I’m a pre-engaged gal, and I know the issues of mortification, general indecisiveness, and of course ducks, have already been covered, but I’m still stuck. After around a year of being together, my partner and I started talking more seriously about getting married. He told me that he’d read that couples were more successful who waited until the eighteen-month mark to decide to get married, and he wanted to take that as a guideline. I was fine with that, in principle. But in practice… well, it drove me a little crazy. For months, I felt like he wasn’t sure about me (because when a man is sure about you, he does not sensibly decide to wait til a preordained time to confirm it), and like I couldn’t talk about it because that would make me one of those girls who pressures some guy into marrying her.
So we had a big talk, where I told him that I felt like I had to be absolutely perfect for him so that he would decide he wanted me—like I was on the longest job interview in the world. He said he hadn’t realized that I was as nervous as he was, and he didn’t want to make me feel like that, and I was hired.
A month later, we picked out my ring together, and he admitted he’d been saving for it since only four months into the relationship. Knowing that he was sure about me and planning for our future from that early on made me feel so warm and happy and comforted, knowing indisputably that he wanted our future together, without any nudging.
But now, wondering if every holiday and getaway is going to be THE day, I’m starting to feel excited, but also scared. Now that I’m not waiting to be “chosen,” not waiting for the validation that he loves me enough, now that I am truly an equal (if not more) partner in this decision, I’m wondering if I’m ready. He’s amazing, our relationship is amazing, and the life we talk about having together would be amazing. Every time I’ve been nervous about this relationship, I’ve leaned into the fear, and it’s been exactly what I needed to do.
So, my question is, at this most important decision, how do I know when to listen to my nerves and how do I know when they’re just stage fright? I need a gut-check from Team Practical on this one. Do doubts always mean something? Or does everyone have doubts?
I’m gonna be a little bit of a jerk and bypass the meat of your question down there. Like you mentioned, we’ve talked about wiley ducks, about cold feet and doubts, and about rushing things along for the sake of logistics at length. If you don’t read each of those posts (which obviously you should; I hear the author is awesome), what all of that comes down to in sum is 1) I don’t know if you’re ready or not, and 2) If you don’t know if you’re ready, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with waiting until you know for sure.
But the real reason I’m skipping that whole discussion is not only that we’ve already discussed it in so many forms. I just don’t think that’s your issue. I think your issue is “the waiting game” that you’ve got yourself in. You were thrilled, anxious, excited to get married just a few short months ago! You were so ready that you couldn’t understand why someone in love would wait for logistical reasons (an idea we’ll come back to in just a minute). But, now, every time he takes you out to dinner, bends down to tie his shoe, clears his throat before he speaks, you’re wondering, “Is this it?!” Holy crap, woman, no wonder you’re feeling nervous. That’s a whole lot of time spent dwelling on just one question and its fateful answer. I don’t know about you, but the more I dwell on something, the easier time I have of finding ways to freak out about it. I could be wrong (it’s happened), but I think you’re less nervous about marriage, and more just flat out nervous because you’re on edge and thinking about it so damn much.
You mention that you now feel that you’re an equal partner in this decision, but is that true? There’s a certain balance of power in the whole proposal and agreement process. The asker holds the power of deciding when to ask; the askee holds the power of saying “yes” or “no.” Both of you contribute to one whole decision of, “Yep, let’s do this.” As with anything else in weddings and marriage, if the conventional and traditional ways of handling stuff are driving you crazy, it’s okay to nix them in favor of sanity. You’re on the same page about moving toward marriage. Awesome. Important. But, waiting for him to choose a time to ask you seems to be causing a bit of unbalanced partnership there. And I’d say the same if he had already asked you and you were taking several weeks to respond. Being equal partners in the decision means one of you doesn’t have the chance to leave the other one hanging. It means having understanding and respect for one another’s sanity and nervous system.
Not that there’s anything wrong with a surprise proposal in and unto itself. They work out really well for some folks and don’t cause an imbalance of power at all. My own husband “surprised” me with a ring. But, you know. After we’d both discussed that we’d like to get married and when about that would happen. Surprise! So, just because it works for some, doesn’t mean it needs to work for all. And this right here? It doesn’t seem to be working.
Maybe you should talk to him. Actually, definitely you should talk to him (hint: this is often the answer). This poor guy seems completely in the dark about all of your complicated feelings toward the whole proposal, engagement, and marriage process. The two of you may be able to sit down together and mutually decide to be engaged. Because, guess what? There doesn’t need to be a “pop the question” moment. Sometimes two adults can just decide to get married together. Or, you can skip that whole thing and ask him to marry you, ending the waiting game and anxiety and nerves for you both.
One last aside on love versus logistics before I hand it off to Team Practical. You mention that at one time, you saw his concern for the articles he read and statistics he cited as being proof that he didn’t really love you. I’m so glad you moved past that and resolved the issue, but of course, I’ve got to throw in my two cents. In the same way that your creeping doubts don’t negate the possibility that you’re madly in love, having a mind for logistics and practicality doesn’t either. While I’ll be the first tell anyone, “Ignore the money/timing/whatever and just get married if you want to get married!” (and I have) the fact that some folks do consider those pieces doesn’t make them any less romantic than others. I think perhaps we should break down this notion that romance involves throwing cares to the wind, being reckless, chasing your dreams! Sometimes, true love is mild-mannered and considered. Sometimes it involves careful planning. Romance takes all sorts of shapes and forms, and in some of them, the girl does the asking.
Team Practical, how did you and your partner handle the tricky task of getting engaged already? Did the process make your more nervous, or reassure you?
Photo by APW sponsor Moodeous Photography.
If you would like to ask Team Practical a question please don’t be shy! You can email Liz at: askteampractical [at] apracticalwedding [dot] com. If you would prefer to not be named, anonymous questions are also accepted. Though it really makes our day when you come up with a clever sign-off!