Prev Next

Dos & Don’ts for Friends of the Pre-Engaged


After I kicked off the good old APW Engagement discussion again (just a general newsflash: you don’t need a ring to be engaged.) Sarah sent me this, on behalf of the pre-engaged (Side note: I have a complicated history with this term. I think it’s bogus when people try to market to this mostly intangible demographic, but awfully empowering to realize that in this modern world, most of us go through a long period of time when we know a wedding is coming, but we can’t quite be bothered to get engaged yet.) But Sarah’s take is brilliant and empowering, and cuttingly smart. So in this month of traditional engagements, lets have a come-to-Jesus moment on what it means to be an empowered woman in a happy long-term relationship who does not happen to be engaged.

Dos & Don’ts for Friends of the Pre Engaged | A Practical Wedding

At a party the other night, I was standing around with a group of gals and a friend asked for advice. She had just started dating someone and she wanted to know the secret to my happy relationship. I’ve been dating my sweet boyfriend for three years and living together for one, and we’re about as happy as clams in saltwater.

I told her that it’s simple: we have fun together. He makes me laugh. I said our relationship works because we really, really like being together.

At this moment another friend said loudly to the group, “Well it’s not really working out for you guys. After all, you’re not engaged.

Ouch. It stung, but not that badly. After all, I get some version of this comment, this shame-on-you-for-being-unengaged, at least a few times a week. Friends, family, coworkers, even strangers ask, “when are you planning to get married?” all the time. While it’s sweet that people recognize that we’re in love, it’s a one-way conversation. As a pre-engaged girl, I’m expected to keep my mouth shut and smile. If I say anything, be it “oh eventually, we’re very happy,” or “we’re planning on it” or (G-d forbid) “I’d like to get married,” then suddenly I’m pressuring him. The worst thing a pre-engaged girl can do is pressure him.

Frankly, I’m a little tired of all of it. And I know it’s not just me.  So for all of us practical pre-engaged, and for my sanity, I write the following.

Dos and Dont’s For Friends of The Pre-Engaged

Don’t: Assume that I’m angry, bitter, jilted, lonely, sad or otherwise suffering. I count my blessings every single morning and night. I’ve found the love of my life and he loves me back. We’re planning our future together and spending as much as our present together as possible. I’m the happiest I’ve ever been in my whole life. Assuming that I’m upset because I’m not engaged is frustrating, because I can’t convince anyone otherwise. The more I insist that I’m happy, the more people tilt their head with a sad smile and, while rubbing my shoulder, sighing “oh don’t worry sweetie, the ring is coming.” It’s as if they think the longer it takes to get engaged, the less he loves me, and the more delusional I am. Be kind to the pre-engaged and use this line instead: “I’m so happy to see you like this! You’ve found the person you want to spend your life with. It only gets better from here.”

Do: Please encourage me to talk to my boyfriend about our future and delete the word “pressure” from your conversations about that. Call me new-fashioned, but I believe that as an educated woman in my late twenties with my own assets, ideas, experience and opinions, I shouldn’t be waiting on my partner to make one of the biggest decisions of our lives on his own. What if I have expectations about marriage based on my religion, values or traditions?  Shouldn’t he know that before he proposes? What if I want to be the one to propose? What if I don’t want to get married? What if I have some debt that I want to pay off before we make it legal? What if he does? I fully believe that if this is someone that I legitimately want to spend the rest of my life with, I should be able to talk to him about anything. Talking about marriage is not “pressuring for a ring.” It is creating a sustainable relationship. I am not a coy, blushing girl waiting for my over-the-top surprise proposal. I’m ballsy and strong and independent. He loves me because I’m opinionated, so why would I hide my opinions about our future? I don’t. Honesty isn’t pressure.

Don’t: Please stop suggesting that I propose to him. Or that I make him a roast chicken. Or that I take him on vacation. Or that I should never have moved in with him. I’m not looking for a “solution” to my pre-engagement. Being pre-engaged is not a “problem.”

Do: If you’re engaged, please talk to me about your relationship, proposal, engagement ring, honeymoon, venue, traditions and veil, and let me ask questions without calling me pathetic or obsessed. Let me talk about whether or not to change my name.  Let me ooh and ahh over your engagement ring and gush over your details. Let me ask you questions like “why did you/didn’t you do this/that?” Let me enjoy this blissful state where I can imagine that eloping to Paris is an option for us. Help me figure out what’s important to me before I have to actually make these decisions. Why not? If you want to talk about your wedding, chat away.  I can listen to you talk about wedding details for hours, because I know that your experience will make my life easier down the road. But please, under no circumstances imply that I’m jealous. It’s not a competition.

Don’t: Please don’t apologize and look at me sympathetically when news of someone else’s engagement reaches me. There aren’t a finite amount of engagements and this girl hasn’t “stolen” mine from me. Seriously. Let me be happy for that couple without looking at me as if “thou protest too much.”

Do: Last of all, please be nice to my boyfriend. Tell my mom how well he treats me. Tell me how much you like him.  Treat him like a grown up. He doesn’t need or want you to make “excuses” for him. He hasn’t done anything wrong. He doesn’t need to hear that people think he has commitment issues, doesn’t love me, can’t afford a ring, isn’t mature enough, or “is just not that into” me.  What he wants is for me to be happy. That’s why he’s the one for me.

Kurt Vonnegut wrote, “Freud said he didn’t know what women wanted, but I do. They want a whole lot of people to talk to. What do men want? They want a lot of pals, and they wish that people wouldn’t get so mad at them.” This pretty much sums it up. Talk to me and let me talk about my future. Encourage me to talk to my boyfriend. Be nice to him. And then relax and look forward to one big-ass hug on my wedding day.

More in Recent Posts Staff Picks

[Read comment policy before commenting]

  • Josephine

    I liked this a lot, Sarah! But dear me, I feel terrible to know that people have said such hurtful and ludicrous things to you regarding your lack of engagement. I have been with my bf for three years as well, and we are also super happy (and not engaged) but I don’t get any snide comments or sad glances from anyone, thank goodness. Just as well because I’d probably smack someone upside the head. This might be because a lot of my friends are also in long-term (2+ year) relationships and are not engaged, for any number of reasons (people are still in school, paying off debt, living in different cities, whatever). In my circle, it’s normal to date for years before getting engaged, but I understand that this isn’t the norm everywhere. Yikes.

    • Josephine

      Side note, though: I’m currently living in a country where people get engaged and married much earlier than in the US, and I do get a *lot* of questions here. My physical therapist asks me every week when my bf and I are going to get married, as if the answer is going to change week to week, and then says he is “just kidding” when I give him a semi-death glare. Soooo unnecessary. If I had to deal with this from people in my life who I actually care about, I’d probably go insane. So, I feel your pain on that front!

  • kireina

    What a great post – thanks, Sarah!

    My fiance and I were in the pre-engaged state for a couple to several years (I think of it as starting from the time when we sat down and put everything on the table, while my friends, family, and acquaintances date it from a much earlier period in time). The part that always pissed em off was when his friends would harass him in front of me at social gatherings. “Geez, boy, why haven’t you proposed yet.?” “I’m sure she has the ring all picked, don’t you, honey?” Really? Really? Totally unnecessary.

    Tacking on to last week’s epic discussion on loneliness, this made getting engaged less fun in a way than i had anticipated, because instead of “Wow!” or “Hoe exciting!” responses were more like, “Well, it’s about time” or, better yet, “Duh.” The transition seemed less a cause for celebration for everyone else, which was kind of a bummer.

    • kireina

      Hmmm. Sorry about all the typos. Need…. coffee….

    • http://misallocationofresources.blogspot.com/ Jenn

      I feel you on this one. After 7 years of dating, my fiance proposed at our anniversary dinner. When I called my parents to tell them, and my father in the background goes, “Big surprise.” Honestly Dad? Not at all happy for me?

    • Sarah

      Yep. Other than our parents (who are all oblivious in their own ways), the most common reaction we got was “I know!” (including my best friend … then she made up for it and we acted like complete ninnys, so she’s ok). Other responses included “About time!” and (the worst, imo) “Thank God.”

      Seriously, people? Could we not just enjoy this moment?

      • http://committedca.blogspot.com/ Carrie Dee

        Oh my, can I relate. The most notable response I got was from my dad, “you must be pregnant,” because, you know…that’s the only reason a couple would get engaged after 3+ years of being together. I also got a lot of “’bout times” and the like. It really did put a damper on the whole engagement process. It just made it all less fun and exciting.

    • Faith

      “I’m sure she has the ring all picked, don’t you, honey?”…I got that too.
      Why are you sure I have the ring picked out? Because I truly don’t trust the man I’m going to be with for the rest of my life??

    • Jen M

      Hahaha! I hate that! A distant family acquaintance who barely knows me or my BF said loudly to a gathering of about 60 people, “Someone needs to tell Brian to go to Jared!” I almost punched her.

    • ddayporter

      yeah I got some confusing responses! I was really taken aback when people would say “oh I hadn’t pegged you guys for the types to get married. stay together forever, sure, but not Marriage!” just trying to reflect on past conversations where I might have expressed some deep-seated hatred/mistrust/snobbery toward the Institution…

      • LBD

        Boy and I were together 10 years before we got engaged, and I’d say this was the most common comment easily, blah.

  • Meghan

    LOLOLOL @ the roast chicken! I remember reading that a few years ago and being like, what the fuck? i mean, it looks delicious and all, and thanks for the recipe, but REALLY GLAMOUR? REALLY?

    • Josephine

      Ugh, I know, the old “engagement chicken.” How does that work, exactly? Like, “he wasn’t going to propose, but once he tasted that chicken, boy did he change his mind.” What?!

      • Jen

        Because, in the words of the recipe intro, “it’s a chicken a wife would make.”

        !!!

        • Amelia

          Yeah, I’ve been making roast chicken (Thomas Keller’s, not effing Glamour’s) for years – because I like roast chicken – and my sidekick-now-husband has yet say anything other than “meh” about it.

          He’s crazy, of course, because it is delicious, but I’d bet that if you asked him, he’d put the roast chicken in the column with “things I accept because I love Amelia” rather than with “things that make me love Amelia.”

    • http://bunniesnbeagles.blogspot.com Ms. Bunny

      Because that would totally work on my vegetarian partner, wait what?

      • Josephine

        Engagement tofu, anyone?

        • Sarah

          Josephine, I think I just fell in love with you. Just a little bit. =)

          • Josephine

            :)

        • Clare

          I just read that comment and laughed so loud, now everyone in the library is staring…

    • http://bluesuedeidos.com Beth

      The sad thing is, that’s just a standard recipe for roasting a chicken, and it’s being passed off as ENGAGEMENT CHICKEN?? WTF?

    • http://nickandnoragettingmarried.wordpress.com/ Annie

      Plus, it looks like a regular old roast chicken–nice but nothing really special. I’m tempted to make it and see if I get the urge to propose to anyone myself.

    • http://carmarblogs.blogspot.com CarMar

      Seriously laughed out loud about the roast chicken article. Seriously??!

    • http://eclpse.livejournal.com Kimberly

      Am I the only person who was clueless as to the “engagement chicken?” You can’t see it right now, but my brow is furrowed . . .

      • http://sheenaandsimon.blogspot.com/ .twist.

        Nope. I am brow furrowing as well. Never heard of this. WTF.

    • JUST JENCIL

      This is serious?! I’m laughing so hard, I’ve attracted attention at work. ::Hears Mr. Sandman playing in background:: What year is it again? I’m sorry, my man just isn’t that simple. If he was, it would make being a strong opinionated woman so much easier, but my life so much more boring!

      • JUST JENCIL

        *Would like to make it clear that my comment is about the roast chicken part, lol*

    • http://silver-sandalled.blogspot Margaret

      Haha YES! I hate that concept for so many reasons.

      • Tina

        This is definitely a very basic recipe. If I was going to wow my boyfriend into proposing over a basic, delicious meal like roast chicken, I think I would have been proposed to about 5 years ago. I’m not food network good, but I can make a damn good chicken. :) Not to mention my efforts in cooking aren’t to convince him I’m wifely material. It’s because I enjoy it.

  • http://technicolorwedding.wordpress.com Jessi

    Oh, I hear this. I am engaged now, but in the months leading up to it I had a lot of this!

    The best part about this is “talking about marriage is not pressuring for a ring”. So true!

  • http://amidlifeofprivilege.blogspot.com LPC

    Much of this is human society trying to get us to marry so we can procreate. My belief is that until it becomes fully acceptable for women to propose, acceptable and internalized by all segments, change will be slow coming. The proposal moves a mutual decision into the magical arena of ritual. An arena where near-strangers feel they get to comment, too.

    • Maddie

      THIS. I feel like so much of the WIC and, also the marriage industrial complex, is about you fulfilling a societal role rather than a personal one, but like any good marketing campaign, it’s made to feel personal. I believe that we shame the pre-engaged because they are essentially thwarting the marketing campaign of marriage (with or without intention, of course. It’s just how they see that group). And when we aren’t buying things based on our status in life it terrifies the powers of consumption and production.

      To society, if you’re not married then how are they going to sell you dish soap, glade plugins, or tide detergent if not based on your marital status? But if you’re engaged then they’ve got you buying a ring and entering into bridal buying territory. But what if you’re neither or those? Then what kind of bracket do you fall into? There’s a lot of capitalism tied into marriage and the magic of romantic proposals and the feeling of accomplishment that is attached to engagement, those are the marketing campaigns.

      • http://cuvikingadventures.blogspot.com/ Jenny- Adventures Along the Way

        Yeah… last week I was thinking about this in regards to how maybe all those People Who Want To Sell You Stuff work hard to promote and perpetuate the idea of how “everyone” has several fabulous engagement parties/co-ed showers/girls-only showers/etc in their marketing to engaged people. That probably makes us feel more lonely in our own process but, of course, sells more stuff. And that is their goal.

    • http://happysighs.blogspot.com Liz

      i think, too, it’s a symptom of our society’s assumption that we all are pushing for the same “next step.”

      i have a number of students who don’t plan to go to college. but, when you hit your senior year of high school, everyone asks, “so, where are you going to college?” assuming that this is the obvious next step. (which- tangent- clearly, college is not the answer. as i can assume many, many of us on apw are loaded with degrees and still haven’t found work in our fields) this absolutely embarrasses and stings them. i can see it.

      it’s all the same as “so when’s he gonna pop the question?” and “when do you two plan on having kids already?” and “when do you think you’ll buy a house and settle down?” as if there is a specific progression to life that equates success and happiness.

      • http://agorillalibrarian.blogspot.com/ Mejane

        This really helps explain why the way that (rude) people shame unengaged individuals in long-term relationship bears such a striking resemblance to the way that they shame married individuals w/o kids. Good times.

      • http://silver-sandalled.blogspot Margaret

        Exactly!! And what really blows my mind is that, in the same breath, many middle-aged people who have “followed all the steps” will say they are unhappy, want more out of life, only married/had kids/took this job because they were told “that’s what you do.” Huh?!?

        • Lisa B.

          Well, of course! If they followed a certain path because that’s what they felt they had to do, you certainly don’t get to choose something else. Then their unhappiness or dissatisfaction is their fault, and they can’t blame it on someone else. Misery loves company and all that.

      • Tina

        I LOVE this comment on everyone expecting you to take this collective “next step.” It hits home too as a teacher who worked with high schoolers in an urban district. While college is expected and the “key to success,” many kids just aren’t meant to go that route. And it’s the same for marriage and engagements. People who don’t take the next step are scorned for not doing so. Even by people who are miserable with their choices. Maybe some kids will regret going to college. Maybe some people will regret not getting engaged or married sooner, but it’s almost like you have to choose their steps so you can wallow in misery together. I think there are a number of reasons that people choose not to get married, and it’s definitely not always because the girl is hoping at any moment the guy will change his mind. Any time you go against the norm people want to have something to say about it.

      • http://irisira.wordpress.com irisira

        Liz, I am SO GLAD you brought up the High School/College thing. It’s true, college is not necessarily the right decision for everyone (and by this I mean, traditional 4 year schools), and yet we shame high school students into making a decision on something that they may or may not be ready for and/or may or may not want to do, ever.

        In hindsight, though I clearly wanted to pursue higher education and graduate schooling beyond that – and I knew this – I think I would have been better served taking a road less traveled (i.e., community college, Americorps, etc.). I was not unsuccessful in my higher education ventures – quite the opposite, actually – but I made some wrong decisions for me because I was not ready for them but felt I was on a timeline.

        The same can be said for any major life decision – you shouldn’t be doing it on someone else’s timeline, you should be doing it on YOUR timeline and YOUR terms (or, in this case, you and your partner would share that decision).

    • Harriet

      I was pretty surprised at how everyone who found out I was engaged felt entitled to ask me for “the story.” There isn’t one–we got engaged “gradually,” as someone on a previous post put it. If I’d had a proposal “story,” I don’t think I would have had a problem sharing it with even casual friends, but it was somewhat unsettling how people feel free to ask and then are visibly disappointed if you don’t have a story or don’t want to share it. People seem to feel that they have the right to know details about getting married (not to mention getting pregnant! ) and are unconcerned that they might be making others uncomfortable.

      • http://happysighs.blogspot.com Liz

        haha- your comment made me wonder how much fun it would be if we all started expecting “conception stories”

        • Lauren

          We spent more money than we should have at the naughty shop the third day of our honeymoon and then… well… oops!

          I would actually do that, you know. Might make people reconsider asking the next person!

          • http://happysighs.blogspot.com Liz

            it was funny. a few moms were discussing… conception… on twitter. and it was almost universal that the night of conception was a MEMORABLE sex night. i didn’t realize til later, when counting back with my husband.

            would make for some good stories. ;)

          • http://discerningdilettante.blogspot.com ka

            @Liz- Lol, “memorable sex night,” I will so be stealing that phrase. Oh, monogamy…

          • http://irisira.wordpress.com irisira

            Liz, I had a friend volunteer info about hers … (I didn’t ask, it came up in conversation and we were close enough that she was comfortable).

            “We were trying to figure out HOW, because we were using protection, and then we remembered that night we went out with friends that neither of us really remembers, and when we counted back, that must have been it!”

  • http://www.wedding-for-two.com Ellie

    This is a great post, and a lot of really great points, but I feel like it assumes that most “pre-engaged” people are happy about that state. When I was waiting for him to propose (literally waiting, because he asked me not to ask him and I agreed, and he passed out of the timeline we had agreed on without asking), I was pretty miserable. I was anxious, and upset, and my self esteem took a hit, and the people that I tried to talk to didn’t want to have a serious conversation. So a few more dos and don’ts, for the person who is sad about waiting:
    DON’T: Tell me not to talk about it. Blow me off. I’m upset because I’m not feeling valued in my relationship and my partner is making me sad. Do not tell me that my feelings are wrong, or I need to get over myself, or I need to stop feeling sad.
    DO: Listen to me talk. If you know that the person is sad about not being engaged, don’t avoid ever talking to them about it. Don’t always change the subject. For most women who are “waiting”, they can’t talk to their partners about how they feel because it’s “pressure” which leaves you totally lonely and without anyone to talk to.
    DON’T: Act like my wedding plans are a pipe dream. We knew, since 2007, that we were getting married in the Fall of 2010. It wasn’t a “if he proposes by then” or a “if we’re still together by then.” We had set a date before we set a date, and a lot of couples have a similar timeline. So when I said, “we’ll get married in 2010″ and people acted like I had no right to know that information, it made me crazy. It was their way of trying to get me to give all control to him, and I thought I was being pretty reasonable.
    DO: Ask me how it’s going. I had one friend through all of this who was understanding and kind. She would check in with me and see how insane I was, whether he and I had talked anymore about getting engaged, and whether we had come to any conclusions (because I just wanted to decide we were getting married and he wanted the story.)

    • http://www.otheramusements.com Someone

      This is just my opinion, but if you’re getting married in fall 2010 or whenever, to me that sounds like you are engaged. You might not have had a proposal but doesn’t being engaged just mean you’ve both agreed to get married? You are betrothed.
      It’s like the opposite of people I used to know when I was younger who got ‘engaged’ but weren’t actually planning a wedding any time soon.

      • http://www.wedding-for-two.com Ellie

        Of course that’s what it sounds like to people on Team Practical. To regular, not with-it, self-empowered people, I was pathetic. Absolutely pathetic for even thinking that far ahead. For talking about the date. I was just a silly little girl, dreaming about my wedding. Knowing that knowing when we were getting married was the same as being engaged did nothing but earn me disdain. I didn’t have a ring. I hadn’t been given the honor of receiving a proposal. In the months before we got engaged, I took about a billion hits to my self esteem from every direction – either from the “of course you’re engaged, so stand up for yourself” camp, or the “of course you’re not engaged, stop being pathetic” camp. The end result is just that I’m glad it’s all over now.

        • Carreg

          What an awkward position. I felt perculiar when I was pre-engaged. I had my mum basically implying that if my partner and I were committed we’d have married eachother before moving in together. I had to explain that we were committed but not quite enough to get married yet, and she never really believed me. But I was very clear on us being either (1) engaged and defintiely going to get married or (2) not engaged, however seriously we were contemplating getting married. I think I was lucky that the idea was so entrenched for me — I couldn’t be put in the ultra awkward position you described.

          But I think what’s lousy is that you got put in a position where you were bound to end up seeing yourself as pathetic, either way. It’s terrible to have people beating themselves up when it’s *the circumstances combined with the traditions around engagement* which are stupid. We could all do without our self-esteem being walloped. And I could have done without the arguments with my mum. Like you say — it’s over now!

          Although, come to think of it, I still haven’t told my mum that I proposed to him. Just in case.

    • Lee G.

      Definitely agree with you on this one. I am “pre-engaged” and not happy about it either.

      I also hate it when people say “Why don’t you just propose?” I’ve asked him how he feels about this, and he really wants to do it, once he has enough money to buy a ring he can feel comfortable with. But what he feels comfortable with is totally uncomfortable with me! I want something small, or nothing would be fine. But to him, you need a ring to be engaged. So, to the person who said that the couple was engaged because they had picked a wedding date, I disagree. It takes two people to be engaged. If one person doesn’t think you are, even if you’ve picked a date, you’re not.

      I feel totally powerless because everything is on his terms, but if it is on my terms, he would be unhappy about it.

      Arg! I’ve read all the engagement posts, but it still can’t shake this feeling. It really truly does suck.

      • Tina

        I like this. “It takes two people to be engaged.” Just like tango. It seems so simple.

      • Yemi

        I totally understand, I feel the same way. I actually thought he was going to propose this weekend when he visited, so I decided to do up my nails But sadly he did. so I am still patiently waiting.

      • Caroline

        “Why don’t you jut propose?”!!! I hate that question. (Although I will admit that 99-100% of the time, it’s the evil part of my brain asking. The rational part knows he isn’t ready yet, and that proposing before he’s ready is a not good idea.

    • http://www.betterinrealife.com Lauren

      I really appreciate this note because I was thinking about this other option while reading through this yesterday. It’s AWESOME if you are wonderfully happy in your pre-engaged state, and people who can’t handle that (though possibly well meaning?) are annoying and can be hurtful, but the women who are NOT happy in their pre-engaged state are also 1) not crazy 2) not clingy and 3) have completely valid concerns and feelings. And I think both men and women forget that since society is so against the woman “wanting to RUN to the alter” (Barf) yet so focused on “getting them married”. Fucked up.

      • kyley

        Right! AND to top it off, there’s all this pressure (from society and from our male partners in hetero relationships) that HE has to be the one to ask. And if you ask? You’re a nag/pressuring the guy to get married. Or you’re going to ruin the surprise! Or you’re “that girl”. Or, blah, blah, blah.

        Waiting is terrible! And yet the whole system is set up for women to wait patiently and act perfectly while waiting, and if they act “wrong” (asking questions, feeling anxious, feeling impatient, feeling insecure) then they are RUINING THINGS.

        Ugh, there is really no win.

        • http://www.betterinrealife.com Lauren

          Yes!! But we’re not crazy, and we’re not nagging. So we want to plan our lives! We have careers to think about, reproduction to consider, are we going to be moving? what about finances? But god forbid we “ruin the surprise”. eerrgg! It’s making me angry. This is a life choice! It’s not a birthday party!

          • Carreg

            This repeated in a louder voice!

            Wanting to plan is not the same as being clingy. In every other area of life, wanting to plan and successful doing so are considered grown-up.

          • Lily

            I LOVE that
            “This is a life choice! It’s not a birthday party!”
            so true.

    • meg

      Ladies-
      I just want to point out that couples counseling (or pre-pre-marital counseling, ha) is always an option, and might be a good option for the unhappily waiting. Your partner is, in a sense, totally stripping you of your power because… they want a good story… or tradition, or what have you. If it were me, I’d be booking an appointment, if only to take my power back.

      It’s a whole other ballgame when you’re waiting together (we did this for awhile). David wasn’t quite ready, and I was, and we waited. That’s a different thing. My power was fully intact, it was just vaugly annoying. I wished he was ready, but I knew he’d get there, and I was fine with waiting.

      • http://www.wedding-for-two.com Ellie

        It never occurred to me at the time to think about any kind of counseling. Either for me, or for us. I think it probably would have helped a lot, even if it was just having somebody listen to me and remind me that my feelings were valid and I wasn’t ruining anything by trying to talk to my partner.

        Clearly, I was absolutely miserable while I was waiting, and even though that was two years ago (and we’ve been married for two months), it still really stings when I think/talk about it. Ultimately, my partner hurt my feelings in a very real, ongoing, harsh way, and that takes a lot of work to get over. So I also would urge anybody who feels…bummed, or worse, to try some kind of counseling, or at least find a trusted friend. I think the worst part is the wedding amnesia that people get, where suddenly, they’re engaged and it’s like, “oh, it’s all okay now! it no longer matters that you treated me like crap and as if my feelings didn’t matter!!!!” They advise other women to just suck it up and be patient and don’t go cry about it. The only thing that helped me was either talking to my partner about it, or talking to a friend who was understanding and told me that it was okay to feel crummy about it because it was a crummy situation.

      • LBD

        My story is similar in some ways. He wasn’t ready yet, though I was, and we talked about it a lot. It was something HE needed to work through first, before he could bring his whole self to marriage, to death-do-us-part commitment. He went into counseling, and things got worked out. Now, looking back, I’d not have had it any other way. I probably could have goaded him into marrying earlier, part of me certainly wanted to at the time, and it was really hard and painful waiting, but I didn’t want to feel like he was doing it just because he wanted to make me happy. I can say now I’m sure glad he worked out the things he needed to work out first, and I think we’ll have a much stronger marriage for that waiting. I feel so much more confident about US.

        I recommend occasional honest check-ins. Once he started counseling, he started to figure stuff out, and he kept me in the loop as he figured things out. Him explaining what was going on in his head from time to time, that really helped. It really drove home the “waiting together” part if we were having honest conversations about how we were feeling about it from time to time.

      • http://irisira.wordpress.com irisira

        This is a good point. My husband and I were the same way. I wasn’t necessarily in a hurry to get married, but I wanted to and he knew it. And I knew he wanted to as well, but I also knew his employment situation was precarious, and I also knew he wanted to propose to me (I dropped some hints about women proposing to men in general, and while he didn’t come out and say he would have a problem with it, I could tell he was uncomfortable with the idea).

        In other words, he knew if he asked, I would say yes. I knew he wanted to get married, and I was waiting for him to be ready. Vaguely annoying? Yes. But I wasn’t unhappy about it – we had a great life together, and I was content.

        To springboard off of this, however, if a woman proposes or “proposes” (i.e., tells her partner she wants to get married, even if she doesn’t say, “Will you marry me?”), and the guy says “No,” or “I’m not ready,” or something to that effect, the relationship isn’t necessarily doomed; but if the guy proposes and the girl says she’s not ready, then it’s over, finito, done for? Anyone else take issue with this?

        • Alexandra

          I definitely take issue with that! I also am a living counter-example. :P
          The first two times my guy asked me, I said “maybe”: we’d not been together that long, and there were other things I wanted to get sorted out first. I wasn’t sure if I was a “marrying type”. So, the gal saying no doesn’t have to be the end. (Of course, some people, upon hearing of those times, brushed it off because he didn’t have a ring!)
          We eventually got engaged without a ring*, after nearly eight years of dating. I was never bummed to be not-engaged, and plenty of times in the later years, we’d say that we were already planning to spend our lives together anyway, and that we were married in our hearts.
          I had one gal guess pregnancy instead of engagement when I said I had exciting news, and that was a bit of a bummer, because I ‘had to’ say, “No, we’re just engaged.” Just! ;/
          *I do have a ring now. Not a diamond, not a solitaire, totally me. ;p

  • ann

    wait…help! what’s the difference between being pre-engaged and being engaged? is being engaged the part where you formally decide to start planning a wedding? or the part when you start a life together, or start planning a life together? i’m confused in light of our recent discussion on untraditional proposals…

    that being asked, i love your bulls by the horns attitude!

    also, i suspect so many people are asking you these obnoxious questions because they want to validate their own choices…i imagine it must threaten them to see you so confident and happy before you’re “even engaged.” The wedding machine seems to point to the wedding itself as the thing that guarantees eternal happiness.

    • Meredith

      I’ll try to answer as best I can, but this is just my experience/ opinion. I consider myself ‘pre-engaged’. My bf and I have been together for 5 years, living together for 1.5, but it is not assumed nor decided that we will get married. Most likely, that is what will happen. But there has not been any sort of decision yet where we say ‘yes, we are going to get married’. We still talk about our future together in 5 years, 10 years etc. So for me, pre-engaged really means that it still isn’t formally decided that you are getting married. If my close friends were to ask if we were getting married, I would say “Most likely. But we have no definite plans of that, yet.”

      Last week someone alluded to the proposal being separate from engagement. An engagement doesn’t mean that you received a proposal. They can be distinct event. Though if you received a proposal, then you’re engaged; that of course, still follows.

      For me, if you are planning a wedding, then you are engaged. You may not have received a proposal, but if you have definite plans of getting married, then you are engaged. Which is far different from pre-engaged, where we have no current plans or committment to get married.

    • http://www.ukuleleinrouen.blogspot.com Kinzie Kangaroo

      My biggest understanding is that when a couple starts talking about marriage in a serious way, even if they’re not “officially engaged,” (aka if they don’t call themselves engaged), then they are pre-engaged.

      When we started dating, my then-boyfriend and I would get a little tipsy and then say, “… what if we had lots of sunflowers at … some … some wedding. But you know, not that wedding that would be our wedding because we don’t talk about that yet, but if we were, we should talk about how we should have sunflowers! Let’s have another drink!”

      And then, we started talking about it casually, normally, out loud, in the daylight, and totally sober. Without apologizing for it. We would say, “Hey, wanna get married at that old movie theatre?” “Yeah! Let’s find out how much it would be!” I would consider that pre-engaged.

      And then, that continued for a while. And all that while, I told him not to propose because I wasn’t ready yet. Not ready for that big new word of engagement and finace/e. So the pre-engagement continued, until I proposed to him, and now we are very much officially engaged. (Though we kept it secret for a little over a month and so that was a funny little transitional period which we could not have gone without.)

      So anyways, that’s my take on pre-engagement. It’s pretty much what you want it to be though, just like engagement, or marriage, or relationships. I believe, around here, that we get to call the shots about our own lives!

    • http://www.mysanfranciscobudgetwedding.wordpress.com Sarah

      My fiancé and I knew we wanted to be together forever, but we initially did not want to marry. We had both been divorced once before and were not huge fans of the institution even though we’re very happy together. Although we were talking about moving in together (and did), the institution of marriage was not on the table. We decided to marry because we ultimately decided that the leval protections were too important to us, and my kids need the ceremony. So we got engaged and started planning a wedding.

      I’m also a little confused by the term pre-engaged. I always assumed a person could be in a committed relationship without a pending wedding, but I have never labeled it pre-engaged. To me, an engagement was always like a pregnancy, you either are or you’re nor. Thank you for explaining this nuance to me. I think it my be something a lot of people are not aware of.

      • Claire

        I think of myself as “pre-engaged” because of timing issues. My boyfriend and I want to get married, we’ve talked about it extensively, we’re looking at rings, and we’re planning our life together right now, but due to our job situation and finances (I work in a position where I have to live in a dorm with high school students at a boarding school, and I can’t have someone living with me there, and I want to keep this job for at least one more year) the earliest we can realistically get married is the summer of 2012. While I know it works for some people, we don’t want or need an 18 month engagement period, so we’re planning on being officially engaged – announcing ourselves as such to our friends, family, and (haha) facebook – sometime this spring or summer. Plus, his brother just got engaged this month, so we’ll probably wait a little longer to become engaged because we don’t want to step on their toes.

        So obviously it’s different for every couple, but I think being “pre-engaged” is a real thing. I got irritated by a conversation thread on the Website That Shall Not Be Named about pre-engagement, where women were berating each other because “pre-engagement doesn’t exist. You either are or you aren’t. Keep waiting for the ring, honey.”

        Pregnancy is a physical thing – you either are or you aren’t – but engagement status is a murkier and mutable thing. Are you only engaged when you have a ring? When you tell people? When you’re actively planning a wedding? I’m sure on APW there are couples with a story that would contradict any one of these edicts. There are also couples who probably never needed to think of themselves as “pre-engaged.” But it’s real, and personal, and part of modern coupledom.

        End rant :)

    • meg

      We knew we wanted to get married before we mutually decided we wanted to get engaged. We were not engaged, didn’t want to be engaged, were not planning a wedding, were not telling people we were planning a wedding… but we seriously talked about marraige and knew that unless something crazy occured, we were going to get hitched. At that point, for us, we were sort of pre-engaged. And I was thinking about weddings a fair bit.

      For us, engagement was when we were ready to announce it to the world and ready to start planning a wedding.

    • Geek Bride

      I was pre-engaged for a few months, the tell-tale signs being:
      1) You’ve realised that this is the destination your relationship train is headed
      2) You talk about “when we get married” not “if we get married”
      3) One or both of you is waiting for the right moment/perfect ring/bit of time to adjust to the new relationship dynamic/planets to align/family drama to pass

      This is just my experience though, if you are pre-engaged you may have other symptoms :D

      I’d say pre-engagement was a really helpful time for us- we managed to ease ourselves into the double-fear of commitment for life and “weddings cost HOW MUCH?!” without added pressure from family, friends and complete strangers wanting to know every last detail. I’d highly recommend it!

  • Paranoid Libra

    Oh Sarah I love you, mainly for the Vonnegut quote, which I wonder if he got to an afterlife and realized he got that wrong. (everyone has different beliefs, it’s only in death that they can be confirmed true)

    I actually had a friend of my boyfriend’s tell me I should propose to him since I am the money maker and we’ve been together forever. Then about 2 mins later said how demasculating it kind of is for me to be the provider and for the woman to propose. Soooo you want me to demasculate my boyfriend, your friend further by your accounts? Thanks for the advice but it’s already been discussed between us. I know he hates living off of me and wishes he could help, but with just graduating and me being out 2 years earlier than he was he’s accepted our current financial situation and is thankful one of us a decent income.

    I don’t think friends helped me to not be jealous even just a year ago of their engagements, by doing almost all of these don’ts. I went through my own struggle of coming to terms with just because I didn’t have a ring didn’t mean we didn’t have the future we discussed a lot about.

  • ann

    oh man by the time i finished writing and posted that last comment, several other people had posted something. i love that you guys are reading this at the same time!

  • ann

    one more, i swear!

    the term “pre-engaged” seems odd to me. my partner and i decided to spend our lives together several months before we decided to have a wedding. i use the term “engaged” to describe us now, but i would have objected to someone using the term “pre-engaged” to describe us if they saw no ring and heard no wedding plans…we weren’t planning to get engaged! so it seems to imply even in the word that if a couple doesn’t get married or have a wedding for some reason, their relationship is somehow incomplete or not yet finished.

    • http://roughit.wordpress.com rouhgit

      I suspect (and Sarah or Meg, please correct me if I’m wrong) that Sarah and her boyfriend do plan to eventually marry, and that the term “pre-engaged” works for them for that reason. I think it’s an interesting and valid point that pre-engaged is not for everyone, and does imply that it’s a temporary place to be.

      My wife and I were “pre-engaged” for awhile, but it was post-dating and before we were ready to tell the world about it. I did give her a ring, but she wore it on her other hand and it was our pre-engagement ring… and that’s a story for another time, but my point is that it can be different things for different people. It is a tricky line to walk, though…

      • http://happysighs.blogspot.com Liz

        what roughit said.

        it’s not a matter of being “pre-engaged” in the sense of marriage being an eventuality for everyone. but certain people are pre-engaged- to the extent that they know a wedding is coming, but don’t have the traditional ring or date set or deposits down.

    • http://bunniesnbeagles.blogspot.com Ms. Bunny

      It’s definitely a couple by couple thing. Some have it, some don’t. If it’s not for you, don’t describe yourself as pre-engaged.

      But my partner and I were pre-engaged before we made it official. We were talking a lot about getting married. Both of us expressed the desire to get married, but neither of us had made a promise to each other that we would actually marry each other. We both agreed we wanted a proposal to mark the transition into “engaged.” So that’s what we did.

      I think in our modern world, some of us just need more nuanced terms for where we are in our relationship, and “pre-engaged” works for some of us.

      • ann

        “Both of us expressed the desire to get married, but neither of us had made a promise to each other that we would actually marry each other. We both agreed we wanted a proposal to mark the transition into “engaged.””

        That makes sense. I am on board with the idea of more-nuanced-terms etc., but I’m still wondering what to call people who have decided to spend their lives together but aren’t planning a wedding (because they don’t want to (or can’t legally) get married for some reason) or they just don’t want to deal with it right then). “Pre-engaged” seems odd. “Engaged” seems odd (although I used that term to describe myself when I was in that boat.) My partner and I were in the latter category and couldn’t figure out how to refer to each other. This stage was relatively brief for us, because it was so uncomfortable in reference to our families that we decided that planning the darn wedding already would make things easier.

        I don’t want to belitte this stage in some relationships, I just want to figure out a way to describe others without implying that you have to be engaged to be happy or to have a fulfilled relationship.

        • http://bunniesnbeagles.blogspot.com Ms. Bunny

          I think you have to ask the couple what they preferred to be called. Some might openly embrace being called pre-engaged, but you can’t make that assumption for everyone. Maybe “seriously committed” would be best for those you are unsure of.

          • kyley

            Right. We definitely fall into this category of “pre-engaged” (dating for 7 years, living together for 4, openly planning our future together, relocating for the other partner, etc.) but if someone referred to us with this label, honestly, I’d be irritated. Personally, we’re not engaged because we don’t want/need a label about this status in our relationship.

            I stress “personally” because this issue, like everything else, is a matter of individual choice. That’s the unofficial motto of APW, right?

          • http://cuvikingadventures.blogspot.com/ Jenny- Adventures Along the Way

            Yeah, this is why I appreciate the word, “conjoint/conjointe” used in Québec. It is roughly translated as “partner” in English and is used for any serious, committed romantic relationship, regardless of marital status or sexuality. Etymologically, comes from words that mean “to come together” or “to join together.” Its genius is its ability to work in any situation where a couple has moved beyond a state of casual dating, and everyone uses it because no one expects marriage to be the goal. (Which is a problem with the term “pre-engaged”. That term only works when the couple looks at marriage as a goal.) Around here, if I throw in the word “mari” (“husband”) into a conversation with someone new, it ALWAYS gets noticed and so I sometimes just say “conjoint” if I don’t feel like specifying our marital state.

          • http://cuvikingadventures.blogspot.com/ Jenny- Adventures Along the Way

            And I also wanted to add that I think I would only feel comfortable using the term “pre-engaged” to describe myself. Or acknowledging that someone else describes herself as “pre-engaged.” I guess I figure the couple needs to figure out how to define themselves and at what point they consider themselves “engaged,” or whatever the term is. I mean, “married” is easier to figure out since it is a legal status, but sometimes it is hard to figure out all the other terms to describe relationships and I think it is only the couple that can decide for themselves. If someone tells you you are “engaged” but there has been no proposal and you don’t feel like you are “engaged”…? I mean, who am I to try to determine when somebody else is engaged? For me, when I had a non-proposal entry into engagement, I had to sort through all the cultural noise myself and figure it out myself. :)

          • http://cuvikingadventures.blogspot.com/ Jenny- Adventures Along the Way

            Hmm, after thinking about it, I guess the term “married” is not necessarily clear either since couples can choose to be non-legally married. I guess I would just try to respect however a couple defines themselves and go with that term. I guess sometimes it is hard to define relationships and various stages of a relationship in something as limiting as language…

        • http://happysighs.blogspot.com Liz

          i think we we call that a “committed relationship” or “living together” or even (rarely) “dating.”

          i see the pre-engaged thing as slightly different. it’s when a person finds themselves in this state of knowing- possibly even planning- an eventual wedding and feeling sort of in limbo.

          there was a good two months before i was engaged when i sometimes called josh my fiance. because i didn’t know what we were. we weren’t engaged. but we almost were, sort of. and that’s what i think of when i heat the term- sort of an almost-engaged-but-not-yet place.

          • ann

            Yeah, the experience I think we’re all converging on as “pre-engaged” is definitely different, but what I was thinking about is also different than living together, being seriously committed, or dating, all of which my partner and I were doing before we decided to spend our lives together. I guess I like the word “partner” for exactly the reasons described below.

        • meg

          Dear God in heaven. I would not start calling people pre-engaged unless you want to get smacked. I think that’s a term we can use to describe a point that many people reach… maybe a term the couple uses for themselves, maybe not, but not an outside label.

          David and I knew each other for a decade before we started dating. So from the beginning, I thought we were going to get married. Deciding to spend our lives together was not a great revelation, just a gradual confirmation of a hypothesis. Once we’d moved across country together, and were waiting for timing issues to resolve to get engaged… that was our personal (internal) pre-engaged period. It doesn’t happen for everyone, but if it happens for you, it’s empowering to know that it’s normal.

          • Katelyn

            “Deciding to spend our lives together was not a great revelation, just a gradual confirmation of a hypothesis.”

            YES!

    • Andrea

      Mmmhmm, I definitely agree that I’d like another term other than “pre-engaged”. I see about 100 million similarities between myself and Sarah (happy as clams living together, building a life together, no wedding plans, no marriage plans, constantly pestered, etc etc) except that I don’t, at all, see myself as “pre-engaged”. I think, even for those who are for sure planning on having a wedding some day, that saying you’re pre-engaged kinda belittles your current life stage a bit. Like you’re “two steps behind”, planning or preparing for an engagement stage, when you will then plan and prepare for a wedding stage. I’m not planning or preparing any additional stages! My life is happy and settled and it feels lovely. I’m not two steps behind anything. Maybe I’m projecting? But I would like an alternative word, maybe one that feels a little more settled, even if one day it will involve more planning and preparing :)

      • ann

        Yeah, this! This is what I was going for!

        (Go Andrea.)

      • Alyssa

        I really think this is a self-identifying term. You’re pre-engaged if you say you are. If you don’t, you’re not, even if the situation is exactly the same as someone who is pre-engaged. Just like people who are engaged without rings or married without the paperwork, you can call your relationship whatever you want. It’s title is what it is to the two of you.

        I say make up your own term!

        • Andrea

          Mmm. Yes. Alyssa, good point that we don’t all have to be called the same thing if we’re in similar life situations. Putting a name to it won’t necessarily unite the experience (look at “married”, and how many different things that can mean, etc). I’ll report back when we have a term.

        • meg

          Alyssa’s right. OBVIOUSLY not everyone in a committed relationship is pre-engaged (I didn’t even think I had to give that warning, because obviously). But some people go through this, and it’s empowering to know you’re not alone if you do.

      • abby_wan_kenobi

        I understand this feeling. Before I was engaged I never thought of myself as “pre-engaged”, but Husband and I were moving towards marriage – we were talking about it, figuring out what worked for us, what we wanted our marriage to look like, how a wedding would fit into our schedules.

        From a commitment standpoint we were already engaged (hell, we were already married) we just weren’t defining our relationship that way. I guess we were “committed, with a future”? We did occasionally lament that “boyfriend/girlfriend” were inadequate descriptors. Occasionally when people asked I’d tell them we weren’t planning a wedding yet, but that it was the last relationship I was going to be in.

        • http://eclpse.livejournal.com Kimberly

          “committed, with a future”

          I like that!

      • Lethe

        I think this is why some people use the term “partner” – originally mostly us LGBT folks used it, especially back in the day when we didn’t have the option to marry anywhere, but now it seems to be a term available to everyone. It’s a good term in that it implies long-term commitment more serious than “boyfriend/girlfriend” without being dependent on marital status, but there is always the chance someone will think you’re referring to a business partner, etc. Nonetheless, after five+ years of dating and before getting engaged, I would refer to my now-fiancee as my “partner,” because it felt a little more accurate and respectful.

        • kyley

          I often refer to my BF as partner, too. It’s not super squishy and romantic, but that’s one of the things I like about it, actually. And as a straight girl who cares very deeply about LGBT issues, I like using a word with roots in the struggle for gay & lesbian marriage.

          • http://meaghantothemax.wordpress.com Meaghan

            Totally! I agree it’s a bit clinical-sounding, but I find there’s such a temporary connotation with “boyfriend/girlfriend” that I don’t like using it because we’re definitely past that stage. And yes, as someone who tries to be very aware of LGBTQ issues, I do prefer that it’s gender neutral, because my sexuality shouldn’t be the concern of everyone I speak with.

          • Geek Bride

            To me, “fiance” sounds pretentious, “spouse” sounds like a type of bird, “significant other” is a mouthful and “future husband” is just tempting fate. “Partner” sounds a little cold, “boyfriend” sounds like I’m 12 and “bedwarmer” is a little misleading.

            I go with “other half”, as it’s truly what he is to me :D

        • Chantelle

          I actually prefer the term partner to fiance as it tends to fend off the silly “When’s your wedding, what are your colours?” nonsense conversation. Mainly because the term fiance denotes a liminal stage, but sometimes you just don’t want to talk about it with everyone (back to someone else comment about how it becomes acceptable to weigh in as its seen as a ritual).

          • http://eclpse.livejournal.com Kimberly

            I always hated the term ‘fiance.’ I never used it. I think I went straight from ‘my boyfriend’ to ‘my husband’ in my mind . . . if necessary, I called him my ‘future husband’ when referring to him in company. I’m not even sure why ‘fiance’ bothered me so much — it doesn’t bother me when other people use it, or when he referred to me as his fiancee, I just could not bring myself to say it! (I’m admittedly funny about words though.)

          • http://discerningdilettante.blogspot.com ka

            It’s not just you! I hate “fiance,” it took me months to use–and only because people started getting weird about me not using it. And now I have literally had to bite my tongue to not just say husband yet! Oh the bane of long engagements.

            And I agree with how *that word* invites complete strangers to comment on your wedding planning! The absolute worst is how little respect it conjures. I have had to fight for him to be allowed to be place/do things (hospital rooms, etc.), because people don’t take it seriously. And I check the domestic partner box everywhere I can find one, and it does little good either! We are planning to get married, how do you not believe us until we are?! And even then, how are we supposed to *prove* we are married?! I’m not changing my name, will it be cause I’m wearing a band, not a solitaire?!?! F#ck off!

            Sorry, sorry, rant over. This is clearly a sore spot for me. I think life would be easier if I just went around fibbing and saying husband. It really goes to prove how much weight word choices can carry…

          • N

            I hate “fiance” too! Using it always makes me feel like I am fishing for…questions or something. Like I must be dying to talk about my wedding and have people ask to see my ring and that’s why I mentioned “my fiance.” It’s funny, because before we were engaged I felt that “boyfriend” was so inadequate and badly wanted to be “fiance/es” to each other because I felt like it appropriately connoted our seriousness (such a romantic way to phrase it! heh.). But now I awkwardly skirt around the term and try to avoid it. Whenever possible I just use his first name.

        • The Elizabeth of Oz

          I hate the “boyfriend/girlfriend” terms – almost as much as I hate “dating” (although it must be acknowledged that that latter term is not used so much in Australia, and seems to imply something a lot more casual here than in the US, for example).

          So I pretty much use “partner” for my “committed, with a future” (that’s so awesome by the way) bloke, except for with a few older folks who just don’t get that at all.

          It mainly gets the message across, although as a lawyer (for whom the word “partner” has a pretty specific professional meaning) I did have one person say “Huh? Your partner? Like, your supervising partner?”.

          But then again, that person was a complete and utter douche and was probably trying to take the piss out of me in a weird, quasi-homophobic way. Sigh.

          • Englyn

            Yeah, partner seems to work pretty well in Australia. So many couples are committed and live together but don’t seem interested in getting married that it’s a common term. It doesn’t seem to have much in the way of same-sex connotations either. Although I did get confused once by a girl who was talking about her partner as ‘she’… and it took me a while to realise she meant business partner rather than romantic partner.
            I still call my bloke partner. It sounds much less giddy than fiance, somehow. And him being my life partner is the important thing to me, more so than the going-to-get-married part.I also call him my other half, cos it’s true, but seems a bit cheesy.

        • Kay

          I use “SO” for significant other. I say the letters “ess-oh”. Part of it is my exposure to the LGBT community. Though my partner is of the opposite gender, that’s not really anyone’s business but mine. I like SO. My boyfriend is my significant other, from now until we part ways or die. I also like that significant other is free from some of the baggage and connotation of boyfriend. No, it’s not casual. “Living with my boyfriend” gives me more crap than “living with my significant other.” It is easy to use in an office: “Holiday Gathering. Significant others welcome.”

        • Sarahkay

          I also find ‘partner’ to be the best term I can find for my other. Essentially, we live as a married couple and are planning a wedding, a house and a family, but none of the other terms seem to fit—he’s not my ‘boyfriend,’ not my ‘husband,’ not my ‘fiance.’
          I find referring to him as my Partner neatly side steps having to explain my legal situation, implies the seriousness of our relationship, and doesn’t imply that we’re headed for marriage (so I can avoid prying questions until the time is right.)

      • Tina

        First, I completely agree that pre-engaged is a self-identifying term and not one you say or give to others because you don’t know what conversations others have had behind closed doors. I too struggle with a term and repeatedly fall back on partner. I was envious when Jenny- Adventures Along the Way talked about the term conjoint and everyone understanding that it was more serious than boyfriend/girlfriend and yet doesn’t have this ultimate goal of marriage. If it happens, it happens, but it’s not expected.

        For me, I use partner often because I don’t feel like boyfriend/girlfriend reflects the commitments we’ve made to each other despite not being engaged. I certainly don’t consider myself pre-engaged at this moment even though we frequently discuss our future together. We’re happy where we are at this point in time. I know that where I live, the use of partner is not as common, and I can tell people are trying to figure me out if they don’t know me well. My sexuality is my business. I feel that it’s all the more reason to use the term and own it so that one day using partner implies a level of commitment and not automatically the sexuality of the two people in it.

    • Sarah

      We definitely had a pre-engaged time. But oh-man, I would never have called us that, at the time.

      For us, there was no fussing … we talked about marriage, said yes, this is for us, and bought a ring. And then … nothing. He had the ring. I didn’t. We hadn’t felt the need to make any kind of big announcement (as we didn’t feel there was anything to announce) … so, looking back, we were totally “pre-engaged.” Then he proposed, and we told our parents and then the world. Bam, “engaged.”

      It was an interesting time for me. On the one hand, I could enjoy that we had this little happy secret between us. But, at the same time, knowing a proposal was coming … and then not having it come for a while … was insanely nerve-wracking. Like Ellie said, a few comments up, there were times when it was very sad, and a total hit on my self esteem. But there were also times when it was fabulous. So … quite the experience indeed.

      • abby_wan_kenobi

        This is interesting – Since Husband was ready to get engaged way before me, I felt a *lot* more relaxed after he had the ring. He said it was important to him to propose to me “properly” and so after 2 years of waiting on me, we bought a ring and I cleared him to propose. For the first time in a loooong time, the ball was in his court. It was such a relief to have it out of my hands. I wasn’t nervous or anxious and I didn’t particularly care how long he waited (it ended up being about 2 months). I guess since he’d been ready and confident all that time I was quite sure I couldn’t do or say anything to talk him out of it.

        • Sarah

          Oh definitely. There were definitely good times, when I felt exactly the way you’re describing. There were also times when it was just a little annoying, because dang it, I wanted to tell my family!

          But then you get to the point where I’m the total anxious, over-analyzing type. The longer it got, the more that little voice nagged at me “Maybe he’s having second thoughts.” It didn’t matter, for me, that I KNEW he was 100% ready.

          In the end, I can recognize that this was me being silly. But at the time … wow. What a roller-coaster those 2 months were!

          • http://discerningdilettante.blogspot.com ka

            Our story falls right in the middle of you two’s, and good lord, I wish I’d had APW during that “pre-engaged” time (which I would not have called it)!! Since I “proposed” and gave him the ring to give to me, it was like my happy little secret was out, and then all the pins and needles of having to do my own waiting for him to find the “right moment,” was on. I was the one that took years to be “ready”, and then as soon as I decided I was, I had to wait more?!?! Such bad planning on my part! I too totally thought he was having second thoughts when he didn’t propose back right away, even though it was he who “proposed” to me over and over for years… and wow, did I get very silly!

    • Rosie

      I have only heard the term “pre-engaged” used on this site, but I like it and find that it fits me right now. My boyfriend and I are contemplating marriage. We’re not planning it, we don’t know for sure that it will happen, but we’re seriously thinking about it. It’s an exciting time!

  • http://www.otheramusements.com Someone

    Maybe I’m just lucky and don’t know any people like this, but this is a real eye opener to me. I’ve been with my fella for about 8 years, living together for 4, (engaged for 1!) but never in that time did anyone say anything to me along those lines. Sure his grandparents jibed us after a couple of years about if we were getting married yet – we said yeah, maybe – one day.

    I don’t think we were ever pre-engaged. This might be related to what Meg was saying the other day – that the wedding really changed things for her whereas other people had already made that change. We’d already made our choice so in a way it didn’t matter whether we got married or not, we kind of weren’t waiting for anything.

    I wish I could have put that more eloquently, I hope it makes sense.

    • http://splitpurplenalities.blogspot.com Jenni

      I’m also lucky enough that people have never said the kinds of things in this post to me. My boyfriend and I have been in a long distance relationship for 3.5 years with at least 1.5 years to go. For me, to be in that kind of relationship did require a sort of … understanding. We always talk about “when” for our future, but I have no anticipation of getting engaged any time soon. Usually people just say “So … ::awkward pause:: Are you guys … planning to get married in the future?” Even my mom and my best friend have said this to me! I just laugh and say, “of course, but obviously not right now given the circumstances.”

      But I’m definitely ready once the circumstances are right. Is reading APW a sign that you’re pre-engaged? Hmm.

  • Kee

    OMG Sarah. I feel ashamed for the people that have said these things to you, what century do they live in?

    If it get unbearable, come to Sweden. In Sweden, cohabitant laws are strong, equality between sexes is better than in many other places and parents aren’t really expected to pay for their kid’s weddings. Because of these things, most people in Sweden get married in their mid-30s, when they already own a house together and have about two kids, one volvo and a dog. Or something like that. No pressure to get married here in Sweden, I promise!

    I just got married with an english guy and it’s hilarious how different our cultures are. My swedish friends (all unmarried) were all like “you are marrying at such young age (27) and you’ve only been together a very short time (4 years. 3 years of living together)” while his english friends (all married. One even divorced) were more like “it’s about time, what took so long?”.

    The only reason I’m considering pressuring my best friend and her boyfriend to get married asap is because it I love pretty stuff and if I don’t have a wedding-related reason for thinking about centerpieces soon, I’m afraid I will start throwing advanced dinner parties a la Martha Stewart and then I might as well move out to the suburbs and become a housewife and then my life will be over.

    • Jen M

      Please adopt me, I would love to move to Sweden :)

  • Mallory

    Bahaha the chicken! Hilarious, who knew roast chickens were filled with MAGIC!

    On a similar note, now that I’m recently engaged (after a 4 year relationship about 3 years of which I would consider pre-engaged) it’s very weird for me that people are suddenly accepting us as a committed couple. I want to be like “The engagement was not a a change of plans, people! Thanks for catching up to what has been the plan for 3 years!” Idk, I understand their thought process but to me getting married was in the cards long before the ring came along. I’m not upset with them or hurt at all, it’s just like having a baby and then people congratulating you about it when the kid is potty trained.

    • Meredith

      you know, I just know that is how my bf’s family is going to react. I feel like my family has really accepted him as part of our own, even though we are not married, nor do we have current plans to get married. He’s invited to all of our holidays, he’sbeen invited on vacation etc. The vibe I get from my parents is that they consider us a team.

      My bf’s family though, I don’t feel like they view us as a team/ couple/ one entity. I feel like they still consider me ‘just another girlfriend’, even though we’ve been together 5 years now. They haven’t embraced me as my parents have embraced my bf. Maybe they never will. i don’t know. But its my guess that once it’s ‘more official’ by a proposal or getting married, they’ll finally consider us as a team.

      • Mallory

        I can totally relate to that and it sucks. There were a few times I even got “We should take a family photo… mallory will you take it?” which was a bit of verbal stab considering I moved across the country for their son.

        I think it’s just important to recognize that some of our parents are from a different generation in which the long term committed unmarried couple was not as common and acceptable as it is today. It definitely hurts to feel like they don’t consider you family but hopefully they still treat you well despite that.

    • http://www.twitter.com/kahlia kahlia

      The fact that people only began to recognize us as a “forever” thing when we got formally engaged surprised me, too. Even my mother, who I consider to be pretty liberal/open-minded in many ways, did it… I think it irked me most coming from her, too, since she knew us as a couple so well before then. I spent the year-and-a-half engagement thinking (& sometimes saying) “How is the fact that we plan to be together forever a surprise to any of you?!” We’d been together for 3 years & living together for 2 (which required me overstaying my visa in his country–a situation I did NOT take lightly!), it’s not like I was planning on leaving at any point in the foreseeable future.

      And I hate to say it, but it actually got worse after the wedding. It was like a new level of acceptance of the permanence. I was ever so slightly insulted by it, actually!

      • Kess

        Ugh, I know where you’re coming from, although I’m more or less ‘pre-engaged’ and nothing’s official yet simply because I feel 20 years old is too young!

        I love my mother dearly, but she won’t even call my boyfriend of 3 years my boyfriend – he’s my ‘friend’. Seriously Mom? While I am young, I still feel like this is ridiculous. My sister who is 27 also has a boyfriend and he is also referred to as ‘her friend’. Although she did say my brother was dating someone.

        • Morgan

          Heh. You’re not alone. I has been with this guy for like 4 years, and we were living together, and my mom still introduced him as “this is Morgan’s um friend.” Um friend was a running joke for a long time after.

          • Meredith

            My mother has done this as well. She was introducing my and my bf to old college friends at a wedding and she said “this is my daughter Meredith and her friend Jeff”.

            Thanks Mom.

        • N

          Is this a regional thing? My FH is from Alabama, and evvvvveryone there was introducing me to others as his “friend” even after we had been together for 3+ years. At first I was like, “do they not…know…we’re dating?” But he said that it’s just code for girlfriend/boyfriend and that everyone knows what you mean. It’s pretty confusing, but I’ve learned that they don’t actually mean it as a demotion. Not sure if this applies in your case.

      • http://irisira.wordpress.com irisira

        “So, how’s married life?”
        “Not all that different from non-married life. It’s different for everyone else, not for us.”

        If I had a dollar for every time I had this exchange over the last three months …

        Because that’s just it, for a lot of us. C and I lived together, had pets together, were building a life together. Our relationship did not fundamentally change, but people’s perceptions of us did. All of a sudden, spending holidays together (as opposed to apart with our separate families) is not only accepted but expected; making decisions as a team (such as one moving for the other’s job) is not taboo; sharing expenses (such as health insurance and bank accounts) is considered normal. These are all things that society tells us we shouldn’t do without “the ring.”

        Also, don’t get me started on the “You’re not really and adult until …” line of thinking.

    • Maddie

      Oh man. I feel you on this one. My husband and I were together for 6 years, sharing holidays, and living together when we got engaged and all of a sudden my family acknowledged that our relationship was legit. It made me very upset that they hadn’t accepted us as a family yet, but that somehow felt jewelry could change that.

      • TUPELO HONEY

        Initially, I felt the same way… annoyed when people seemed to take us more seriously when we decided to marry. We were together 5 and a half years when we married and were very much committed to each other the entire relationship. But, I also think that people taking you more seriously after marriage puts a greater value on it. If it’s not different in that way, then why do it? And I don’t mean, at all, that people should get married SO that other people take them more seriously or value the relationship more. I do think that the value of it shows the power of marriage.

      • M

        Ugh! This is the worst. I had a particularly rough time with my family last year during the holiday season when I felt like my family wasn’t respecting my relationship with my boyfriend (together for 10 years, living together for 5 at the time). After that my boyfriend and I had a serious talk about our relationship and decided at some point soon we were going to plan to get married. I went to visit my family again not long after this and informed them that we were planning to get married. No, we weren’t engaged yet, but we were planning to get married. That talk seems to have helped my family realize that my relationship with my boyfriend isn’t going away. I’m glad that the talk I had with my family helped things, but at the same time it makes me mad that I had to declare a marriage in the future for them to finally get how committed we are to each other. Argh!

    • abby_wan_kenobi

      I totally understand this – It was suuuuper annoying. Before we were engaged people (especially at work) would ask me all the time if we were still together. We’d been together 3 years when I started my job and I never ever brought any relationship drama to work, so all they ever heard were good things. But when we got engaged it was suddenly like I was in a real relationship, not just passing time with some slob until a better one came along.

      Lame!!

    • Faith

      We have also felt that people actually are beginning to see us as real adults since we’ve gotten engaged. I don’t understand that one. I guess the magic ring makes you an official adult too!

    • A-L

      Call me weird, but the engagement and the marriage did make a difference in the seriousness of our relationship. Had we broken up a week before we got engaged, it would have been sad, but that’s all it would have been. By announcing our engagement we were publicly saying how serious we were and that we were planning to commit to each other for life. That’s a whole other step up the commitment ladder (for us) from dating seriously. And the marriage was yet another step up the commitment ladder. Because we could have broken off our engagement, and as heartbreaking as it would have been, we hadn’t yet made those vows. But now that we’re married I feel a totally different level of commitment. If a big, huge, serious issue had arisen while dating or engaged, a breakup would have been a possibility to consider. Now it’s not. And I think our families and friends recognize those different levels of commitment, which is why they react the way you’ve described.

      • http://madeline.eisenhart@gmail.com Maddie

        I completely agree that getting married changed things for us in a way that I hadn’t even expected. But I guess for some reason I just didn’t see getting engaged as being the next step. Maybe for me, it’s sort of like getting a job offer. As soon as I get the phone call, I’m celebrating. But receiving the actual offer letter doesn’t solidify the fact for me. And it was the same when we got engaged. But I think you and I just further prove that it’s unfair for society (and busybodies) to assume that we’re all feeling the same way about life’s major moments. What might be a game-changer for you is just another day in Maddie-land for me.

    • Arachna

      Heh. Agree on all of the above.

      But the perspective on the other side is that as someone not intimate with someone I’m not going to interogate person X about the seriousness of her relationship. Some people live together because they’ve found their life partners, some people are dating and aren’t that serious, and I have no way of knowing which one it is. I know plently of people who live with someone and ended up breaking up without the break up being super significant – the way I’d expect a divorce to be. Obviously there are clues and things – I was pretty sure my friend who’s been with her guy for 8 years and making decisions together was in it for the long haul and I could treat her as someone with a life partner – but it’s a lot easier to be told straight out “this is my family” and then you can happily be “okay, check! will treat as such” instead of guessing what this particular person means by the words “dating”.

    • Sarah

      Oy, I know this one well. Just before getting engaged (though well after talking about marriage) we announced that we would be moving across the country. People (my mother mostly) were worried and kept bringing up things like “well, I don’t think you should just follow some boy” and “if it doesn’t work out, you can always come home.” Not like we hadn’t been together for years at that point. But MAN, the second I showed up with a ring on my hand and we used the magic word “engaged” … no one was concerned in the slightest about me picking up and moving my life 3000 miles away.

      Even more interesting, we weren’t considered a valid, committed couple by HIS parents until we were actually married. As in, THE DAY BEFORE THE WEDDING, I was just a fad in their son’s life, to them. Once we’d been pronounced, and kissed in their viewing, “we” were accepted.

      I don’t understand it in the slightest.

    • kyley

      Hmmm, my boyfriend made *me* roast chicken last night. Maybe he’s hoping I’ll pop the question!

  • http://happysighs.blogspot.com Liz

    this is so so good. when i was pre-engaged, it wasn’t me but josh who felt all of the “hurry up and do it already” pressure. it was like people assumed he was afraid of commitment. when the actual reality was that i was the one who placed “after i finish my master’s” limits on when he could propose (in my case, code for “i’m not ready yet”)

    it’s frustrating that the assumption always is that it’s the girl gunning for the altar and the man dragging his heels. (“you should just propose to him” or “you must be so bitter”)

    • abby_wan_kenobi

      This was my experience too (except minus the grad school thing – kudos for you!) Husband was ready to tie the knot long before I was. I think we arrived at “let’s stay together forever!!” at the same time, but for him that meant “let’s get engaged right now!! wedding next week?” and for me it meant “let’s stay right here for like, 2 more years and then I’ll feel ready to sign legal documents and throw a wedding.”

      That was difficult enough to deal with within our relationship, but to have outsiders accusing him of dragging his feet was particularly painful. I always wanted to defend him and say it was me who wasn’t ready, but that just led to a conversation about what was wrong with me. And it definitely was never a constructive conversation that made me more ready to get married.

    • http://eclpse.livejournal.com Kimberly

      We went to a wedding last fall and people — our friends! — kept asking me when we were going to get married. One woman (a sweet, sweet married woman, mind you) told me, “he already knows you’re the one, he told us so. It’s coming.” I wasn’t quite sure what to say to that. (Thanks? I’m not worried that we won’t end up together? Don’t worry, I’m not pining? What’s it to you?) The first few I laughed off, but it got so annoying that by the end of the weekend, when people would ask me that question, I’d find himself and be like, “Here, so-and-so wants to know when we’re getting married. I’m going to the bar.”

      Little did I know! On the way home, I found out that people had been asking him as well, especially guys who were already married. I had no idea that the expectations of others would manifest themselves so similarly on both of us.

      • Rose

        My go-to answer is, “We’re eloping tonight, of course! Isn’t my wedding attire beautiful?” (Works *best* when I’m wearing my Whalers sweatshirt, but is a winner the rest of the time, too.) People are taken aback and then just laugh along with me (us, actually. I’ve convinced him that this is a great response and he now uses it frequently). It makes the whole question less awkward and allows the conversation to move on to more entertaining topics.

        • http://irisira.wordpress.com irisira

          OT, but obscure former NHL Hockey reference FTW!

          (I’m 2 hrs from Hartford … my city mourns the loss of the Whalers!)

    • Morgan

      Replace “wanting to get married soon” with “wanting babies soon”? And you have my husband ready as anything and me dragging my heels. It’s sometimes hard to be the contrarian female. :)

      • http://discerningdilettante.blogspot.com ka

        Not just you! Mine is all, “if an accident happens, that’s cool,” and I’m very much taking my pill religiously. :)

        • Morgan

          An IUD means that one day soon I’ll actually have to make a concious decision about things… On purpose accidents makes my planner soul hyperventilate.

          • http://sochicsocheap.blogspot.com liz

            with any luck, planned parenthood will stop covering your birth control and you’ll get preggo the week before you get on insurance.

            …or is that just me? ;)

  • Jessica

    Sarah, this is great! Thanks for contributing.

    I’ve been with my boyfriend 2.5 years, living together 1.5. Luckily I don’t get any flack from anyone! We live in a small city where many friends have been in their relationships for 3, 4, 7 years with no talk of weddings… on the other hand, that woman I know who’s been with her boyfriend for 7 years with no wedding is not happy about it, but she does make us look like spring chickens in comparison! Plus I don’t think my mother would mind if I waited until I’m 30 to get married (5 years off) :)

  • Katrina

    I was so excited to read this post this morning because it perfectly expressed all the frustration that I’ve felt for the past two years. I was so psyched about it that I posted a link to it on my Facebook page. Unfortunately, minutes after I put it up, my mother commented back with a snide remark about how disappointed she is in my choices and how I’ve “turned my back” on the way that she and my father raised me. After reading that, now I’m sitting at my desk at work trying to fight back tears. I could really use a big cyber-hug from Team Practical, because right now I feel utterly rejected and alone. :(

    • Josephine

      Boo! Moms can be so wrapped up in their own stuff sometimes they end up saying super hurtful things to their daughters. Stay strong, girlfriend!

    • Andrea

      WOAH. this is awful awful awful. Huge internet-hugz and a kick in the pants to facebook. I’m not sure what else to say.

    • http://bunniesnbeagles.blogspot.com Ms. Bunny

      Oh no! *Hugs* *Hugs* *Hugs*

      I’m sorry your mom said something to you like that, especially in such a public forum. If I were you, I’d give myself permission to delete the comment. That’s totally unfair of her.

    • http://happysighs.blogspot.com Liz

      YIKES. i’m crazy confused about how using a term like “pre-engaged” would be abandoning some sense of morality or “being raised correctly” or whatever. making a decision different from that of your parents does not always connote a rejection of your parents. yeah?

      i’m so sorry, katrina! major hugs from over here.

    • Alice

      Cyber hug from APW! Moms can be harsh sometimes, usually because they love you and don’t want to let you go and make your own decisions without them. But making and standing by these decisions is part of starting your own baby family.

    • http://misallocationofresources.blogspot.com/ Jenn

      Big hug!!

      • ann

        yeah, seriously. xxxxxxx. oh, hell. xoxoxoxo.

    • http://lilapuppy.blogspot.com Meghan

      HUGS! We affirm you!

    • http://jolynn.wordpress.com jolynn

      Support hugs!

    • http://www.betterinrealife.com Lauren

      What the eff?! It’s unfortunate, but true – parents can be so CRUEL sometimes. Stand strong Katrina!! You know how to live your life and you’re doing a good job. :)

    • Sarah

      Oh, lady …. ::HUGS::

      My mom is the same way, I know how badly it can hurt.

      We’re all here for you, sweetie.

    • abby_wan_kenobi

      HUGS!!!

      I know it was only a matter of time before guilt-tripping family members started using facebook as a medium for shaming, but this is really shitty.

      Keep the faith, you can’t ‘turn your back’ on your cyber family as long as you’re being true to yourself :)

    • Kate

      Yikes! That’s awful. Hugs and permission to delete and treat yourself extra well for the rest of the day.
      Kudos to you for posting something you believe in even if it draws flak from the ones you love.

    • http://webecomeus.wordpress.com Caitlin

      more hugs more hugs!

    • Jen M

      ::HUGS::

      Parents have a hard time accepting the choices of their children when they have deeply engrained (often religious) views. Comments like the ones your mom made generally come from a genuine, albeit misguided, place of care, concern and almost certainly hurt feelings. Sometimes it’s hard for people to let go of their conceptions about what is the right and wrong way to live, especially when it comes to marriage.

      Know that your choices are valid and your mama loves you (this from the crazy liberal daughter of a Mexican Catholic).

      We love you too.

      ::more hugs::

      • Katrina

        Thank you. I’ve gone back and re-read your comment several times this morning. It’s hard sometimes to keep in mind that my mom is doing this because she feels it’s in my best interest. A lot of the time I feel like I want to shut her out of my life completely. But in the end, she IS my mom, and I really DO want to have a healthy relationship with her. Thanks for the reminder. :)

    • Carreg

      That’s awful… :hug: It’s the shame thing again isn’t it? Doing stuff differently from what our mothers did is apparently turning our backs on them… Have a nice cup of tea. I think it’s something to do with not being able to let their kids grow up you know — of course we aren’t going to behave exactly as we were raised to, it’s called having our own identity. Have another cup of tea. Chocolate?

      • meg

        Hugs, and yes, shame blasters activate. You’re doing NOTHING wrong, being a strong woman, as Sarah said to me in an emai, “Moving forward slowly with great joy.”

    • Katrina

      ohmygoodness, thank you for the support, everyone! I cannot tell you how much this has meant to me this morning.

      This hasn’t been the first time that my mom has chosen to “play dirty” regarding this subject, and I’m very much afraid to see how our arguments will evolve as the actual wedding planning gets underway. I have a feeling that I’ll be relying a lot on Team Practical to help me get through this, because I’m one of those unlucky girls who doesn’t have a strong “in real life” support system. (Other than my loving and equally-practical boyfriend, of course!)

      Shame blasters, activate!! *KA-POW!!!!!*

      • http://discerningdilettante.blogspot.com ka

        Pew pew!!

        And HUGS.

        :)

      • http://irisira.wordpress.com irisira

        Late on this, but add me to the chime-in of support. What your mom said was NOT OK, it’s downright abusive. It’s not like you’ve taken up a life of crime or have yourself hooked on drugs. You’ve made a completely legitimate, adult decision that WORKS for you and your partner, and no one has a right to comment on it unless you invite them to do so. (And, in this case, posting it on Facebook was not inviting comment – rather, it was a ballsy response to all of the uninvited comments you’ve received!)

      • Alexandra

        Shame blasting, check.
        Community support, check!
        *HUGS*
        You are worthy. Your choices about your relationship, and how you choose to describe it, are worthy. Blessings.

    • Chantelle

      * BIG GIANT MAMA BEAR HUGS* It’s so sad that the people we love the most can also hurt us the most. Hang in there and stick to your guns, you aren’t doing anything wrong! Just different. Hopefully your mom will come around to that realization sooner than later.

    • Jen

      *HUGS*. Parents can be just as hurtful as strangers sometimes, if not moreso. Hope you find comfort in our support of you!

  • Faith

    I am sorry someone said that to you…yuck. I’m feeling ya on that one, I just got my first, “You’re not going to fit in your wedding dress!” comment…people, people, people.

    In our pre-engaged time, the first question out of everyone’s mouth was, “So, when do you think the ring is coming????”. Like that really is all I thought about, all the time. I love how you point out that you want your friends to be happy for you in the RIGHT NOW, not just be thrilled when you finally get that lusted after, magic ring.

    What you just outlined was what I was thinking the entire time before we were engaged. Especially the “please be nice to him” portion. He really isn’t an immature moron, thank you.

    • abby_wan_kenobi

      Seriously, if me being in a bad mood after a bad day is enough to keep him from proposing, we definitely should not be getting married. I’m pretty sure there will still be bad days from time to time after the wedding.

  • http://thinkingwedding.blogspot.com Rhiannon

    I hear you. SO LOUD!!!

    We had a few months between saying to each other “I trust you to spend the rest of my life with” and the ring being got and given, and yes, in those few months many of my friends got engaged and yes, we had a lot of ‘dress’ conversations, and yes! That was when I started reading APW.

    In that period of time we discovered that we both want a lot of the same practical things regarding both wedding and marriage. We couldn’t have worked it out without talking about it.

    Yet many of my friends advised me not to mention the ‘m’ word because ‘put too much pressure on him and he’ll run a mile’.

    And when it came to the ring, that was the least of it. If that’s all it was about, I’d have bought it myself.

  • Milla

    I love the chicken. Really, that’s my favorite. I’m wondering if I can replace it with a quiche. . .

    But I feel a little torn about being pre-engaged in a same-sex relationship— my girlfriend and I know without a doubt that we’re going to get married, and if situations were different we’d probably already have gotten married or would be planning our wedding. But, living in Utah, I think we’ve hesitated to get engaged because the day we can get married (legally or not. . . I don’t really want to get married in Utah, although that could change) is at least a couple of years off. I keep wondering if I should suggest us getting rings and making it official, but we’re both poor grad students at present, and really, the point of getting officially engaged would be to proclaim our seriousness to other people.

    So it’s odd. But I do wish pre-engagement relationships was more universally recognized as having value, but I’m in the circumstance where I’m not sure many people would appreciate an actual engagement or marriage any more. It’s a weird headspace for me.

    • http://lilapuppy.blogspot.com Meghan

      Dude, UTAH. It is tough on all of us. I was 32 when I got married and you would have thought that most folks around here thought of me as some sort of mutant. People would ask if I was married and when I said no kind of stare at me wondering what was wrong with me, trying to spot the defective part.

      As a fellow Utahn, I have one question, are you going to join us for the meet-up?

      • http://webecomeus.wordpress.com Caitlin

        “Utahn” is possibly my new favorite word ever. Kinda makes me wish I lived there.

      • Milla

        Oh, Utah. Living in Salt Lake is great, but my parents live down south in Utah County. . . that leads to some interesting times.

        I would love to come to meet-up! I’m mostly a lurker but I admire all the fabulous people here to pieces.

    • Rizubunny

      My partner and I started dating in September 2005, decided to get married in February 2006, and bought simple rings (stainless steel rings from a company called teno) together in April 2006. We didn’t start telling people until end of 2008, and even then it was only 4-5 close friends. We finally set a date and started telling people in August 2009 (the wedding is in September 2011). For us, it was a perfect timeline – the rings made the commitment a bit more visible to us, but they are not something that anyone would comment on or really notice.

      I think that I considered us “committed” rather than “engaged” during this time period. We took the time to figure out privately what marriage meant for us, whether we wanted to have a big wedding here in FL and then do a legal wedding somewhere else, or do neither, and other big issues. Having that time really helped, but I know that being clear with each other that yes, we did plan to get married, was good too. If we hadn’t had that time I think it some of those issues would have been much more difficult. It also helped with the family angle too – I think our parents were in a much better place to hear this year that we’re getting married, rather than five months into the relationship.

      For me, I think the idea of the “engagement” period has to do with telling people our plans. I still have trouble saying “engaged” or “fiancee” – but no trouble saying “we’re getting married.” I just really dislike the baggage and expectations that come with the official status of engaged.

      On that note…I did change my facebook status to engaged last year, but I had previously taken my gender off the profile, so I didn’t get the flood of weight loss and laser hair removal ads that others have reported.

      • http://cuvikingadventures.blogspot.com/ Jenny- Adventures Along the Way

        Yes…I always just said, “We’re getting married.” That’s the only way I felt comfortable explaining things.

  • http://! Jennifer

    This is smart stuff. I personally never had to deal with pre-engagement issues, as we became formally engaged pretty shortly after we started really discussing the possibility, and had barely been dating long enough for most people to start viewing us as A Couple. But I find often the posts I appreciate most on APW are the ones that describe my own experience least. Thanks for sharing these thoughts!

    • http://thinkingwedding.blogspot.com Rhiannon

      I find that too.

      We also had things move pretty quickly and a lot of people found that very unusual. Admittedly I had a kind of ‘pre-engaged’ period, but it was a matter of a few months at most, not years.

  • http://www.fancynotion.blogspot.com/ Kerry

    My god where was this post 2 years ago? Oh well, it STILL felt good to read even though my wedding is this week.

    I’m glad that from the comments it seems like not everyone experiences this stress, but I sure did and it was an awful time for me. Sarah, you’re brilliant!

    • http://happysighs.blogspot.com Liz

      THIS WEEK.

      aaaaahhhh!

    • http://lilapuppy.blogspot.com Meghan

      Kerry. THIS WEEK!

    • http://jolynn.wordpress.com jolynn

      THIS WEEK!!!! :D

      • http://www.fancynotion.blogspot.com/ Kerry

        I’m AHHHHHHing right there with you, lovelies.

        • http://abernacky.tumblr.com Jessica

          Alkaseltzer worked great for me and my stomach jitters the morning of, btw.

    • http://irisira.wordpress.com irisira

      And you have time to comment on APW?!

      Oh who am I kidding, I procrastinated with APW, too. :)

      YAYAYAYAY! :) Have an amazing week.

  • http://bunniesnbeagles.blogspot.com Ms. Bunny

    “Please encourage me to talk to my boyfriend about our future and delete the word “pressure” from your conversations about that. Call me new-fashioned, but I believe that as an educated woman in my late twenties with my own assets, ideas, experience and opinions, I shouldn’t be waiting on my partner to make one of the biggest decisions of our lives on his own.”

    This so much! It frustrates me to no end when my friends are in relationships where they refuse to talk to their partners about marriage and engagements because they’ve boughten the whole “scare him off” bullsh*t. I am constantly telling them, just go talk to him about it. I don’t know what he’s thinking because I’m not him. He knows though and can actually tell you.

  • http://www.notintentonarriving.blogspot.com Kristin

    Thank you for this, Sarah (and Meg, for all the great engagement posts recently)!

    I don’t consider myself “pre-engaged” in any way, but we’ve been together for six years and know we’ll probably get married in the next four or so, so this really speaks to me. I’m a little private about the whole thing, so when people ask me about it, I never want to give the whole wonderful story of “well, we’re waiting until we’ve both had a chance to settle down into ourselves for a while and hopefully finish grad school and have some more direction.” I suppose part of my hesitation to say “pre-engaged” comes from not being too comfortable with letting the whole world know the details of us. I do sometimes wonder if people are feeling badly for me and not realizing it is entirely a decision we consciously made together.

    Luckily, we’re still young and most people here don’t get married until later anyway, so we aren’t really feeling too much pressure or getting many prying questions, but it does happen, and they get tiresome, and more common every year.

  • http://konsciousdecisions.wordpress.com/ Katie

    Whenever friends or family prompted us with engagement questions, my snarky response to them was always “BABY FIRST”. That usually silenced a lot of people :)

    Love this post so much. Thank you! Happiness is contagious… so thanks for spreading it on.

    • http://meaghantothemax.wordpress.com Meaghan

      Haha that’s an amazing reply – I might steal it! It would certainly be keeping in my family’s tradition!

  • Ashlee

    I wanted to live with my prospective husband for a year, as a trial, before committing to live with him forever. My family was uneasy about it, but mostly understood. But I had one uncle that kept asking “So when are you getting married?” and giving me this look like “Girl, God is judging your sinning self.” (What do I care? I’m not Christian!) I managed to finally brush him off with a joking “When he gets me a bigger stone!” and pointing at my promise ring, rinsed and repeated until he got the hint. (The promise ring, BTW, became my engagement ring after the year was up, and will soon be my wedding ring, too.)

  • Amy

    I think these Do’s and Don’ts can also go for someone who’s in a wonderful relationship with a fantastic person who they have no intention of marrying. I’m in my mid-twenties and currently dating an old friend who I care for deeply, as he does for me, but we both know we’re too different to make a long-term commitment. However, at the moment our relationship works for our lifestyle, we make each other happy, and we feel way too young to be worried about finding “the one” or “becoming a spinster.” We want the best for each other and down the road we know that will mean ending things (and since we’ve already paved the way with a loving, honest and open relationship, we *hope* things will end amicably. Probably when I save enough money to move to San Francisco!) In the meantime, it’s annoying to get comments like, “really? You’re 25 and your relationship isn’t going to lead to marriage? Why are you dating him?” or “Be really sweet to him and I’m sure he’ll change his mind” or “Don’t waste your time making him happy!” or the worst: “Obviously he’s not a good guy and isn’t worthy of your relationship time.” I’m sure the comments are well-meaning (sort of) but I wish everyone would lay off.
    And PS, I’m obviously not engaged, pre-engaged or any sort of engaged, but I still read APW’s every post! Love it here!

    • http://discerningdilettante.blogspot.com ka

      Thanks for sharing this Amy–I would love to hear more about relationships like this, as I have a lot of friends struggling with this type of issue right now. It’s hard for them to be 27 and happy, but not see the relationship leading to marriage and kids, which is what they want… They question whether/when/how one should give up day-to-day contentment in pursuit of someone “better” in order to reach a goal (marriage/kids)? (I wonder this myself about job/careers…)

      • http://gfpumpkins.wordpress.com gfpumpkins

        I actually wrote in an Ask Team Practical question about this. I’m 31 and dating a guy I’m not sure I want to marry. But not because I’m not sure I want to get married (to someone, one day), but I’m not sure how to make that decision. And I do feel pressure from the outside (and from the inside) that I should know how to make this kind of decision, but I don’t. I’d LOVE to hear the stories of how people DECIDED to marry the person they are marrying (or married to), or how they decided that someone wasn’t for them.

  • http://nickandnoragettingmarried.wordpress.com/ Annie

    Could not agree more to this entire post. My fiance and I were dating for almost seven years before we got engaged, so there were lots of “when’s the wedding going to be???” questions leading up to our actual engagement. We got engaged when we felt financially stable, were done with grad school, and were in the same time zone (long distance for three years, oy). I can’t understand why some people think it’s okay to ask personal relationship questions about people who aren’t married. I don’t think it’s okay to ask my married friends/family members how their relationships are going and when they’re planning on making major life decisions.

  • http://misallocationofresources.blogspot.com/ Jenn

    “I’m not looking for a “solution” to my pre-engagement. Being pre-engaged is not a “problem.””

    EXACTLY! You rock. Another one of these situations where the community of women at large is so quick to make assumptions. Why are we so hard on ourselves and eachother?

    • McPants

      Yes! This was my thought too. This part really got me too:

      “There aren’t a finite amount of engagements and this girl hasn’t “stolen” mine from me. Seriously. Let me be happy for that couple without looking at me as if “thou protest too much.””

      I feel like way too often women are expected to be jealous or resentful when really all they feel is happiness for someone else.

  • Ruby_Lou

    So, so timely. Congrats to you for not becoming “that girl.” You know, “that girl” that makes her boyfriend feel guilty because she’s ready and he’s not and complains constantly to her friends that he hasn’t proposed. I only say this because I HAVE BECOME THAT GIRL! (I had to shout it because I am so disappointed in myself). My mind has been spinning for months now. I keep convincing myself that he’s about to propose at any moment. Trip to Mexico? Proposal on the beach! Anniversary? He’ll pull a ring out over dinner! Weekend in Chicago? Must be the ferris wheel at Navy Pier. I feel like I ruin everything fun because I’m so disappointed.

    I don’t want to ask him. Like Paranoid Libra, I wear the figurative pants in a lot of ways in our relationship and I really wanted this to come from him. He knows I’m ready and I certainly don’t want him to do something he’s not comfortable with. So instead, I have become a passive aggressive pain in the butt. I’ve found myself putting off important conversations with him because they “should wait until we’re engaged.” On top of my guilt for becoming that anti-feminist “that girl” I feel like I’ve already given us both a sour taste about something that should have been easy and natural. I’m goint to try harder to chill out.

    • Erika

      Just to play devil’s advocate…why put off those important conversations? If they’re about your future together, it’s good to know where you both stand on issues, and you can start negotiating any points of conflict. And if those discussions and negotiations go well, it might just make him more comfortable about going forward with an official proposal.

      • Ruby_Lou

        You’re absolutely right. But I have these long conversations with myself that go something like this: “I’d really like to look at that house I saw with the three bedrooms. We would need more bedrooms if we had kids. Wait, you aren’t even engaged, much less married with kids. But it would be hard to move the same year we got married because weddings are expensive and it would be a pain in the butt if we waited until I got pregnant, which means we should totally move into a bigger house now. We would really need to work on his credit. I don’t think his credit is great. But you don’t know because you haven’t talked about it. Well, it seems like it would be an easier thing for us to discuss in pre-marital counseling. But you can’t go to premarital counseling until your pre-marital and all. Exacly, which is why he should propose tonight. Maybe I should go remind him about my biological clock…”

        Exhausting…

        • Paranoid Libra

          Yup I bought the house of our future already(and no he isn’t on the loan). For him the proposal is important. He also used to believe the ring had to cost a lot and have diamonds on it….care of APW he changed his mind…and yes I “accidently” left up an engagement or rings post. :)

          I avoided big talks too to avoid being “that girl” I realized we only became fully ready as a couple emotionally this past year. And I think the whole me buying a house did bring more of marriage talk up to the surface. I did have him come with me to look and give his opinions.

          Now he is so very thankful we have a house together. His name won’t be on anything though until marriage. (he had bad luck with that before so I can’t blame him and terrible credit)

        • http://cuvikingadventures.blogspot.com/ Jenny- Adventures Along the Way

          I loved our “pre-engagement” counseling. Though it could be called anything. Why wait until engagement if you want to talk through important stuff with somebody? You could call it “our relationship is awesome and we want to work to see if we can make it even more awesome” counseling, maybe?

        • ddayporter

          bahahah oh Ruby_Lou. that whole string of thoughts basically verbatim (plus the “Trip to Mexico? Anniversary! He’ll have the ring over dinner!”), went through my head for probably 2 months straight. for me it was because I didn’t want to talk about it with any of my friends for various reasons, and not that Zach wouldn’t let me talk about things, but I didn’t want to fully introduce him to the crazy in my head because I knew it was temporary (and a big part of me had bought into the idea that I would somehow “ruin things” if I talked about it too much and spoiled the surprise). so yeah just fyi, you are not alone!

          but I do agree with others that it’s never too early to talk through some of the bigger issues, and looking back on my own experience I only wish I had been more vocal about how the “pre-engaged” period (though we didn’t call it that at the time) was making me feel, and I wish I had asked him how he was feeling too because I’m sure he wasn’t just cool as a cucumber. It’s been said already, but so true: talking about it doesn’t have to be Pressure, and it’s not going to ruin anything.

      • http://amidlifeofprivilege.blogspot.com LPC

        Let me just say that if you wear the figurative pants, you wear them. If he feels badly about that, then he feels badly. Everyone has to be willing to accept the consequences of their choices. A proposal isn’t going to turn him into the wage earner. If power in a relationship comes from earning money, we as women do not have to prop up, in traditional ways, those men who make untraditional choices. “Feeling like a man” shouldn’t come at the expense of a strong woman bound to wait for some ceremonial proposal. Any propping up and reassurance that this balance is OK needs to happen at a deeper and more honest level. Now, if YOU want him to take the traditional male role in this, because it fills something in YOUR heart, that’s a separate issue. I understand that situation very well.

        • Ruby_Lou

          Thanks to everyone for the support! Just to address the “figurative pants” situation. By that I mean, I am the (primary) wage earner and not looking to make him the wage earner. We have very different career expectations. I am also the plan maker, the schedule keeper, the present buyer, the bill payer, and the general all around household manager (read: I call the handyman when the garage door doesn’t open and I make sure the bug man comes twice a year, etc.).

          But that doesn’t mean that his contributions to our home, or his career, are any less substantial. He is the reminder of birthdays, comforter of workplace drama, smoother of ruffled feathers, visitor of my Mom when she’s sad, bringer of balloons and Pez dispensers when I’m sad, social director, and overall provider of kindness and fun in our home.

          He is not uncomfortable in his role, and neither am I. I want HIM to propose because a) I know he will when he’s ready so if I proposed it would only rush him, and b) I’d like him to own the plans for this particulary event. (Both of which I have communicated to him, so it’s not like he’s in the dark here).

          • Kelsey

            Oh my god. I just need to say that you and I are basically the same person. This whole string of your comments is like I wrote them. That is all.

    • Ashley

      I think from time to time this happens to the best of us. Try not to be too hard on yourself for it. We all live in a society where there is a ton of pressure around engagement/marriage. We’re bound to give in from time to time and forget what we know about OUR relationship. But remember that you know your partner and you know your relationship and as long as you remember that, you’ll come back down to earth. Big breath, you’re not alone. :)

      • AKP

        I agree, Ashley – not only are we not supposed to “pressure” our boyfriends in the pre-engagement stage, we are also not supposed to get anxious or even think about when the engagement is coming. I think that is completely unrealistic and unfair in a society where weddings have become such a huge focus. The most important thing is to keep sight of the reasons that you want to be engaged and married to your partner, rather than just the end of engagement itself. Keep building on these reasons, and the engagement will come soon enough.

    • Aly

      I had a hard time with this before we were engaged too- I’d say things like “When/if we get married…you know, if that happens….we might maybe want to think about possibly looking for houses in x neighborhood. But you know, maybe” Because I was soooooo afraid of being “that girl.” I didn’t want to be the girl who pressures her boyfriend into marriage! I avoided bringing it up so he didn’t think I was just after shiny things.

      Then I realized that in talking about marriage, there’s a big difference in being “that girl” and “the girl who wants to know where our relationship stands.” Not being the girl who pressured her guy into marriage does not mean you must be the girl that waits patiently (or not patiently, in my case) for him to decide he’s ready and then propose so that its a complete surprise to you. So I sucked it up, started the conversation with “I want to preface this by saying that this conversation is by no means about shiny things or white dresses. It is about us, and our future.”

      We hear way too much about how talking about marriage to your partner makes you a pushy woman. But this assumes that all women always want to get married all the time (after all, why would you need to talk to him about it? Clearly you want to get married, you are just waiting for him). Here at Team Practical, we know that’s not the case. And we know all guys aren’t just putting off marriage until they feel like they have to/might as well. So talk about it! Talking about your future does NOT make you “that girl.” Forget that piece of cultural noise.

      • Kate

        I agree with the different sides of cultural pressure. We’ve been talking about long term since very early when we were just beginning to date, since i had just begun a 2-year plan that involved likely moving out of town and wanted to know if he was OK with that. Plus, I am religious and wanted to nail down raising kids in my faith early on ; ) So it’s been on the table for awhile, and himself has never been weird about it at all. Yet sometimes I still choke on the word “marriage” when it comes to talking about even 5 years down the road. Oh Cosmo and your ilk, you have made me so crazy!

      • Denita

        OMG! Thank you for those starter conversation words! I can’t believe I didn’t think about them myself. Amazing how hard these conversations can be to start when you are so anxious about it AND afraid of being “that girl”.

        Also, a big thanks to everyone for the wise thoughts on this topic. I’m also waiting for my Significantly Handsome Other (I hate the word boyfriend too) to finish his PhD so we can finally be together in the same state. I’m not good at waiting for things and for the past few months I’ve been confused as why the waiting is making me miserable, feeling crazy, sad, insecure, stupid, desperate, powerless, lame, etc etc despite the fact that we are in love and I sooooo look forward to our future together.
        All of your post have been so reassuring. I’m feeling much more normal and empowered. So many of you have gotten through it, I can too. Thanks Team Practical!

    • Jen M

      Oh man, I went through about 6 months of this after we had been together for about a year. I ahve no idea where it came from and I hated it. I think it was a symptom af realizing he was the one for me coupled with the extremem pressure to get married when you find “the one”

      There was a lot of guilt tripping, several bouts of drunken why-don’t-you-love-me crying, and lots of passive agressive behavior. I believe the fact that he stuck around after that a testament to our pairing.

      So how did I move past it? I made a concerted effort to stop shying away from the conversations I thought I couldn’t have unless we were engaged. It was freaking scary.

      The first thing I did was apologize for the hysterics. I explained that I loved him very much and wanted to know that I wasn’t alone in seeing us together forever. And then we started talking about our life goals (aside from marriage) kids, and (dun.dun.dun) money!!!!

      Eventually I felt secure that he wanted the same things that I do and I got past the when when when of it all.

      Good luck :)

    • http://eclpse.livejournal.com Kimberly

      Kudos for admitting — and owning up to — how you feel about it. It ain’t easy being THAT girl when you’re not “supposed” to be.

    • Sara_B

      I’ve been calling mine and my man’s situation “pre-engagement negotiations”. We’re having those important and hard conversations now to find out if we really want to get married (which it is looking like we do!). My boyfriend sees the engagement as “planning the wedding” and why would we plan a wedding to then find out we’re super different about kids, career outlooks, finances, etc. I’m talking with my pastor to get some guidance as to what questions to ask and hash out, sort of pre-premartial counseling I suppose.

      I’ve found that lots of our “important” conversations just sort of come up, like after a friend had her baby or some friends moved in together. The topic is at hand, we’re not stressed, and have some time to relax and think.

      PS: I’ve noticed myself sort of slipping toward being THAT GIRL too! And then I think about why I’m feeling so pressured from everybody else and look at my great relationship and how it is slowly and thoughtfully progressing, and then I tend to chill a bit.

  • http://meaghantothemax.wordpress.com Meaghan

    Good god, I needed this post – not because I’ve been particularly bothered by comments from people (although there definitely have been some), but because I’ve been buying into a lot of that dialogue.

    It’s so easy to fall into that trap of thinking that there’s something wrong with me, or some huge lack of love for me on my boyfriend’s part, because we aren’t getting married yet. Or that I’m pathetic for reading a wedding blog when I’m not even engaged, or for reading books about marriage. But it would be so contrary to who I am to not (exhaustively) research something I’m thinking about doing, and to discuss it extensively with my partner – that’s how I process things, and how I come to a conclusion of what I want and believe in. That it’s not pressure to ask about timelines, about what his reasons for them are, for his feelings on how we might shape a wedding and our lives together – it’s, as you said, a sustainable relationship.

    I was having a big insecure fit about this on the weekend, and questioning whether and how I could believe that my boyfriend wants to be with me long-term if he wasn’t ready to “commit,” and he pointed out that we just bought a house and a dog – not exactly things one does with a short-term fling. And that the baby family we’ve already started building together IS a commitment, and a huge one.

    • Ashley

      Oh I so feel you on this. I love this: ” I was having a big insecure fit” ahahaha. me too. See my post below where I sound all sure and secure. Which I am, probably 90% of the time but every now again I have a big insecure fit and I think what I love about APW so much is that it makes me feel like my big insecure fits are normal.

      Also amen to processing things through research and discussion, me too and I think sometimes it’s really hard to admit to researching your wedding and your marriage when you’re not engaged. But seriously, how are you supposed to know you want to get engaed if you haven’t processed what it means to you and to him as individuals and a couple?!

      I love APW.

    • Kira

      Absolutely! I spend a lot of time reading about weddings and marriages, and also about pregnancy and childbirth. I do the same thing with trips I’m thinking about taking, grad schools I might apply to, and professions I’m considering. That doesn’t make me sad or desperate; it makes me informed and conscious.

      • http://meaghantothemax.wordpress.com Meaghan

        Oh my god yes, I read about birth all the time. NOT because I’m planning on having a baby anytime in the near future, but because when we finally are ready to talk about that, I want to know what I’m getting into!

        And reading about weddings before getting engaged makes soooo much sense, because then you can have a plan set so that when you do get engaged and tell people, you’re ready to shoot down their suggestions because you already know what you want. I can’t imagine getting engaged and then starting to research things – I think seeing prices on the k**t might make me immediately reconsider!

  • Ashley

    As always perfect timing. I was actually seriously considering emailing Meg this weekend with some questions/food for thought on this topic.

    For me, it really goes back to the whole shame concept. I am pre-engaged and happy. I want to get married, we are planning on getting married but we’re not engaged. But as much as I hate to admit it, I hate the term boyfriend. I hate it, I hate it, I hate it. I am embarrassed every time I have to bring him up in conversation and refer to him as my boyfriend, mostly I just call him by his name and figure people will assume whatever they want about who he is. Every time I say boyfriend I want to say “My boyfriend (whom I live with, and share a life with and may bills with and love deeply – like real grown up love etc etc etc.)” but unfortunately there are no brackets when speaking and when you add all that in every time you say boyfriend, it gets a bit long winded and crazy sounding.

    The truth is, I don’t know if that’s really other people’s perceptions of the term boyfriend or if it’s just my fear that people won’t respect my relationship because I’m not engaged or married. Maybe that’s all in my head. I don’t know, maybe it’s my issue but I know I find myself eagerly anticipating getting engaged just so it’s easier to relay the seriousness of my relationship to people, with just a word. I have been known to say more than once, “sometimes I just want to get engaged for other people.” I’m happy the way things are. I trust him, he loves me, we’re happy. The engagement and the wedding and all the rest of it will come when it does. And you know what? He does have commitment issues and maybe that’s why I’m the one for him, because I allow him the time to work through his issues without bailing on him because he isn’t ready yet. We talk about getting married, what being married will be like, because you know what he has concerns, and I respect that because he wants to do it right when we get married, for the right reasons, and he doesn’t want to jump into something, just because everyone thinks we should get married because we’ve been together for three years and he’s over 30 and it’s TIME. And I know it’s not because he loves me, it’s because he does and he wants to make sure we’re ready, that we’ve thought it through. The truth is the idea of getting married is scarier for him than me and I respect that and so we talk about it all the time and when he’s ready we’ll get engaged and then we’ll get married and we’ll be happy. But you know what we’re happy right now and I am so dammed tired of having to be embarrassed every time someone says, “I can feel it, the ring is coming soon! “And I say, “Actually it’s not, because we talk about it all the time and he’s not ready yet.” And then they look at me with that sad face that says “oh how sad and pathetic that she stays with him even though she knows he doesn’t want to marry her”

    End rant.

    I feel I might have lost my way in there somewhere, but I trust you all will know how I feel and what I’m getting at.

    • kyley

      Yes, yes! I feel the same way about the term “boyfriend.” We’re really happy to be at this non-engaged status in our relationship, (as in, I don’t *want* to call him finace right now) but we’ve also been together for a long time, (7 year anniversary next month!) and we’ve been planning and living our life together for a long time now. I always just feel a little silly when I say “boyfriend.”

      Mostly, I just refer to him by name. Sometimes I will say, My boyfriend, [name], and then mutter something about hating that term. Or I refer to him as my partner. I tend to you use that in more formal situations (like when I had to call his insurance company for him).

      • http://www.notintentonarriving.blogspot.com Kristin

        I’m the same way. We don’t live together right now, so using “partner” in conversation feels a little funny, but I do use it on official forms. When I was making him my beneficiary on one of my accounts, my financial adviser actually called and asked, “Are you engaged? We usually only write partner if someone is living together.” I was really humiliated, and I guess it still stings, but we don’t need her validation. (Hers, or any one else at the bank’s, who all have no problem telling me I shouldn’t list him as a beneficiary unless we’re married. Or the tattoo parlor. …Or any of those other strangers who don’t seem to think you can be committed without being married, damn it! In my experience, it’s been strangers, not friends/family, who have put the most pressure on it.)

        In conversation, I usually just say “Roger” and hope whoever I’m talking to catches on quickly. Mostly they do. Phew!

    • meg

      I used the word partner for a while pre-engagement. I would have used it if we were not planning to get engaged too….

      • Rizubunny

        We use partner, but we’ve been experimenting lately with “my person” or “my [insert name here].” As in, “this is my person, Liz” or “this is my Cristina.”

        I don’t know if it’s any more clear, but it’s fun! :)

    • http://discerningdilettante.blogspot.com ka

      “Every time I say boyfriend I want to say “My boyfriend (whom I live with, and share a life with and may bills with and love deeply – like real grown up love etc etc etc.)” but unfortunately there are no brackets when speaking and when you add all that in every time you say boyfriend, it gets a bit long winded and crazy sounding. ”

      Hahaha, yesss. I totally ranted about this up above before reading this. It is. So. True.

    • LBD

      Yes Yes! Yes this so much! This became so frustrating! When meeting new people, I didn’t know how to introduce him without qualifying it when I called him my boyfriend. I tried partner, but I dunno, it felt a little too formal to me. At the same time, using boyfriend, it felt like people didn’t take the depth of our commitment seriously. Man, the worst was when we were buying a house together – “This-is-my-boyfriend-but-really-I swear-it’s-okay-we’ve-been-together-10-years-DON’T-JUDGE-MEEEEE!!!!”

      As long as it wasn’t a formal situation, I just started calling him my boy. I have a problem with formal names I admit. It’s taken me all 8 months of our engagement thus far to finally start not feeling weird about the word “fiance” (though it was definitely way more convenient when talking to strangers). I don’t know what I’m going to do when I have to start calling him my husband!

      I think I just resent that I have to even pick a word to call him that implies a certain amount of validity of our relationship to other people. I’m all, it’s none of your business stranger how we define our relationship!

    • Kelsey

      I hate the term boyfriend, too! Especially since it’s the same term that my high schoolers (I’m a teacher) use for their relationships, which are much different from my own (together almost 5 years, living together for 3.5). And as a teacher, I have this weird, extra layer where I feel like it’s somehow not professional to tell a totally harmless story involving him because saying “My boyfriend…” sounds too young and personal, whereas teachers tell stories about their “husband” or “wife” often and no one thinks anything. I know I’m totally just being awkwardly paranoid about it…but yea. Just wanted to shout out my agreement with that.

  • http://www.bohobride.co.uk sarah

    Haha BRILLIANT blog Sarah! My fiance recently blogged on the subject of his pre-engagement rage…our engagement was nine yrs in the making! As if we’d never discussed it, yet all I ever got was “hang in there’s” from those who don’t seem too happy in their own marriages. Well, we’ve managed nine yrs of total bliss and I’m so happy we waited…I’m now set to marry my best friend and soul mate in September!

  • Lisa B.

    Thanks, Sarah, for a great post! Adding to what Ellie said above about people who aren’t necessarily happy to not be engaged: DON’T assume that just because my boyfriend and I have been together for 8 years and have a great relationship that we’re going to get committed/married. We started dating pretty young and have some lifetime-compatibility issues we’re still working out. Since we really (really!) want it to work but have to try to be careful and honest about what’s best for both of us, it’s kind of painful when people just assume we’re getting married someday.

  • M

    exactly to it not being a problem that needs a solution! I know the view that you must get married definitely exists and there is pressure, but I’m so thankful to have somehow grow into a person who sees my friends in long-term relationships as happy people not “waiting around for a ring”

  • Clover

    I think that it makes people uncomfortable that my boyfriend and I are in a committed relationship doing the things that married people do traditionally, but without the title. Things like, forming a household, combining finances, buying a condo and adopting a dog. This behavior does not fit into most people’s clearly defined expectations for how un-engaged couples act, and I think it makes them uncomfortable when they can’t automatically figure out what exactly we are.

    I can say, however, that over time the questioning looks and nudges at family gatherings or when friends get engaged have become less and less frequent. To me, there is no coincidence in that as I have transitioned further into adulthood over the past three years since graduating college (we’ve been dating for five years), that my community has come to accept that my boyfriend and I are in a legitimate relationship, whether or not I have a ring on my finger. I think that initially many of the questions arose out of the fact that in their eyes I was in transition from Silly College Kid to Responsible Adult (still haven’t made it yet!) and not ready to make serious choices about my relationship without the security of an engagement ring. This is especially true in the case of my extended family. Over time and based on our life choices (owning a home together, etc.) it seems to me that my family and friends have come to view me and my boyfriend as adults, capable of making adult-decisions and they are beginning to realize that choosing to not get married right away is a decision that we have both made together.

    • Megan

      I agree with you on the “wearing them down” bit.

      I’ve been with my partner (hi, I hate the term “boyfriend” too) for almost eight years. We pay bills together, share bank and investment accounts, and maintain a household that is our own. We are a family. We are as committed as can be – and we regularly, gleefully have the conversation about how both of us are In This Until We Are Dead, the end.

      It’s frustrating that the society around us (our families, and the larger culture) don’t think we could possibly *really mean it*, because we haven’t had a proposal, ring, or big party. Meanwhile, if we had known each other a week and gotten hitched, our families might raise their eyebrows, but they would support and encourage us as a lifelong couple. It sucks. It sucks, it sucks, and it’s made me cry on more than one occasion – it feels as if this whole amazing, healthy, strong relationship that we’ve built (and that we work to grow every day) doesn’t mean squat, because I don’t want to have a Wedding.

      But after years (and years) of steady commitment and mutual respect, I think we’re wearing the communities around us down. Or maybe I’m just caring less and less what other people think. Yeah, I think maybe that’s it. :)

  • Lisa

    Thank you so much for this post! Our dating relationship — and even our engagement — were so full of anxiety for me (unrelated to pining for a ring, totally related to doubts about our relationship), but our 1.5 years of marriage since have been a totally different story. Every doubt and anxiety vanished at the altar, somehow. All that to say that I’ve likely been insensitive to my pre-engaged friends because I’m wishing they can be just as happy as I am. But (duh) their relationship is NOT my relationship and they probably don’t need a formal ceremony to give them security like I did. My insensitivity has come from a place of love, but that doesn’t make it OK!

  • kyley

    Thanks, this is wonderful!

    I just want to add: being pre-engaged is really not about waiting for my partner and I. (I fall into the category of pre-engaged, but *personally* that term makes me a little uncomfortable.) I don’t want to be engaged right now because I really love this moment in our relationship, where we are so in love and have been living/planning our lives together for a long time, and all that love and all those plans are entirely private! Once you are engaged, you’re making a public announcement about your relationship. I’m too busy reveling in our secret awesomeness to share that just yet.

    Also, reading this has reminded me of how wonderful my family and my BF’s family are! We’ve been together for a long time (our 7 year anniversary is next month!) and this is our fourth year living together. Honestly, between both of our huge families, no one ever says a damn thing. They don’t pressure us, or make snide comments at his expense, or give me sympathetic, condescending looks. They all recognize how happy we are, and respect that we’re already planning our lives together and supporting each other. It’s pretty awesome that, universally, we’re respected by our families and friends in this way, because I know that’s not something everyone experiences.

    • kyley

      I just remembered the one time anyone asked about our marriage plans, and it’s actually a really cute story.

      I had taken my grandmother out to a play (at our alma mater) and we were driving home when she asked if my boyfriend and I are going to get married. I thought about it for a minute, and then I realized: she’s older now, and has been pretty sick. She’s asking this question because she loves me and wants me to have a happy future, you know?

      So I smiled, and I said, “Yes, Nana, we are planning to get married some day.” And her face lit up and she said, “So you love him then?”

      It was such a sweet response; she really was so happy to know we are in love!

  • Lee G.

    So jealous of you Sarah!

    I wish I could be as calm as you are! I do love my special friend so much, and I don’t want anyone else. (I also agree that the term boyfriend is not quite good enough.)

    I’m just one of those people who needs the agreement and action of it. Actions speak louder than words to me. And heck, his words are, “we’re not engaged yet, I have to propose when I can buy a ring.”

    In addition to my jealousy, I’m also thankful for your post! This will help me talk to him more about what I’m thinking and feeling, and hopefully get him to open up a bit more.

  • http://jolynn.wordpress.com jolynn

    Great post, great comments. I’m in that pre-engaged space and we were just discussing this morning whether or not we should include the notification of our date in our holiday cards (sorry if this is a manners violation!), and came to the conclusion that it would require much more explanation since there hasn’t technically been a “proposal”. It would just be easier to call everyone to let them know (I’m Ms Frugal and don’t want to send Save-the-Dates and invites) since there will be some anti-WIC explanations of why we’re doing it our way involved.

    I absolutely encourage the communication between the two of you, and then with other people who can be trusted to not twist it and shred you with that information. I know that we’re very happy in our pre-engaged space with our parents knowing what’s up and us knowing what’s up. Much more happy than some friends of mine who just keep going around complaining that he hasn’t asked yet and him feeling stressed to make it perfect so waiting forever.

    • http://cuvikingadventures.blogspot.com/ Jenny- Adventures Along the Way

      Haha, we definitely did digital save-the-date postcards and the actual paper invites before the proposal and not a single person questioned us about receiving the save-the-dates (or invites) before a proposal. I guess they figured if we had a date and a location, we were serious enough to announce it. :) Good luck with whatever you decide!

  • http://abernacky.tumblr.com Jessica

    Omg, I so love this statement “There aren’t a finite amount of engagements and this girl hasn’t “stolen” mine from me.” F-ing hilarious.

    And I’ve found that I’m guilty of doing some of this. Or for making excuses for my un-engaged friends (who everyone knows will get married some day) to others.

    Bad me. Bad!

    • http://abernacky.tumblr.com Jessica

      Btw, I’ve never meant anything I’ve said to others about possible pending engagements to be mean or derisive of their choices. I’ve meant it as encouragement (sometimes teasing), that I’m glad they’re happy together.

      The instances I can think of, its always been couples that I knew would & should end up married, that were already very committed, and quite frankly it was (or is) just a matter of time until it happens. (Granted, I think most of my friends will go the traditional marriage route, rather than a more informal [really I mean less legally binding] route.)

      I guess part of my asking is selfish – because I want them to get engaged so we then have a “reason” to celebrate that they’ve found each other and are so happy. Which sounds silly when I type it – because why can’t we celebrate that without an engagement? I guess I just don’t know how.
      The other part of my asking is that, really, I’m just a nosy bitch.

      But Sarah, thank you for writing this.
      I’ve never thought that I might be making my friends feel uncomfortable when really I just want to tell them that I’m happy for them.
      I’ll start trying to say that more directly, instead of implying that marriage/engagement = happiness & joy & rainbows & kittens (and indirectly, and unintentionally, implying that not being married or engaged = sadness & gloom & a lack of love.)

  • Class of 1980

    There’s a big difference in waiting to get engaged because you’re both trying to get your lives on track versus not being able to talk about the future.

    People recognize this difference, but they don’t necessarily know which one applies to you. I don’t know why anyone would offer advice unasked unless they are your parents.

    I think if a couple talks easily about marriage, then there’s nothing to worry about. But if one of you has to walk on eggshells about the subject, that’s not a good sign.

    • meg

      Ladies who are unhappy waiting, listen to these wise words. This may have the kernal of truth you’re looking for. If you’re walking on eggshells with your partner, ask yourself (and them) why that is.

    • Harriet

      This is such a great point! I was “walking on eggshells” with my fiance about 2 years before we got engaged–I thought I was ready, he knew he wasn’t. After a while I realized I wasn’t really ready either, and I would get pretty uncomfortable when other people kept asking when we were going to “get engaged already.” I knew we were both ready when we were both easily talking about getting married/the future. But that took quite a while, and the time it took was really good for both of us.

  • T

    Wow. This is an amazing post and I wish I had had this 3 months ago to ease my mind about my own situation. I am 27 and have been in my relationship for a little under 7 years. I have lived with my fiance for 4 years and until this past year, neither of us were honestly ready to take the plunge. The reason we weren’t ready had nothing to do with the fact that either of us had any doubts or financial hardships. It had to do with the fact that we were enjoying that part of our lives together. The part where we knew that eventually we would be married but we knew that we would be marrried for a very huge part of our lives and we wanted to stretch out our pre-married lives as long as possible.
    That said, once we eventually decided that the time was right to get engaged, he didn’t officially popthequestion for about 5 months. And that in between period was total agony. It was agony because I wanted to scream it from the roof tops…but also wanted him to feel like he could ask me at his leisure. Sooo, inevitably after a few glasses of vino with friends, I would slip and wink and hint to people that we were “close ifyouknowwhatImean.”
    This period that I couldn’t talk to close friends and family about it was agony. I felt the same way you do…it was a mutual decision, but I couldn’t talk about it because I didn’t want people to assume that I was “pressuring” him. As a woman, you get weird responses if you bring up anything wedding related before you are proposed to. This is a great reminder of how to relate to my friends who are in the same situation…THANK YOU

    • http://amidlifeofprivilege.blogspot.com LPC

      Which only makes me wonder, now, why is it the guy who does the asking? I get the historical precedent, sort of, but why does it linger? Why do the gender roles and ritual begin at the ask? Don’t get me wrong. I’ve waited. Somehow it seemed that without the moment of “being asked” I had no one to pay my bride price.

      • http://amidlifeofprivilege.blogspot.com LPC

        And to speculate on my own question, if we assume biological imperatives, perhaps we trust women’s biology to compel her to care for her children and therefore family, but need an extra step of guarantee for men. If not biology, do we have to worry about the dreaded patriarchy? Oh god I hope not.

        • Class of 1980

          I never waited or worried. It was a mutual decision that came out of a casual conversation while watching TV one night.

          Even though the marriage ended in divorce, I still like the way the decision happened. It was easy and natural.

    • Beth

      YES!
      “The reason we weren’t ready had nothing to do with the fact that either of us had any doubts or financial hardships. It had to do with the fact that we were enjoying that part of our lives together. The part where we knew that eventually we would be married but we knew that we would be marrried for a very huge part of our lives and we wanted to stretch out our pre-married lives as long as possible.”
      This is the first time I’ve heard someone else put it the way I do (and I generally get glazed over looks in response…)
      We’re only 23, together for 6 years, living together for 4 and have definitely made that commitment that we want this forever. 6 years has been a long time, and it has also gone by in a flash. Forever is a long time, and this part is fun just the way it is. I know that we’ll *feel* it when we’re ready to make it official for our loved ones.
      In the meantime, we’ll keep having those conversations (often nudged by swirling thoughts after reading so many other conversations on APW) and enjoying doing things our way. Luckily, only a few comments here and there about rings so far…

  • http://theblabbermouth.wordpress.com Rach

    AMEN! So well said, and I could relate to every single word.

  • http://www.katiejanephoto.com Katie Jane

    Such a great post! It immediately brought me back to the year before my now-husband and I got engaged and everyone – especially my mom – was saying “When are you getting married?” “Oh, you must be bummed he didn’t propose at Christmas/New Year’s/Valentine’s.” “What is he waiting for” blah blah blah… etc. Nobody believed me when I said I was happy with the status quo and that we weren’t in a rush, and yes it was coming, but we were just enjoying living in sin. ;-)

    It is SO bizarre the way some people pity girls in long term relationships who aren’t yet engaged. My mother truly believed I must have been crying my eyes out every night because he hadn’t proposed yet. I wasn’t.

    Whether you’re “pre-engaged” and okay with it or unhappy with the situation – nobody should be anything but supportive. If you are unhappy with the situation, I think that’s okay… it shouldn’t make you an object of pity… people should just be there for you without making you feel like crap about it.

  • Michele

    One of my best girlfriends and her (now) husband had the BEST (read: funniest) solution for dealing with the non-stop questions that pre-engaged couples face: Anytime someone asked her when they were going to get married, she’d respond with “when I get knocked up.” When someone asked him the same question, he’d say “I dunno, maybe when I meet the right girl.”

    I love these responses because they lob the big, fat, uncomfortable ball right back into asker’s court. What better way to answer an inappropriate question than with an inappropriate response?

    • Katelyn

      My older brother got married this summer, and as the next in line, with the longest relationship of any of my siblings, my beau and I prepared for the inevitable “so you’re next! when are you getting married?” questions with several rehearsed responses:

      1. “We’re thinking maybe 12/21/2012… so whether it ends up an Armageddon or we get married, our world will end either way”
      2. “Allison [my 17 year old sister] and I are planning a double wedding. So maybe in 2020 or so.”

      • kyley

        Yeah, we have a long-running joke with some members of his family about 12/25/2025. We’re actually making a Christmas ornament for his cousin, that’s a “save the date” on the inside for them. But that’s because they are awesome and hysterical.

        • Katelyn

          It becomes much less annoying when you fight back with humor – and it’s great to see some people’s reactions ;-)

    • kyley

      ahahahaha. I love that!

  • http://memorableceremonies.blogspot.com/ Maureen Thomson

    And all this time, I thought the word “pre-engaged” was invented by jewelers to sell “pre-engagement rings”. Go figure.

    First of all, with weddings on the decline for the last couple of decades, one might presume that a cohabitating couple might opt NEVER to marry, so assuming that there is a “pre” anything is quite presumptuous. Not every couple chooses to marry.

    And second of all. How rude! Why do people think it is their God-given right to ask anyone the details of their personal life? The next thing, of course, that the poor couple will have to put up with is “when are you going to have kids?”. Enough already. I think any question of when you are to be engaged should be responded with, “Why on earth would you ask me such a thing?”

    Which sounds way better than “bugger off”!

    • Alexandra

      I saw a note, here or elsewhere, about Miss Manner’s response to people being intrusive: “My, what a personal question! You must be so embarrassed that it just slipped out.”
      :D
      LOVE that. ;p

  • http://abernacky.tumblr.com Jessica

    Btw, with my then-fiancee (now-husband), once we’d talked about it and decided that we were going to get engaged & married, but before he ACTUALLY proposed, I just told people we were “officially” not engaged (emphasis on officially. or maybe it was technically. whatever, close enough.). Which confused some people, especially friends of friends that didn’t know us well – so we had to explain that we’d already decided, we were already making the actual wedding plans, we already had the ring, he just hadn’t OFFICIALLY asked me yet. (Granted, this was only 3-4 weeks worth of time, so it wasn’t so bad.)

    Once we were engaged, people seemed to find it odd that I wasn’t super stressed about the idea of actually getting married and whatnot.
    I distinctly remember saying to my fiancee and others “What? We’ve already decided we’re getting married. We’ve already promised each other that we will spend our lives together. We’re basically already married (at least in our level of commitment).”
    Which seemed odd to most people, but to me it made perfect sense. We had already promised. We just hadn’t gone through all the ceremony and hoopla that we both expected of a wedding.

  • Ash

    I wish I had been this cool in my preengagement. I very much wanted to get over the waiting for it to happen. I romanticized being engaged and getting married without realizing it. When it was real it was REAL and I wasn’t as prepared for everything as I thought I was

  • Kati

    My fiance and I had a different kind of pre-engagement. He told me he was going to propose, took me ring shopping…then waited 3 months to actually propose. I had told my parents and a few friends about the ring shopping, then when he didn’t ask me right away they all thought he got cold feet and decided not to ask me after all. During that 3 months I began the wedding planning process because I knew we would have a short engagement (7 months) so I wanted to have as much of the planning process done as I could before he popped the question. My friends that knew I was planning the wedding and I felt like they thought I was some crazy woman who plans her wedding to a guy after the 1st date!

  • Courtney

    my mom called me about 3 days after my now husband asked my dad for his blessing. (My husband was trying to keep it as a surprise and my parents kind of let the cat out of the bag by calling me RIGHT AFTER.)

    She asked me “how I felt about it.” Um, really? No excitement? No happiness? When I told her he hadn’t proposed to ME yet she simply said, “oh. I kind of just figured since he asked us you just were.” (And then she said something about having to go run errands or something.)

    Even if that was the case, and we just “were”… the fact she waited 3 days to say anything to me kind of hurt. Not to mention that I personally feel the conversation should have started with a “congratulations!”

    Sadly though, sometimes people just don’t realize how hurtful what they say (or don’t say) actually can be. And worse, how long it can linger in your memory. I get asked all the time when we’re having kids, and after saying we aren’t, I always receive comments like “well you’ll change your mind.” It’s so rude and almost a direct slap in the face. To me it’s saying one day you’ll realize you are wrong, your decision/thoughts are invalid, and come around.

    It used to catch me off guard, but now when they say that I simply joke and say “I guess I could change my mind about being married to my husband too.” Normally shows them that this isn’t just a split second thought. If nothing else, it shuts them up.

    Anyhow… great post! It takes a lot of courage to just live and make your own path to happiness and a lot of people will question, challenge, or pity you simply because you’re doing things differently than they did. Good luck!!

    • http://abernacky.tumblr.com Jessica

      My parents did a similar thing. Both asking if this is what I wanted.

      Once I said it was, then they of course said they were happy for me/us.

      But that their first reaction wasn’t “OMG YAY!” hurt me too, briefly.

      Then I remembered that these are my parents. My whole life they’ve been trying to keep me safe and make sure I’m happy. So of course their first response was to check and make sure this is really what I want – they just want to make sure I’d thought about it and was sure.

      • Sarah

        My mom’s first reaction was of uncertainty. We went to tell them together, stood there with our arms around each other, and I said “Jon asked me to marry him.” She gave me a blank stare. “And, um, I said yes?” Another blank stare. “So, we’re engaged!”

        Cue the over-the-top (read: highly fake, but at least she was trying) excitement. My dad, after hugs and congrats asked “Are you happy?” Totally him, and totally not “are you sure?” But the reactions still stung a bit.

        Then again, I suppose it could be worse. HIS parents’ first reaction was to tell us we were children and we would most certainly NOT be getting married. (For the record, I’m 27.)

        Really, you just can’t win.

        • ann

          oh my god. did your/his parents come around?

          (p.s. i’m wearing my mom’s dress for my wedding next summer…i tried it on with her over thanksgiving. my dad looked unsure for a second, then laughed and said, “it looks pretty. it’d look prettier in four or five years, but there you go.” and walked away. !!! i think the urge to protect and hold on can be very strong.)

          • Sarah

            Oh, they did. Eventually. =)

            My dad’s response was typical him. He was nothing but happy for us, but that’s his way. My mom took a little longer to really be genuinely happy (though she really tried to be earlier) … I’m the first child in the family (cousins included) to be married … so it was tough for her to realize that I wasn’t just a big kid. (Moving out 8 years earlier hadn’t done that for her, apparently).

            His parents took a longer … and it was a constant struggle. His mom came around about a week before the wedding. His dad? Two weeks ago, when we saw them for Thanksgiving. Months AFTER the wedding. He’s still a little uncomfortable with the entire thing (Jon’s an only child), but at least he’s not grimacing anytime someone says the words “married” or “wife.”

            But hey, at least they’re getting there! I expect it will continue to improve.

            Your dad’s comment made me laugh … it SO much sounds like something my grandfather would say, so I can just hear it. How exciting to be wearing your mom’s dress! I wanted to wear my mom’s (and it fit perfectly … for the first time in my life … how often does THAT happen?!) but when we unpacked it we discovered it had been improperly preserved … and it would have had to be completely remade. Oh well! I’m so excited for you!

    • Arachna

      That’s interesting because the biggest hurt for me during my engagement was that no one, no one, asked me if this was what I really wanted. Everyone said congratulations but what I really wanted was someone willing to have a serious conversation and wanting to hear what my feeling were. I felt kind of isolated by all the “yay” “he’s awesome” as if I didn’t have the option of having complicated feelings that were worth discussion.

      • http://heron.blinkofeternity.com Heron

        I guess you can’t really expect people to know what’s going on in your heart. We’re all majorly disconnected from everyone. One of the pieces of life is making connections with people so you can understand each other but ultimately no one will ever truly understand others like they understand themselves.

  • Jen M

    YES! YES! YES! I have been happily unengaged to my BF for four years and we have lived together for 3 1/2 of those years. Try explaining that to my ever-fretting middle-aged parents, assorted family members and co-workers. Merciful god, my siblings, friends and 91yr-old oma don’t seem to notice or care. We talk about marriage as an inevitable and have a timeline I have divulged to very few people.

    I’ve found that the most sympathy/fear of the possibility of not being proposed-to comes from people when Brian and I may be arguing or whatever. We went through a rough patch a few months ago and my mother had this moment when she said, “well, what now? you’ve waited all this time for him to propose and now what?” Exsqueeze me? perhaps YOU have waited all this time for him to propose. Relationship turbulence for the pre-engaged is seen as the death-knell and omigod if you had just gotten married by now you could weather this storm but since you’re not married it’s all over. Our non-marriage commitment to eachother is neither understood nor respected by many. Because we aren’t engaged or married we are expected to jump ship because it’s not like we have anything to hold on to. SO ANNOYING! and insulting!

    sigh. I’m just so happy that so many other people get it. I love you APW.

    • kyley

      ooo! “unengaged” I like that! I propose we go around calling ourselves unengaged, rather than “pre-engaged.” (If, you know, that’s what you want to do. Personal choice and all.)

      • http://cuvikingadventures.blogspot.com/ Jenny- Adventures Along the Way

        Hihi, I love that you “proposed” this idea. :)

        • kyley

          haha! I didn’t even realize I did that!

  • Kate

    Thank you for your ovaries and sass, Sarah! I feel lucky to apparently not run in many circles where this is an issue. For my friends, having a boyfriend, or especially moving in together seems to be the big achievement (and there’s not a whole lot of pity/scorn for single people either.) On the other hand, we’ve only been together for a year and a half so maybe I’m still in the sweet spot. (I too have been tempted to explore the magic transformative properties of the Engagement Chicken TM, not because I want to be engaged but because I’m interested in this notion of food as mind control.) Great to hear all you kickass ladies’ perspectives!

    • http://jolynn.wordpress.com jolynn

      Ovaries and sass.

      Yes please!

      • Carla

        My favourite assistant conductor of my old choir once told us sopranos to “sing from our ovaries” when he thought we were being wimpy. Then he did this gesture of like an upside-down fountain starting at his belly button. Then we all giggled for a solid couple minutes before we could sing again. So good.

  • http://gianttodolist.blogspot.com/ Pamela

    Great post Sarah – I’m sorry that people are so awful to you though!

    I did not handle the whole pre engagement thing well at all. Mostly because I was scared. I had been raised with very strict notions of “courtship” and even though I no longer believed in those notions, the “soul” of them, if you will, had been deeply imprinted. I believed that there was something wrong with me and that’s why my man hadn’t proposed. Even though we had lots and lots of conversations about our future, and about how he wasn’t ready yet but would be soonish, I was still afraid that one day I would wake up and he would tell me that it was all over. Somehow I thought that if we were engaged/married, then he would never leave (this sounds crazy, I know, but that’s how I felt). I was afraid that because I’d “given away the milk” (achem), he would no loger respect me. And lots of other fears – all of which were related to both the cultural narrative we’re subjected to as women, and also the strict way I was brought up.

    I won’t lie, it was a hard couple of years. We were together for 6 1/2 years before getting engaged, and we didn’t live together. I did cry over not being married. It sucked. I knew he was the right person for me, but becuase I didn’t have the ring, something in my head told me that I couldn’t really trust him – even though he’d been extremely trustworthy in every aspect of our life together..

    I wish I could say that I got to a good mental place with the whole thing…but I didn’t. Well, sometimes I did. I would have weeks of peace and happiness, and then my insecurities would kick in again. It was hard.

    Once we did get engaged, I did feel better – and then I started beating myself up for that! That somehow, becuase I did feel more secure in my relationship with a ring on my finger, I was a bad feminist or something. Or not a strong enough woman.

    Anyway, it was all super messy. Thanks for having this dialogue – I’m sure that it will help other “pre engaged” women (way more than that ridiculous chicken thing).

    • Faith

      I had many times of feeling the way you did, Pamela. The up and down-ness of feeling like I just wanted to be engaged already, and feeling totally happy with where we were was very annoying. There are definitely those of us that felt/feel that way…and what I love is that I’m learning that it’s okay!

    • Ashley

      I’m definitely playing the waiting game at the moment, after being with my man for 4.5 years, and it is not easy. I am guilty of being impatient and getting easily frustrated. I feel as if I’m riding an emotional roller coaster, and my happiness day to day is based on my “feeling” of how close he is to proposing. It is no way to live, and I find myself devastated after each time I was “certain” it would happen and it didn’t. I know that I’ve also crossed that line from having productive, meaningful conversations about our future to pressuring him.

      I envy you Sarah for finding happiness as a pre-engaged woman. I really don’t think I can. I can’t honestly justify how having a ring will solve all my problems, but it’s what I seem to be holding out for.

      For me, being a pre-engaged woman is to be absolutely powerless. As someone who likes to be in control of my life, it’s one area in which I have to give up the reigns and wait… and that is absolutely excruciating for me.

      But for now all I can do is pray to find some happiness in it all!

  • Joanna

    Wow, this post came at the perfect time! My boyfriend and I have also been together for 3 years, and lived together for over 1 year. We’re very happy together. Living is a great pressure-cooker for a relationship, because you learn the most crucial/basic things about each other (cleanliness, responsibility, how to be together when it’s not ‘fun’ all the time). He’s currently in a tough Masters program that keeps him busy 24/7, and getting engaged is the last thing on his mind.

    My mom doesn’t often ask about our future plans, but she brought it up this weekend. Bless her heart, I think she just wants me to ‘tie him down’ before someone else steals him away. Crazy, right? But moms worry, and she really loves him too. But it bums me out. Logical, rational me tells her, Well Mom, I think that a wedding is sort of the icing on the cake, it’ll just top off what we’re building here and now… because I sincerely feel that the way we live, we are basically married.

    Yes, all of this I 100% believe, and so does my man. But my secret self (who dares not tell anyone else) thinks that an engagement isn’t a huge next step, so why not just get to it already. It’s a way of making it all official. And I want a promise of wedding, where all of our favourite people can be there to celebrate our love. It’s okay to want these things. That’s the most recent conclusion I’ve come to, anyway. My do’s and don’ts:

    Don’t: Assume that an official engagement necessarily validates a relationship. It’s not like that for everyone. Often, it’s a step couples take when they decide to spend the rest of their lives together… but in many cases a couple could have already figured that part out, and the engagement is yet to come.

    Do: Let it be. There’s no race, or time limit. Nudging your friend to ‘get that ring’ probably won’t change much, expect maybe stress her out. And, if a friend is in a strong, serious relationship, treat it as such (instead of valuing below ‘engagement status’).

    **Ashley: I also hate the term boyfriend! It makes me feel like I’m a silly teenager.

    • Josephine

      Agree with and relate to so much of this, Pamela. Right on!

  • Christy A.

    This is awesome! I remember that phase well, and how much fun it was. We knew we were going to get engaged, but were waiting to hit a few milestones first. Once those were out of the way, it was all excitement and anticipation about when were were actually going to make it official. It was a time of a lot of dreams and wishes, before the stress of planning a wedding came down and everyone started telling us how to live our lives.

    I must have been lucky, because not only did I not experience the pre-engagement (yeah, don’t really like/use that term) backlash, and had plenty of friends who were more than happy to talk to me about their lives, marriages, and engagements, and let me ogle their rings. Yes, those discussions usually ended with them asking “so, do you think you guys are going to get engaged soon?” But I think my cohorts were more understanding than some may have been, because they all knew where my husband’s heart was; he made no secret about wanting to marry me. It was me that took a long time coming around to the idea, and I think they were happy to see me getting excited, period.

    Thanks for giving a voice to this special time, and taking me back *gasp* almost seven years.

  • Christie

    Thank you so much for posting this article! I am “pre-engaged” and not loving it. I really hate the family and friend comments that I know my boyfriend of 3 years (living together 2 years) isn’t getting. I hate the whispers of when my sister got engaged and wondering why I’m not since she hasn’t been with her now husband nearly as long as I have with my partner.

    But I WANT to be engaged! I WANT to be married! I understand that being engaged doesn’t change the amount of love we have for one another, I just want to call him my husband and I want to be his wife. I want to be married to my best friend.

    I feel I have started to become “that girl”. That is the last thing I want. However, I have never been quiet of my feelings or opinions and think it’s down right cruel that I should have no say on when our wedding/married life should start.

    My boyfriend is understanding and let’s me know we are going to get married and that he wants to marry me…but I feel like I’m just ruining that moment for us. How do I keep my emotions/anxiety/extreme need of engagement satifisfation under wraps until my boyfriend is ready to get on bended knee?

    Phew! Longer post than what I intedended…sorry APW!!!

    • Arachna

      You don’t! You do not wrap your emotions up and cover them so that you “don’t ruin the moment for the two of you.” You let go of thinking this is supposed to be a “moment for you.” Let it be what it is. And it’s hard when one person is ready and the other person isn’t. Of course that’s hard. That’s totally okay though. The mutual love and happiness do help.

      And you do absolutely have a say in when your married life and wedding starts.

      This is on the sad side but in situations I know where the guy took a long time to get ready… when he proposed he’d waited so long that “that feeling” had died in his girlfriend and she said no. So he can wait as long as he wants – if he waits so long that it starts damaging your feelings for him you might end up saying no. You have a say. Right now you want to be with him – and that’s wonderful. You’ll wait for him for as long as you can.

    • meg

      You propose.

    • Carreg

      I seem to be commenting a lot today. Forgive me if I’m saying more than is appropriate, but the thing is, if your boyfriend read what you just wrote, especially the second paragraph, he’d be chuffed, right? You say you’re becoming ‘that girl’ but that sounds like such a harsh way to label being epicly in love. And you say you should keep your emotions under wraps but don’t know how — but surely your emotions are admirable? It’s a good thing to love someone.

      If your boyfriend got down on bended knee and said he desperately wanted to marry you, that would be romantic. But you’re saying that your having those feelings towards him is potentially spoiling the romance. But the feeling of loving someone and wishing to marry them is the same feeling whether it is in a man or a woman. (Who said ‘there’s no such thing as the male or female brain, anymore than you can have a male or female liver’?) So, logically, it’s romantic for a guy to feel like that, it’s romantic for a girl to do so. And the same thing goes for expressing those feelings in the form of a proposal if you so wish. You wouldn’t be spoiling the special moment, you would be creating it.

      Sorry if that was a bit logic-choppy. I’ve just come from writing an essay…

      • meg

        Exactly.

    • N

      Think of it this way–if you were in your boyfriend’s place, wouldn’t you feel waaaay better about proposing if you felt secure that the person you were proposing to was excited to get married? Your boyfriend knowing you are going to say yes joyfully doesn’t make it less romantic. Less suspenseful, maybe, but not less romantic.

      • Morgan

        “Your boyfriend knowing you are going to say yes joyfully doesn’t make it less romantic.” Also, in this day and age, there can’t be that many proposals when the answer is in doubt. I’m sure it happens, but if you’ve been building your life together for years, or what have you, you should probably be pretty aware of how the other person feels already…

  • http://www.delightning.tumblr.com Sarah

    Hi it’s OP Sarah. Thank you everyone for your comments, I’m totally shocked that so many people wanted to leave a note for this, thank you again.

    I wanted to respond to a few of the comments, namely to explain what I mean by the term “pre-engaged”. For me this term means that we are in a long-term relationship, and that “traditional” marriage is something we both want, with each other, in our the future – meaning we don’t want to remain common law forever, we want a church blessing, we want to say vows and make it all legal. It also means we’ve taken many practical steps in that direction, for example starting to save money for our future, sharing a benefits package, and generally moving forward together.

    In the sense that we are planning to marry we are “engaged,” but if I tell people I’m engaged, they either roll their eyes or asked to see the (non-existent) Ring, and both of those is a bummer. Because we have not Officially Announced it (nor have I officially accepted a proposal, which is something we both want to have – not a Fairy Tale Proposal, but a proposal), I consider us pre-engaged. My boyfriend hates the term too and uses “Common law” and sometimes sports terms to describe it, but I prefer pre-engaged in spite of its flaws.

    The other thing I wanted to mention was that some commenters had mentioned that this article doesn’t speak to people who are unhappy with their not-yet-officially-engaged status. I wanted to say that while I wasn’t trying to speak for them, OF COURSE I go through days like this too. Sometimes many days. Sometimes an entire year (I’m looking at you, 2009). But in my experience, this is when you need friends who won’t shame you or scold you for “pressuring” him the most. And when you need to talk to him the most.

    Thanks again for the comments : )

  • CK

    Thanks so much Sarah! This was exactly the kind of piece I was searching for on here a couple months ago when I suggested that APW could explore a little more thoroughly about the tensions between “single” (single, at least, according to the U.S. Census Bureau) and married. Personally, I’m not a fan of the term “pre-engaged”; I think any time we use the word “engaged” it’s just too historically tied to marriage and thus, assumes that the main path we all must be on is toward longterm romantic commitment with someone else. It wouldn’t work for me and my relationship because I believe that, if we do get engaged or married, it would have to be because that’s the decision we’ve come to as individuals within our relationship, not as a kind of pre-determined social unit.

    But I really appreciate the courage it takes to talk about all the stigma that comes with not being engaged (whether one has a partner or not) because it does exist. And it’s very painful. Even though I am very interested in thinking more about commitment and partnership for my own future, haven’t really been visiting this or other marriage web sites as much lately because to me there’s always this underlying sense in the wedding world of “Yes! We’ve made it! Whew!” It’s this idea that whatever obstacle you may face in the married world — whether it’s combining finances, splitting chores, career compromises, issues of fidelity, etc — that it’s not as bad as being on the other side. That ultimately the partnership is the gold star and whatever else happens, you have that. I think this post has perhaps started to question that kind assurance and I’m a big fan!

    • meg

      I think for those of us that do choose to get married, there is often a subtle change that happens afterwards that is great. I’m not going to de-emphasize that, because it’s important to lots of people, and hey, I write about marriage. But that’s not to say that people who choose not to get married don’t have fantastic partnerships in there own right. That’s just not something I, personally, can write about, because I didn’t make those choices.

      I’ve been pretty clear that people who want to write about the perceived privilege of marriage need to get writing on their own. I live in a world where people DON’T get married much more often than they do. Not only did we never get any pressure to get married, people think it’s slightly bizarre that we are married (we didn’t even get knocked up first). So, as someone living in that world, I started writing about what marriage meant to me to process that. Marriage isn’t very privileged in the liberal big-city creative communities we move it (might hurt your career, plus our gay friends can’t do it so WTF are we thinking?), or in the poor no-one-stays-married-even-if-they-get-married world we grew up in. It’s just not. I know it is in the greater middle-class world of America, but I’ve never fully lived there. So if you want to have that conversation – write it.

      • CK

        Sorry to cause any offense, Meg. I was trying to give a kudos here, ultimately. All I’m suggesting is that maybe your demographic is broader than you think; if you’re going to include the pre-engaged, or people who are in long term relationships that don’t ultimately result in marriage, or people who have broken engagements, or people who have been left at the alter, or people who’ve found ultimately found happiness through divorce, or anyone whose story suggests that maybe life is not as simple as we think, then it seems like Sarah’s story is really great. That’s all. Peace.

  • Heather

    Yes, yes.

    I am currently pre-engaged. My boyfriend and I recently had a talk about our upcoming engagement that made both of realize the intense pressure we had been feeling. The talk happened on the eve of our trip to Hawaii, which somehow this trip turned into the “engagement vacation.”

    My friends and coworkers thought this was THE trip. His friends thought that this was THE trip. I even started to think, “Well, of course this is THE trip. How could it not be? It’s HAWAII.” I was a little worried that we hadn’t discussed ring styles or cost or anything like that. But I knew that I had wanted a surprise (or at least I thought I knew), so I was like, OK, maybe he went and figured this all out on his own? Still, I was growing increasingly uncomfortable with the idea that this one decision in our relationship was going to be ENTIRELY up to him. Maybe it was the lack of control? Who knows. But we decide everything together and suddenly this very important thing is/was all on him.

    Which I think was starting to get to him. The night before we left he told me he would not be proposing in Hawaii. While some people may have flipped, after we talked about it, I was SO relieved. We had really let the “supposed to’s” get in the way of our upcoming engagement. So, then we did what, according to industry, we aren’t supposed to do. We talked and talked, about the cost of a ring, about my feelings about being engaged, about him wanting me to have a fabulous fabulous ring, about me wanting to have savings and money for travel over a fab fab ring.

    And you know what? I thought I would feel like I have to explain why I’m not engaged after returning from Hawaii. I don’t. It’s kind of awesome. I’m sure people are saying whatever they are going to say. Or maybe they’re afraid to ask? Afraid I will be reduced to a bumbling heap on the floor? Or that my guy is so, so afraid to commit, he couldn’t even propose in Hawaii?? Well, if I hear of any of this talk, I will just direct them to Sarah’s post. :)

    Thank you so much for speaking about this.

    • http://eclpse.livejournal.com Kimberly

      I’m only speaking for myself here . . . but I think a trip to Hawaii is effing fantastic. People should have plenty enough to say about that on its own!

      • Heather

        You’re so right! It’s also why I’m glad we talked about it. I would have hated to have spent the whole glorious trip (to three islands, no less!) wondering when THE moment was going to come. Because, let’s face it, even though I say I’m not the “I’m can’t wait to be married!!” kind of girl, I am the kind of girl who gets excited when I think that the moment is coming!

  • InOurLittlePlace

    Sarah, This is SERIOUSLY great advice and I hope it serves the pre-engaged readers (and their friends/family) of APW well. I think a great follow up article would be “How to deal with being pre-engaged”. For me, the main issue around being “pre-engaged” was that I felt as though I couldn’t say “I hope so” when people asked when we were getting married because I felt as though I was also applying undue pressure on him or somehow betraying him (weird, I know). I think you can hope that he will propose (if thats your thing) and still be really happy in your relationship at the time. I think TIMING is the key. I might have been ready, but he wasn’t (and later I found he was ready but is a very deliberate and thought out person), but I loved him enough to know that we could talk about our relationship and get to a point that we were both satisfied with how things were going. Unfortunately, people just looked at my left hand ring-less and assumed I was a sad sap.

    I also think that people outside of the pre-engaged set don’t really know what to make of the bunch. It is easy to categorize people has marrieds, about to get marrieds, or casually dating. But there is obviously a large sect of the population who are in happy and committed relationships without a legal contract binding them. I think that this constant pressure and questions for the pre-engaged set can demean the relationship. After all, there are so many couples in same sex relationships around the country that will not be able to get legally married. That doesn’t make their relationships as less important or loving.

    I have always loved the phrase “baby marriage” for some reason when thinking about the pre-engaged set. You can take this time in your relationship to really figure out how to communicate effectively and work thru any obstacles that might arise. I can see how the time after a formal engagement to the wedding can totally be centered around dealing with logistics of the wedding rather than the logistics of a relationship.

    Before I keep rambling more, I am going to just add, I love these type of dialogues because its really nice to hear the thoughts/worries of like minded people.

    • Katelyn

      EXACTLY to your whole comment.

      My beau and I have been together for 5 1/2 years. We’ve definitely been on the “pre-engaged” route for over a year now. He’s not anxious to get married – I’m finally calming down a bit and letting go of all the deep-rooted insecurities with just being happy in a relationship without some kind of trajectory. (Of course, that’s when he finally starts warming up to the idea of getting engaged- go figure)

      Our families are mostly great – my parents definitely see him as a part of our family, and same for his parents. I have one brother who he and his wife obviously see our relationship as inferior, despite the fact that we’ve been together twice as long as they have.

      We’ve been answering some form of “when are you getting married” for probably 3 years now – honestly after awhile it’s no longer annoying or disturbing, you just put out an automated response and move on with the conversation. It’s because of this weird limbo between boyfriend/girlfriend and fiance that we’re in – people don’t know how to address it.

      So yeah – I feel ya.

      • http://meaghantothemax.wordpress.com Meaghan

        As someone who loves to cook (and loves roast chicken more than anything), I also have to point out that that chicken would impress nobody, because it is lacking in butter. If I made that for my boyfriend, and he proposed because of it, I’d have serious doubts about saying yes, on account of his poor judgement.

        • http://meaghantothemax.wordpress.com Meaghan

          uh, that was not relevant to your comment at all… I clearly need to watch where I’m clicking.

  • Sarah Beth

    Um, this sounds like us. Except, we’re “post-engaged”. As in, we were engaged, and now we’re not. And people (mostly, my mother) cannot fathom that we can be happy together after the tearful drama of breaking off an engagement.

    I’ll be the first to admit, breaking off the engagement was awful. There were lots of tears, some anger, feeling of betrayal, etc. But there was also a great deal of lifted burdens and understanding. And now that we’re on the other side of it, our relationship is 100% better.
    Really. I would never have believed it myself, but sans engagement, we’re happier than we’ve been in a very long time.

    And that’s where the problem comes from. Our loved ones (namely, my mother) cannot understand why we are still together. Instead of “When are you getting married?” it’s “Why won’t you dump him, since he can’t make up his mind?”.
    And this, I think, is what we have in common with the pre-engaged: People think I should be sad and jealous, and that my boyfriend is worthy of contempt.
    But we’re happy. I just think I would more happy if people stopped pressuring me to leave the man I love.

    • Katelyn

      I just want to lend you my support Sarah Beth… it was very brave of you two to assess your engagement with a critical eye and have the guts to call it off instead of just following the momentum and hoping things would get better. And it’s super awesome that you’ve worked things out and are happier now.

      A general theme going in the comments regards to the ritualistic aspect of the process of marriage – whenever something doesn’t follow the traditional model, it confuses others because that’s just “now how it’s done” – whether it’s timing, who proposed, rings or lack thereof, etc. I think your mom will pull around and see your happiness and let it go with time.

    • Christine

      A lot of people were pressuring me to leave my then-man for not giving me a ring, and I was always behaving like I was more than happy to. I mentioned, I asked, I pressured, I shoved and finally we separated.
      And then people started pressuring why I still stay friends with him. Now on the other side of the relationship wall, we are enjoying each other’s company in place of anxiety. We are more intimate (no ex-sex, but lots of talking fears, hopes, dreams, how the day was) instead of intimidated.
      We are not back together for some things took place in the months in between. But we are slowly rebuilding that trust with no pressure and I am so glad I did not choose to listen to the whole world telling me to want what I don’t need, not to want what I want, not to be with who I want to be, and not to be who I am and want to be.
      After a year, I did not get my man back, but I am starting to get my best friend back. That is good enough for now, although some days it seems so hard.

  • pippip

    It was a post here on APW that recommended Kami Wicoff’s book “I Do But I Don’t.” After previewing it on google reader, and reading the discussion in the comment thread here at padagon (http://pandagon.blogsome.com/2006/08/24/weddings-and-fear/) I checked it out from the library.

    The beginning of the book has an *excellent* discussion of what is going on during the “pre-engagement” period, and how in society marriage is seen during that time as something the man possesses, and has the power to give to the woman. She discusses female proposals, how she felt obligated to “act calm” about the situation (‘the slave performs more than the master,’ as the pandagon thread paraphrases), how her mom pressured her, etc. The rest of the book details her feelings on her (super-WICy–she’s in a high socioeconomic class) prewedding experience, from the ring to the dress to bachelorette to the wedding itself. Highly recommend it–at least the first two chapters– in response to some of the earlier comments on this post, as well as the pandagon thread.

    (but I <3 feminist parsings of relationship issues, so take my recommendation as you will)

    • Morgan

      I was so sad when I heard that they divorced. :( She is so thoughtful – one of my favourite wedding books.

  • Carrie

    Thank you sooooo much for this post Sarah! My boyfriend and I have been together for 3.5 years and lived together for 2 years and are very happy together. We are not engaged but have discussed getting married at some point but want to knock out some of our debt (mostly school stuff) first. I am getting constant pressure from some of my friends and family about not being engaged yet and it’s so much worse right now because many of my friends are getting married and starting families. I am constantly getting the sad looks, “OMG you’re 30 and not engaged yet!”, questions of doubt about his commitment, “oh honey, it will happen for you one day” and sometimes even hurtful on the spot comments from people right in front of him. This doesn’t help anyone and only makes him feel pressured and as though he’s done something wrong. Of course, I’m looking forward to getting engaged and married someday but for now I am completely happy where I’m at being pre-engaged because we’ve discussed it and made a decision that’s right for us. I try to remember that we’re happy and secure in our relationship and tune out everyone that thinks otherwise.

  • http://www.firednfabulous.com/ Ellen@FirednFabulous

    I can so relate to this. I’ve been with my bf for 4.5 years and we don’t even live together! (I’m old-fashioned in that way, weird, I know.) I definitely do want to get married…I’d say yes in a heartbeat. But, I’m also not that anxious about it. Not having a ring doesn’t make me question my relationship or his feelings for me. I never have “the talk” with him because occasionally my friends or family will bring it up after they’ve had too much to drink, and I know that’s painful enough to deal with! ha

  • Amelia

    Oh god thankyou for writing the post I wanted to but could never articulate…more coming when I have a moment

  • Jessica

    Thank you for this!!!

    My man told me he’s ready to get engaged as soon as I am, which sparked crazy wedding fever. The thing is, even though I’m totally planning a hypothetical (Practical!!) wedding in my head right now, I’m not sure that I’m ready yet.

    With pressure to hurry my relationship along from my family and engaged/married friends on one side, and pressure from my single friends on the the other side not to “give in” yet, I feel like I’m going insane! I can barely gauge my own feelings through all the noise. I wish they would all just calm down.

  • http://www.missgiggles.com/blog Giggles

    Amen.

    First off, there’s a chicken?!?! Who want’s to marry a guy you have to trick into marrying you? Jeez!

    I hate that we live in a society that treats guys like big stupid ouphes who can’t do anything for themselves. It’s why we have to trick guys into marrying us and then train them like puppies afterward. It’s wrong.

  • Olivia

    While I understand the intention and purpose of this post, doesn’t this all boil down to basic manners? It’s rude to pry and to ask overly personal questions without being invited to do so.

    • Heather

      Yeah, I think it’s about manners, but the thing is I think it’s important to spell out what is meant by “good manners.” I think some times well-meaning people say and do things without realizing it’s in poor form. And for these people, to simply say, “Hey! Act right!” might not cut it.

      There are couple of people in our group of friends, for example, who say things because they think it’s a reflection on my feelings (e.g., “oh he BETTER be thinking about an engagement ring).

  • Carrie

    For serious.

    The more his friends made “jokes” about how I must have the ring all picked out already, the more I felt like I had to prove I didn’t care, which just made it harder to have an honest conversation about it.

    The reality was, I was thinking about it but wasn’t quite sure I was ready yet. But there’s no space for that reality in the Standard Narrative. I’d been with him for more than X amount of time, therefore I must be fed up waiting for a ring, right? Well, no. And in order to make people accept that, I had to keep saying I didn’t want to get married at all, which wasn’t entirely true either (any hint that I might want to get married was treated as “Ohh, you poor dear, left waiting all this time for a proposal!”). And then since I’d publicly committed to that stance, I felt like I couldn’t backtrack on it at all and be more honest with my then-boyfriend — I didn’t feel like I could admit to him that yeah, I was thinking about it, without feeling like I was justifying everything his friends were saying.

    It worked out in the end — I ended up proposing to him (which I wrote about on APW), and we’re happily married now. But that whole phase? Was really awkward and obnoxious.

    To friends of pre/non-engaged couples: Just lay off the assumptions about serious couples who aren’t engaged. Maybe one wants to get engaged and the other doesn’t; maybe neither of them wants to be engaged now, but might later; maybe neither of them is into the whole marriage thing. Maybe they’re not really sure how they feel about it at all. All the assumptions put a whole lot of external pressure on the situation and on the people involved. It doesn’t help, and it’s not funny or clever.

    • notabene

      A thousand “exactly!”s to you, my friend.

      One of the most disheartening things about being “pre-engaged” is that weddings make me want to hug someone. They are the adorable golden retriever puppies of human experiences: crazy, yes, and perhaps prone to peeing on the floor, but just full up to the brim with love. Despite the many levels of awesomeness that celebrating two people in love entails, it’s hard to express your jump-out-of-your skin sense of “SQUEEEE!” when someone you love gets engaged if everyone is eyeing you suspiciously to see whether this is the moment you’re going to freak out. I WANT to celebrate. I WANT to tie tiny little bows and hold your hand to listen to you agonize about royal versus buttercream versus pies. I want to do all these things for free, and give you a giant hug on the side, because weddings are awesome, and taking that big brave step out into the world is awesome, and I am so proud of you (friend, sister, random stranger) for standing up and saying “I do!” and meaning it. The awesomeness of the fact that someone else is getting married has very little real bearing on my own status: but sometimes, it’s hard to communicate that, even to the most well-meaning friends.

      Darwin and I staved off this conversation for a solid year with the “well, we simply haven’t found the right Elvis Impersonator, yet” response. Because honestly? If you have so much time to think about “whether we…?” and “will we…?” and “where we…?” and “why we…?”, you have time to sit and chew on the complexities what it takes to have exactly the right King to preside over your nuptials.

      • http://cuvikingadventures.blogspot.com/ Jenny- Adventures Along the Way

        I love the golden retriever puppy analogy. :)

    • Rachey-D

      “The more his friends made “jokes” about how I must have the ring all picked out already, the more I felt like I had to prove I didn’t care, which just made it harder to have an honest conversation about it.”

      YES! I hate that a girl who wants to get married but isn’t engaged is this pathetic figure in some people’s minds. Even though I know that my boyfriend and I are going to get engaged in a few years, I still have this feeling of guilt if I mention marriage. It’s frustrating to not be able to have this conversation without feeling “pressuring” guilt.

  • Renee

    This has to be my FAVORITE APW post! I spent so much time defending my happiness before we got engaged. As if he loved me more he would’ve proposed sooner! We were (and are) extremely happy together but weren’t looking to jump into marriage before WE were ready. My fiance and I were on our time, not everyone elses. I wished everyone would just butt out and be happy for us instead of questioning it!

    I too love talking about weddings. Mine or yours, doesn’t matter! But people started too look at me like this poor pathetic girl who can’t get her boyfriend to propose. I felt stupid so I tried to stop but knowing its coming is just so exciting you want to share. At this point I say screw it, I want to talk about my wedding!!

    So cheers to the pre-engaged! Don’t get discouraged, be happy and enjoy yourself!

  • http://discerningdilettante.blogspot.com ka

    I loved this post! So wise, so empowering, so much I remember from before-I-was-engaged, and so much I can see my no-yet-engaged friends relating to. Thanks for this, in particular.

    “If you’re engaged, please talk to me about your relationship, proposal, engagement ring, honeymoon, venue, traditions and veil, and let me ask questions without calling me pathetic or obsessed.”

    I am somewhat guilty of keeping my mouth shut about such things with my girlfriends, and then feeling guilty when I do talk about it. It’s not that I think *any* of them are jealous, pathetic, or anything other than totally together and fantastic, I just don’t honestly know how much they actually want to hear. So yea, maybe I should just ask them! Ahh, the double-edged sort of too little wedding interest and you’re a weirdo, too much and you’re a bridezilla!

  • http://kristythecoffeegirl.blogspot.com Kristy

    Sarah, high five for this. Seriously. Freaking fantastic, lady. I don’t know why it’s so hard for people to understand that you can be perfectly happy in a long term relationship without being engaged & married right away.

  • http://penn.typepad.com Leah

    yes! Love this post :-) My friends have all been supportive, so that’s been great. But I really would like his family to stop asking (thankfully, they mostly have). We’ll get ready when we’re married. His sister-in-law also frequently asks when we’re giving her kids cousins, and I have to hold my tongue instead of blurting out “maybe you should have waited to have kids if you wanted cousins the same age.”

    I did have some difficulty with my boyfriend’s work, as we live in work-provided housing. It took awhile for them to understand that we can be in a happy, committed, stable relationship without being ~married

    We’ll get there one of these days. In the meantime, I’m working on finishing graduate school without going crazy, and he’s in his third year of teaching and really pushing the envelope on his career. We also hike, camp, cross-country ski, etc . . . and that’s how we want to spend our time right now.

  • Lydia

    Sarah, this post is so awesome. My boyfriend and I have been talking about getting married for the past year and a half, but we’re not formally engaged yet and there’s no wedding planning going on. Both of our lives have been pretty topsy-turvey the entire three years that we’ve been together, and we want to sort it all out before we take that step.
    We’re both attempting to go back to school and find financial stability in this recession. I lost my full-time job as a reporter two years ago in a massive layoff and have finally found a new direction (high school English teacher! Yay!)
    He’s been on his own since high school, and has fought his way back from couch-surfing and top ramen to having a job that he sorta can’t stand, but which pays his bills and let’s him save for film school.
    We both feel like works-in-progress right now, and we both want to find our footholds in new careers before we get hitched.

    This post speaks to me so much right now that I just want to reach through the ‘Net to hug you! It’s hard to be in that no-man’s land of knowing you have found “the one” but still not quite ready for the binding contract part.
    I loved it when you said, “But please, under no circumstances imply that I’m jealous. It’s not a competition.” This is the vibe I get from engaged friends sometimes, and it’s a bummer. I love APW for the same reasons that I love to talk to them about their plans. It’s fun to get educated on all this wedding stuff, because I know that someday I will have a wedding to plan.

    This post and all the comments have really boosted my moral over the whole situation. My boyfriend and I are doing the best we can with what we’ve got and our relationship has gotten both of us through some very difficult times. Now that we’re finally starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel, it’s so encouraging to know that our situation isn’t so out of the ordinary. I’m breathing big stress-relieving sighs of happiness over here. Thanks you guys.

  • tariqata

    I’m engaged now, but I agree with everything in this post.

    But I’ll add one more thing – sometimes we might feel bitter or sad that we’re not engaged, but the feelings aren’t necessarily caused by the fact of not being engaged. Over this summer, my best friend got married and, in close succession, two couples who are good friends of mine and Mr. Tariqata announced their engagement. After the second announcement, I broke down, not because I was afraid he didn’t really want to get married after eight years together but because I felt like my decision to go to grad school meant that I had delayed even the possibility of us having a wedding or buying a home for at least three years (enough time for me to finish school and, hopefully, find a job). I could see all of my friends celebrating their relationships and making their commitments for the future, and I knew that we both wanted to (and would eventually), but I was convinced that we just couldn’t do it. It took a while to sort out just why I felt so sad that we weren’t engaged. Happily, talking it out with Mr. Tariqata didn’t lead him to run screaming from the “pressure” – it led him to say, “sure we can!”.

  • Rhonda

    Personally I think that being “pre-engaged” sucks!! However, it’s totally better than being engaged when you’re not really ready. My current bf and I did that…stupidest idea ever! Try explaining that one to somebody…I still love him, he still makes me really happy, but we’re not getting married anymore. I got more than a few strange looks (like I was sprouting another head), but it was completely right for us. We’re way happier at the moment just being together than worrying about getting married.

    • http://cuvikingadventures.blogspot.com/ Jenny- Adventures Along the Way

      This is a really good point:
      “Personally I think that being “pre-engaged” sucks!! However, it’s totally better than being engaged when you’re not really ready.”

  • Rachey-D

    Long time lurker, first time writer! I have been dating my wonderful boyfriend for almost 6 years, and this post couldn’t have come at a better time in my life! We’re only 23 years old, but I feel like lately there’s been sooo many expectations from close friends and people I barely know! Everyone either insinuates that I’m pining for a ring or that we’re too young to know what we want. No, we don’t want your wedding. Yes, we have talked about marriage like rational adults, and yeah we are happy right now with our lives the way they are. Blissfully so. We do plan on getting married someday (obviously! I’ve been lurking on APW), and as always it’s comforting to know that there are awesome, sane people out there who can focus on the relationship and not the next “step”. Thanks APW!

  • http://acceptanceenergyhappiness.blogspot.com Jane

    amazing!! you put it perfectly. I’m engaged now, but just got engaged in August, after 3 of my other friends did in the 8 months beforehand. I got tired of talking about it, and of defending that we weren’t engaged yet. Someone even had the nerve to say to me “Oh wow, and you’re older than they are! That must be hard.”….really? I’m only a year older, I’m only 26, and who says that or even thinks that now?!?! ugh.

    I applaud your viewpoint, and thank you for putting what so many of us feel/felt into words!

  • Christine

    No matter what people tell you, it is always important to first know why is it relevant. In everything.
    My ex boyfriend and I were together for 2 years in bliss and we talk about our future, making plans, built a home. Then the weddings start coming in one by one, then a huge engagement, and subsequent huge wedding came in his family. And everybody started asking. At that time, I too ended up in the company of people with the largest WIC, my family notably. So I became that girl voluntarily (then nearing 30, and he’s way past, I thought it was really time) and involuntarily. For another 2 years I was an engagement monster, more willing to talk about my lack of ring to anyone and berated him for it.

    As it worked, we broke up as I was no longer myself. I was pushing people away, I was not accepting help, I wanted things that I didn’t really want. I became someone I don’t really like.
    A year on, lots of prayer, lots of APW, zero wedding porn, zero where’s-the-ring brigade(of course they’d be gone, you’ve broken up) I rebuilt myself and saw how much I had returned to the girl I was, and the girl I could have grown to be. My ex is my best friend and I am so grateful he supported everything I need to do to return to normal. I hope he is proud of us and to see me back.
    Looking back, I wouldn’t have been ready because I wasn’t myself. I had allowed others’ expectations (sometimes they’re just nosy) take me over. I now realize that you have the power to not waver from who you are. It is only then that you live as you deserve and would be rewarded as you should. Lose yourself and there’s more to lose.

    Funny, I fought him for a big proposal and ring, but all I’ve always envisioned my proposal would be with him was waking up to a man wanting to do this forever.
    And then we get tattoos :)

    • Christine

      Of course it is heartwrenching for me that after 4 years of working to be together, at the midpoint I forgot to enjoy our tome together and became “that girl” for 2 years until I pushed him out. We definitely have a lot to put into place, living arrangements, cultures, jobs. I didn’t see that and he was trying hard to make me see. Being on APW not only help me get over losing my partner, it also help me get over losing myself and learn to forgive myself. I now see that what is most important is what both of you think and want. The rest of the world would always have a different idea. Don’t be discouraged if nobody appears excited, you know there is at least 1 person that feels the way you do.

  • http://loveyourway.net Lizzie

    excellent post. i remember when isaiah and i weren’t engaged yet and TOO many people were in my face all the time and we hadn’t even been dating that long! kudos to you two for taking things slow…you have forever to be together…what’s the rush? enjoying each other is key…not the label that goes along with enjoying your time together.

  • Rebekah

    OH. MY. GOSH.
    Thank you (!!!) so much for this piece. I’ve been dating my boyfriend for 3 years now and we both know we want to get married, but there are just some things that need to fall into place before we commit to sharing our lives AND our finances AND our living space and other things. In the meantime, all my friends get engaged with shorter dating experiences and some days it really does take all my self control and inner rationalizing to curb my jealousy, but then I realize that what we are doing is what’s right for US and no one else has a relationship just like ours.
    I appreciate so much this super empowering list of do’s and don’t’s and I am for sure going to share it with others, because, you know what? You’re right. Your time will come, and it will rock, but this is a pretty sweet place to be too.

  • Amelia

    So I can’t stand the term pre-engaged but that’s possibly because it just isn’t for me. i am in a long term committed relationship of many many years and while I rarely comment because I can never articulate the darn words but always read this is a subject close to my heart

    Bear in mind I work in the wedding industry, so this makes it even better because clearly I am only working in the industry because I am pining for that ring right?

    My partner and I aren’t engaged, no pre engaged, we’ve talked about marriage since maybe year one of our relationship- we’re now almost at year 10. We know it will happen, we’re just busy with life, things get in the way- work, money, houses, business, health. It’s not even a “get in the way because it’s just another excuse” because really we’re pretty darn happy as it is.

    But it does make me see red that marriage automatically validates a relationship..in fact it is one of the few issues in society that really riles me up- I’ve been close to two couples who have dated for over a decade without engagement and they feel the same way.

    The gems we have heard over the years

    -Not receiving an invite to a wedding because we’re not engaged or married though have been in a long term committed relationship for longer than most of the couples attending.
    – Being told (by a couple married for a quarter of the time we have been dating and dating for two years less) “Good Work!” when they asked how long we’d been together
    – Having our friends (who have dated for over 10 years) being told “Oh You’re one of those couples” when asked about their relationship status
    – Threats to physically harm my partner (in jest I realise) if he hadn’t proposed yet
    – Being told my partner is cruel
    – Being told by a friend who had dated her partner for 6 months before engagement in a particularly patronizing voice “Oh don’t worry it will happen soon”
    –Saying nice things about said partner and later having people tell him I was “hinting at a proposal”

    I want to scream. I know, my family knows, OUR family knows that we are wonderful- we are FINE we are in no rush, it just isn’t the right timing but my god the pain, the heartache when people say these things to us, when people say such things about my wonderful, gentle amazing boy who I completely adore and can’t say enough lovely things about- the lvoe of my life..is that not saying enough?

    The worst bit is I can’t imagine how bad it is for him- He’s perceived as the evil man who hasn’t proposed to his long suffering girlfriend.

    I don’t understand I don’t understand why marriage suddenly validates a relationship? I don’t understand how your relationship of six months now engaged is considered more solid and stable than mine?
    I try my best not to pass judgment on other relationships- I work in the industry it’s my job not to ;) In fact I find it heartwarming when a couple has dated for a month, or 15 years, or whatever they’re comfortable with. So it’s incredibly, incredibly painful to have people pass judgment on mine.

    • InOurLittlePlace

      Exactly! Your comment is very insightful. Marriage isn’t supposed to be this finish line that we just need to rush to. I completely agree with your thoughts of how smug or patronizing people can be. Just because someone is engaged first does not make them a relationship expert suddenly. Frankly, if the two of you have been happy and madly in love (it seems based on your comment) for 10 years, I consider that very impressive.

  • Shauna

    I know there are a lot of comments already, but I thought I’d throw my two cents in: I was Pre-Engaged in a more formal “betrothed” sense of the word. Instead of engagement as a surprise, we looked at it as more important than getting married– because THIS is when you decide to spend your lives together. The wedding day is a re-affirmation. So we actually went to counseling, and read books, and did the whole emotional-financial-communication-arewereallydoingthis? before I ever looked at a ring. I still didn’t have an “official” proposal when we set the date, and my friends were actually very rude (seems to be a recurring idea) and went so far as to say it’s “like planning a baby shower for someone who isn’t pregnant.”

    But never to fear, he was taking his sweet time because he got me the most beautiful ring designed just for me, and did a truly amazing job proposing in a very surprising and overly romantic way. And all those friends that were rude? Went to dinner afterwards and toasted to us.

    You just have to do what is right for your marriage, and stop thinking about it in such a neo-traditional sense. (As, historically, this whole marriage thing wasn’t all so surprising and romantic.)

  • CHANTEL

    Pre-engagement. What a concept! I guess my partner (male, hetero-sexual, co-bill paying and cohabitant for the last 4 years of our 5 year relationship) and I have been “pre-engaged” for the last 4.5 years! In the very early stages of our relationship, we knew and discussed the fact that for us, there was no other person we would want to spend our life beside. And, we have discussed marriage, having a wedding AND (dun.. dun. daaah) THE PROPOSAL in varying stages of seriousness over the course of our intertwined life together. I wanted to share my recent experience about waiting for this PROPOSAL to happen because as of late it blew up in our faces (and was recently reconciled). Despite all of our talks – and several letters that I penned to him – we really were on different pages about traditions surrounding the proposal.
    Here is the situation: I don’t want an engagement ring because to me *personally* it would be strange to have me “marked” for marriage while my guy is still, to the world, a bachelor. If wears one too then that’s fine but the imbalance really rubs me the wrong way. Also, I’m not a ring person and though this may change in the distant future, I’d rather we spend our money right now on something memorable and/or practical for both of us to share (plane tickets to Paris, anyone?). My man has known this for years but was still holding onto preconceived notions that he “had to” buy me a ring. He also kept thinking he “had to” ask my father for a blessing before popping the question… a tradition that to me *personally* symbolizes the bride being chattel even more than the engagement ring dealio. The previous point had been discussed openly together, the latter point was something that came up in our most recent conversation… which only happened after I had a really big melt down when he told me he couldn’t propose on our 5 year anniversary because he hadn’t talked to my dad yet!
    Truth is, I’ve been in that limbo stage described by so many of you for about a year now. You know, that stage where you feel like this emblematic next step needs to be taken and since the S.O. has requested that it be them to ask, I had to sit around and wait for it… thinking and hoping that every special occasion was going to be “it.” Infuriating! Female equivalent of emasculating! Powerlessness!
    And all this within a relationship where we do talk openly about these things and yet somehow we did not communicate, until very recently, that we had blinders on in this particular area. He thought he needed to do things a certain way and I thought it would be OK for me to demand that he abandon the traditions that he was trying to follow. After taking some time apart to think about what these traditions and this step means for both of us, he has realized that he can and wants to let go of those norms and I have realized that even when you think you have said what you need to say, if you still aren’t feeling like you are syncing up with your partner, its time to talk some more.
    Long story short, we are getting engaged, we have given ourselves a time line and we have promised that it doesn’t “have to” adhere to anyone’s standards of the ideal proposal story. We are going to find a time, without planning it out and having it be all on one person, when we will ask that question of each other. Together. Just like everything else we do in our lives together. I’m really excited about this approach and I can’t wait to shout it from the rooftops!
    Thank you very much to all of you for sharing your stories, it really helps to connect with others who are open-minded and progressive on all these topics!

  • Kassy

    I pretty much want to “exactly” this whole post, but especially this part: “Call me new-fashioned, but I believe that as an educated woman in my late twenties with my own assets, ideas, experience and opinions, I shouldn’t be waiting on my partner to make one of the biggest decisions of our lives on his own.”

    My boyfriend didn’t propose to me. We sat down together and talked about marriage, mutually deciding that we were ready for it. It may not sound as romantic as a surprise proposal, but it was very meaningful to me. And a month after we announced that we were engaged, my mom found a family heirloom ring and gave it to him to use as the engagement ring. This was very special to both of us because of how much family means to us, and it was great for me because I love antique jewelry for both aesthetic and ethical reasons. This would totally not have happened if he had planned a “romantic” surprise proposal on his own.

  • j9

    I started reading APW around the same time that a half a dozen women around me got engaged. At 25, I have been a bridesmaid 5 times but am in no place in my life to get married anytime soon. I have had numerous co-workers and friends tell me I am the next one to get engaged. I constantly am trying to find a way to politely tell them that they have no business telling me when I should be getting married. It is so refreshing to read a post like this and know that I am not the other one that feels they have to defend their girlfriend status. I love my relationship. We have just moved in together and are enjoying the loveliness about it. This post truely captures pre-engagement by pointing out that the decision to get married is not one sided. Thanks!

  • Cassandra

    We thankfully don’t deal with a lot of those comments. We’re both in grad school, in the same department, so everyone we know knows we are together, but I think most people we know run in circles where marriage isn’t considered the be-all and end-all of a relationship trajectory. Additionally, we live in Quebec where most people don’t bother with marriage and stick with common-law partnerships; in fact, because of the pretty heady ideas surrounding marriage here, people often look at us like we’re nuts when we say we’re planning to eventually.

    I can’t be bothered to call us pre-engaged or anything else. Everyone we know refers to their significant others (married or not) as their partner or ‘conjoint(e)’ which is the French term, so it’s usually what comes out in public, and no one would ever dare ask if we were married or not. I do get a little twinge everytime someone I know gets engaged or married or posts pictures of their new houses, etc,. While we’re happily discussing the kind of wedding we want and who we’ll invite, how many more children we’d like (and their names, ha), what debts need to be paid off so we can buy an apartment and all of these great things, we’re just not ready for the ‘engaged’ stage to start properly until we know what program he’s going into next year and whether I can afford to move wherever he goes. It’s impossible to plan a wedding when we’re still planning our immediate lives, so we’re just talking and talking and talking, and luckily we’re getting to do so privately without everyone else’s input. My parents don’t believe in weddings and ‘lived in sin’ for a good 8 years before bothering to marry, and his mother has been legally married and divorced twice and common-law separated several times – no one is pushing for it and in fact they probably don’t expect it. We actually deal a lot more with negative comments toward marriage when we do discuss it publicly, with a lot of “why would you even bother?” and “will it really change anything?” I guess that comes down to good manners, too… You can’t win, I suppose.

  • http://lathropenator.blogspot.com Kate

    Thank you for posting this. I wholeheartedly agree with you! I am just recently engaged after three years of dating. Many of my friends acted in the “don’t” category. It really had an effect on my morale. Of course I wanted to get married, and was playing the waiting game. A positive voice from a girl would have been nice. Now that I look back, I let my friends’ opinions influence my happiness at times. I using this as a lesson as I go about married life. I can be happy with my soon-to-be husband without the opinions of the girls in my life. I can also be a support to my pre-engaged friends.

  • Pingback: Pre-engaged « life in my Big Yellow House()

  • Shannon

    Ha. This article literally made this entire year for me. We are at this moment, “officially not-yet engaged” as well. We’ve been together for 6 years, have a beautiful daughter together, and have decided about 2 years ago that we are getting married in the fall of 2011. I even have my dress. HOWEVER. Not one single person save my immediate family actually believes we’re getting married because he hasnt done the “proper proposal”, and I dont have a ring on my finger. Im sorry to disappoint anyone, but we have a kid together and the economy ain’t all that great right now. A diamond ring and candles all over the place doesnt work for our family right now. And I am honestly not interested in people giving me their negative opinions because it doesnt fit their “ideal”. If you cant get over it, dont expect a save the date ;)

  • Donna

    My b/f and I have been friends for about six years, but became a couple a little over three years ago and moved in together shortly thereafter. We’ve both been through bitter divorces and are simply enjoying spending our lives together. When I get asked, “when are you going to get married”?, it depends on who is asking. My normal response is that I don’t NEED to get married to know that I WANT to be with him.
    Sometimes I’ll be a smart aleck and reply, “Four pieces of paper are sometimes better than one!” 1.)Living will; 2.)Last Will & Testament; 3.)Power of Attorney; 4.)Health Care Advocate designation. If you’re not planning on marrying, these documents are important so that yours and your s/o’s wishes can be carried out in case something unfortunate happens. We have been thinking about marriage and probably will do so in the next year. However, until we actually do get married, we wanted to be protected legally with the above documents.
    Best wishes to all for good health and happiness in your relationships!

  • Alexandra

    Such an awesome post! I’m engaged and we’re actively planning our wedding for this coming October, but we weren’t always sure we wanted marriage, and we were “just” dating/cohabiting for years before we decided to get engaged. We liked the word betrothed, too, even though it is on the chattel-y side. ;p (Just because fiance seemed a bit forced or “high-falutin’!”) Although we’ve become comfortable with it in the last 1.5+ years since our official engagement!
    Like some other people mentioned, our lives are full. There is a whole lot of activities and travel that we take part in, so we just enjoyed our lives for a long time, both as Significant Other / Other Half, then engaged, before getting down to the business of planning a wedding! (We also like my person/ my sweetie / my [name here] as designating words!)

    Fortunately we’re in the liberal / big city milieu, so didn’t have *too* many questions from people, and certainly no pitying looks! [Thank goodness!] But then I’m also obviously an Independent woman, and we’re obviously happy and in love, so, hooray. (It helps that we’re in our mid-30s and started dating in our mid-twenties, I think!)

    A favored response when people would ask if/when we were getting married, was “maybe someday” or “probably someday”. Common-law-ish [not legal in our state] was fine for us, but we eventually realized that we did want the legal protections. And a party to celebrate with our friends and family to shout our love from the figurative rooftops! ;-)
    We realized that standing in front of our community, asking for that support and acknowledgement, and having that ritual were important to us, so we’re doing it.

    But it is SO totally valid to be happily unmarried [which is how we described ourselves for a long time!], and I hope there’s more acceptance of all kinds of loving relationships in the future. ;D

  • Bethany

    This post made a very poopy feeling in my chest DISAPPEAR

    It’s like I can breathe again!! I am pretty sure I nodded my head and said AMEN after every single sentence…

  • Rachel

    Can I frame this?

  • M

    I love this post! So refreshing.

    I just got engaged, but my SO and I were happily un-engaged for five years. We talked about our future a lot in that time, and we were very committed to each other – but neither of us was ready to get married. Over the past year, we talked more seriously and concretely about what we wanted our marriage to look like, we decided this was something we really wanted and were ready for, and then finally told our families about our engagement last week. I feel like our engagement evolved out of mutual decision-making and conversation, and I know my SO feels this way too; there was a particular romantic moment that I guess marked our “official” engagement, but we had already pretty much decided we were engaged before that moment. Still, as I’ve been telling family and friends, EVERYONE immediately asks, “How did he propose??!!” To the first few people, I just said, “It’s been something we’ve been talking about for a long time, and now we feel ready to really do it.” To which people have replied, “OH,” with a look of pity, as if our mutual decision is really code for “He never actually asked, but I’ve got a pistol pointed at his back” or something. Now that I’ve received the pity-looks a few times, when people ask for my “proposal story” I just tell them about the romantic moment that made it all official because that seems like what people want to hear…. but, while the romantic story isn’t untrue, I feel like I’m leaving out the best part. We really DID talk about this intensely for a year – it really WAS a mutual decision. And that’s exactly how I wanted it to be – it made me feel so good about the decision we were making together. I hate this cultural notion that every woman out there wants to be totally surprised, and that if it’s not a complete surprise then somehow she pressured him into it. I wish I had more positive responses when I tell people it was mutual, instead of pity.

  • Pingback: Pre-Engaged? | The Chatty Brunette()

  • Pingback: checking in, nothing “new,” and an actual real updated HOH, sort of. | Skrinkering Hearts()

  • Steph

    Thank you for the article!! My man and I have been together 6 and 1/2 years, and lived together for about 6 of those years. We own a house together, we have raised 2 dogs, we have a joint bank account and share the same insurance. We are not married, nor are we engaged.
    Last summer, we attended 5 weddings of our peers. At each one, the inevitable ” So when ya’ll gettin hitched?” (We are very southern.) His mother was at a few of the weddings, and she ladled the pressure on, wanting us to be married that summer in her backyard (I am not a backyard wedding girl).

    We decided 4 and 1/2 years ago that we wanted to spend our lives together, otherwise I would have never moved forward with the house and bank accounts. He has held me through mental/emotional breakdowns, job losses, family crises, deaths, stress, and joy. He is my best friend, my partner, my life-sharer.

    I won’t lie– I am getting impatient. And he knows it, which leads us to being even more pre-engaged than we already were. We have a desire to be strictly independent as a couple when we wed– no parents paying for any cell phones, college loans, anything. We also have a pinch of credit card debt top pay down, so we are not moving forward with anything.

    But good new lies on the horizon, as in September, it turned out that my man had been given 2 family diamonds. We are working on getting a 3rd from my family, and we are having a custom heirloom ring designed.

    He already knows he’ll propose between fall and winter of this year, and we have already chosen the location for our winter 2014 ceremony. So while I know my days of pseudo-singledom are drawing to a close, I know I will not miss the insinuated questions, or the quiet rage I felt at times (the worst being a couple getting engaged/married after being in a relationship less than 3 years. It infuriates me.)
    And we have watched our friends get engaged and married, and we have learned from our mistakes. From our friend who had too grand of ideas for DIY and almost post-poned her ceremony about it. The friend who invited more people than he had food/chairs to cover. The other friends with the far too open bar and how like 30 people had to spend the night at the reception location (his mother’s house). We know that we will have a kick ass, personalized, cheap but classy wedding.

    We just have to be patient.