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Ask Team Practical: We’re Not Excited


Because we probably should be, right?

Today’s Ask Team Practical is a special guest post from longtime APW reader and original wedding dropout turned wedding graduate, Sara Downey Robinson

Ask Team Practical: Were Not Excited | A Practical Wedding

Q:

I got engaged in June and am planning a wedding for next summer. I have no doubt that I love my fiancé and that we have been building a very solid relationship together. I am struggling, however, with the fact that neither of us are able to feel super excited about being engaged or planning a wedding. This was really driven home for us yesterday when his best friend got engaged and called my fiancé up, totally over the moon, to tell him. That phone call put my fiancé into a daylong slump. He was sad because he never felt that way.

Some backstory on our engagement may help here. About a year into our relationship we started talking about getting married some day and also about moving in together. I had always been adamantly against living with someone before marriage. I went back and forth several times over the next six months. Even to the point of looking at apartments together and then not following through. Finally I decided that I needed to be engaged before we moved in and I wasn’t ready to be engaged yet. He was.

Around our two-year anniversary I decided that I was ready to be engaged and move in. We started looking at places. I wanted to pick out my engagement ring together and pay for it together since I see it as an investment in our future. We looked at engagement rings once in March and did not get one. In April we signed a lease for July 1. Then I waited, and waited. He made no more mention of getting engaged. We were both applying for new jobs and really busy. I silently started to freak out. Any free time he had he spent on a side project of his, and when I would suggest we go ring shopping again he would say he didn’t have time.

Finally in the beginning of June I confronted him about it and told him that I was freaking out that he did not want to propose to me and that he wasn’t going to. He told me that I had taken all of the fun and spontaneity out of it for him by setting a time line and preventing him from surprising me with a ring. There was a lot of crying. He proposed to me the next day. It was lovely and he used a shell that I had given him on our second date since we had no ring yet.

At the time instead of feeling excited I felt a little let down and vaguely anxious. We drove back from our hike in silence and then called our families and tried to act excited over the phone. I felt that I had badgered him in to it. He still wouldn’t go ring shopping so I didn’t have a ring for almost a month. I ended up picking it out myself, without him there, and he went to pick it up another time.

From the moment we told our families they have taken over wedding planning and made it into a big ordeal. We both got new, more demanding jobs around the time we got engaged and moved in. We almost never have a day off together and the wedding is going to be out of state so my parents are doing most of the planning. He is shy and would rather have it be just him and me at city hall.

He has not been able to get excited about any of it because I think he feels like first I, and then my parents, took the whole thing out of his hands. I have been having a hard time getting excited about it because I felt like he was not taking any initiative, and then I started to feel guilty that I took away his agency. When people ask me about my engagement or my wedding planning I am almost embarrassed by my lack of ability to enthuse. He pretty much refuses to even talk about anything wedding related and tenses up anytime we have to.

Despite all this, I do think we have a wonderful relationship. We care for each other and put the others’ needs first. We communicate about everything (including about our lack of pre-marital excitement). We make each other laugh and enjoy each other’s company. We have good sex (though not enough due to job stress). I look forward to being married, and everything that will entail, and so does he.

Is it possible that we (maybe I) just royally blundered our engagement in an otherwise great relationship? Or is this lack of enthusiasm about our engagement/wedding a sign that something deeper is wrong? Is there anything we can do to make this better and get excited? I suggested that he could surprise propose to me again, which he thought was silly. I also suggested that we could put our foot (feet) down on my parents’ wedding plans and insist on doing it our own way, but he doesn’t want to do that either.

Bothering Lack of Acceptable Happiness (BLAH)

A: Hey BLAH, 
So first let’s pretend that we’re out at a great little bar and we’re besties having Tang flavored martinis. Yes, they make those and they are delicious. I can already tell (’cause we’ve been besties for so long) that you are an incredibly loving person. And while you maybe haven’t been planning your wedding since you were a little girl, it definitely sounds like you’ve been looking forward to your happily ever after.

Who hasn’t been, right?

And because it’s really important to say, it sounds like your relationship is awesome. Like the kind of relationship that people look at and want. Now, the thing is, those awesome relationships don’t need to always lead to marriage. Some times they do. Some times they are just really, really amazing lessons we get to live in life.

I’ve had a total of three of those awesome relationships. All three had engagements involved. Yet, only one has become a marriage. You have to know which ones are right and which ones aren’t. I can tell you’re questioning things on a deep level. I did the same thing when I was not so sure about my relationships.

Honestly, there is no right answer I can tell you. There is one really important thing I can suggest, and that’s couple’s therapy, or pre-marital counseling/talking with a qualified professional together. You also need to know that the therapy stuff is pricey, and people may tell you that it’s not necessary. Those people are wrong. You know what’s pricey and not needed? A big wedding where the marriage ends in divorce. How you say that gently is up to you.

Go talk to someone. You can absolutely go alone and together. Let me say that again, you have my permission to go alone and together. Your older family members may wonder why you’re doing that. Don’t let that dissuade you from going. If you need to ice the wedding plans for a bit while things get talked out, then do that. You can seriously get married all year-round. So while next summer is a nice time, maybe let the date be a moving target until you get things sorted.

Not being excited about your engagement can be a red flag. Feeling that other people are controlling the path to marriage and the wedding are also not good things. It’s cool if parents help, or even take the reigns if you’re comfortable, but you shouldn’t feel rushed or controlled. If you do, then maybe a step back would be really healthy and helpful for your relationship.

Getting married, no matter how shy y’all are, or how overwhelmed at work, or what not, is still cause for celebration. We celebrated after our super quick courthouse elopement. Because it was such a happy moment. If you don’t feel like celebrating, then something’s up.

When you suggest putting your foot down with the fam, maybe your fiancé is uncomfortable rocking the boat with your family because he wants them to like him. Who knows, but it’s definitely stuff to talk about in counseling.

When it finally does come time to plan your celebration, know that you really can do it on your own terms. There are very creative ways to honor your family in regards to your union without having a “traditional” wedding. I officiated a wedding this past summer where we FaceTimed all the out of town parents in so they could be there.

Blergh, I know how much it sucks to hear all this. I’m sure you’d rather have heard, don’t worry; things are fine, but I suspect that fine is not exactly what I’d say. I really think your relationship sounds awesome, but is it in both of y’alls best interest to get married? Know that there is no wrong answer to that question.

All My Love,
Sara

APW community, what’s your take? How can we best support BLAH here?

Photo by Gabriel Harber (APW Sponsor)

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!

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  • themoderngal

    Counseling: yes, yes, yes. And Sara said it, though maybe not in so many words: practice setting some boundaries with your parents. Be firm and consistent. A counselor or therapist can help with strategies on how to create and maintain boundaries, which are important to figuring out who you are and what’s right for you. This is your life to live. Both of you need to be able to answer why you are getting married. Is it because you want to make a public commitment to spending the rest of your lives together? Did family expectations play a roll in how you wanted things to play out? Has he had trouble moving forward with other passions of his? You will have to face all of this at some point assuming you do get married, and it only gets harder the longer it goes, so there’s no time like the present.

    • Jo

      Time to protect the baby family!! Where’s the link to those posts….?

  • Rebecca

    I don’t know that I was really excited about being engaged. Happy, absolutely. But “oh my goodness, I can’t believe we’re [catches breath] engaged”? Not really. It was something we talked about, mutually agreed to, and were both happy about, but over the moon excited wasn’t really a thing that happened. It was just a natural next step that we were ready to take. I’d say we had more of a “get this show on the road” philosophy about the whole thing.

    So, maybe excited is the wrong metric. But are you both happy? Happy to be engaged, happy to be eventually married to one another? (I’d say getting married, but frankly wedding planning can be a pain in the butt and I see no need to be happy about it)

    If the thought of being married to each other isn’t something that make both your hearts sing, in spite of the engagement snafus and the take charge parents, that’s something you need to deal with. The rest is just less than perfect circumstances, and those happen. Hopefully you both can look past those and see each other- with help, if you need it.

    • Shiri

      I really agree with this. I wasn’t breathless-excited, but I was happy and it was what I wanted. I wasn’t breathless for a lot of reasons but one of the big ones was that we had been talking about getting engaged for months and I had been anxiously awaiting it, so when it happened, it was something I had really really wanted, but also knew was coming and wasn’t surprised by. Somehow, since we’d been talking about it for so long, having the actual ring and having been asked wasn’t the thing that made me feel like we were **getting married!!!**, you know? I’d had that feeling when we started talking about it.

      Possibly more importantly, it sounds like there’s very little in your engagement and planning that is yours – either for you or for you and him – and I would strongly encourage you to go to therapy and try to find something that can be what you and he want it to be. That can be an experience just for the two of you, that meets a need or desire you guys have. If your parents are owning the planning, and the engagement itself was something of a debacle and isn’t something you can feel good about, I hope you guys can find something you can feel good about in all of this. Something that will signify the choice you’re making and the love you have.

    • Katherine

      I agree that “excited” is not always the best metric. Honestly, I’m a pretty happy person, and I’m never over-the-moon excited about anything (except maybe dessert?). I’m a pretty even-keeled person, and it’s just not in my personality. I sometimes felt awkward about that when people would ask me about wedding plans, but it helped to know myself. So another question is, are these emotions normal for you or red flags for you? And if you don’t know the answer to that question, therapy seems like a good idea. But it’s more important to think about what’s right for you than to think about the typical cultural narrative.

      • Laura

        I think this point is spot-on. Emotionally, some people have high highs and low lows, while others are more even-keeled. My old roommate used to say she “loved to feel things intensely” and I never understood how should could possibly enjoy that level of fluctuation.

        Anyway, point is, it’s easy to look at other people’s elation and find yourself coming up short (this could be what your fiance experienced after his friend got engaged), but don’t let it get you down. As with everything, it’s helpful to try not to compare yourself to those around you or to generic cultural expectations.

        As for me, whenever I see someone gushing about their perfect engagement, or saying that their wedding was the best day of their life, or anything hyperbolic like that, I try to feel a sense of bewilderment (and, you know, happiness for them or whatever) rather than a sense that I’m somehow missing out on something or am somehow wrong for not being able to relate.

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  • rys

    “Some times [awesome relationships] are just really, really amazing lessons we get to live in life.” I love this (re)framing of relationships and the value they hold no matter where they go or end up.

    • Erin Rafferty

      THIS. It reminds me of Dan Savage’s thing about marriages only being judged “successful” if they really did go till death parted them–when in fact, success might mean getting out before things get horrible for you and your family, and instead remaining friendly with the person you once shared a big chunk of your life with. Sometimes I see relationships only being judged as “successful” if they end in marriage, when the reality is so much more complicated and wonderful than that.

  • MEM

    great answer!! I had a little bit of a similar experience. We spent 6 months deciding if we wanted to get married so a lot of the surprise and romance was gone by the time we got engaged. wedding planning seemed overwhelming and no fun. it all changed when we decided to have the wedding we really wanted instead of the wedding my parents really wanted. sounds to me like they both are feeling out of control and that is so hard to be excited about! it’s also no fun to feel guilty about being engaged. I had a bit of that as well, since I had been the one pushing for marriage. a lot of that was resolved when he became invested in wedding planning and I saw that he really was excited for the whole thing

  • BB

    I was excited to get engaged, but I wasn’t particularly happy to BE engaged. It felt disingenuous for me to act like suddenly our relationship was amazing and valid, when I ALWAYS felt like our relationship was amazing and valid, and it took this engagement declaration and ring for it to be validated by other people. I found I was also stressed because most other women expected me to be over the moon excited about wedding planning, and I wasn’t really. I was excited to have a fun, meaningful day that ended in my fiance and I being married, but the planning part? I found it to largely be a hassle filled with unexpected confrontation with family members. That all being said, I LOVE being married. It’s like before (awesome), but better, and now we have more overt support from both of our families and society, which is an added bonus. I guess my point is, if wedding planning/being engaged isn’t your definition of THE BEST THING EVER then you aren’t alone.

    • Josie

      OMG this. I was so, so happy when my fiance proposed, but being engaged has not been what I expected — I’m not loving all the planning and organization, and we both want it to be our wedding day so we can party, be married already and life can get back to normal! I hate that the only thing people talk to me about anymore is the wedding and all the expectations around it. Only two months to go…

      • BB

        Good luck surviving the last couple of months and ENJOY the heck out of your wedding! Trust me, not having to worry about wedding planning anymore is better than you could imagine! :)

        • Josie

          Thanks! I’m SO OVER all the planning…I just want it to be the day already!!

          • Lindsey d.

            My line lately is that I can’t wait for the marriage, but I’m totally over wedding planning!

      • Lindsey d.

        Two months for us too and I feel the same way! Are you March 15th as well?

        • Josie

          Yes…can’t come soon enough!

      • Sharon Gorbacz

        Totally agree with you – and I’m now 2 months out from my wedding date too!

  • Laurel

    Being engaged was the most stressful time in my life, which also meant it was one of the least enjoyable. Like Blah, I was getting married in the state my parents lived in (not the state my fiance and I lived in, or the states his parents lived in) and because of this most of the planning was done by my parents. I felt very little connection to the wedding that happened. When people asked me about planning, I didn’t know what to tell them. I didn’t know the answers to most of the questions they were asking because neither my fiance or I ended up with much input into final decisions. We finally just gave up on giving input because it wasn’t worth fighting about anymore. However, I didn’t question my decision to marry my husband. And I love being married to him. Love it more than I loved dating him or being engaged to him, love it more than I could have dreamed I would.

    I think, sweet Blah, if you’re questioning the marriage, find out why. But if you’re just questioning the wedding, I would figure out if there is anything you can do to make it better for you. Are there things you all could do together (beyond just therapy, which I wholeheartedly recommend)? Maybe you all could have a small courthouse ceremony and then a larger wedding later with your family there? That way your fiance feels more like one is his speed? My fiance (now husband, clearly) and I figured out the things we absolutely would not budge on, and then gave up control on the rest of it. It made for a day that, while it wasn’t everything I ever dreamed of, was beautiful, and most importantly, is over. :)

    • Jo

      This. I see the poster saying how messy messy messy this engagement/wedding feels for them, but at no point did I see her say that the idea of marriage is messed up for them. So how can you get to marriage, which you are excited about, without the pomp and circumstance and kerfuffle of a wedding? That seems like the question the poster might really be asking…

      • michelle

        I don’t want a kerfluffle of a wedding.. I want a marriage so they should decide if a wedding is important TO THEM or just moving forward with being married.

    • MC

      One of my co-workers went to the courthouse with his now-wife and they got legally married six months before their big, planned wedding, and didn’t tell anyone until way after the fact. Seems like it worked for them and might be a good option for introverts who are stressed out about the big, cultural meaning of engagement and marriage.

  • mimB

    I agree wholeheartedly with the suggestion to attend counseling – to learn new communication methods, new vocabulary to describe what you’re feeling and prioritizing, and practice self awareness.

    I’d say, both the OP and her fiance have made imperfect decisions based on externally set expectations – expectations that don’t seem to fit them well, and trying to mold to them is creating conflict. He seems to be giving in to the belief that the guy must propose with a fun surprise, and that there’s a specific way everyone must feel about becoming engaged. She seems to be holding on to the supposition that unless there’s an engagement and a wedding, there’s no true commitment in the relationship. These beliefs don’t sound like their own reasoned conclusions – just the cultural imposition.

    So it sounds like ideally, they need time: to learn themselves, to figure out what they really want and how to get it without hurting each other. Right now, the OP and her fiance have created pressure for themselves – to conform on a timeframe – to get married by summertime. Which is so soon!, if you’re thinking in scope of self growth.
    I think it’s worth considering canceling this wedding date – to give themselves the space necessary to make a mutual decision they both feel good about making.

  • Emma

    I agree that maybe you could put a hold on the wedding plans, not necessarily because you won’t go ahead, but just to take the pressure off for now.

    Getting engaged is a big life event. Moving in together is a big life event. Starting a new job is a big life event. Doing all these things around the same time, while also planning a wedding (the next big life event), must be very demanding. And I noticed that you wrote “We almost never have a day off together”. In my opinion, it would do you both good to make time for each other. Not for wedding planning but to enjoy each other’s company and adjust to your new “relationship status” of living together and being engaged.

    I hate the stupid narrative about the way engagements are “supposed” to happen: the guy surprises the girl with a romantic proposal and a ring at the “perfect” moment… but what is that?! How is he supposed to telepathically know she is ready? What if she doesn’t want a ring? What if she wants to choose it with him? What if *she* wants to surprise *him* with a romantic gesture? What about having a conversation between equals? Why shouldn’t the guy get an engagement present? What about same sex couples? I could go on ranting about this, but the point is that it might be helpful for you both to gently challenge this narrative. And if you have different attitudes to it – maybe he wanted to get engaged in that way, and you didn’t – you can’t undo what happened but at least you can talk about it and hopefully make your peace with it. Really, the proposal isn’t *that* important, and the wedding isn’t either. Both can be romantic and/or fun, but the most important thing is feeling happy together and having a happy, healthy marriage. So relationship/pre-marital counselling would be a very good idea.

    • Chop

      I bought an engagement gift. Not as a surprise but as a mutual exchange of gifts to commemorate a big life event. I get pretty excited when he uses the engagement guitar and when I look at (Pictures of) my ring that will be here as soon as the jeweler finds some 20K to size it with.

      • Cynth

        We did this too- he got a watch he wears every day (and I love seeing how much he treasures it), and I got a ring, we picked out both items together.

        • Alison O

          yes! i’m also planning on an engagement watch.

    • Anon

      My guy and I planned the proposal together and he felt weird about it not being a surprise. So we picked out an awesome ring for him too. Having something to give back to him, and something where he got to pick something special and shiny just like me, made the whole thing feel more fun and loving, and less like that crappy cultural narrative that says that I must have nagged him to force him to propose to me.
      Now with the wedding, we’re spending as much money and time on his sexy blue suit as we are on my gorgeous lace dress. The times that he’s felt like this day is as special and luxurious for him as it is for me have been the times that he feels best about wedding planning.

    • BD

      Agreed. My husband is very traditional about these things, I’m not, so we compromised by talking extensively about timelines and readiness and what rings I like, but the actual moment when he would propose would be his choice and a surprise to me. We were technically already engaged when he proposed, as we’d been talking about wedding plans and such, but he still got that moment he really wanted. Often men are just as romantic as women, and I think as a culture we forget that. I can imagine my husband feeling “blah” if I had insisted on him not proposing the way he wanted (in my case, it wasn’t hard to let that go because it wasn’t something I’d been dreaming about all my life, as he had). That said, I agree counseling and putting wedding plans on hold is the best idea – I sense several layers of difficulty in their situation.

  • C

    “He pretty much refuses to even talk about anything wedding related and tenses up anytime we have to.”

    Oh, that breaks my heart. The planning of my entire first wedding was totally taken out of my hands by my MIL, and let me tell you, it led to a LOT of resentment. It also set a pattern in my marriage where I would give up what I wanted for the sake of my (now ex) husband. Which, of course, led to more resentment, and eventually, divorce.

    OP, I’m not saying your relationship is doomed to divorce. But you absolutely, 100% need to slam the breaks on this thing NOW. Cancel your wedding plans; get into premarital counseling. There’s nothing wrong with continuing to live together as a non-engaged (or a delayed-wedding-planning) couple as you take the time to sort through these feelings of resentment. You resent him for delaying your engagement — legitimate, because he committed to proposing. He resents you and your family for pushing him toward an engagement and wedding planning — also legitimate, as this involves the rest of his life and he should have a completely equal say (with you) in what happens.

    Many, many hugs to you. This is a really tough situation, and I wish someone had told ME all those years ago that it’s okay to say, “Hey, wait, I’m not ready for this, I need more time.”

  • http://heartsvsbrains.tumblr.com/ HeartvsBrain

    “Not being excited about your engagement can be a red flag.”

    Yeah, it can. Or not too. I’ll be honest OP, I was “happy/excited/etc.” for a total of maybe a week between my engagement and wedding 10 months later. It didn’t mean I shouldn’t marry my husband, but it did mean there were problems.

    So I absolutely second wholeheartedly Sara’s suggestion at counseling of some sort – because it sounds like knowing what you want and how to ask for it are things both you and your fiance struggle with. But also take heart that although Sara is right, and sometimes this stuff means something more serious, it also sometimes doesn’t mean that. For two intelligent people who never shut up, my husband and I had no idea how to talk to each other about the hard stuff. Counseling helped that and though it didn’t make me excited to be engaged nor happy about my wedding, it did make me feel confident in my choice to marry my husband, and that was all I needed.

  • Lauren from NH

    This seems like a case of wires severely crossed. He had certain expectations regarding proposals and engagement and you had different expectations that were tied to moving in together. And though it sounds like you tried to communicate these expectations it did not result in building a new set of expectations and a timeline that fit you both. Thus disappointment, anxiety and gobs and gobs of stress! The thing is, sometimes these crossed wires can be uncrossed (we’ve heard stories of botched, flubbed, whiffed, ruined, unsurprising, ultimatum proposals that resulted in joy) and sometimes they can’t because maybe there are deeper reasons you are both feeling emotionally let down. It will probably take some soul searching, attitude adjusting, and counseling to figure out which is true for the two of you.
    And that is some tough stuff, sometimes the ones we love the most are not the best at loving us in the ways we expect. Though thoughtful gifts make part of my heart sing, my guy will probably never learn how to be a gift giver and there have been lots of awkward birthdays and holidays when despite discussed expectations, things go amiss. And so if he cannot adjust, I do, we have agreed that when the time comes, I get to design and pick out my ring. For me this ring, this reminder of his love is enough to stand in for the other times when he can’t quite show his love in ways I understand. This is where love becomes a combination of choosing to love and know for yourself what you can live with. When I say live with, I don’t mean it in a depressing, settling kind of way. I mean that anyone and everyone you could ever match up with will be some combination of positive and negative qualities as perceived by you. And so only you can determine what you need, what you can’t live with, and what you can choose to love in your partner. There is no right or wrong.

    • js

      YESSS! I struggled with a way to say this tactfully, as I read the letter and wanted to help, having been in similar situations myself. Thanks!

    • Grace

      You are the kind of lady that keeps me coming back to APW every week. Smart, balanced, non-judgmental advice.

  • Regina

    I had to chime in with a similar experience. My now-husband is a SERIOUS introvert and was not excited about getting engaged (I really felt I had to push him to propose; even setting a date by which it needed to happen). He also was not that into wedding planning. Both were based on the same fear, I think, which was fear of being in front of 30-50 people saying what, to him, were very intimate promises.

    ANYWAY, short story long, I had massive anxiety prior to the wedding that he was not “into” the wedding process and I feared he would not be “into” the marriage, either. This turned out to be COMPLETELY FALSE. Well, we eloped for one thing, so that helped with the anxiety about the spotlight being on him, but the main thing is that on our wedding day, the emotion and love we both felt was so intense and amazing (which I would not have predicted even the day before based on his anxious demeanor). I could see how affected he was by it. He was IN IT with me. We’ve been married 3 months, and those 3 months have been so wonderful, I can hardly believe how lucky I am to have him. Also, he said the other day, “Before I got married, I didn’t really care about getting married, and now it’s EVERYTHING to me.”

    So I just wanted to chime in and say, just because your man isn’t excited about pre-wedding stuff doesn’t mean he won’t be a great husband or love being married. Obviously, this is just my experience, but I wish someone had told me when I was freaking out before the wedding that marriage itself is a transformative experience, and some men love being married, but just hate all the fuss and anxiety about marriage prep.

    • Grace

      Thanks for this, I can really relate to your relationship. My boyfriend is a serious introvert too, I’m a more minor introvert, but he absolutely hates event planning and I love it. I also have a bigger family and more friends than him. So, I’m SO excited by the idea of a wedding, getting engaged etc, and he’s just not really. I mean, he wants to marry me and be married, but doesn’t care much about the wedding. Honestly if it weren’t for my family who would be gutted to miss my big day, we’d probably elope too. That part about saying intimate things in front of a crowd? a groom’s speech? A first dance? These are things we would usually never say/do in front of others. I’m not really sure how to navigate that actually…

      As for the proposal, we’re currently planning to co-propose later in the year. That way we can plan something private and special together and it takes the pressure off him to plan a big gesture which is just not his style. Though people have already expressed opinions that that isn’t romantic enough. Humph.

      • taygete05

        Cross-proposing sounds like a pretty genius idea, to me. I’d love to do or suggest something similar, but haven’t figured out a way yet that doesn’t sound like a me-proposing.

  • jashshea

    Part I:
    Therapist is good advice, but I’d think a trip to the MD is good idea as well.

    Are you sure that both of you are physically and emotionally healthy right now? You’ve taken on quite a bit of stress with new jobs and moving in together. How are you coping with that, individually and as a unit? Have you been able to keep up with much-loved hobbies or routines now that you’re busier? Has anything changed in your diet/routine?

    Part II:
    That said, I don’t think it’s crazy to not be breathlessly excited about either the engagement or the wedding plans. Are you excited about other things in the life you two share? If someone gave you a brand new puppy/cat/t-rex/whatever, would you guys be super stoked to share that with one another?

  • Anon

    Huh. Your engagement story sounds a lot like mine, BLAH. My fiance and I discussed marriage early in our relationship and set some life milestones that we would need to hit before we would get engaged. Well, we passed those milestones, and then I waited. And waited. And waited. And then finally all of my “OMG WHEN ARE YOU GOING TO PROPOSE” exploded out of me in a ball of flame. We talked and I thought we’d gotten onto the same timeline, we went ring shopping, it was great. But then it turned out that he felt like he’d screwed up by not doing it himself before I lost patience, and he didn’t feel excited about proposing if it wasn’t going to be a surprise. What you described about guilt and agency and wanting the other person to just be happy… yeah, pretty spot on. The proposal – when we got there – was wonderful. But I think he still feels like he wants a do-over.
    We’re still in the midst of planning and while, unlike you, we’re planning it ourselves and he likes the choices we’re making, he has really hated the wedding planning process. It involves all his least favorite things: hard discussions, busy schedules and arduous research.
    So, tl;dr, it sucks feeling like you’re dragging your partner through the engagement process, even if you know that he’s happy to marry you. I don’t really have advice for you, I just wanted to say that you’re not alone in being in a situation where your partner was disappointed by doing a non-surprise proposal and then he’s not enjoying the planning. And you can work through it and be okay.

    • APracticalLaura

      Yes, I think oftentimes as women we forget the cultural narrative and pressure that men feel (when looking at heterosexual relationships). They may feel denied the spontaneity and showmanship that they feel is essential to a good proposal – the larger narrative that is pervasive due to elaborate youtube “production” proposals. They may feel pressures of their own to “ask permission” or save up enough money or find you the “perfect ring” in hopes to give you the proposal of your dream (and give you a story worth sharing with co-workers and strangers since they KNOW everyone will ask).

      None of this is logical or makes sense, but as with our own pressures as women planning a wedding – men also have a lot of pressures and expectations from society to “get it right.” Communication is KEY in instances like this… so I’m glad that you and your finace found a way to overcome this and be happy about your futures together!

  • Ann

    For me, there was a big difference between the excitement I felt about having a wedding (which came and went… and I planned almost the entire thing and loved the day. But event planning? Does. not. make. me. happy.) and the excitement about being married and having a different level of community recognition for my relationship.

    My husband and I had been together for five years when we decided to get married, and six by the time the wedding came around. While we had discussed, at length, our plans to share our lives together, and at first, the idea of getting married didn’t seem to matter much. But it did–we’re much more of a team now that we’re married. I didn’t know that we would become that at the time, though, and I honestly wasn’t all that excited about being married, either.

    So I’d some up my excitement about the wedding as lasting all of two weeks spread out over 10 months of planning, and it was more along the lines of “YAY, so many people I love all in one place!” My “excitement” about the marriage was much more about being vaguely, continuously, but not over the moon happy. Seven months later, I am SUPER happy to be married.

    It’s okay not to be “excited.” But if the wedding/engagement is bringing up feelings of resentment, that’s the thing to be concerned about. You don’t have to have the wedding your parents plan.

    I think you two need to sit down (with a counselor, if possible), and really talk out what your expectations are for marriage. You both had different expectations for getting engaged, and that has caused a lot of friction. Having different expectations of what your marriage is going to look like is a much bigger issue, and you should figure that out ASAP.

  • emfish

    I have no advice, only a bit of commiserating. While my story isn’t exactly the same, I can certainly relate to being envious of friends whose engagements seemed perfect when ours was messier than most (I didn’t want a traditional proposal, and it felt extraneous anyway since we’d already decided together, but that made it hard to find a way to make it “official”). We’ve been really low key about the whole thing, which means we’ve never really had that celebratory moment of “Hey, we’re engaged!” But then I feel silly when I feel like I missed out on something, because we did it exactly the way we wanted to. And yet… sometimes I still feel sad about it.

    But! As anticlimactic as our engagement has been, I think in some ways it will make the wedding that much bigger of a deal for us. Because that’s our celebration, and that’s our “official”. In any case, good luck to you and your fiance, whatever happens. And I like Sara’s wise words: “Know that there is no wrong answer to that question.”

  • jhs

    I was excited when I got engaged, but you don’t have to be. What’s a bigger signal to me is less the lack of excitement, and more the presence of such anxiety and pain. You don’t have to be over-the-moon excited, but if being engaged has caused you nothing but doubt and depression, then maybe it’s just not the right time.

  • Gina

    I think it’s important to separate your feelings about being engaged and then married from your feelings about wedding planning. I was not excited about wedding planning at ALL, but being engaged to the person I loved more than anything? You should definitely feel some level of excitement about that. Yes, it will fade a little, and yes, it will take a back seat to job and wedding planning stressors at times, but you need to be excited about this future you’re building together.

    Like you, I didn’t want to move in with my husband until we were engaged, but we ended up doing it anyway. And then I waited for him to propose. And I’ll admit it, I wanted to talk about it more than he did. And that was hard, and I can understand that something you build up in your head may not feel like the transcendent moment you imagine. But, IMO, you still need to be excited about the commitment and the baby family you’re creating. If not, it doesn’t mean that you’re not right for each other, it may just be that you’re not in a good place for marriage right this second! There’s nothing wrong with taking a step back, I promise.

  • Anon

    When my fiance and I talked seriously about getting engaged for the first time, I was not excited. I was 100% wracked with fear and anxiety. I decided, with the help of my therapist, to stare my anxiety in the face and figure out what was going on. I was terrified of what I would discover, but I knew I owed it to myself and my then boyfriend to work out my feelings about being engaged before it happened. What I eventually determined was that this relationship was (is) for me, and that I have fears that surround having a wedding and getting married. Those fears would be present with him or anyone else. I also stared my relationship in the face and determined I would be nuts not to marry this man. After I worked out those feelings, it was like magic- I was excited. I was ecstatic, even. Tackling my anxiety opened up space for other feelings.
    I am oversimplifying a lot of this for the sake of brevity- emotions are complicated and messy, and nothing is 100% for sure. I still have anxiety sometimes, but I am mostly at peace. BLAH- I am sending good vibes your way in hopes that you will have the strength to examine your emotions and make the decision that is best for you and your fiance. Based on your thoughts above, you are already doing that. Big hugs to you.

    • Anonymous

      Would you be willing to elaborate more on this? I have a nervous/anxious personality in general and so I’m trying to keep that in mind while we’re wedding planning, but talking about the planning just gets my stomach all tied up in knots. I feel guilty for feeling this way and have talked about it with my partner several times, but I can’t seem to shake the anxiety for more than couple of weeks.

      • http://cafeaubride.blogspot.com/ Catherine

        OMG you are totally okay! Sorry it just really bothers me that women think something is wrong with them if they aren’t all blissed out. You are making the biggest decision of your life. If you even have the slightest anxious personality, that’s going to stir up some serious shit inside of you. I recommend, as many smart gals on this site have, Sheryl Paul and her site http://www.conscious-transitions.com.

        • Josie

          I FELT THE SAME WAY. Sheryl Paul’s work has saved my bacon throughout this process and I so recommend her site, it really spoke to me. Just knowing I wasn’t alone in feeling anxiety about getting married was SO helpful. And while I still feel anxious/nervous at times, it’s really more focused now on pulling this whole damn wedding off and the impatience to get it done with, not about the marriage itself. Like the first Anon in this thread said — I would be nuts not to marry this man. But marriage in and of itself is a big decision and it’s okay to be a little wigged out about it. No one would think it was unusual if you were feeling anxious about starting a new job, or moving, or any other big life change. It’s no different here. Big hugs to you and I know how you feel, and you’re not alone.

          • Anonymous

            “No one would think it was unusual if you were feeling anxious about
            starting a new job, or moving, or any other big life change. It’s no
            different here.”

            I’m stealing this to describe the feeling to anyone who questions me in the future.

            I agree with the “I would be nuts not to marry this man.” He is so awesome, and seriously he’s put up with listening to my anxieties surrounding this for the past few months. He’s such a great human that I can’t imagine NOT having him in my life.

            As I mentioned to Catherine, I found Sheryl Paul’s site early in the engagement when I started the freak out, felt better, and left it at that, but I need to read through some of this stuff daily, I think, to remind myself that there is so much good in this even if I’m stressed out a bit along the way.

          • http://cafeaubride.blogspot.com/ Catherine

            right?? I mean seriously, we are allowed to have fears and doubt and questioning and anxiety about pretty much everything else – hello having a baby??!- but when we are supposed to be with prince/princess charming we’re supposed to revert back to some blissed out bride that “just knows”?! it truly infuriates me. It’s healthy to doubt, it’s healthy to be in touch with your fears and to work on yourself. it’s healthy and a blessing to be forced to tend to yourself that, without experiencing fear or anxiety, you might never have been called to do. (i know i wouldn’t have!)

          • http://cafeaubride.blogspot.com/ Catherine

            AND after going through all of the emotions and soul-changing fear/anxiety I’ve been through while being engaged, I fully plan to write a wedding graduate post after we get married where i will tell it like it is and normalize this shit. (ok, off my soapbox)

          • Josie

            Amen, sister. I will cosign that graduate post!

        • Anonymous

          It is such a relief to hear someone say this is ok. The one or two people to whom I have admitted this anxiousness have started assuming there is something seriously wrong with our relationship/me. I have a tendency to be a worry-wart and overthink even the smallest decisions so I think, since this is a major decision, I’m stuck in some kind of overdrive.

          I’ve seen that web-site before, but I think I need to look into it again!

          • http://cafeaubride.blogspot.com/ Catherine

            fuck those others people. sorry, but that’s just not right. i really recommend her Ecourse :)

          • Anon

            Oh my gosh, yes. IT IS OKAY. Repeat that to yourself! For me, accepting that it was okay was the first step in figuring out my feelings. You are on the right track!

          • Josie

            You are MORE than okay. I had a few days right after we put down the deposit on our wedding venue where I felt like I was having a panic attack all day, every day. I stayed home from work one day at its height, and desperately started googling and found Sheryl Paul’s website and my God, knowing I wasn’t alone saved me and frankly, saved my relationship. I knew (and know) in my heart that my guy is the right guy, but the fear of getting married was so loud, it was impossible to hear what was true over the anxiety. I still feel that stuck in overdrive feeling sometimes, but I feel really confident that the day of will be amazing and being married will be amazing, and I can fight this bear for the interim. Take care of yourself. I’m glad your fiance is supportive. Mine has been amazing through this whole thing and it makes it that much more clear how right this decision is.

        • Anon

          I am also an anxious personality and can completely relate. My question is: do these feelings go away once the wedding is over and you’re married? I’m assuming they will since the anxiety is mostly about making the decision to get married… Married, anxious-personality people: can you chime in?

      • Anon

        Yes of course! I also am an anxious personality and have been seeing a therapist for years because of it. So, for me it was a questions of- is this just my anxiety acting up as it often does or does my anxiety signify something deeper?
        I totally agree with you that the enormous guilt that tends to come with questioning your relationship can be paralyzing. It can be so difficult to tease your emotions apart and figure out what’s what. It was not easy for me, as I’m sure is the case with you. Getting engaged is a whole mess of conflicting emotions. There is a LOT there that you are dealing with, so give yourself credit for that. This is not easy.
        A therapist is enormously helpful in this situation. I also second 100% the comments about Sheryl Paul. She was a total life saver and she offers an e-course that I think would be helpful, particularly if your current life situation does not allow the time and money for therapy. I consulted with my therapist about it and considered doing it, but ultimately ended up working through my feelings in therapy instead.
        Please know you are not alone. Be patient and gentle with yourself.

  • js

    So, this is not judgement, just curiosity. The letter writer says that living together before marriage is something she feels strongly against but that they have good sex. This is a huge assumption, but I always thought not living together before marriage had a lot to do with people’s religious beliefs and also equaled no sex. Can anybody speak to why living together would be verboten if you’re already sleeping together?

    • MC

      For my fiance, it mostly came from his family’s implicit and explicit expectations – they’re not super religious but pretty traditional when it comes to marriage, so he always had it in his head that you shouldn’t live together before marriage. I think for them it was partially about people knowing you’re having sex before marriage – like once a couple is living together, it is pretty much a given that they’re sexually active (though probably not always the case). (Not that it’s anyone’s business, of course, but in traditional families that can seem mildly scandalous.) And part of it was that they thought people should take moving in together and starting a life really seriously, and if you’re ready to make that commitment, then you should be ready to be married.

      My fiance disagreed wholeheartedly with the first sentiment, but the second one resonated with him a little more. (We ended up moving in together when we got engaged but it was a big ordeal for his parents for a month or two.)

    • Lauren from NH

      I think lots of couples have boundaries that arise when taking a life step in a relationship. For example lots of people who are doing long distance require engagement if one of them is going to relocate. I think its about looking for emotional commitment to parallel the risk/life step commitment that is being made in order to feel secure and confident in new ventures. But for different people their boundaries may be connected to different events. Moving in, moving across country, following someone else’s job, creating financial ties like buying a house together, babies etc.

    • emilyg25

      I can’t speak to the writer’s motives, but personally, I didn’t move in with my husband until I knew we were going to get married. We weren’t engaged yet, but we knew we would be soon. It was important to me that we both understood that moving in together was intentional and a major commitment, not just “the next step” or “practice” or to save on rent or whatever.

      This came from my personal experience of moving in with a previous boyfriend without having intentional discussions and eventually breaking up. Living together makes breaking up so much harder. I stayed way longer than I should have because moving out was such a hurdle. I didn’t want to repeat that mistake. It had nothing to do with morality or religion.

      • CJ

        “Living together makes breaking up so much harder.”

        That was my reason in a nutshell. I was adamant that I did not want to live
        with a man before marriage. I had seen too many friends go through
        terrible break-ups that also involved having to find a new house/apt and
        move. I find moving one of the worst experiences in life, so I wanted
        to avoid pairing it with a break-up.

        Having said that . . . I am now living with my guy, but we were firmly in the
        “pre-engaged” state before I moved in. I also still own my house, and
        probably won’t sell it until the engagement is official. But I also
        waited until I was over 40 before I lived with a man
        (other than my father, I mean). I waited until I knew that marriage was the plan.

    • Meg Keene

      I didn’t want to live with David till we were engaged (I didn’t get that wish, but you don’t always get what you want). I didn’t want to have to have a mini-divorce unless it was… the real thing, short answer. Also, I didn’t have any interest in giving up my own space. I knew exactly what it would be like living together, because we lived a few blocks away, and spent a lot of nights together.

      • Kats

        I had the same view – it was important to me that we didn’t live together before we were engaged. While not super-convenient, it meant that the decision to spend our lives together was independent of the decision about living together, and that I was less likely to make the former due to inertia from the latter. Which is to say – I knew that I wanted to be married. I didn’t want the ease of living together to become a proxy for getting married, or something that would muddy up my own decision about whether my now husband was the person I wanted to marry.

      • Jess

        “mini-divorce” I’m using that the next time the topic comes up.

    • Jess

      For me, as a non-religious person, there’s a sense of entwining my life with someone else’s when we live together. In a non-urban area where I don’t depend on roommates to make rent, I can live out my independence/introversion and still connect with people and have meaningful relationships.

      The decision to co-habitate, for me, means to take my life and open it up to someone else and their life. To accept who they are into my world, my space, and my day-to-day activities. The threat of things dissolving and having to separate lives after they have become not just an emotional but physical constant daily presence sits like a heavy weight on my soul.

      The actual act of being married, vowing in front of family and friends and community to live my life keeping another person’s well being in mind, is important and valued to me. Without the open promise and assurance that the relationship is moving in that direction, I have a difficult time overcoming the fear.

      Maybe one day I will be able to do so, but right now, I cannot.

    • Laura

      I was sleeping with my husband while he was still my boyfriend, but I was adamantly against living with him before marriage. Though I am religious, this was not for religious reasons. Just from watching my friends and cousins who had cohabited, I’d seen them fall into patterns with their significant others where it seemed like they were always “auditioning” – they always had to be on their best behaviour and didn’t feel they could show their less-than-perfect sides so that their partner didn’t dump them. Alternately, I saw other friends stay in really bad relationships for much longer than they should have because moving out and extracting all of their possessions from their partner’s was just too overwhelming a thought. I also noticed that my cohabiting friends still thought in terms of “I” and not in terms of “we.” I did not want to set up such a dynamic that might carry over into our marriage.

      I did eventually move in with him after we were engaged (but ONLY due to financial constraints, and I did everything I could to avoid it for months) but we did a LOT of talking about dynamics and expectations beforehand.

  • claire

    There seems to be this cultural expectation for the squealing, super excited bride-to-be, and sometimes that adds unnecessary anxiety if your feelings aren’t following the script. But, not everyone feels excited about getting engaged; I sure didn’t. I was happy about it, and 100% sure I wanted to marry him, and eager to start our married life together, but “excited” just wasn’t one of my feelings when it came to engagement or even wedding planning. And that wasn’t a red flag at all. I just wasn’t into wedding planning.

    You can give yourself permission to just feel what you feel without judgement. Having said that, it’s probably a good idea to dig a little deeper into what you’re both feeling and why. Therapy can be an excellent way to check into those feelings and get to the bottom of them. Maybe it turns out you’re both just disappointed with an engagement and wedding planning process that didn’t live up to your hopes. It happens. But maybe this apathy goes deeper than that, and its totally worth the time and effort (and money) to understand for sure. Your relationship and (maybe) future marriage is worth the up front investment.
    And I’m speaking from experience here. When I was engaged to my ex, I wasn’t excited at all. I was anxious. Luckily, I listened to my gut and closest friend and put things on hold long enough to investigate why. It took some therapy for me to realize that I loved him, but also knew way deep down that I didn’t want to marry him. Super hard realization, but I’m grateful I got to it before the wedding.

  • April Armstrong

    I recommend the book ” Emotionally Engaged” by Allison Moir-Smith about this. Really has helped me.

    • http://cafeaubride.blogspot.com/ Catherine

      and off the coattails of that recommendation, I’d check out The Conscious Bride by Sheryl Paul as well :)

  • http://cafeaubride.blogspot.com/ Catherine

    Hm I’m struggling how to comment with this one, because I definitely don’t believe doubt or questioning or feeling anxious (um, hello, biggest decision of your life!) is a red flag- but more simply proof that you are human, feel a spectrum of feelings, are conscious, and possibly already a slightly anxious personality (ahem, me). So there’s that. And like I’ve done many times before, I would recommend the work of Sheryl Paul – her wedding ecourse and her site http://www.conscious-transitions.com. That being said, IF there are red flags, they come in the form of actions of either your partner or you, the relationship dynamics etc, and *not* in the form of feelings themselves. I have learned to never take thoughts and feelings at face value, but to dig deeper, to tend to my feelings and fears consciously. So as far as “red-flags” go, those would be in the relationship itself. In his actions, or in yours. But as far as the expectation of having certain feelings when you are engaged- I completely disagree. Again, this is a huge transition and when we are in transition, all of our fears and wounds and the “shadow” of our light usually comes to the surface. So I find no feeling alarming, as long as you commit to doing the work to uncover the root and heal it. Hope that wasn’t too hippydippy. :)

  • Sarah Richards Graba

    I almost never comment on APW, though I lurk and read pretty much every post. But I felt compelled to pitch in with the community to respond to the OP.

    Like many of those here, I was not excited about being engaged. I wanted it very badly, and I was happy for a few weeks (maybe) when we first got engaged. But then I hated it. I hated the whole process of it. My now-husband W and I did not have a super romantic proposal; it was more like a conversation that ended in us mutually deciding it was time to get married. We did go ring shopping together, which was nice, but it was not something I saw as heart-fluttering excitement. I was happy especially when we were together, and it was a bit of fun telling friends and family. But after the initial rounds of congrats, I hated all the stress and questions and expectations that followed, and I started to get seriously annoyed and depressed about everything wedding-related. Like you, my parents (my mother in particular) started taking over everything in the wedding. Here’s what got me through those hellish months:

    1. W and I decided to set up a weekly “meeting” time to discuss wedding stuff, either with or without the parents on Skype. The agreement was (with my mother too) that we not discuss the wedding at any other time, unless we were at a planning event (food tasting or looking at a venue, etc). This allowed me to focus on the rest of my life (which was incredibly hectic at the time) instead of feeling bombarded by something I didn’t even want to think about. Some people laughed at the “meeting” idea, but I felt like wedding planning was business, like doing taxes and paying bills; necessary but undesirable.

    2. W and I went to interfaith pre-marital counseling. Also, we both have our own therapists as well. We had a lot of shit, emotionally, to still work out with each other and our relationship, and (3 years later) are still working out. But we agreed to work on things together, for as long as we both WANTED to be with each other, as long as we both still loved each other; that was key.

    3. At one extremely stressful wedding-related meeting with my parents, where I started crying my eyes out, W stood up to my parents for the both of us, and said that if wedding planning was going to be this stressful and awful, we would just cancel the wedding. He didn’t mean that we would be ending our relationship or even the engagement; just that we didn’t appreciate their pushy-ness and in actuality, we didn’t HAVE to get married right now. We could always put it off until later. At this point we had already made a deposit to the venue, but even that didn’t emotionally “lock us in.” It was all still changeable. It was a huge relief for me to hear that, and believe it. It was a wake up call for my parents. They backed off considerably, making the planning process, if not less stressful, slightly more bearable. (Also, my mother had a breakdown too, and through that I realized why this stupid wedding was so important to her. Listening and understanding became essential to dealing with my mother for the rest of the engagement time.)

    4. Wine. Lots of wine with friends who promised not to talk about the wedding, unless I needed to vent.

    The last thing I can tell you, now that I have the benefit of hindsight, is that even though I didn’t enjoy my engagement and didn’t like all parts of my wedding, I do love being married to W. And I knew, even then, that I would love marriage. Not to say it’s easy (like I said, still seeing therapists, still working through the shit). But now that I’m a few years into married life, the engagement and wedding and all those details about how he proposed and where we bought rings and who baked the cake and what dress I wore just don’t matter much to me anymore. It was a necessary ritual, but most of it doesn’t hold much ground for where and who I am now.

    That’s not to say that the ritual wasn’t important, as there are significant things that did incite a more permanent shift: Practicing better communication with my husband and my parents. Asserting my own needs and desires to my husband and my parents. Being honest and aware of how I’m feeling/thinking/being. Listening to the needs and expectations of those around me–really listening. These are things that came out of the wedding planning process that have changed my relationship with my husband, my family, and myself–thankfully, for the better.

    I say this not to trivialize that you’re going through right now, because I do believe it is an important time; but I hope to provide some faith that there is a light at the end of that tunnel, and there’s someone’s hand to hold as you walk toward it, together.

    • http://cafeaubride.blogspot.com/ Catherine

      I love this comment so fucking much. Thank You.

    • Amanda

      Wow, this is an awesome comment. I love the idea of a weekly meeting. We have 6 months left and while we have a good portion out of the way, I think that will be a helpful tool going forward to get us (sanely) to the end.

  • Alice

    I’m in a similar situation right now. M and I got engaged on the first after months of mutual discussion. We had a “moment,” but no big surprise proposal. I have always had some conflicted feelings about marriage in general, but I know that I want to spend my life with M. Marriage matters a lot to him, and we are also unfortunately trying to get him a visa, which marriage simplifies. Now we’re an ocean apart, having issues with his family, and missing each other terribly. And I’m not excited. I have moments, but no overwhelming enthusiasm. Happy, yes, but to me marriage feels so much like a piece of paper, more like a legal agreement than an arrangement of love… what I want is life with M by my side. That said, I am extremely excited when I think of him finally joining me in the UK, and starting our lives together again.

  • Winny the Elephant

    I don’t really have any advice but maybe sharing my engagement story will help her feel a bit more normal.

    My fiancé and I always talked about marriage and we had long since agreed to get married the summer after I graduated from grad school. We moved in together after being together for about 1 1/2 years. Our moving in together was a weird combination of thoughtful consideration and move-in by default. We wanted to move in together primarily because we live in an expensive city but we had MANY discussions about money before moving in together and afterwards which tried and tested our relationship. We took a break for about 3 months and then got back together. Everything has been great since and we’ve figured out a financial system that works well for us.

    About 2 years ago I started talking about getting married much more seriously. I would talk often about when, where, how and he never really got very involved in the discussions but he maintained that he wanted to get married the summer after I graduated. He was adamant that I not book anything until we announced our engagement. I felt like because of societal custom, he got to dictate when we got engaged and I was upset. I told him I would let him plan a proposal but it needed to happen by my birth day so I could start planning. He agreed. A year passed, we went to design a ring in January with a jeweller (I wanted to be involved). He picked up the ring. Still no proposal. Months later, on the day of my birthday he still hadn’t proposed. I was all “WTF?” and he handed me a card with a beautiful paragraph written inside it and asked me to marry him.

    This was not the most romantic proposal ever. It was not very spontaneous and I felt like that was because I had dictated the timing. I felt like I’d robbed both of us of this magical moment. I hated telling the proposal story and EVERYONE asked. Then I realized that the big proposal thing is WIC bullshit (mostly through the help of APW’ers). My man’s romantic gestures are getting me Tim Hortons before he leaves for work. When he brings me home some flowers from the grocery store (while usually forgetting the eggs I asked him to get 3 times). When he goes on vacation to DisneyWorld with me and my mom. When he wipes dog puke off the floor at 2 am. That’s how he shows me he loves me. He may not show that he’s excited about our wedding or about the engagement that much but that’s just not his personality.

    Really only you know yourself and your fiancé well enough to decide if the lack of enthusiasm is just a personality thing (you mention he’s shy and an engagement is a really public, social thing) or if it’s a sign of something more troubling. Just don’t let the WIC brainwash you into thinking a man is less worthy because he didn’t have your engagement secretly videotaped during the first snowfall.

    • Winny the Elephant

      I just realized that was the longest comment ever.

      • Helen

        But it was a really good one! Romantic gestures are the ones that show that your partner knows you better than most people – anyone can buy 12 red roses or propose by a candlelit lake at Christmas, not everyone knows that you get stressed out on Sunday afternoons at the thought of going back to work on Monday and brings you toast to cheer you up. Toast is romantic, people!

        And the same extends to weddings. So many people here are saying that the influence of in-laws or family spoiled their engagement. I’m lucky with my family so I hope it’s not flippant to say ‘ignore them! Put your foot down!’ This is your relationship you are celebrating and only you two know what it means to you and how to do that. I really hope, OP, that you get the wedding you want – whenever and however it might happen.

  • La’Marisa-Andrea

    I think you should step back a minute. There’s a difference between being excited about or looking forward to getting married and being excited about planning a wedding. I’m not clear on which it is with you. I absolutely was NOT excited about planning a wedding or being engaged. I was more far more enthused about the getting married part itself. Planning the wedding was a big nightmare, headache, stressful etc and I hated every single second of it. I did actually enjoy our wedding but not the process leading up to it. From your letter, I’m not clear on what you’re not enthused about so perhaps you should examine that. If you aren’t looking forward to getting married, then you might consider why that is and why you wanted to be engaged so badly. Being engaged and not looking forward to being married is problematic. But seriously…not everyone is over the moon about planning a wedding contrary to what WIC would have you believe.

  • Guest

    When I got engaged I was surprised by how just normal I felt. I was overly excited and I wasn’t sad, I was just surprised and kind of happy. But not be really really happy made me kind of sad and confused. I think part of that was because the engagement was in a public setting and part of that was because we had recently had some relationship issues that we had not fully resolved (resolved now thankfully). So yes breathless excitement is usually expected and is a good memory to have, but it isn’t always there. Also, I can’t agree more about the need for pre-marital counseling. While my husband and I never formally went to counseling we did make sure to really talk about all our issues. We also used this: http://conscious-transitions.com/ and it really helped get us talking.

    • http://cafeaubride.blogspot.com/ Catherine

      aw, I just recommended that site on here as well. And on this site I have seen it recommended over and over, which makes me so happy. I truly believe in that work. Also, I realized after months of working with Sheryl, that she had been interviewed by APW for her ecourse wayyyy back when. :)

    • MEM

      we also did self-counseling. it’s amazing how you can think you’ve worked through everything and then it turns out you really didnt! we used this book: http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/13261495-lifelong-love

  • http://deird1.dreamwidth.org Deird

    Getting married, no matter how shy y’all are, or how overwhelmed at work, or what not, is still cause for celebration.

    Agreed, but – I wasn’t really in the mood to celebrate until after the wedding. The engagement period I mostly spent tense, and convinced that he’d change his mind and break up with me, because it couldn’t really be real, and I couldn’t possibly bring myself to believe in a happily ever after in case it all went horribly wrong.

    A lack of enthusiasm can be a sign of relationship issues. But it could also mean that you’re just not someone for whom celebration comes easily.

  • Megan

    A couple friend of a friend of mine goes to marital counselling once every year on their anniversary, whether they think it’s needed or not – an idea which I want to start this year before the wedding, but I don’t really know how to go about it? How do you go about finding a good marital counsellor? I don’t have any previous experience with counselling.

  • Nicole

    Let me start by saying I am thrilled to be marrying to my partner. We are best friends, we moved in together after a year-and-a-half of dating, and now, four years later, are ready to commit our lives to each other. We both went through a lot this past year (anxiety issues, jobs, transitioning to working at home full-time, moving, etc.), and felt like we made it through that, so we can make it through anything else that life throws our way. WE GOT THIS. Last month, we discussed getting engaged, went to pick out a ring together, and then went out for oysters to celebrate finding the perfect ring. His parents cried with excitement when we showed up a few hours later with some champagne; mine thought I might be pregnant. (Also, I basically ordered A Practical Wedding book on my phone on the way to the oyster bar.)

    With that said, I don’t feel excited about being engaged. Planning an elopement/reception is taking a lot out of me. People have opinions that somehow have laid dormant until now. Getting married has brought up a lot of conflict between our wants/needs as a couple and my parents. Neither my partner or I have a huge group of friends so a big wedding would be weird (and full of people we don’t know). And quite frankly having the same conversations with my parents that end up in tears more times than I’d like to admit is exhausting.

    I think that these conflicts are making it difficult for me to be excited. Just as I suspect that you are having difficulty being excited because things maybe didn’t work out as you had wanted, and now your parents are planning it for both of you. My advice is to sit down with your partner and decide what, above all else, you want as a couple. What is the most important thing about your wedding? What are some things you can compromise on? I suggest you come up with a plan in talking to your parents about how you will move forward with planning. And if you’re too busy to plan a wedding now, don’t feel bad about delaying the date. I am trying to plan everything in nine months so I don’t go crazy and can beat the Canadian winter, but if I felt like I needed more time, there is no rush.

    Figure out what you really want, and what your partner really wants. Then worry about everything else. The details will come together once you make sure you are on the same page.

  • Bets

    My parents still talk about how did not like their own wedding, which was mostly planned by their parents, nor did they really enjoy their first year of living together after their marriage, which they spent in a horrible sublet with a crazy landlady. They still feel like a cousin, who custom-made their wedding bands, did a poor job, but they still wear these bands every day. They’ve been married for over 30 years now, though, and they have the strongest relationship I’ve seen out of everyone I know, and it’s obvious to everyone we meet that they are best friends who try to do everything together and never run out of things to talk about. Maybe in the larger scheme of things, it’s not that these details don’t matter: my parents are still sad whenever they tell stories about what went wrong, although I think they’ve kind of owned their resentment by talking about it together so much. But it could be there’s just so much more going for a relationship than the wedding/engagement, which is pretty much a one-off event compared to the rest of your lives.

  • Callie Vita

    When I first read this question, I was preparing myself for advice that went along the lines of, “oh, everyone gets nervous, it’s alright!” I am so, so pleased to see this very real, very delicately worded- and yet straightforward- advice. I was in an eerily similar relationship and two years into an engagement going nowhere. I ended up realizing that my embarrassment and lack of enthusiasm was due to the fact that I wasn’t enthused by the thought of attaching myself to that person forever. And neither was he!
    BLAH may be in a different boat, as no two couples are the same, and there are a HUGE variety of emotions at work during an engagement, but this advice is spot on. See a therapist, figure out where the disconnection is, because if it’s fixable (ie: elope instead of a big production, etc.), it’s fixable. If the problem is the relationship itself, it’s much better to bite that very hard, very sad bullet.
    A+ advice. Wishing you the best, BLAH, whatever it may be. <3

  • Nik

    Having just got engaged (December 14th, and a date for September), I may not have the best advice.
    However, I have already learned something that is important; it’s important to have a day that is yours. It’s ya’lls special day, don’t let other people dictate what you should be doing. Every relationship is completely different. My fiance’ and I have the absolute weirdest history that dates back quite a few years. (We were not even [technically] boyfriend/girlfriend when we got engaged)
    If you guys want to have a little courthouse ceremony, do that. If you can afford to have a huge wedding, do that. But regardless, when the day is over.. you won’t be any less married. So don’t get fussed with the details of wedding planning. That being said, make sure the day is yours. Incorporate some of that amazing relationship into your wedding. :)

    On to the bigger issues. OP you do not spend your life resenting someone who is eventually going to be famliy. Also, I understand how having a demanding job can be. No shame in a long engagement. As exhausting as wedding planning sounds, force yourself to take back your wedding!! (for you and your fiance’!)
    From the get-go, we had decided that we want to be involved with the details of our wedding and we chose to make that very clear to both sets of parents. However, we do want them involved. His dad helped us find the ceremony venue, and his mother helped us find the reception venue. Which are great! I have appreciated their input but I’m very careful to not give free range over the entire wedding.
    I do have several DIY projects that I will be sending my mother and future MIL’s way. I have also given his and my mother complete control over the engagement party as this is not something I need to be fussed with. This gives the MIL a chance to show us off and get ‘her’ day. (BONUS: they will be too busy planning the engagement that is 2 months away instead of being hyper focused on the wedding which gives me the chance to nail down more of the major details) However, it is important to understand that our future MILs (and mothers for that matter) want to be involved in their ‘baby’s’ big day. So by giving them stuff to do, it allows them to be involved, but also keeps the decision making in your hands.

    Good luck, pretty lady!

  • Sarah

    There may be something deeper going on, as Sara has suggested, which would definitely warrant a professional look or at least a pause on the proceedings for some soul-searching. But it could just be a case of high-jacked plans. Women tend to forget that men have their own cultural expectations and narratives around engagements, ones that have been handed down to them and ones that they have even less “permission” or inclination than women (like the women here) to break from. I know that by trying to micromanage the timing of our mutually agree-upon timelline, my husband felt that I had taken away from him his chance to plan and execute a proposal. I think we were a few (of my) meltdowns away from being where you are. In the end I left it in his hands and it was perfect. I didn’t look forward to wedding planning and although our wedding was the best day of our lives we are both glad it’s behind us. So I guess your task is for each of you to work out where the lack of enthusiasm is coming from and see if you can right the wrong.

  • Della

    You don’t have to tell anyone you are going to counseling, except your partner potentially. When my fiance and I started counseling, he was uncomfortable with anyone knowing as many had told us (like the article said) that it was pricy and unnecessary. Instead if people asked us what was up we were having a date, “us time” or wedding planning time. Basically all true, the date just included a counselor. It’s your time and what you may or may not need. No one else needs to know unless you want them to know.

  • JL

    Sending good vibes and hugs to Blah and others in your shoes. I want to offer up a piece of my experience — my partner and I were engaged for over a year and living together longer than that, then she asked me to postpone our wedding indefinitely, and nearly a year later we’re still together but no longer living together and not re-engaged. Ending an engagement doesn’t have to be a break-up just because every media portrayal I’ve ever seen of ending an engagement has made it that way. I want to marry my partner someday, but our original wedding plan was rushed, and our relationship is stronger for saying goodbye to a timeline that was wrong for us.

    I’d suggest thinking carefully about this: if your partner is upset by talking about wedding plans, will he also be upset on your wedding day, and is that an experience you want for yourself and the person you love? It may be that it’s the right decision for both of you to go through with a wedding that may be difficult or even painful, because you both want to be married to each other soon and that’s worth the cost of a difficult wedding. It may be that it’s the right decision for one or both of you to pause or even back up the status of your relationship. I encourage you and your partner to each take some time to think and talk to a professional. I’m wishing you both lots of goodness in your lives, whether that includes this wedding, a different wedding, or no wedding.

  • Kate

    First of all, I love this post, and all of the comments on this thread. APW is such a wonderful place to talk about these very real feelings!

    I have been feeling so guilty for not being as excited as I’m “supposed” to be. I keep telling my sister that I just want to be my fiance’s wife, not THE BRIIIDDDEE (which seems to be the way the women around me say the word, complete with huge smiles and creepily wide eyes, hah). As an introvert who turns bright red from my chest to the top of my forehead when I speak in public, planning this huge event where all eyes are on me is an utterly terrifying idea, not one that produces excitement.

    My only advice is to be true to yourself and your fiance about how the two of you get married. If you want a small wedding, have one or have a secret elopement. My fiance’s parents’ wedding got taken over by his grandparents and they are STILL dealing with the ramifications it almost 29 years later. It’s about you both and no one else.