Are His Parents Putting Pressure on Us to Marry?


AAPW: Enough with the premature in-law jokes!

by Liz Moorhead, Editor, Ask APW

Q: I’m starting to feel pressure from my boyfriend’s family to get engaged. They know that we know we are going to get married, and recently while on vacation, we had a happy, alcohol-induced conversion about our relationship and our “plan” and how I’m respecting my boyfriend’s wish to do a traditional proposal. At one point in the conversation, my boyfriend’s dad says to my boyfriend, “Well then, what are you waiting for? Why don’t you just do it right now?” We all laughed, but I was feeling a bit “Oh god…”

Then, this week, while my boyfriend, his dad, my dad, and my grandpa were on a golf outing together, my boyfriend’s dad apparently (according to my dad) introduced my dad to someone else as his son’s “Future Father In-Law.”

THEN, the next day at a large family gathering, there was a toast to his grandparents’ sixty years of marriage, and his mom goes, “Okay, Mom and Dad, if you had to give any advice to give a couple that is about to get married…” and his dad goes, “Who do you mean? Ha ha ha…”

Hold. Up.

I feel so weird. I can’t figure out these intense emotions. Am I actually mad about this? At least they support us… But we aren’t even engaged! Why is he allowed to call my dad that?! Are they even going to be excited when the engagement actually does happen? Like, damn, let us do our own thing! You’ll be among the first to know when it happens!

Maybe it’s fueling the “girl anxiously waits for proposal” stereotype that I wasn’t feeling, but now kind of am? And now I’m getting all mad that I have no “control” over the situation, even though I was originally fine with letting him propose. I’ve concocted this scenario in my head that all this hype will conclude in the dreaded “finally!!” comment from his family when we do get engaged. Which is my absolute nightmare. No. Not finally.

I tried to talk to my boyfriend about how these comments have started to make me feel weird, and he got kind of defensive. He seems to have no problem with it, because he thinks it’s all fun and games and ball-busting. But it honestly makes me feel helpless, or something. Like the butt of a joke.

Help?

-Future In-Laws Pressuring Us

A: Dear FILPU,

I’m going to (a little bit) side with your boyfriend here (just a little bit). You’re not the butt of the joke. Going by the examples you gave, these jokes have zero to do with you being impatient. They have everything to do with your partner’s family being impatient, which is actually sort of nice (if a little annoying).

You and your partner clued them in that your relationship is heading in the marriage direction. If that wasn’t the case, I’d be offended along with you. I hate when families try to force folks into a big life change they assume to be the next logical step when there’s been no indication that that’s the case. But that’s not the situation here! You guys said, “We’re going to get married sometime in the future,” and your in-laws responded with, “Yay, they’re going to get married sometime in the future!” which isn’t the worst response in the world.

Normally, I’d be the first person encouraging you to let these folks know their jokes are insulting and crossing a line, except I don’t really think they are. It’s not that these comments are “just a joke!” so they shouldn’t bother you, but instead, they’re jokes about something else completely. Rather than poking fun at you, it sounds to me like they’re excitedly teasing about having this newly acquired insider info, and maybe jabbing at your partner a bit (I can’t tell about that one). This isn’t something that can be solved by addressing them if what you’re hearing isn’t what they’re saying.

Instead, I’d try to sort out where this feeling of “girl impatiently waiting” is coming from. The jokes you mentioned don’t give that impression at all, so what’s the source of that feeling? If you really aren’t okay with waiting around for a proposal, that’s fair, and something you should bring up with your partner. Maybe at first the traditional route seemed like a good idea, but in practice, it isn’t what you’d expected. Or, you may just need a few conversations about next steps and when they’re happening (conversations in which you feel heard, and he doesn’t get defensive) to feel a bit more clued-in and in control of what’s happening.

If you would like to ask APW a question, please don’t be shy! If you would prefer not to be named, anonymous questions are also accepted. (Though it really makes our day when you come up with a clever sign-off!)

Liz Moorhead

Liz is an illustrator and writer who paints custom stationery and types up impassioned opinions about weddings, etiquette, feminism and motherhood (usually while shaking a fist and mumbling expletives around mouthfuls of cheese fries). Her spare time is spent sipping bourbon with her husband and playing Don’t Throw That in the Toilet with her sons.

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  • raccooncity

    This is really great advice. The ribbing from family bothered me a little, as did the one instance of ‘finally!’ That we got. However, they mean well. I got the same thing about having kids (albeit from my own parents) and that really was unproductive and distressing for me. So I just mentioned that casually but earnestly one time and my parents both immediately stopped doing that. Because they really did mean it in a friendly way.

  • Lyndiana

    I was touched when my partner’s parents (i.e. my outlaws) introduced me as their daughter in law even though we weren’t married. I felt like I had been accepted as part of the family. The fact that your boyfriend’s family can’t wait for you to be part of the family is wonderful. Consider the alternative! These comments don’t sound like digs at you. I agree with Liz that it sounds like you need to talk about the real issue with your boyfriend.

    • Ravenclawed

      Agreed. My partner’s SIL once introduced me to her friends as “This is Ravenclawed, who hopefully will be my sister-in-law one day soon!”

  • Sarah

    Fortunately, the husband’s family sounds somewhat reasonable so perhaps mentioning something casually but earnestly as raccooncity suggests may be best. And assuming you’re a hetero couple from your use of pronouns, in-laws may start in on this business regarding making babies so probably good to express yourself now on handling these future, well-meaning, comments.

  • Janet

    Whoa. Late baby boomer here. I was steered here by a young relative. Quick comment before I run out the door. Your future in-laws consider you already engaged. See, in their day, the minute two people agreed to marry, they were engaged. Period. Ring or no ring. Our generation isn’t familiar with the idea of agreeing to get married and then planning a “surprise” “traditional” proposal for later. So the issue is a different generational idea of what “engaged” means. This doesn’t mean they are going to pressure you for grandkids later.

    • Sarah

      yup totally agree it may be generational

    • Jess

      Seconding the surprise “traditional” perfect proposal thing being a NEW construct. It makes a lovely story when people no longer have “how we met” stories, and there’s a lot of current pressure (even from salespeople when buying a ring!) to have that be a story, but it’s not something previous generations have (my parents definitely don’t).

      • Liz

        My parents don’t, either! Interesting how things become seen as “traditional.”

      • Amy March

        My parents actively dislike the surprise proposal thing. They find it strange, anti-feminist, and infantalizing. They were out at dinner one night, talking about marriage, decided they wanted to do it, and then they were engaged. They wouldn’t begrudge me a formal proposal, but they would be baffled if I told them “yup we’ve decided to get married” and also “no we aren’t engaged please stop talking about it.” They’d get there, but it would take a lot of explaining.

        • I still feel weird using the term “engaged” because I don’t really feel like we got engaged. Nothing for us really changed, relationship-wise. It wasn’t a “new chapter”. I’ve been announcing it as “we’ve decided to have a wedding” and our proposal story has been “we kind of started planning for a wedding, and then decided we’d actually do the wedding, and then started telling people we were going to do a wedding.”

          ~romance.

          • April, that’s how I did it (telling people we were planning a wedding/going to get married/etc.) because the ring/traditional proposal wasn’t until the Wednesday before the wedding. But I later realized I regretted not embracing being “engaged” more and being more open about it. (I didn’t talk about it much.) ‘Cause it’s not often one gets more than one shot at being engaged….

          • That’s a really short time period! Were you planning for much longer than that?

            We had a sort of non-traditional proposal but we had already started planning a bit at that point and haven’t really shared it as part of the “engagement story”. We are still almost a year out from the wedding so we have a bit of time. At first I really didn’t want any of the WIC trappings like a shower or bachelorette but now I’m kind of wondering if I shouldn’t be a bit more open to it. Hm.

          • We planned the wedding for 3.5 months total. I discovered I am a fan of a short planning process.

        • La’Marisa-Andrea

          I love your parents.
          I, too, find surprise proposals all of those things and I had one.

        • practicallyperfectineveryway

          I like having a discussion about it. That’s how my proposal was: initiated by my fiance, a surprise in the moment but the culmination of a long series of conversations about where we were heading. I guess what I don’t like about the big down on one knee production is that usually it’s the woman having to make a decision in about 15 seconds. But most couples have chatted about it anyway, right?

      • A.

        I think my parents might have been among the first to do the surprise proposal thing – they were engaged in ’84 and married in ’85 (they were young – summer after graduating college), and I was always told about their surprise camping proposal. My mom also said that she was very much a young, early-WIC bride, so they would have been into the new, trendy, romantic stuff. And neither set of my grandparents nor my mom’s older siblings (by 15-20 years) did the surprise proposal thing at all.

        But also maybe a socioeconomic thing? Because now that I’m thinking about it, my dad’s brother and sister also had similar proposals (in the late 70s) but they all came from families where purchasing a diamond ring would only take a small amount of saving each month, rather than it being beyond cost prohibitive and a frankly insane idea (like for my mom’s family). So if it started with truly wealthy folks and trickled down to upper middle class by the 80s, that could make sense that now it’s considered the status quo? Total conjecture, but interesting stuff to think about.

        • Caitlin

          Super interesting thing to think about! My parents had a surprise proposal in ’83 (or maybe ’84, they were married in ’84) as well right after college and from a middle class background. So maybe it’s been going on since the 80s, which would make sense in viewing it as both the “traditional” way of doing things and also the “new” to the baby boomer generation. Technically, I think my parents are right on the border between boomers and gen x.

        • Lauren from NH

          Does anyone know, was engagement as tied to weddings in the past? Weren’t engagements shorter? Though due to the various flux of war time versus peace time, the depression, maybe this has been all over the map and we just call these things tradition because it makes us more comfortable with there being no exact road map.

          • Eenie

            Going way back to arranged marriages, wasn’t the engagement or betrothal the period that the parents had created the match but before the actual wedding ceremony? Which I think could have been very long for some people (if betrothed in their early teens).

          • Meg Keene

            As far as I know, there have always been engagements, though yes, they were historically much shorter than the modern sometimes really long engagement. Unless someone was, say, at war. (Which happened with my grandparents.)

        • Megan

          I smell a new APW article about this… :)

          • Jessica

            Yes! This would be a great article. I know in Spain and France, there’s generally a time when you agree to get married and start telling people, but there’s no engagement ring until a big family dinner when both sides of the families meet and “approve” of the match. (I mean, the approving is pretty much assumed in modern times, but I suppose traditionally this is when fathers got to hash out the dowries etc.) This dinner is usually only a month or two before the wedding.
            A friend of mine got engaged to a French man, and she announced their engagement and sent out STDs for their US-based wedding without ever getting a ring, because he was waiting for their trip back to France to do it in the presence of his family. So yes, there are definitely different cultural markers for being “engaged.”

          • Caitlin

            I actually just started reading Aziz Ansari’s Modern Romance book during my lunch break… It’s both humor and social science research on love in the modern era, compared to previous generations. It turns out there was a major shift from 60s to the 80s (hello feminist revolution) that changed how the institution of marriage functioned – from companionate marriage (this person seems nice and they are from my neighborhood, I think this is good person to start a family with) to soulmate marriage based on current notions of marriage for love and happiness. I wouldn’t be surprised if proposals were also shaped by this major cultural change. In fact, since social science is my jam, I might just research this more and submit something on it… I just find it so fascinating! We’ll see if I get motivated and if there is enough research out there.

          • Eenie

            I want to read this book! Even though I’m no longer in the dating game…

          • Caitlin

            Yeah, I’m not either, I just like Aziz Ansari and social science research. It’s still very fascinating from this perspective because I’ve dating (now engaged) the same person for the last 4.5 years, pre Tinder and all that. It makes me feel like Jane Goodall because it’s now (already) so far outside my experience. FYI, the kindle book was only $4 when I bought it today!! The little I’ve ready has been amazing so far! Both hilarious and informative.

          • Eenie

            Sold. And the audible narration was only $7 more! I have a car trip coming up :)

        • Janet

          Hi. Janet here again. I may not have gotten my words across as clearly as I should. Just had my eyes dilated, so I hope I can type clearly.
          There were always surprise proposals, but they were total surprises. What is apparently different now, is that couples agree to marry, but don’t consider themselves engaged until one of them arranges an elaborate proposal and presentation of the ring. It’s meant to be a surprise, but it sounds peculiar to our generation because it’s a “planned” surprise. It sounds really complicated to us!
          In our generation, you might get engaged off-the-cuff while watching your favorite TV show or it might be a surprise complete with the guy on bended knee offering a ring. But couples did not “plan” together to have a proposal take place at a later date. Did I explain it better?

          • There’s *a lot* of confusion about this!
            We bought my engagement ring from an estate jeweler who has been in business *forever*. I picked the ring up by myself after being resized and the jeweler was shocked that I wanted to wear it out of the store. We had the fancy proposal weeks previously which is when we considered ourselves engaged, and picked out the ring together…but apparently that isn’t a practice commonly seen by this particular shop? Who knows!

        • Meg Keene

          In the mid 70s, my dad just asked my mom, and she told him she needed to think about it for a week (talk about stressful!), and then said yes. I don’t think there was a ring involved till later, but I’m not sure. The ring has never really factored into the story. In fact, it’s not much of a story beyond the part where she made him wait, which she always told as sort of a “thinking about things is a good choice,” feminist story (which it is), but I always through taobut like “OH JESUS THAT WOULD KILL ME IF SOMEONE SAID THAT TO ME”, which it also is.

        • Jess

          Very interesting! Yeah, my parents were engaged/married in the late seventies from the lower end of the economic ladder. So maybe that does have something to do with it.

          I remember The Meaning of Wife talking a lot about the Princess Di wedding changing weddings, but don’t remember much about engagements. I wonder if that’s something too.

    • MABie

      I totally agree – my parents considered us engaged as soon as we bought our rings, which happened a couple of months before we were “officially” engaged. I chalked it up to a generational thing; they weren’t used to people buying rings together and then making a big production out of the proposal.

      But I’d go a step further here and say that I’m not even sure this is totally generational; I think most of us feel that engagements are a state of mind, and I think that’s a good thing. On APW (and even more so on OBB), we have talked a lot about the idea that the huge, surprise (or what the LW’s fiance calls “traditional”) proposal is NOT a necessity, and your relationship is not less-than for lack of having it — and you are not NOT engaged because you don’t have it.

      So maybe in the end, it IS confusing to some people (including older people) because there’s fluidity in the concept overall. And that is not just okay, but awesome. Five years ago, when same-sex couples couldn’t legally get married, people in this community would have accepted it when they said they were engaged. That’s what we want to happen.

      TL;DR…I guess what I’m trying to say is that I agree that the parents are probably confused, and I don’t think that’s inherently bad because I think it’s a positive thing that engagements are considered a state of mind rather than a Very Formal Thing That Requires A Professionally Recorded Proposal At A Major Sporting Event And A Gigantic Ring.

    • KimBee

      I’m not totally convinced of this being generational. My husband and I decided together to get married and started planning our wedding (i.e. booked the venue, etc.). It was clearly happening. But to my infinite chagrin, my in-laws did not consider us “engaged” until after my husband gave me my ring…which was months later. Maybe they’ve just abandoned their generational values? Is the power of Beyonce that strong?

      • Aubry

        True sometimes for sure! My friend is unofficially engaged (no ring yet and they are not calling themselves engaged until that is in place) who have booked a venue and she has her dress. Her mom was really upset about her going dress shopping without a ring. Basically saying you’re delusional and he is totally going to leave you suddenly if you go to crazy cause there isn’t any real commitment without the ring. cue facepalm. hopefully it will happen soon for them and she can continue planning in peace!

    • 39bride

      The idea of a big, formal proposal might be more recent, but the “surprise” aspect goes back much further than one generation. Each couple is unique of course, but for a very long time in much of the “western world” it was considered gauche/desperate for a woman to openly discuss marriage with her suitor/boyfriend when the man had not yet proposed. And even after dowries were not expected, in many circles he was definitely expected to talk to her parents first. So, unless the parents hinted at it, a proposal would’ve often been a surprise to the bride-to-be.

      Even for my husband and I (early Gen X), I left things as wide open as possible, speaking in theoreticals because I was so nervous about seeming to pressure him since we’d known each other for less about 14 months when the topic came up. My parents themselves had a surprise but private proposal in 1970 after an extremely short dating period–it wasn’t even on my mom’s radar, certainly something they’d never even talked about. She never had a ring, but from that moment on they were engaged.

      As far as family pressure, I fortunately had well-behaved family, but when I first told my mother we’d been talking about marriage, her first words were an unsurprised, “It’s about time!” It was simply a reflection of her happiness at the official acknowledgement of what she could see/sense already.

    • I can’t speak to whether or not the interpretation is generational BUT I can say that even within my own generation there is some differences in the interpretation of when you would be considered “engaged”. SO and I agreed we would marry each other at some point way before we “got engaged” but to us engaged meant “actively planning a wedding”. For some other people engaged means “we’ve had a proposal”.

      • eating words

        Those distinctions are totally true. I was completely surprised by how hugely excited everyone was when we got officially engaged, because we had already talked about it and knew it was going to happen at some point. But to other people, it was official and therefore a huge new thing!

        • You know what’s worse? When you’ve already talked about it and knew it was going to happen at some point, so no one really got excited about what actually is a huge new thing [to you+partner].

    • Meg Keene

      I mean, APW EIC here, and I’m not sure I totally disagree. In my book, at least, once you start telling people you’re going to get married… that’s kind of your engagement. Or at least, people are going to probably read it that way, which… makes sense, right? Or at least, you can’t fault them if they do.

      For us, we had some behind closed doors discussions, which I’m really glad we had, about marriage and if we felt ready, etc. And then there was a proposal later. But those behind closed doors discussions were very private, because we DIDN’T consider ourselves engaged and hadn’t agreed to get married, so we didn’t want to communicate that we were engaged to the world in any way. It was me who wanted a more formal proposal (though I didn’t care much about a ring, other than I had a say in picking it), so once that happened we considered ourselves engaged and told people. If we’d told people first… well… we kinda would have let the engagement cat out of the bag.

      Engagement cat. Just saying. (Sleep deprived.)

      In short, I totally see the generational crossed wires here. I just think, even as someone in this generation, that once you tell people you’re getting married, it’s only fair if they consider you engaged. Because you don’t need a ring to get engaged, right?

      • Jenny

        Yeah, I think it depends. I remember telling a few close friends, and my mom that we had talked about marriage, and at that point we both agreed that’s where this was heading. But to me that was a yep we are on the same page relationshipwise conversation. We both have the same ending for this in mind. BUT to me (and my now husband), becoming engaged was about saying we’ve both thought about this and decided that this is what we are for sure doing. I think if my mom had started referring to him as her future son-in-law after our conversation, I would have felt weird. I’m not saying that’s what letter writer is saying. But I do think there is a difference between saying (even to others) “we are planning to get married/engaged eventually”, and “we have agreed to get married/ we are engaged”. Maybe the LW thought she was saying the former (or meant to say the former), and her in-laws interpreted it as a later.

    • CamperHill

      Ha! Yes, I was just about to say the same thing. My boyfriend and I have reached a similar place, where we have decided we would like to marry each other and we are actively planning a wedding, but we don’t have an engagement ring yet so I don’t consider us officially “engaged” – but my grandma laughed and said “You don’t need a ring to be engaged! In my day people got rings at the wedding!” So I think it really does just come down to your own ideas and perceptions of what being “engaged” means! Since you two have decided to get married, many people may already consider you as being engaged!

    • EF

      yeah this is pretty much what i got from my aunt (late boomer) when she found out my partner and i were like, yeah, we’ll get engaged on X trip. and she was like, ‘no, if you know you’re going to get married, you’re already engaged.’
      treated my brothers that way too.

      I really do think this is a lot to do with generational differences.

  • Caitlin

    I agree with Liz’s advice for what you should do. However, I also think there is validity to the emotions you are feeling that could be addressed. My family did the same thing (including calling us out in a speech at my brothers wedding!) with less information. I think it can be a really uncomfortable situation to have a private thing that you are not in control of to be publicly called out and teased over, especially if you are like me and just not very comfortable getting teased. All this to say, I think it is ok for you to feel frustrated…there is probably some differing cultural value things going on behind this that can be genuinely (mildly) uncomfortable. For my family, they definitely think that college graduates dating for a while SHOULD be getting engaged, they did, their oldest children did, and they might judge people a little who seem to be dragging their feet too much…kids these days wait too long and all that. Knowing that, it can be a little uncomfortable, but you should also focus on the good side of this situation. They are so excited to have you in the family that they literally can’t wait to have you join them officially! You are also planning on getting engaged soon, so they aren’t forcing something on you that you don’t agree with. That being said, if you need to vent to a friend or share a look of fond exasperation with your boyfriend, I personally see why.

  • Lauren from NH

    Also speaking more to the LW’s feelings, if it were me I would be frustrated because it would feel like BF’s parents are celebrating something that I don’t get to celebrate yet because technically it hasn’t happened! That would make me have confused feelings all over the place! Unfortunately for those of us who are, or have been, on the long pre-engaged road, some people (old or young) do equate engagement with a plan to get married, like Janet said. Therefore that cozy boozy chat you had is kind coming back to bite you, because they are taking it as BIG news, which it is, but not in the same way it is to you. To you it’s the movie trailer, where as it seems like to them it was a pre-screening of the whole damn film!

    Good news is they are happy. That is REALLY good news! But I might talk to your BF and try to explain how it feels a little anticlimactic and that while you appreciate their celebrating, it’s not quite real for you yet so it’s bumming you out a little. Then maybe between the two of you, you can talk about timelines and whether it makes sense to very nicely ask his parents to tone it down a smidge at least in front of you.

    • Saxyrunner

      I feel for you LW. Something similar happened to me. It felt like the super excited people weren’t waiting their turn. I was still on tenterhooks waiting to have something to announce, and they were skipping that whole anxious six months. I’m super pleased that the family is excited to welcome me in, but the celebratory comments while I was still in pre-engaged limbo were difficult to deal with gracefully.

    • Jess

      Wow. Yes. This really captures the difference of being pre-engaged while others see you as engaged. You’re still anxious, they’re celebrating.

    • JDrives

      Lauren, I think you nailed it. I’d also add to LW that even though they’re already excited (which again: is a GOOD thing!!), they will *still* be excited when you are “officially” engaged. My family knew pretty early on that my husband was going to be sticking around in a permanent way, and they were still over the moon and very celebratory when he proposed.

    • Sarah E

      I think is really on-point. The other thing that happened in my experience with the engagement/wedding that may apply here is the weird feeling of this private thing (our relationship!) suddenly being a public one (let’s all weigh in on it!). Even when everyone is expressing good thoughts, it’s weird to be in a place where people are giving thoughts at all. When it goes from private discussions we have at home, and all the warm snuggly relationship feelings to explaining your relationship in clipped terms (engaged vs. not engaged) to other people, a lot of the magic is lost.

      I don’t want to say “get used to it,” but it will probably reoccur with announcing the engagement, planning the wedding, and saying all those lovely words in the ceremony out loud. So you may want to find a way where you and your partner can hang onto to some of the personal, secret, just-the-two-of-us magic in these moments that get thrown into the spotlight.

  • Sara

    My family called my brother’s girlfriend and her family our in-laws. Its easier than saying my brother’s girlfriend’s mom/dad over and over. They were together for a while and have a kid together, so it just seemed easiest. We weren’t pressuring them (they ended up breaking up), but we wanted to let people know they were important to our family too. We don’t refer to his ex like that anymore but her parents are still P’s in-laws. Or just B’s grandparents.
    Its pure laziness on our part.

    • Not Sarah

      This. My boyfriend and I call each other’s families our in-laws. Not to their faces, but in general when talking to other people.

    • Liz

      That’s what I’m thinking, too. “Future father-in-law” is a mouthful, but it’s a lot handier than, “My son’s very serious girlfriend’s dad.”

      • Sara

        That, plus similar to the way that some feel ‘boyfriend’ or ‘girlfriend’ doesn’t show the significance of a person, ‘brother’s girlfriend’ didn’t really encompass the whole ‘mother of my nephew, part of our family’ aspect.

    • Alison M

      Yep, I figure it’s basically just rounding up – I call my dad’s girlfriend my stepmom (not technically married, but life partners), and now that I’m engaged, I refer to my fiancé’s parents are my in-laws.

    • AGCourtney

      Exactly! I think I mentioned this in a recent post about the terms boyfriend/girlfriend. My now-fiancé and I have a child together, and after a while, everyone involved felt silly tripping over the mouthful of words that didn’t convey the right meaning. I started saying “[future] mother-in-law” early on because 1) that was the relationship I had with her and 2) saying “my boyfriend’s mom” sounded to me like we were waiting for her to pick us up from a movie. I know my FH’s parents did similar things, and were glad to be able to officially use the terms “daughter-in-law/son’s fiancee” to succinctly and accurately convey the significance of our relationship.

  • Another Meg

    I’m sorry that you’re feeling disconcerted about your boyfriend’s family’s comments. This is the really uncomfortable place- being on the lady-end of a “traditional” proposal. Waiting. And honestly, I can totally see where you’re coming from. If you’re really excited about your upcoming proposal, you want to savor it. Which is a bit harder to do when people around you are acting like it’s already happened and therefore unnecessary.

    We’re in a similar boat with the baby jump here- We’re about a year off, and my sister’s been calling me a “ticking time bomb” since I finished grad school a couple of months ago. Lots of “oh, you’ll understand soon” comments are flying around regarding parenting and someone even told me it won’t be exciting to them when we eventually do have a kid because “it’s a sure thing.”

    So I feel you. It may be a sealed deal to them but it’s a big freaking thing for you, and you have every right to your savored moment with your love. If it helps, everyone said “FINALLY!” when my husband and I got engaged, but it was such a happy time that really, I couldn’t have cared less. The moment was so huge for us that I couldn’t give two shits how excited other people were (which they were, no matter how expected the announcement was).

    • anotherlady

      I feel you on the waiting-for-baby-announcement comments… I finally had to tell the well-meaning and otherwise great in-laws that they need to back off and give us some time and space. We had a quick and frank conversation when there was no alcohol involved and told them out potential issues and frustration with the comments. They seemed to understand and have mostly backed off about the baby situation (also, having a prego sister-in-law has helped take the pressure off of us!). But, there has still been a drunken ‘wish I had more grandchildren’ comment or two from them… Which, I quickly try to shut down.

    • MC

      Um yes, EVERYONE said “FINALLY!” when we got engaged, too. But that response was actually really affirming for us and said with excitement and love, not impatience.

      • Another Meg

        Yes, excitement and love. :)

      • Jess

        Ha, we got a few excited “About damn time!”s from friends. It made me laugh, especially because a few of them said it exactly the same way. I actually kind of loved it.

      • Cathi

        The “finally!”s also made me feel pretty great. Like, “oh, other people have thought we’ve been a great match for a long time? Hooray!”

    • TeaforTwo

      AHHHHH, everyone stop doing this now.

      We were pretty vocal about wanting kids, and wanting a big family, and so those babywatch comments started about a week after our wedding. It was fine enough at the time (we weren’t even trying yet), but now that we’re almost a year into fertility treatments it is decidedly less fine.

      The thing I find baffling about those comments is that the path to making a family is so rarely completely straightfoward. Some people are on different pages from their partners about kids, or different timelines. Some people are on the same page but stressed out about work, or finances, or whatever. Some people have trouble getting pregnant, some people have trouble staying pregnant, some people start to dread and resent scheduled sex every month. And almost none of those are things that people discuss openly with the whole wide world. So why why why are other adults (who have surely known close friends and family members in every single one the scenarios I just outlined) still making comments like that?!?!

    • JDrives

      “…someone even told me it won’t be exciting to them when we eventually do have a kid because ‘it’s a sure thing.'”

      Gross. I really hope they don’t stick to that when you do have a kiddo. (of course, you can always come to the APW community, we will be thrilled for you I am sure of it!)

    • TeaforTwo

      AND ALSO. I have already commented on how weird it is to talk other people’s reproductive systems, but who is this person who told you it wouldn’t be exciting when you have a kid?!

      The excitement over friends or family members having kids isn’t about the surprise, it’s about the baby!

      “Oh yeah, don’t need to smell that milky newborn head, because I totally saw it coming” said no one, ever.

    • Liz

      Oof. Babies work according to their own timeline, so I can not wrap my head around the baby comments thing. It took us 8months to conceive our second! I can’t imagine fielding wink-winks and nod-nods for that whole time, I’d have gone crazy.

  • anotherlady

    I disagree with Liz on this one – it sounds like your bf’s parents are similar to my now-in-laws: you guys get along with them, they support you and him, you can have a few drinks together and have a good time, etc. But, they put the pressure on and make their opinions know (maybe in half-nice, half-joking ways), but that’s really frustrating to the receiver of the comments (you!). You need to talk to your bf about this and also mention it to his parent when you are not under the influence of alcohol and when it hasn’t just happened. Tell that that, yes, you mentioned that you are *planning* on getting engaged soon, but it is NOT yet official and it makes you feel X & Y when they make those comments. Ask then to please refrain from saying those things, especially in mixed company or at family events, etc., until it is official. Also, attempt to have a timeline conversation with you bf just for your own piece of mind. But, if he wants to ‘surprise’ you, he may not be willing to give up the details. Good luck. Stay strong on this and future ‘well-meaning’ issues.

    • Jess

      Having a timeline could really help you enforce the family side too – Hey guys, we’d like to wait until Z date before we start up on the engaged talk please! Thanks!

  • Jess

    I/we got a lot of this, less from family than from a few friends (although my mom did ask me after we moved in together if/when we thought we were going to get married – but I think it was her way to determine how comfortable she felt with the whole living together pre-marriage thing).

    Some of R’s friends were CONSTANTLY asking about him getting engaged. Jokes, ribbing, betting, etc. For like three years. On one hand, it made me feel good, because he liked me! But on the other, much larger hand, it made me super uncomfortable.

    Yes, I knew he was just excited. Yes, I knew that he was ribbing R as friends do. Yes, I knew that he meant it to be funny rather than mean. Yes, I knew that he didn’t see me as an impatient wanna-be-bride-to-be. Yes, I knew that he wasn’t privy to any of our conversations about marriage and the capitulation R was going through on “making the proposal perfect”.

    But I still felt uncomfortable. R felt uncomfortable. Our tactic was to just kind of… roll our eyes at each other and turn it into a private joke of sorts. It’s totally ok to feel uncomfortable or like somebody is picturing you a way that they probably aren’t.

    Some families (and friend groups) have a different dynamic, and this is one of them. You probably won’t be able to change the way his family jokes/teases him. You can make sure he knows that it bugs you, and he can give you a little extra support when it happens (hand holding/eye rolls across a room/another drink/whatever you need).

    • Not Sarah

      Congrats! :)

      Both of us definitely get a lot of questions about when we’re getting engaged. The worst offenders are his grandmother and the people who pick up my left hand and ask. His parents, however, only ever ask him, which is the way it should be, and never mention a word about it in my presence. I’m still figuring out what marriage means to me, so I’m totally fine with waiting! Even though I do want to get married some day probably.

      • Jess

        Thanks! We’re super excited! I did really appreciate that neither of our parents asked/teased about it in public, it was always a private conversation.

        My old boss and a few other co-workers who try to be inconspicuously looking at my left hand when they talk to me. It was super awkward, but I started moving my hand around, hiding it, etc.

        I think after these two comments, I have a tendency to turn awkward things into private jokes.

  • While I agree with Liz’s advice based off the information provided, I’d like to offer another possible idea about the source of the negative emotions you’re feeling, based off personal experience…Have you and/or your partner had boundary issues with your partner’s family in the past? It sounds like your partner isn’t much bothered by his family’s comments, so I’m going to assume that boundaries between him and his family aren’t a problem when it comes to him making his own life decisions. However, your boundary expectations for his (and your) family might be different than his. If you’ve taken issue with the degree to which his family members have involved themselves in your relationship or your partner’s decision making in the past, then your feelings about this situation could be an extension of that. If that is the case, you and your partner should talk about what types of boundaries are important to you and unite on what that looks like for your interactions with your families (or specific family members). That could mean that certain topics of conversation relating to your relationship are off limits or that you don’t entertain certain questions from family members. Perhaps you will have to back track a bit now that you told them you’ll be getting engaged in the near future, but you can still set boundaries by telling them you appreciate their enthusiasm and support, but you’d also appreciate if they could wait to publicly share their excitement and knowledge until you’re actually engaged. This is especially important once you talk to your partner about what the “we’re getting married in the future” general timeline looks like (if you haven’t already). (In my case, that timeline unexpectedly turned into 3+ years of pre-engagement due to my partner’s anxiety issues, which his mother and sisters’ commentary and pushing him to “just propose already” has played a part in.)

    If boundaries aren’t the issue here, then I’d go with Liz’s advice and try to avoid letting your mind run away with ideas about how his family will react when you’re finally engaged. If they’re this excited now, they’ll be even more excited once you’re actually ready to set a date.

    • Danielle

      Yeah, as someone who has boundary issues with their parents (and very different family boundaries from my partner), I would agree to this. Every family is different, and the way your partner relates to his family is probably different the way you relate to yours. It’s helpful to talk about your feelings and expectations regarding family relationships, and absolutely your right to communicate your discomfort to your boyfriend. At the very least it will help you understand each other better. It’s a good conversation to have before marriage too, because these are people you will be dealing with for a long time!

  • Jessica

    In the first year of J and I dating his dad introduced me as his “future daughter-in-law.” It was awkward because the folks I was introduced to then started asking about the wedding, the colors, etc. We had to explain that we weren’t engaged and J’s dad was just excited about the prospect of another wedding.

    I sympathize with the over-eager-sorta-in-laws

    • Casey

      I can totally relate to this. My fiancé and his parents have a completely different relationship than me and my parents, and sometimes I have major boundary issues with his parents. When we got engaged, he wanted to tell his parents before he proposed to me, and I really didn’t like the idea of them knowing about our engagement before I did (since the engagement is about me and him, not me, him, and them). Anyways, I get where the LW is coming from, and she should probably have a conversation about boundaries with her fiancé. She can’t really put the cat back in the bag about the upcoming engagement, but there might be real issues in the future that need to be addressed and that will be easier if they are on the same page.

      • Casey

        Oops, I meant to reply below! But I don’t know how to move my comment…

  • Lornash

    If this were your, the potential bride’s, parents goading you two to make it official, it would be (more than!) a little cringe-worthy and smack me as more pressuring. But this is HIS parents. If they know their son wants to follow tradition, they probably know that you will get engaged only when HE proposes, so it’s utterly senseless to sniff around you for wedding clues or mention it around you. I totally feel the awkwardness you feel!! I would be so tempted to say, “I don’t know, why don’t you ask your son about it?!”

    Not sure how long this has been going on for you, but I think part of this is the so-gray-it’s-not-even-gray-anymore space between when a couple decides they want to get married, and when the proposal actually happens. There’s a lot of happiness and excitement in that space, but also a huge share of confusion, anger, even resentment if this period drags on too long. Crossing my fingers for you that your guy gets it together
    soon, so you can actually enjoy engagement chatter and not just feel the sting of it not *being real yet*.

  • KC

    “I’ve concocted this scenario in my head that all this hype will conclude in the dreaded “finally!!” comment from his family when we do get engaged.” I completely understand why the LW would dread this. You want to celebrate when there is an engagement to actually celebrate! It feels a bit like the wind is taken out of the sails to get the party started this early. Like she said- will anyone still be excited when this actually happens? Also- they plan to get engaged, but there is a reason they are not yet. There could be many reasons, and pressure is a buzzkill.
    If I were the LW, I might emphasize them an engagement is a ways off (you can embellish a bit) when things like this come up. You don’t even have to have some big sit down with them, just emphasize it’s not happening yet when they do this. Also, for down the line- if you do want to have kids, I would keep your plans to yourself, or just be very vague about it. My family knows we will have kids “someday,” and they are not clued in that we are already trying, for this very reason.

  • Meredith

    I feel ya. It sounds annoying. It also sounds like they mean well and love you and stuff so it’s hard to be too insulted/annoyed. We got that treatment to an extent and it was just like, everyone chill, it will happen when it happens. If I’m not freaking out why are they?!

  • emilyg25

    I agree with the poster below. They’re acting like you’re going to get married because you told them you were planning to get married. Some folks (such as myself) figure that once you decide to get married, you’re pretty much engaged, big fancy proposal or no. So I think it’s more a misalignment in understandings of things than any pressure or boundary issues.

  • Megan

    I’m in a similar boat as FILPU and many of the commenters below. My BF and I have been dating for over 8 years, living together for five and I’ve been ready for marriage for 2. He’s taken a little longer to come around but we had a conversation with both sets of parents earlier this year when we were going ring shopping. Fast forward 6 months later and a ring has still not been purchased. Both sets of parents are bursting to talk about it and start referring to us as their daughter/son-in-laws and it’s getting pretty pressure-filled. I think I feel the pressure the most because I feel that I have been waiting an inordinate amount of time for a proposal (Since I was ready to get married for more than 2 years now!).

    We agreed that he’d buy the ring and do a “surprise” proposal (mostly because I love and he hates surprises!) but now every comment by my parents (or his parents) makes me even more antsy/anxious! I’ve dealt with it by periodically checking in with my BF about timelines so I can manage both my expectations and theirs…

    • Eenie

      That sounds like an awful situation. If the comments are making you anxious, I’d tell both sets of parents to lovingly knock it off with the comments. They may not even realize they’re making them.

    • Amy March

      Do you really love surprises? It sounds like you’re actually kinda hating this one.

      • Megan

        I do! I promise! But knowing I’m getting a surprise and then waiting a super long time for it is killing me. I’m just now realizing I’m more of a “I have a surprise for you this weekend” kind of gal…

        • Eenie

          I love surprises in a sense that I don’t know what it is. I like guessing. Can it still be a surprise if you know the when but not how? Define a timeline?

      • macrain

        i don’t read it that way. I was definitely anxious to get engaged, but I still wanted the surprise. I would have been disappointed if he had told me the date it was happening, as anxious as I was.

    • YES. This is me. I’ve been with my boyfriend for 11.5 years, living together for 7, talking about getting married for 3-4…Both of our families are very excited for it to happen, but the difference is that my family doesn’t ask questions unless I bring it up, and his family will try to take over his decision making and planning if given even the slightest inkling that we might be ready to move forward. BF’s mother is notorious for pushing her agenda on my BF and his sisters and sticking her nose in where it shouldn’t be. We made the mistake of mentioning that we were heading toward marriage and she pushed him into purchasing a ring 2 years ago even though he wasn’t sure when he would be ready to propose. He also is very invested in the idea a “traditional surprise proposal” even though he knows I would rather just agree to being engaged/planning a wedding over pizza. A year and a half of individual therapy for him to realize his anxiety and boundary issues with his mother (and how to deal with them) and a year of couple’s therapy for us later…we went out to look at rings together and pick something out, followed by him telling me about the ring he already had, which isn’t a good fit for me and we are now trying to sell. He had to bring up the ring situation with his mom because the first ring was purchased through her friend, who he had to get information from to resell it. Now that she knows we are actually going to get engaged soon, she and BF’s sisters have searched for and emailed me venue ideas. I’ve had to shut that shit down by telling them that we will not begin to research or plan until we are actually engaged and BF will be involved in the decision making process, so I won’t be entertaining any ideas yet….SIGH. Boundaries. They are tough.

  • idkmybffjill

    I feel like part of that anxiety about “being the butt of a joke” comes with that anxious insecurity of waiting (or it did for me at least!). When people would make wedding or engagement comments to my fiancé and I pre-engagement I felt so sick that something would happen and he wouldn’t propose after all! I feel really very silly about it all in retrospect. But I feel you.

  • CH

    Hmm. My mom has been in a long-term relationship with the man she calls her “fiance” for over a decade now. They have no plans to actually get married. A few years back, I just started calling him my “stepdad” because it was the easiest way to simplify the relationship and I felt like it was my way of saying, “This person is part of my family, legal commitment or no.” It truly never occurred to me that either my mom or stepdad would take my phrasing as passive-aggressive pressure to just hop on it and get married already.

    • Cleo

      Agreed. I have a similar situation to the LW and I take it with a smile. The family loves and accepts me! I feel really lucky to have found a loving partner and a family who is so excited to welcome me into the fold.

  • margosita

    My boyfriend and I have been together almost 9 years. We’re thoroughly each other’s family, now. We do Thanksgiving together and see a lot of both families and it sounds like the letter writer is in the same place (going on vacation, late night boozy hangouts, the dads/men golfing together). We’re not engaged, but there’s been multiple times when we get referred to as such, or even husband/wife. It’s always out of excitement and affection, or something like “This is x and her husband and margosita and her husband…err, boyfriend…”

    My future FIL was a serial offender, especially to strangers and when I wasn’t around. But I knew he didn’t mean it as pressure. He was happy and it often seemed more fitting. When he died last year, among my first thoughts that was I regretted not being married, yet, because that would have been such a happy day for him.

    I don’t mean to add a serious twist to this, except to say that I’m glad he did that, now. I’m glad he knew and expressed his excitement about our relationship precisely because he won’t be there when it’s “official.” I’d love to have him around, now, making jokes about when we’re going to have grandkids.

    So, maybe take it all with a grain of salt? He’s not really pressuring you, and he’s not even making comments TO you. All of them are different ways of saying, “Isn’t it great, that my son has found his person?”

    It is great! Enjoy it.

  • Katie Middleton

    This article was really interesting for me because my fiancé’s parents did exactly the same thing before we got engaged, pretty much when we first met (we were 19& 20 years old when we first met) and kept making comments about buying hats etc. (Idk if this is classic world wide but the classic british way to hint at a wedding is ‘should I buy a hat?)
    Two years later we are engaged, but that was after a lot of conversations between each other, mainly to begin with him being like ‘I feel like my parents expect me to get married and I don’t know if I want that, purely because I feel pressured to live that life’
    We never spoke to his parents about wanting to get married before we got engaged. I did with mine but they were less ‘ribbing’ about such things.
    We told them a little while before we did our mutual proposal that this was what we were planning, maybe like a month before. Well, my fiancé told them, and then they never mentioned it to me- I think for fear of ruining the excitement when it happened.

    I would say talking to your partner about what pressures they feel (from all sides!) is a great start, because you can begin to take down those pressures and diminish them in your minds until you both feel in a great place to make it official :)

  • Kelsey

    Anyone have advice for the other way around? My parents have pretty much planned my wedding and call my significant other their son in-law but we are not engaged. Whereas his parents are totally not ready for engagement (at least in my opinion) and I know my SI feels awkward about them talking about it. It unfortunately comes up whenever we are with my family, which is not often, but I want him to enjoy being around them not just be pressured to propose.