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What Getting Engaged Teaches you (Big Things Take Time)

We’ve had a lot of fascinating conversations on APW about navigating your way through the pre-engaged waters to engagement. There was Ang, talking about her crazy youth and the pre-engaged state, there was my recent post on wily ducks and waiting till your partner was ready, there was Rachael‘s post on communication and patience. But perhaps my favorite post of all time is Sarah’s post on Do’s and Don’ts for Friends of the pre-engaged. And now she’s back, and engaged. She’s talking about why engagements don’t need to be fancy, why they sometimes take time, and what she learned about her relationship while she was waiting.

So guess what? I’m engaged. It rocks! And even though I knew we were headed in this direction, my sweet boyfriend (now fiancé!) still managed to surprise the heck out of me.

The weekend before Adam proposed, we took our bikes and tore around the Stanley Park Seawall like ten-year-olds, stopping halfway round for ice water and prawn tacos. That night we drank for hours on our apartment’s deck, watching the sun dip below the trees and little bugs play in the light. I thought about how blissfully happy I was and how perfectly content I would be to just sit out there together for the rest of our lives. And he had the ring with him the whole time.

It wasn’t until Monday, when I suggested we make frozen pizza and he insisted we go to my favorite restaurant that he finally got the nerve up. He pulled the car around after dinner, and the little ring box was sitting on the passenger seat when I opened the door.

It was, by far, the most romantic thing I’ve ever experienced. All I could think as we sat in his beat-up Volvo, smooching and crying, was that this isn’t a guy who is only romantic when he asks that one question. This is a guy who will spend his whole life having fun with me, make canned beer on the deck feel blissfully romantic, and who I just want to ride bikes with all summer long. I’m so freaking lucky.

I wanted to share my story for two reasons. First, because I feel like proposals are getting crazier and more over-the-top every time I hear one. And I’m here to tell you that, even if it’s in the car on a Monday night, with unwashed hair, and after dinner that you paid for yourself (with a coupon), it can still be the most blissful and wonderful feeling you’ve ever had.

And the second thing I wanted to share is, that if you’ve found the right person, and you know you want to get married, the engagement is worth waiting for. It’s worth the anxiety and uncertainty of the pre-engaged state, it’s worth that feeling of bitterness when you hear that kid you babysat is getting married, and it’s worth those aching feelings of powerlessness you feel when you’ve told your partner you’re fed up and he says “be patient.” Because the second it happens, all of that goes away. Instantly.

When we were pre-engaged, I started to feel like a second-class citizen. I started getting self-conscious every time we showed up at a party and I still didn’t have a ring on. When those blasted red hearts showed up on my Facebook newsfeed announcing that so-and-so just got engaged, my first thought was usually “Already?! They’ve been together for two minutes!” Oh, and watching Teen Mom, where pregnant 16-year-olds get engaged every episode, I started feeling sincerely jealous that those kids “had it all.” (Yeah, it got bad.) I felt like people thought I wasn’t an adult because we weren’t engaged, that our relationship was on the rocks, or that Adam didn’t really love me. I felt completely powerless over the biggest decision of my life.

When I tried to explain this to my boyfriend, he’d nod sympathetically and insist that an engagement was in our future. Sometime.

For a lot of girls, we are used to hearing guys say that they want to marry us so that we will date them, or continue to date them, or sleep with them, or move in with them, or whatever. So I was skeptical when Adam said it. I had heard those lines from men before, and I honestly didn’t believe him. I was tired.

This was compounded by the message from movies and magazines and whatnot is that If A Guy Wants To Marry You He Will Drop Everything Move Heaven and Earth and Ask You Right Now Immediately Today As Of This Instant. Along with that goes the idea that if he hasn’t asked you, he doesn’t love you, and you’re foolish to be wasting your time with him.

In case you were starting to believe it, I’m here to tell you that this is total bullsh*t.

The truth is that, like most big, important things, proposals take time. Sometimes they take a lot of time, and a lot of energy, and a lot of money. Even the simple ones.

Right after Adam proposed, he said, “I’m so glad I don’t have to pretend not to want to get married anymore.” I had been with the guy for almost four years, and this still came as a total shock. I had never considered the idea that he actually wanted to get married.

As much as we hear rhetoric about not settling for anyone but The One, men hear messages about how women want Providers. And even though I make enough to support the both of us, he wanted to get to the point where he could support us, plus a house, plus babies. He wanted to ask my dad permission (a logistical feat in itself, as my dad travels 10 months a year), and he wanted to buy me a Canadian diamond set in white gold. All of these things took time. And when he said, “be patient,” what he meant was “please wait for me, I’m working on it.”

Before the proposal, we had multiple conversations about the future. I laid out my terms (marriage before babies or buying a house) and he laid out his (he gets to ask, when he’s ready). We agreed. But on the days where I felt out of control, or tired, or annoyed that our engagement was totally in his hands, I think it would have helped to hear this: He’s listening and he hears you. He knows what you want, and he loves you, and he’s working to give it to you. And more importantly, in case you don’t already know, he wants to marry you. It sometimes just takes time to get there.

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