can feel disorienting. Add to it the fact that there is enormous cultural pressure around engagements, which can make it end a little like a four year old’s birthday party, with lots of cake and lots of tears. And that’s FINE. I’d go so far to say it’s probably pretty normal. As long as you agree you want to spend the rest of your lives together (wheeee!), then you have the rest of your lives to plan Enormous Romantic Gestures (if that’s your thing), with far less stress.
As I was talking about this with someone older and wiser this week, she pointed out the “duh” advice, which I’d somehow missed. If your proposal was a little rough, if you freaked out a bit, or you didn’t feel like your emotional needs were met, or your partner felt a little let down… SIT DOWN AND TALK ABOUT IT. Because no, you probably don’t need a do-over (you decided to get married, right? That’s the important bit), but you also don’t want that sadness hanging around and hiding in corners for years and years.
And so you feel less guilty more brave, and maybe more ready to have a chat, some family examples:
When David and I got engaged, I was all giddy and over the moon. There are pictures, so there is proof. And then I went into emotional shock. Not shock like ‘Oh, I’m so surprised!’ but shock like ‘Oh, my arm just got cut off.’ By which I mean I started shaking so hard that David suggested I sit down, and then once I sat down I started sobbing. Not happy sobbing, sobbing-sobbing. Oh right, and then two days later I spent a whole morning crying, because, “I was pretty sure engagement wasn’t supposed to feel like crying, but I was crying, and that was wrong, so I should probably cry some more.” And then David found me crying and explained that there is no “should” for emotions, but regardless I was going to have to get up off my ass and go do something, because three hours of crying is more than enough for one day.
Bad right? Um. No. I get the gold medal for best engagement reaction in my family.
My mom has given me permission to tell you that when my dad proposed she said, and I quote, “Um. Probably yes, but can I think about it for a week?”
And they celebrated 35 happy years this December. So stop feeling guilty already. And go talk. Or apologize. Or whatever the heck you need to do. And then let it go already. There are no ‘shoulds,’ and wedding planning is hard enough without proposal guilt.
(Next: proposal stories that made me grin)
Picture: by me, from the time I proposed to David