My boyfriend and I have been together for a little over two years and living together for eight months. We both knew just a few months into our relationship that this was it. He is absolutely wonderful, my best friend, and more than I ever dreamed of in a man. We are very good at communicating about everything, except the engagement. We talked about it briefly a little over a year into our relationship, but decided we should both graduate first and then get engaged. Well, in May we graduated and moved in together. And things have been great. But engagement is something he will not talk about with me.
The main reason I think he won’t talk to me about it is because he absolutely loves surprising me, whether it’s bringing home flowers just because or tickets when my favorite band is in town. I know he is the kind of guy that wants to surprise me with everything—the ring, the proposal, the whole thing. But I feel a little left in the dark. I feel like every time I turn around someone I know is asking me when we are getting engaged, and honestly I have no idea! I have tried to bring it up but he brushes off every attempt. One time I started with, “Bobby just took his girlfriend ring shopping,” to which his response was a pause, and then, “Wait, do you mean nose ring shopping or belly-button ring shopping?”
The problem is not that I want to ruin the surprise, but that I want to understand the timeline. I want to know if it’s going to be six months, or at least another year. Part of me really thought it would have happened by now. We both graduated, both got great jobs, moved in, and are happy. Our only real discussion was almost a year ago when we said after graduation and that both of us didn’t want to live together too long before being engaged because we both have traditional families. But that was so long ago, I don’t know if he’s still on that timeline.
How can I bring this up with him in a way that doesn’t sound like I am demanding an engagement but want to make sure we are on the same track?
There’s one thing we need to get clear. “Demanding a proposal” is very different from asking to be in on where your future is headed. Surprise proposals are lovely, sure. I’ll take surprise jewelry and a night out any day of the week. But a surprise engagement is something different altogether. Surprising you with a ring is fun! But surprising you with a major decision that he’s made about your life is not fun. And it’s not fair.
I get that he loves surprising you, and that you’re trying to be appreciative and respectful of that, but that should be coupled with his appreciation and respect for what you want, also. At the heart of it, I’m sure he wants to surprise you because he wants to make you happy. But, it’s not making you happy. He’s so fixated on what he thinks you want, that he’s completely blinded to the fact that you’re super not happy waiting to find out what’s going on. He’s missing the point of the whole thing, and won’t realize it unless you tell him.
In order to do that, you’ve gotta step away from this trope of the impatient demanding girlfriend and the slow-to-act dopey boyfriend who’s dragging his heels. Instead of all that, this is just two adults trying to figure out the best next step for their future together. Saying, “Honey, I see this moving toward marriage, and I think xyz is the perfect time frame,” is fair. It’s fair! You’re allowed to say that. It’s not pushy or manipulative or demanding. And he’s allowed to say, “That’s not what fits for me right now.” And the feelings might be swapped, at a different time or for a different couple. And that’s okay too! Instead of imagining marriage as something that girls pine for and guys withhold, think of it like any other life-changing decision—where are we going to live, when will we move, will we have kids—and then it just plain old makes sense to say, “Here’s what fits my life, what do you think?”
Luckily, you can have that conversation and still have a splashy, surprise proposal. Honest! Talk about what the next steps will be, and when they’re going to happen, and he’ll still have plenty of room to surprise you with something glittery on some special night of his choosing. In fact, I’m sure it’ll be even more glittery and special without the haunting pressure of wondering what next.
Team Practical, how do you make sure you’re on the same page with your partner about time frames for engagement and marriage?
Photo by Vivian Chen
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!