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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  • Krista

    THANK YOU for this post. It’s exactly what I needed to hear today.

    • Taylor

      me too. always helps to know you’re not crazy and not the only one who has ever had this situation/feelings.

  • Theresa

    Thank you so so much for posting this today. I promise to bookmark this and read it every single time I feel like I am going to explode at my poor boyfriend who keeps telling me to “be patient”. It is hard not to feel like you are the only one in the world who is going through this “waiting period” – it is invaluable to know that we are not alone :).

  • “I’m so glad I don’t have to pretend not to want to get married anymore.”

    This makes my heart ache.

    I think you are very astute that pre-engagement isn’t just hard on women, it’s hard on men too. And that lining up your ducks does take time. But sometimes I wonder if part of the reason the whole engagement process causes so much heartache is because the traditional proposal model doesn’t really fit neatly within the constructs of egalitarian, communicative relationships. It’s like trying to push a square peg in a round hole.

    • I hit “exactly” but that doesn’t seem to quite capture it – I really couldn’t agree with you more.

      In this day and age, where (hopefully) we talk all these life plans through with our partners ahead of time, being “engaged” seems like it is mainly when both parties are like “ok, then – let’s go tell everybody about all these plans we’ve made!”

      • Yeah … I hesitate a lot to go super-feminist about this, because I don’t want to invalidate people’s very real desires to have a surprise proposal or a ring or what have you. But sometimes I do wonder if the message is not really that we should wait because these things take time, but that we should consider treating engagements like every other aspect of our relationships. And that unfortunately might mean giving up on traditional surprise proposals and rings and what have you. That might mean telling your boyfriend in no uncertain terms, no, you don’t get to ask, this is something we decide together.

        Which isn’t to say that you push someone into marriage when they’re not ready, it just means it’s a joint decision made when you both feel comfortable with open lines of communication at all times. When I think back to our decision to move in to our own place together, I think it was probably later than I would have ideally liked, and a little earlier than my fiance would have planned, but we figured it out together, and no one was stressed about the wait. I just think waiting to get engaged is easier when you feel like you’re an active participant in the decision.

        • Liz

          Yes! I think many of the women on APW proposed or were apart of a mutually agreed upon wedding, sans “proposal.” But there are so many who also find themselves at a different stage of readiness than their partners. (my husband was WAY more ready than I was, and we both agreed that the “proposal” should wait til an agreed-upon time in the future) That waiting game can still be very real and very complex even for those who are openly communicating and deciding together.

          • No I totally, totally agree that waiting can be tough even when communication is open and decisions are made jointly. I just think that probably the closed communication and lack of joint decision making makes the waiting all the more TOUGHER.

            I don’t know if this is a terrible analogy, but it resonates with me so I’ll give it a go. The waiting is really hard when you want to start your own business and are trying to line up all our ducks to do so. The waiting is EXCRUCIATING when you are waiting to hear if you get a job offer. The former may take years of work, but you are invested in the timeframe and the decision making process. The latter might take a few weeks but they are the most agonizing weeks of your life.

        • To that point, getting engaged WAS a joint decision. Getting married IS a joint decision. We talked about it at enormous length before the proposal.

          The *proposal* was his decision. And I was OK with that, because I knew it was important to him (even if I didn’t really understand why). I never wanted a fancy proposal and I gave him a hand-me-down ring that he was welcome to use.

          We decided as equals that we wanted to get married a long before the proposal. To me, the proposal was a formality that my (old school) fiance wanted to experience and enjoy. And it was lovely.

          • Sarah, I totally understand why on a personal level, the proposal was right for you, and I don’t mean at all to invalidate the good reasons that made the surprise proposal right for you and Adam.

            I do feel like, on a societal-wide level, too few women feel like they can choose not to have a traditional proposal. But I just want to be clear, I think your story is lovely and that I didn’t say any of the things I said to question your choices or second guess your decisions.

          • Erin

            Deciding to get married and having a proposal can be separate events. My husband and I talke for years about how we wanted to marry each other, but at the time just weren’t ready to make that committment. He proposed, and we got “officially” engaged six years after we started dating. The proposal didn’t mean I had to decide on the spot if I was going to marry him, or that he was the dominant player in the relationship. It was his way of letting me know he was ready for other people to know we had decided to marry each other and that we should put our hypothetical wedding plans into action.

        • Abby C.

          YES! THIS! I’m one of those women who didn’t receive a proposal, and is a participant in a “mutually agreed upon wedding and wedding date.” Honestly, it all came about during an argument where we were laying in bed together, and he complained about not being able to clearly read what my desires were for our relationship’s progression. I sat up, grabbed his shoulders and told him that I wanted to marry him. I then promptly burst into tears, because doesn’t our cultural narrative tell us that this is NOT COOL and that you will SCARE HIM AWAY? Once he calmed me down, he grinningly told me that he wanted to marry me too. And we’ve gone on from there, since. Ring took another 7 months to find, and I picked it out. (He was insistent on paying for it, though.)

          I think the idea that guys have an equal and opposing cultural narrative to battle, that they are supposed to pretend they don’t want to get married, that marriage is something only women want, that they have to be all the provider and have money for a ring first, is equally sad. And I can imagine that it causes them just as much heartache and frustration as it causes us.

      • Jennie

        And I feel like when women DO try to make it a joint decision, everyone kind of laughs at them for being “controlling”. My friend had a pretty serious line on when, where, how, etc., and everyone kind of made the joke that “Of COURSE that Type-A planned her own engagement.” Wrong.

        • Abby C.

          Oh, yeah, I got some of that too, and I HATED it. Um, seriously, my fiance is the most stubborn person ever (we’re well matched that way, since I am too, lol) and anyone who knew him should be under no illusions that I could ever bully him to get my way…..but people thought it anyway.

    • FawMo

      Lining up ducks *is* hard. As we’ve already established, ducks are wily.

      • Kathleen

        there needs to be an APW tshirt that says “ducks are wily.”

        • Caroline

          Can I please exactly this like 6 times? There really really does need to be a ducks are wily APW t-shirt.

    • Tea

      I totally agree with you–and it reminds me of a French friend of mine who explained “In France we don’t have proposals, a couple lives together as long as they want, then one day they start planning a wedding.”

      I feel like traditional proposals–as wonderful as they may be and I’m not saying they aren’t–speak to a power differential in relationships that (I hope) isn’t as common in current-day couples. In blunt terms: the asker (guy) is in control of where/when/how, and even, if.

      I remember hearing a friend of mine, long ago, talking about how she wanted to get engaged, but her live-in boyfriend (for whatever reason) wasn’t stepping up to the plate. “I’ve told him I’m not going to wait around forever,” she said. As if the power she had in the scenario was only to walk away.

      People make all sorts of decisions about their lives and their relationships, and I’m not dissing traditional paths, but I can’t help but wish there were wider options, better communication, the feeling of more egalitarian choices on the table to choose from.

      Or perhaps it’s just a matter of creating/claiming them. In this respect, I’ve decided to be French :-)

      • I totally feel like this; the power dynamic makes me feel uncomfortable. My fiance and I decided together that we wanted to get married. There was no proposal.

        People seem to be disappointed when I tell them that, as if I have missed out on something by not having him rent a helicopter to fly me over the site of our first date or something. But the truth is, I would have felt weird about it if he had proposed – as if he were the one to decide for both of us that we were ready to get married.

        That isn’t to say that I don’t understand why proposals are wonderful. Only that there’s still this sense of an uneven power balance in the waiting.

        • Liz

          I will *never* understand how a lack of proposal can be seen as unromantic. I realize the whole expectation is different for everyone, and I’ve heard some really sweet proposal stories (topped only by mine, clearly). But when I was little, I remember hearing that my dad never proposed- my mom and dad just settled into the idea of marriage and decided together when to have a wedding. No down-on-one-knee. No ring. And in my little girl way, I stoutly decided that was the most romantic thing in the world.

  • Franny

    Can I just give the entire APW community a big YAY for understanding, LOVING and supporting the pre-engaged who linger here waiting for their turn?

    It can be a hard place to be wanting to rejoice in your love and relationship and feeling like you can’t yet because of some societal milestone but this community understands instead of the mockery I’ve observed in other communities.

  • Louise

    Even though I’m already married, thanks so much for this post. I would have loved to read this when I was pre-engaged and freaking out (which was often) and can only think of how many people need to hear this now. I really hope you have a lovely engagement and even better marriage.

  • Jennifer Lyn

    Can I more than ‘Exactly’ this? My Fiance and I are 10 days from wedding day, but we had this phase as well. He so badly wanted to propose to me earlier in the year but was waiting (impatiently) for the ring to arrive from a UK craftsman. When it finally arrived, he was hunched over with back problems and stuffed up from being sick. He still took me up to Horsetooth and sat me on a picnic bench and proposed anyway. And it wasn’t all showy and fireworks, but it was exactly right for us.

  • Stephasaurus

    This comment isn’t really focusing on the main point of your post, but: I absolutely love that he wanted to specifically get you a Canadian diamond. That in itself is just fantastic and thoughtful (and ethical!).

    Also, I LOVE LOVE your pic at the Whitecaps stadium. My fiance and I are Chicago Fire season ticket holders for the third season in a row and we were really excited when Vancouver joined the MLS — even more excited to see them play here in Chicago for the first time! Someday when we visit Vancouver (because we totally will), we’ll obviously be going to a Whitecaps game. :)

    • I apologize in advance for going off-topic, and I don’t mean to start a big diamond hullabaloo, but Canadian diamonds are just as bad on the environment as any other kind of diamond, and most of the mining here takes place in incredibly sensitive ecosystems that are already vulnerable to climate change. They’re particularly disruptive for caribou, who don’t like to have any disruptions in their breeding grounds.

      They also have a huge impact on First Nations and Northern communities, who reap short-term employment gains but aren’t getting the opportunity to make their voices known in the assessment processes being conducted by various governments.

      Lastly, the corporations running these mines are the same ones mining “blood diamonds” throughout Africa, so at the end of the day your money is still lining the pockets of De Beers.

      *Deep breath* Sooo…. Canadian diamonds may not be “blood diamonds” per se, but diamond mining will always involve digging massive holes in the ground and destroying vast swaths of ecosystems while relying on cheap local labour in order to funnel massive profits into the coffers of a select few companies who push a (let’s face it) totally useless commodity.

      At the end of the day, it’s a personal decision as to whether you want to buy one/wear one/whatever, and I’m not trying to sound like I’m the best environmentalist in the universe because, let’s face it, I’m not, but I do feel that it’s important that Canadian diamonds aren’t misrepresented as this magical eco-alternative that makes everyone happy.

      • Stephasaurus

        Oy…you’re preaching to the choir, because a) I’m a geologist, and b) I didn’t want diamonds on my engagement ring, period, for any and all of the reasons you’ve mentioned, and for plenty other reasons you didn’t mention too. So I don’t know about you, but MY money (or my fiance’s) isn’t lining the pockets of anyone working for De Beers.

        But I’ll leave it at that…there’s a time and a place to discuss the ethics of diamond mining, and this post by Sarah certainly is not the appropriate place. I personally don’t want to distract from her lovely post anymore than I already have — but that’s just me. :)

        • Sorry, just to clarify, I meant the general “you” – probably should have said “one!” Stupid english.

        • JJ

          Had to butt in- YAY another geologist!

          • Stephasaurus

            Yay, hi! I knew there HAD to be at least one other geologist on APW!

      • Kathleen

        Did not know that about Canadian diamonds. Guest post??

  • PERFECT, PERFECT POST! I feel like you took the words right out of my mouth, about the damned facebook hearts and people who’ve been together 2 seconds getting engaged/married (my boyfriend’s 23 year old brother just got married to a girl he knew for 5 months – leaving us officially the last of the siblings to get married, SOB!). It feels like it will never come. We talk everyday about getting married, heck, the ring is even picked – but just no idea when it will come. At time it’s frustrating; other times I say “aw, in Canada we’re already seen as married” (hi from a fellow Vancouverite!).

    I’m sure all those feelings will go away when/if it finally happens. In the meantime I’ll continue living in happiness as we are. Not going to stop shaking my fist at facebook, though.

    • I totally agree! Those damned hearts cause so much frustration!!

    • Hi fellow Vancouverite!


    Much needed. :)

  • Celeste

    ^THIS. Girl, how did you get in my head and write my story? Because this is totally what I went through. Fiance and I have been together almost 10 years, and it took him 8 1/2 to propose, mostly because of the pressure to “provide,” or at least to provide the perfect sparkly thing. But it was so worth the wait. Immediately after he proposed, it was like this cloud of uncertainty, of doubt, of all the bullshit the movies taught me about relationships, was lifted. I just sobbed when he proposed, at least half out of relief. Our engagement has been one of the happiest times, even with the stress and the inevitable fights and the family expectations. And now we’re getting married in 8 days!!!

    • Lynn

      “I just sobbed when he proposed, at least half out of relief.” I was just imagining the other day about my guy proposing (because come on, that’s what us pre-engaged ladies do sometimes) and I realized that I will probably cry a lot, but but it would probably be mostly out of relief! Thanks for validating my anticipated emotion. =)

  • “And when he said, “be patient,” what he meant was “please wait for me, I’m working on it.””

    this line made me cry. so frequently, we are so quick to assume that when our partners don’t give us EXACTLY what we want EXACTLY when we want it, it is because THEY DON’T WANT TO. we forget a proposal, kids, or anything else for that matter, is not worth it if they are not “given” after careful consideration, after preparation, after both parties are ready–emotionally, financially, or whatever kind of preparation they feel they need in order to be “ready.”

    “please wait for me, I’m working on it.” rings so true to me. i never felt the anxiety that you describe in terms of the engagement, because i always felt we were moving towards that point, but it applies to so many other situations within the context of a committed relationship.

    i am so happy for you, that you were able to wait for such an amazing guy that had always wanted to give you exactly what you wanted.

    best wishes on your engagement and on your marriage!

    • Jennie

      As someone said in an above thread, “Exactly!” is not enough for this comment. I wrote a whole thing on my pre-engaged wedding blog about how I thought all the guys I dated in college would ask, it would be easier than falling off a log, it would happen in the first month of dating and be perfect forever. NOT. We will have been together ten years at the end of this month, and while waiting has been HARD-hard, I do (reluctantly) see the value in it.

      • Amanda

        This was the line that made me cry too. Every time I heard “be patient,” all I couldd think was that he hadn’t gotten around to it or wasnt making it a priority. I think if I could go back and hear “please wait for me, I’m working on it” it would have made the pre-engaged state so much less anxiety ridden.

  • K.

    Sarah, I almost never comment, but just wanted to congratulate you on your engagement! I also spent a long time impatiently pre-engaged, and the day we got engaged was by far the best of my life: so full of joy and affirmation and hope for our future. I’m married now, and I just want to tell you to hold on to that joy as hard as you can. Wedding planning is hard and for some of us the wedding is even harder, but I found that all the romance and promise in that moment helped ease the road a bit. (And, for the record, being married is so much better than getting married!).

  • Emma

    THANK YOU! Wonderful post. I just got engaged too, and I feel the exact same way. Took the words out of my mouth. As with so many things in life, looking back, I wish I had been more calm and patient and not anxious for the next step. When my boyfriend proposed this summer, it was perfect. He had put a lot of thought into it and I should have trusted him more all along. It is SO worth waiting for!

  • Granola

    Congratulations!! I loved your first post about the Do’s and Don’ts, which had me laughing and thinking. As I’ve moved into being pre-engaged, I’ve really started to reflect about how to treat others in similar stages of relationships, and how to be sensitive, kind and understanding. In my relationship, I’ve gotten less outside pressure than I’ve anticipated, but I’ve still gotten a bit frustrated with the boy for seeming to move at the pace of a glacier. I want to control everything and he’s going to make me be patient if it kills me. However, the longer the process has taken, the happier I’ve realize I am for the time to let it grow. Even the hard or ugly parts, I’m not sure I’d take them back because they helped me, and us, grow. Like you said, big things take time, and I’d add that there really isn’t any way to cheat either. So happy for you and the fiance! May you both have every happiness.

  • Meg

    Thanks for this post. And thanks to the entire APW community for supporting and legitimizing the pre-engaged state. I made the leap from pre- to engaged about a month ago. I can wholeheartedly agree – all the anxiousness I felt before getting engaged evaporated when we sealed the deal.

    While we played the waiting game, the best thing I did was just give into it after a while. We’d talked and agreed that the proposal was his and therefore, out of my hands. When I made the conscious decision to stop worrying about it I remembered that I was incredibly happy to have him in my life. That was enough! He was an awesome boyfriend and made me happy. I didn’t need a ring on my finger to prove that to myself or anybody else. When the day came that we had a lightening picnic under a pavilion and he proposed to me, it felt *right.* It wasn’t fancy and elaborate, cause he’s not. I felt happy and safe and very excited. I was so proud that he had taken this step for us. I could see that he was really ready and committed to becoming my husband.

    It was a long time coming, but better for it. We’ve learned that we don’t have to rush. We’ve got a long engagement ahead of us and we’re going to try to enjoy the planning. (I realize this is potentially naive and overly optimistic. But I’m still hopeful!)

    • Meg

      Oh! AND CONGRATS!!! I loved your first post and this is a great followup. I look forward to a wedding graduate post from you :)

    • Caroline

      I’m pre-engaged, but I stopped freaking out about it (mostly. ya know, those wily ducks sometimes get to me, and I worry they’ll never stay put in a line for me) when I decided to propose to him. I’m saving up for a fancy watch he wants, (because I might as well, since we’ve both discussed wanting a short engagement, and being about two years out from our wedding.) If we were ready right now, I might not wait on the watch, I don’t feel I have to, but I want to.

      Taking charge, and deciding that regardless of whether or not he proposes to me, or when, I’m proposing to him when I’m ready took all the anxiety away. It’s in my control, and thus not scary-making. The ducks are still wily though…

    • Marina

      Haha, I just wanted to say that as an old married lady now (two whole years!) I say enjoy the planning! It’s not naive or overly optimistic at all. I mean, it’ll most likely be stressful in surprising ways, but all big projects are stressful. Doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy the hell out of it too. I am so glad for everything I learned about myself and my partner while we planned our wedding, and I wouldn’t give up a second of it.

  • mimi

    Aahhh perfect!! I teared up while reading this because it feels so true to me right now, and was just what I needed to read (like everyone else on here it seems). I’m sitting in pre-engaged limbo, waiting and wondering, and over-analyzing (“I can’t find my favorite ring… maybe he borrowed it for size?! Oh wait, here it is in my jeans pocket”), and Facebook-fist-shaking (a girl I coached when she was 14 is now engaged), and sibling-envying (2 of my siblings and his only brother all got married this year). We’re living together now and I’m working really hard on being patient while we get all these wily ducks lined up, but I’m definitely coming back to this when I need a helping hand. Thanks Sarah and thanks APW, for coming through yet again!

    • Hoppy Bunny

      Thank god someone else had sibling envy–I almost thought I was the only one feeling it. Hugs to you–thanks for sharing! And good luck on the engagement–as long as you both know how the other is feeling everything should work out swell ;D

    • Pippa

      Ohh another one feeling the sibling envy… both of my partner’s younger brothers are married… in that family, I am the only ‘outside member’ who hasn’t married in yet, and I’m certainly treated like I’m not family, despite us having been together for 4.5 years and having gone through some of the toughest sh*t a couple should ever have to go through and still being here!
      Agh! Vent over… best wishes to you and your relationship xx

  • Lynn

    THIS. All of this.The part about kids you used to babysit announcing their engagements? Oh yeah. That one always stings. And those darned red Facebook hearts announcing all your friends who are getting married and have been together about a minute. And the people who immediately look to your left hand everytime they see you and then let out a sigh and ask “really? still no ring?” as if you’ve failed them in some way. I love my friends, but I’m thinking I need some more APW-type smart and understanding gals in my life. =) The pressure my girlfriends can provide is insane, as if my own internal dialogue wasn’t wreaking enough havok. Thanks, ladies.

    I too have been feeling the love lately for the pre-engaged here at APW and it’s truly the only thing that’s helped get me through some of the rough days of questioning everything. I could have pretty much written this entire post right down to being more of the breadwinner and using a coupon to buy dinner, minus that fact that none of my awesome-couponed-dinners-out have ended in a proposal yet. I know my guy is working on it too, and the stall so far largely has to do with the whole “Provider” thing that you talked about. Thank you for this post Sarah, it reminds me that the day is coming and that there are others out there who’ve been through the agonizing and drawn-out state of lengthy “pre-engagements.” Congrats to you!

  • Jill

    Sarah, I’ve been reading APW for about a year, and although I often say “Exactly!” out loud, I have never actually commented on a post until now. Your last few sentences (‘He’s listening and he hears you…’) made me tear up out of relief and out of love.

    Thank you!

    • This makes me very happy <3

    • FawMo

      Hi Jill! Welcome!

  • Cass

    This has got me thinking: why do guys think they have to be married only when they can “provide” for us? It’s not like the relationship is going anywhere one both partners mutually decide on marriage. Part of many marriage vows is “for richer or for poorer”. So why don’t we marry when we’re poor?

    I’m really only thinking about the “provider” aspect of deciding when to get engaged. Being “ready” (emotionally, spiritually, etc) and “planning” the engagement aren’t really what I’m getting at; those are completely different discussions.

    • Dawn

      I think it’s just part of the cultural narrative. Both genders get somewhat ‘brainwashed’ when it comes to norms around marriage and weddings and for some guys it really seems to center around the idea of needing to ‘provide’ even if rationally they know they don’t need to provide for someone who is perfectly capable of providing for herself. And really that’s probably no less odd than the idea that you can’t get married until you have enough money to afford engraved invitations and expensive flowers and wedding favors and all those other things that aren’t even remotely necessary for a wedding or a marriage (no matter how pretty they might be) and yet how often do people talk about not getting married until they can afford a wedding (though I do recall at least one post on here about getting married while poor/broke).

    • Marina

      I’m speaking for my guy, so I may be getting this totally wrong, but… from what he’s said, I think the proposal/wedding thing was a transition for him from being responsible only for himself, to being responsible for a family. By deciding to get married, he was looking at the next 50+ years of his life in a more deliberate way than he ever had before, I think. For him, it wasn’t so much about having lots of cash right now, but having the future earning potential so that he could, for instance, support both of us if necessary.

  • Bubbles

    This post is exactly what I needed to read at this point in my life.

    The boyfriend and I have been together for eight years now. I was sure I wanted to marry him about two months in, but…life gets in the way, you know?

    It finally seems like things have stabalized for us, and I have grown impatient. After yet another man approached me at my job to find out if I was single, and then proceeded to tell me that if I was with HIM, I’d have a huge flashy diamond on my finger, I flat-out said to the boyfriend, “I want to get engaged.” We had discussed the possibility previously, agreed that we wanted to marry each other, and I had hinted that I’d rather do it sooner than later. I had also told him that I didn’t want to know anything; I didn’t want to pick the ring, didn’t want to know the day, nothing. The engagement was entirely up to him, and that’s the way I wanted it.

    Well, after I told him that, he told me that he is currently in posession of the diamonds that are going into my ring. They’re old family heirlooms, and therefore not blood-diamonds. I worry about him procrastinating, but just the fact that he is thinking about it, and he has done something, made me feel a little better.

    Then, this post said all of the other things I had been thinking but didn’t want to admit to, and I felt LOTS better.

  • Yes, count me among the women who are wiping away tears so we can continue to read this post and the comments. Sarah, thank you for being able to pin down so eloquently how I felt as a pre-engaged woman, and how I feel now that I’m engaged.

  • Bubbles

    Wow. Looking at some of the rest of these comments makes me think that we need to have more discussions on the sociological reasons that our men think that they need to be able to provide for us before they pop the question, and what we can do to change that.

    • SMW

      I thought the same thing. I really truly do not want to poo-poo someone else’s happiness but this post on APW and all the comments are kind of surprising to me as a long-time APW reader. I totally get that there are a lot of issues during that stage in your life and dealing with others’ expectations/questions/input certainly doesn’t help. But why don’t we question it more?

      Why do men propose 99.9% of the time? Why does there have to be a ring? Why don’t we just have a conversation with our partners and call ourselves engaged?

      • Meg is on vacation this week, so I certainly can’t answer for her, but I agree that these are great questions and topics we should absolutely be discussing.

        More specifically, I dug up two things:

        1. There is a great discussion in the comments of “Women Proposing to Men,” a post from last year: http://apracticalwedding.com/2010/04/women-proposing-tomen/

        2. This is how Meg defined “pre-engaged” in the comment section of Sarah’s first post:

        “We knew we wanted to get married before we mutually decided we wanted to get engaged. We were not engaged, didn’t want to be engaged, were not planning a wedding, were not telling people we were planning a wedding… but we seriously talked about marraige and knew that unless something crazy occured, we were going to get hitched. At that point, for us, we were sort of pre-engaged. And I was thinking about weddings a fair bit.

        For us, engagement was when we were ready to announce it to the world and ready to start planning a wedding.”

        So, obviously different for everyone, but I hope that helps clarify where she’s coming from with that term!

      • Yeah, I think there are two things that need to be separated out.

        One, the idea that you can’t push someone into something they are not ready for (which I wholeheartedly agree with.)

        The other, the idea that the proposal needs to be a surprise and the timing chosen by the guy. Which I think needs to be questioned.

        • Bubbles

          Well, I’m more curious as to why it seems like so many men need to feel like they’re financially able to “provide” before they go through with the proposal. Mine has the same issue, and I don’t really 100% understand it. We’d probably want to keep our wedding budget small no matter what, so what’s the big deal? What is it about societal expectations that makes so many men feel that way, and what can we do to change that?

          • Anna

            I think (hope!) talking about it will raise awareness that there are other ways for this situation to go. But I also believe it’s hardwired into males brains, a hunter/gatherer gene that they’re born with.

            My boyfriend, too, has financial/security reasons for wanting to postpone our engagement. Which I found strange, because I’ve been financially independent since I was 18. Why would an engagement change that? But it is something he needs for him.

          • Caroline

            We definitely are dealing with this. He too wants to be able to provide (and provide a big ring. Lucky for our finances, his mother offered him/me/us a gorgeous large family heirloom ring. The big ring thing, I think, comes from him coming from a family much poorer than mine. It’s about proving to them that he is good enough, and can take good enough care of me.) I agree, though, it’s something we need to be talking about. Providing is fine and dandy and all, but in this economy, we might be waiting on that for half a decade or more.

          • DNA

            I’m not a man myself, but I postponed bringing up the marriage issue with my partner partly because I wanted to have more money saved up and be more financially secure/stable first. Of course, I can only speak for myself, and I’m not sure if men in general postpone for the same reasons that I did.

            I wanted to make sure that I could pull my weight in terms of the financial decisions we would have to start making together. I realize that there’s not always a perfect correlation between the spouse with more income and his/her relative influence on financial decisions, but growing up, that was the case for my family. My mom, who was a stay-at-home mom, often felt that she had less of a say on financial decisions compared to my dad, who was the breadwinner. Even though it’s a bit unfair for the person who brings more money to have more say and this may have more to do with my pride than how much money is actually in my bank account, I just want to make sure that if anything happens, I can support the two of us (plus any kiddos that may come along).

      • Hoppy Bunny

        Some of us *do* just get engaged, sans ring, sans planned proposal! :D

        • SMW

          Hear hear! :)

          I have to say, too, that I got a little bit of pleasure in rocking people’s worlds when they’d reach for my hand to look at my “rock” and there was nothing there.

          Or when they would ask for our proposal story and I’d say, “Well, we were sitting at the kitchen table and we talked and decided to get married the following September.”

      • I have to say, I am a pretty non-traditional girl in almost every way, especially when it comes to weddings, but I want a proposal. My boyfriend has tried several times, to say, “Let’s just get married,” and I’ve had to lay out for him exactly what I am looking for. A ring (even if we split the cost and/or I pick it out first), something about why he wants to marry me, and the question (even if he already knows what the answer will be).
        This comes down to a few things: the first is that we have had a lot of serious problems in our relationship, and his marriage talk usually comes about a week after a “should we break up” conversation, so I worry that we have different perceptions of what marriage means and is for. Also, he does not express his feelings towards me very often (one of our problems), so I think I need to hear it before making this monumental, life-changing decision. But last, he is not a super-romantic person, so I think I see this as a big chance for a romantic moment (I’m not talking about over-the-top proposals; I think quiet, private, proposals are just as romantic, if not more).
        All the talk on APW about women proposing, and no-proposal engagements has caused me some moments of reflection, since I am usually such a feminist, but I’ve just sort of accepted that this tradition is one that is important to me. Even with the uncomfortable power-differential it brings with it. It’s funny–there are so many pieces of tradition that I don’t want to hold on to, but this is one I really, really want.

    • AGREED – Can we all ask a pre-engaged man friend to write a guest post for APW? I would love to hear that side of the story.

  • Sierra

    I wish I could find this post on my reader every single day! I might just read it every day until IT happens. THANK YOU!

    • Trying not to hold my breath

      me too! We’ve been together for 5 years, waiting for him to be ready for the past 3 years… when it finally happens I’m worried I won’t get to be as happy as I should because the waiting builds resentment.. I feel like its owed to me, especially since I’ve put up with it for this long. I hope that I will be thrilled and can forgive these years of enduring such emotional stress,

      • Kimikaze

        My fiance and I had been together a little more than four years when I had my first proper freakout about marriage. We’d discussed it and agreed that we both wanted the same things, so every special occasion was another ‘Is this it???’ moment. Ooh, he’s taking me to dinner, is he gonna get down on one knee? Will it be too stressful to get engaged in public? Or maybe that big overseas trip we’re taking, will he do it then? What if I can’t call my mum right away? What if I accidentally fall pregnant before he does it?

        Eventually all of this built up and resulted in me sobbing on the bed about how he said he wanted all these things but I wasn’t seeing him DO anything about it. Cue shame for feeling doubtful about our relationship, plus more for ‘pressuring him’ to get engaged, plus more for expressing my feelings in such a tantrummy way.

        Little did I know that he spent months saving for a ring, then getting it designed and made, then arranging an awesome proposal.

  • Thank you for this post! You describe how I feel. I’ve been with my boyfriend for over 3 years, we live together, we talk about getting married all the time, we even planned our whole wedding out at a friend’s wedding recently. :) But I have to admit I do feel jealous of other people getting married, I feel sad when big holidays and anniversaries come and go with no ring. I know he’ll propose and we’ll get married and have kids, but the waiting sucks. I am not a patient person. :) Glad I’m not the only one.

    • Kelsey

      oohh I hate feeling sad after holidays/special occasions/unexpected out-of-the-ordinary romantic dates pass without a proposal when I had “hm, today would be a nice day to do it” in the back of my mind- trying to hide overall disappointment while knowing that he knows what you’re thinking. As much as I try to be mindful and just enjoy the moment, it makes me feel like a bit of a lunatic.

  • Alice

    “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 completely powerless over the biggest decision of my life.

    This is so pathetic but I feel the exact same way about trying to get pregnant. Which is ridiculous… I’m happily married, college-educated, financially stable, and I really love my family and my life. And I’m jealous of these pregnant 16 year olds… because they “have it all”. Arrgggg. Thanks for putting things in perspective for me… even if it’s a slightly different situation!

    • Denzi

      Alice, you sound like you need a hug. Not in a condescending way, but in a “that sucks and is frustrating and we’re here to cry and rant with you” way. So (((((Alice))))).

    • ANON

      Oh Alice, I am right there with you. Happily married, educated, job I love, house…but getting pregnant has been more difficult than we were hoping for. And I’m having a really hard time not being upset specifically since I recently found out my 18 year old cousin is pregnant with her SECOND child. Fortunately, my husband understands but he also keeps things in perspective for me when I start feeling jealous of these girls.

      Sending lots of good vibes your way!

  • I don’t know if I would have believed you if I had read this post a year ago. All the stress and all the doubts (and the judgement I think we both felt from friends and family after 8 years together) all seemed to fade away instantly. I didn’t think a ring could change anything, but it absolutely did. No more jealousy of other couples, no more feeling the need to make excuses.
    I was so ready to get engaged after such a long time together that I would have taken it any way it came, but he wasn’t ready until he could buy the ring he imagined, until we had talked through and worked through any lingering problems and until it felt right to him.
    A couple of weeks before he proposed he pulled me aside (in an attempt to throw me off) and told me he wasn’t in any hurry to get engaged, and would it be okay if we waited another year, “I just don’t want to get to Valentines day or your birthday and have you be mad at me all day because you’re expecting a proposal.” In that moment I felt so strong and secure and happy in our relationship that I told him I could absolutely wait another year. Funny how things like that happen when you stop caring.

    • Trying not to hold my breath

      That was a lovely story! Fills me with giddiness :)

  • Anne

    “Because the second it happens, all of that goes away. Instantly.”

    I’m really and truly happy that this was your experience. It wasn’t mine. As happy as I was to be engaged, and to be out of the state of brutal uncertainty and lack of control I experienced while being pre-engaged, I still had to do some mourning for The Proposal That Wasn’t. And I’m not talking about fireworks, or over the topness, but more about the fact that even though we talked a lot about wants and needs and expectations a lot on both sides, he made several decisions that put his wants and needs ahead of mine. And that stung. We got through it, and we’re happy and we’re married now and of course there are more important things, but I hate that even now, I got a lump in my throat reading your post because of how things went down. I know we have plenty of posts from people who had rough pre engagements and/or proposals and got through it, so of course it’s wonderful to have a different perspective. Just chiming in to say it might not be instant, and that’s okay too.



    AND YES! (again, and for good measure)

    Thank you.

  • As one of those who got married in 10 minutes (after dating for a few months), this post is so nice to read! We rushed — way too fast, and we are still getting to know each other. I’m glad we did what we did, but I celebrate love in all types!

  • Arya

    Being a devil’s advocate, I feel I have to say this. I was in a “pre-engaged” state with my current fiance for five years. We lived together for three of those years. Just before we moved in together, I bought him a promise ring and asked him to “go steady” with me. We’d talked about getting married since we started dating (i.e. second date, if not first), and knew it was inevitable because we both have similar goals. House, family, kids. And gods bless the fiance, he was very direct about this up front, probably because he has some sort of weird male biological clock ticking where he wants babies. (I’m not as in a rush… don’t get me started, heh.)

    So we were like what I would call “functionally engaged.” I.e., engaged, we just hadn’t set a date. A year rolled by. Then another. And another. After three years of being engaged with no date, I decided it was time. So I took him out to our favorite steakhouse, and then I took him out to the beach where we first started dating, and I asked him if he would marry me. Yup. I broke the sacred taboo, and *I* proposed. And he said yes. Maybe it’s not right for everybody, but for us it was. Getting engaged, like moving in, was a mutual discussion and decision much more than me waiting on him to finally “commit.” Do I feel like I missed out by not having him go down on one knee? Honestly? No. Maybe it’s a bit of gender-bending in our relationship, but me suggesting it was time felt totally right. (He’s very much the ideas/imagination/dreamer/’heart’ of the relationship, and I’m more the business end of things, like making logistical decisions, paying the bills, etc. Boring, but at least I know what I’m good at.)

    So I just want to say, if you really, REALLY want to propose, and it feels right for you, and you haven’t agreed to wait for him already, why the f*** not? Proposing marriage is not a sacred right entrusted only to mankind.

    Just saying, ya’ll. It can happen. It did to me. We’re getting married on December 18th.

    • Right on, dude. I’m all for women proposing to their man!

      I would have definitely proposed to Adam (and did, once, drunkenly at an Irish bar – that’s another story). But he would have said no. He wanted to ask me, and he made that very clear, and I respected it, because I knew he respected my choices too. It wasn’t about power, it was about me giving my partner the space and time to feel ready.

      I guess it’s ironic, but my feminist “statement” was choosing to wait for him to ask.

      PS – CONGRATULATIONS! Will you share your wedding undergrad post?

    • Bug

      Another lady-proposer here (recently married), speaking up for the alternative option.

      Mr. L. & I aren’t particularly traditional at all (and also, I kind of hate surprise parties and other public surprise stuff). That being said, I also knew he wouldn’t feel bad or disappointed if I “beat him to it.” My proposing got us both excited about getting married. It was fun, memorable, full of love, and all about us being awesome together. And I don’t feel like I “missed out” — I mean, we were both there!

      Another bonus: before the big moment, I got to ask for personal advice from a close male friend who had recently proposed. It prompted a really awesome, thoughtful conversation. Also, since I proposed, other friends have asked me for my proposal advice, allowing for other great friend-moments. Basically I am now part of a secret society of proposers.

      So, I can only echo Arya’s sentiment. If you are pained by waiting, at least think about why you are waiting. If, like me, you are overcome with all those feelings that make people feel like proposing (togetherness, afffection, desire to be a family, general mushy stuff), AND if you think it’s right for your relationship, then give in to the mush and TAKE ACTION! I obviously agree that proposing is not “a sacred right entrusted only to mankind” – it is available to all lovebirds of all types.

      • Kate

        I totally agree that women proposing is great and should often be considered as more of an option for people. But I would also add that sometimes, as in my case, even if I had been up for proposing, my then boyfriend, now fiancee, made it pretty clear that he wasn’t quite ready. Because of that it just didn’t feel like it was the right option and therefore I was left to wait until he was ready. And I think that is where things start getting super frustrating.

        As with Sarah’s story in the end he proposed at the perfect time, it was totally unexpected and I certainly wouldn’t go back and change anything now. But man there were days where I was soo frustrated.

        This is all just to say that while women proposing is certainly an option, I think there are a lot of times where because of where each partner is in the relationship, it just doesn’t work.

        • Kelsey

          I don’t think my boyfriend ever thought about the possibility of me proposing. I did, one night, when we were lying in bed, and it blindsided him. He’s had his grandmother’s ring for awhile, so reasonably, I thought marriage was on the radar, but… yeah, there was a long silence from him, and tears from me. It was a good conversation in that he knew I was more serious, but as a proposal, it failed utterly. Ha!

        • Lauren

          This was my situation too. I was waiting because he wasn’t ready to get married, so I knew proposing would have put him under unnecessary pressure. So I had to wait.

  • Beb

    This post was pure-d wonderful! I kept nodding my head in agreement – like, actually, physically nodding – because this spoke to me so much. I was with my fiance for three and a half years before we got engaged in April, and I went through all the shame/stress/resentment/resignation cycles you described here. The second we got engaged, bam! it all melted away. And other things happened, too, which has made being engaged to this guy so worth the years of waiting and wondering and giving him his space. I think that the biggest change is that I’ve stopped doubting, on any level, his commitment to me and genuine excitement about marrying me (and not just being with me, in the way we were together before) – and the weird thing is, I never would have consciously admitted to myself before we got engaged that I was doubting that at all. And I would have gotten really pissed if anyone had asked me if I doubted that. So to come to terms with that doubt while simultaneously putting it to bed is quite reassuring. And awesome. And yes, worth the wait.

    • holly

      I am dealing with this situation right now, and I find him completely worth the wait. No doubts of any kind about him or us.

      But how do you not feel helpless over your own life?

      • Beb

        Oh, man. I mean, I’d be lying if I said that there weren’t moments of feeling completely helpless and frustrated and even resentful, which sucked. For me, proposing to him wasn’t an option because he simply wasn’t ready to be engaged, and it wasn’t a question of it just not occurring to him to propose, or not being aware of my feelings on the matter. There was a lot of stuff going on, we were SUPER long distance for several years (like, different continents, neither of which was North America), I was in school and then he was in school, etc., etc. And I did feel kinda helpless at times. But I guess the point is that when someone is worth the wait and you understand WHY you are waiting, then when you do get engaged, it’s an incredibly liberating feeling of relief and joy. I think the key, though, is understanding and accepting why your partner needs time, whatever those reasons may be. If you don’t understand why you have to wait, then I think the situation quickly becomes untenable. This is where communication comes in. And I think that’s one of the points that Sarah made in her post – giving someone time and space is not easy, but if it’s for the right reasons, it’s worth it in the end.

  • Congrats! And I know what you mean about feeling like a second-class citizen. When my husband and I were pre-engaged (which was pretty much our entire relationship–we were certain of marriage practically from the start), it felt so strange. I knew I would marry him and I told other people so. We even had a general idea of a date. But my family is very traditional, so for their sake we waited till the proposal to do any official planning. When the proposal FINALLY happened, he told me it took so long because my ring was custom-made, the jeweler took forever in finishing it, and he was just as antsy and eager as I was. Which in hindsight was so sweet.

    Also in hindsight, I’m so glad I had a few years of life/work experience out of college before getting engaged. I respect those who marry right out of college and make it, but that would have been really tough for me. I needed time for my personality and goals to stabilize. I don’t think it’s engagement/marriage that makes you an adult, but rather your adulthood makes you mature enough to evaluate marriage more rationally. It is a really big deal after all.

    Bravo for this post.

  • Kate

    Something I have been wrestling with for a while now is the whole notion of proposing. I consider myself to be a pretty traditional person, and I understand that fifty or a hundred years ago, a woman would have had to wait for a man to ask her to marry him, just as she probably waited by the phone for him to call. However, in today’s world, living situations and social norms are totally different. If I want to talk to my boyfriend, I call him. We live together and aren’t engaged and so far, neither of us has been struck down by lightning. I just don’t understand how the most important decision of two people’s life is left up to the man. Shouldn’t we have some say? I actually asked my boyfriend the other night if he would be ok with me proposing. To my amazement, he seemed totally fine with the idea. That being said, I still dream of him asking me, since to me it is the most emphatic show of love. I guess I’ll just have to wait and see!

    • Dude, if you want to propose, go for it!

    • Bug

      You can have both! I proposed (it rocked), and my guy still totally shocked me with a ($10) ring, knee-pose, and sweet profession of love a few months later. It was kind of even more surprising that way! Also I heard of a couple who “proposed” to each other a whole bunch of times with mini-surprises all the way up to their wedding. I love that.

    • Carrie

      I proposed — whole surprise proposal with a ring (a men’s wedding band), romantic dinner in on Christmas Eve, romantic music, champagne, everything. I definitely worried that it wouldn’t be as romantic if I did it, that I wouldn’t feel as excited and loved as if he surprised me, that I’d feel like I missed out on something. But I can tell you that it was super emotionally intense and exciting and romantic and awesome. Looking back, I don’t feel like I missed anything at all by doing a surprise proposal instead of getting one. In fact, I feel like I had an awesome experience of getting engaged. If you feel like it’s right for you, I toooootally recommend it!

      And then we picked out my ring together, and actually went to the FedEx depot together to pick it up — and when we got home, he grabbed it and proposed back, right in the front hall. It was sweet and adorable and wonderful, and definitely an emphatic show of love — no less because it wasn’t a surprise.

  • I was dating my (now) husband for 4 years before we got engaged. I’m not known for my patience so there were lots of moments where I thought about asking him or drawing a line in the sand. He finally did propose in December. Then my mom promptly spoiled the engagement proposal surprise. (Yeah! mom.)

    Anyway, having been married for 2 months, all of that stress, frustration and tears seem million miles away. In hindsight, I wish I enjoyed it more.

  • Sharon

    I feel like I’m in the same boat

    I’d known him for 15 years, best friends for most of that time. Finally got up the gumption to possibly ruin a great friendship by telling him that I wanted to be with him. We’ve now been dating for 3 years, living together for 2 of that. Still no ring.

    Meanwhile, four other couples that we are close to have gotten engaged and married within the time that he and I have been together, and I’ve got a major case of jealousy now.

    His family has given up hinting and straight out asks when the wedding will be, friends refer to us as husband and wife and then say “oops!” with a smirk, and I am tired of waking up in the morning wondering if today’s the day, and then going to bed disappointed because it wasn’t (and I told him that in exactly those words).

    He giggles when I bring up the subject and it drives me nuts. He’s the kind of guy that does not do anything (including talking and walking when he was a baby) until he is good and ready.

    • Hoppy Bunny

      ouch. He laughs at you? That would drive me crazy too. Denzi (below) did a great job of expressing her frustration in a similar situation:

      I finally sat him down and said, “Look. I am respecting your wishes on letting you do a romantic proposal. But you teasing me about it is really putting me on an emotional rollercoaster. I don’t like who I am when I’m jealous of people one second and upset at you the next and in an out-of-body OMG-IS-HE-GOING-TO the next. Please be as fair and sensitive to my feelings as I am trying to be to yours.”

  • Erin

    Good post. Thanks! (and Hi from Vancouver! love your pins too…)
    I kinda liked being pre-engaged. I could ask people questions and talk about weddings without a lot of pressure. Now that I’m actually engaged it’s the usual everyone-has-an-opinion-on-what-you-should-do type scenario.
    Also, my man and I had a bit of a deal. Not only did he have to do all the prep work involved with the ring but he also had to dig himself out of debt first. It’s not that i want him to provide for me or that it’s a problem in anyway for us. Mostly I just didn’t want us to take on the expense of a wedding as a couple while he was still paying interest on outstanding personal debt from before we met (student loans have a way of hanging around forever).
    Anyways, if you’re pre-engaged and a little anxious about it, I’d bring it up with your partner. It looks like a lot of people on the comments did exactly that and it helped alleviate things. People have such confused feelings about this becuase of all the social norms, it’s important to air them out with each other and you might discover things are ok.

  • “And when he said, “be patient,” what he meant was “please wait for me, I’m working on it.””

    I struggled with this SO MUCH while being pre-engaged. Last summer was when he started hinting that things would be happening “soon.” So I went with my mom to go look at rings, because he said he’d take her shopping when he went, and then I let it be. But the months crept by, a couple close friends got engaged, and then more months went by. We were hit with a lot of financial issues: his hours got cut back dramatically, he had an injury and had to take time off work, he then had surgery for said injury. Everytime we would have a conversation about engagement, he would say “soon…but you know money’s been hard lately.” I think it made both of us feel bad: him for not being able to give me the proposal I deserved when he wanted to, and me for feeling like soon would never happen and that if he truly cared… I was also worried I’d feel jaded once the moment came, after so much waiting. I got engaged a month ago, and everything about this post rings true. The important things are worth waiting for.

    If APW were to start a list of important quotes from posts, this should definitely be on there.

    • I actually got engaged while on a trip to Vancouver!! We did a mini retreat to a resort in Ucluelet on the island, and that’s where he did it. Sarah, I love where you live and I am soooo jealous you get that scenery every day!

  • Love this post. I have been married just a little over a year and just last week while my husband and I were talking about recent proposals in our families, he mentioned that ours happened “a little later than he would have liked,” but that he wanted to make sure he could secure a better job to provide for us. it made me melt, to know that the whole time i was wishing and hoping it would happen, he was doing his best and wished he could have earlier. i wished i knew this when i was pre-engaged – great post!

  • Denzi

    Hmm, I think if I had to give one piece of advice from being pre-engaged, it would be to communicate honestly how you’re feeling to your partner.

    My partner wanted to do a fancy proposal. (We were sort-of-engaged: I had asked, and he had said yes, but we were not telling people and he wanted to do a formal proposal.) So that period of engaged-but-not-engaged lasted four months for me, and some of that time was PURE HELL. And some of that was the teasing from my partner, “Maaaaaaybe I’ll do this soon” or “Oooh, I’m buying the ring now.”

    I finally sat him down and said, “Look. I am respecting your wishes on letting you do a romantic proposal. But you teasing me about it is really putting me on an emotional rollercoaster. I don’t like who I am when I’m jealous of people one second and upset at you the next and in an out-of-body OMG-IS-HE-GOING-TO the next. Please be as fair and sensitive to my feelings as I am trying to be to yours.”

    It helped, a lot. Like we were suddenly on the same team again.

    (It also meant, for us, because I have a severe anxiety disorder, that he gave me a “I will propose during this week” deadline so that I wouldn’t worry about it until then. [And then he proposed the week before that so he could still surprise me.] That particular choice was unique to us, and not one that I would ever suggest anyone pressure their partner into, but it was the natural conclusion *for us* of our conversation about my pre-engaged anxiety rollercoaster.)

    I think you have to think hard before you have this conversation. There are parts of me that *liked* that roller coaster. If I could have lived with it more happily more consistently, I probably would not have had that conversation. But I thought hard about my emotional state and what kind of support I needed from my partner, and decided the fun and flirtiness of the teasing had to be sacrificed for my sanity. And it was worth it to me in the end.

  • ElisabethJoanne

    “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.”

    Ours was a Wednesday night, after work, before dinner, on the couch. And then we went out for dinner, where I had an old gift certificate, and he picked up the balance, and I was super-silly and ordered something with lots of onions, and it was still all we wanted and perfect and sweet and lovely. And we are very, very happy.

    • Anna

      Yes- this part was great! & your story too- lovely!

      I am comfortably and joyously enjoying the pre-engagement stage with my boyfriend (in large part thanks to APW)!

      I know he is planning and I’m trying to convince him that engagements don’t have to be over-the-top to be large gestures. They are large in and of themselves. We’ve never been over-the-top people before so this event shouldn’t be any different.

      I feel for guys. Men feel the pressure too. Big rings, fireworks, horse-drawn carriages etc. And they don’t (as often) read APW to bring them back to reality.

      • ElisabethJoanne

        I’m still trying to get my future husband to lurk. I talk about APW lots, and he has promised to read the one piece about the super-serious discussions (money, illness, kids, careers, etc.) you must have before you get married, so we can then have the discussions.

      • ES.TR

        I can relate to this from the point of view of convincing that it doesn’t have to be a big deal. We’d been together for 5+ years and I’d made it pretty clear that I was ready to get married and he’d made it clear he wanted to get married but not quite yet. So I waited and he lined up ducks. He’s more traditional than I am so I worried that our proposal scenario would make me feel awkward. I didn’t want a ring. I didn’t want a gesture. I wanted a conversation which indicated we were both willing, ready and able. And I told him those things. But by the nature of the beast I had to relinquish that to him (not because of gender roles but because he knew I was ready and only he would know when he was).
        During that time I think part of what was hard was the intertwined nature of 1. when will we get married and 2. what will “a proposal” look like for us.
        I was excited when we got engaged but even more excited that he listened to me. We went to dinner and talked about it. He didn’t get a ring, but said if I had changed mind since we last spoke then it’s something we could do together.
        It’s exciting to decide to get married and even more exciting when you realise that the person you’re going to marry has been listening to you in your crazy “Why aren’t we married yet?!” rants and all the doubts of “am I just a crazy demanding type A personality woman” that go along with it.

  • benita wheeler

    thanks for sharing…good things comes to those that wait.

  • Exactly times A MILLION. This post makes me feel better, and I am bookmarking it posthaste. :) And CONGRATULATIONS on your engagement!!!

  • I love this, and I’m so glad you wrote it. It was exactly what I needed to hear. Best wishes for you in the future!

  • I think we were pre-engaged even before I really realized it. And I didn’t even know about APW until well into our engagement, so I didn’t have a term to put to it. We’d been talking about long term plans and all that. Then he got a dream job two states away, and it took time to just adjust to that change and make sure we were still ok.

    Being apart definitely spurred on the engagement, and six months after the move we were back to talking long term (getting back together — how?). That was the only time I felt a little anxious about the state of pre-engaged-ness, and it turns out he was already telling his parents and doing ring research. I dropped hints and was on my toes the next few visits, but when nothing happened after a few months, I decided to just let it go and propose on my own when I was ready for that. And then of course he proposed after a dinner date and produced a lovely ring that he picked out with no one else’s input — much to my surprise because I had told everyone, including him, that I didn’t need a ring.

    There was so much happening in that time that looking back, the whole pre-engaged state didn’t feel as long as it was. Talking about it now, he was actually sure about marriage pre-move, long before I ever dared broach the subject with him. So he was thinking about all the things that take time to think about, that Sarah sums up so eloquently. And you know what? I didn’t even realize our story had this frame and structure until I read this post. Thank you, APW! It makes me appreciate him all the more.

  • “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.”

    So well said. My fiance and I have been together for almost eight years and got engaged in June 2010 after a lot of planning and energy. We were long-distance for three of those eight years and trying very hard to arrange our lives so that we could be in the same time zone. We also knew that we both wanted to have finished grad school when we got married, so that added another year of waiting as well. At one stressful point, I considered skipping another friend’s wedding because I’d been dating my boyfriend way longer than she’d even known her husband-to-be, and yet my boyfriend and I couldn’t even manage to live in the same city. It’s all worked out extremely well for us and we’re very excited to get married now, but it’s so nice to know that other people had some rough times in the pre-engagement process as well.

  • Morgan

    I have been reading APW for years. I’m a Lurker-with-a-capital-L, mostly because I’m pre-engaged and like many have mentioned, it sometimes feels like we’re not quite members of the “club” and therefore not worthy to actively participate in the wedding blog milieu (oh, and that it’s shameful that we read wedding blogs at all). This post has finally drawn me out of my lurky Lurker shell, it was that spot on.

    Sarah, thank you so much for this. For laying it all out on the table, for embracing that you had these feelings of uncertainty, of doubt, of shame, and for acknowledging that while they may have been unfounded you felt them all the same. It’s really, really hard to squash the voice in your head that tells you it will never happen, and that there must be something wrong with you or else he would have done it already. I’m trying, I really am, but there are still some days when my inner four-year-old stomps her feet and yells “I don’t want to wait anymore!!”. Your post has not only reflected my own thoughts and feelings but has helped quiet my inner brat (for the time being).

    Congratulations on your engagement, and please write a few undergrad/grad posts in the future!

  • This post almost made me cry (in my office, btw) and couldn’t have come at a more perfect time. Last week, the boyfriend and I took a vacation down to Puerto Vallarta. We were celebrating our three year anniversary … of dating. But while we were there, everyone, and I mean EVERYONE – our waiters, our cab drivers, randoms on the street – kept asking if we were on our honeymoon. When we said no, they assumed wedding anniversary. We had to keep saying “just dating” over and over and it started to make me feel like the second class citizen you described. Like we suddenly weren’t as important as the couples at our hotel who were on their honeymoons. I know we will eventually get engaged – we’re both saving right now so we can buy a home together and I’ve made it abundantly clear I will not have babies without being married first – but the waiting is difficult sometimes. Not so much b/c I’m impatient, but b/c it seems like everyone else is! This post was exactly what I needed to hear in order to shut up all those others that keep asking “Are you married yet?” or “When are you getting married?”

    • This made me laugh- when my husband and I had been dating for about 10 months, we went to Playa del Carmen and EVERY time we walked down the street, vendors would yell “Honeymooners! Where you from?”

      Of course for us this was mortifying since we were pretty early on and definitely not talking marriage. But I can imagine how exhuasting that would be for a couple who was.

    • mimi

      Ugh. I’d probably just lie and say we were married to avoid all that awkwardness.

      • Edelweiss

        yeah, as a “pre-engaged”-er, Walrus has done that or introduced me as his fiancee at times in order to avoid awkwardness like that. But it causes all sort of internal craziness for me. He thinks he’s being sweet, but he misses the follow-up looks to my left hand or questions in the ladies room after the fact.

  • Carrie

    Word, word, word. I guest-posted a while back about how I came to the decision to propose, and so much of it was so much of this. The cultural narratives are so incredibly crazymaking. It’s all “if he doesn’t propose it means there is something wrong with YOU” and all “Getting engaged is the most important thing in the entire universe, but you are NOT ALLOWED to ever say anything about it because that means you’re desperate and pitiful and you will scare him away.” And to the guys it’s all “she won’t want to marry you if you can’t provide for her, so you have to be rich” and all “if you can’t buy her the biggest fattest diamond ring, you’re not worthy” and all “anyway, marriage is a trap! If you propose, then she has the upper hand! As long as you make her wait, then you have the upper hand!” (Not that guys believe all these messages, but they’re floating around.)

    I kind of laughed and cried at “I’m so glad I don’t have to pretend not to want to get married anymore” — because I could have said exactly that, but it would have had a whole different connotation. I had to pretend I didn’t want to get married, because if I was honest about the fact that I did want to, everybody would immediately pity me and/or tell me everything I was doing wrong or should be doing to “get him to propose.” Because it wasn’t just a matter of “I’m ready for this thing and he’s not quite” — it turns into an entire referendum on whether I’m a desperate loser and a reject, because obviously wanting to get married but not being engaged yet means both of those things, right? (Hint: no.) So the only way to maintain my dignity was to insist “La la la, I don’t care!”

    The whole thing sucks and I really severely think these cultural narratives need to change.

    • Lynn

      “So the only way to maintain my dignity was to insist ‘La la la, I don’t care!’ ”

      So true! I’ve taken to this approach a lot lately, and it sucks as much as all the other approaches. Everyone asks why we aren’t engaged yet and if it bothers me that he’s taking so long to propose. I used to answer honestly (“I don’t know, mostly financial reasons” and “I’m very ready now, but I guess he’s not”) and would get those pity looks and suggestions of how I should pressure him into it or cut him loose (!) so now to avoid all that I just smile and say “there’s no rush, we have the rest of our lives” and “it’ll happen eventually, I’m just happy to be together for now” when inside I’m thinking “yes it bothers me and makes me feel insecure, and I resent him a little every day for it, which only compounds my guilt” and “I’m beyond tired of waiting for him to propose, thanks for asking.” I try to convince myself that maybe people just want it to happen so badly for us because they want us to experience the joy of a wedding and marriage like they have, but it really makes me question the motives behind their pressuring and “helpful advice.”

      • Edelweiss

        YES! I tried being honest, and people accepted that honesty for about 6 months. Now I’m at the point where people I work with and am not that close to are offering to “talk to him for me”. And I know it comes from a good place, they see marriage as a place of security and weddings as the culmination of womanhood.
        While I want to be married, I don’t see it that way. I know I would have less anxiety about being pre-engaged if I didn’t feel pressured to constantly justify the status and happiness of my relationship. So I’ve taken to responding with careless comments such as “living in sin is more fun anyways” and “well, I know the next step is having kids and I like sleeping through the night.” And I feel terrible about that because it’s not honest to myself and it’s a snarky way to invalidate their personal contentment. But I’m just at a loss and tired of debating the merits of my relationship.

  • Hoppy Bunny

    Having been pre-engaged for about 8 years this post really hit a nerve. We waited and waited for our finances to line up so we could get married as adults, but it just never happened. The final straw was my baby sister getting engaged–I was sooo happy for her but all I could feel was jealousy. I felt like a monster for feeling that way. So we talked things through, and yes, he had a plan if I could wait just a little bit more. I tried for about three weeks to wait a bit more when I realized that we were in it for the long haul no matter what. In the process of committing to waiting for our ducks to line up we’d essentially been committed to each other–so I asked him to marry me instead of waiting for a magic moment to happen. And he said yes, and it was probably the happiest moment I’ve ever had. And we still don’t have rings a year and a half later but we are getting married and THAT is what makes me happy. Waiting is fine, but too much waiting might be more trouble than it’s worth. And in a world where men and women do everything alongside one another, it makes me sad that it took me eight years to figure out I had the right to propose to me love–just as much as he had the right to propose to me.

  • Sadie

    Thank you so very much for this post. It spoke directly to how I’ve been feeling. I am 32 (rapidly approaching 33) and have been with my boyfriend for 4 1/2 years. I have two younger step-sisters who have a total of three marriages between them (all before they were each 21). All my friends are getting married and having kids. It’s getting so hard to see the Facebook posts of engagements and pregnancies without wanting to scream.

    I don’t think it would be so bad save for the fact that EVERY time we go to a family dinner or function, multiple people will ask us “are you engaged yet?” or “any news yet?” Don’t people realize how insensitive that is?!?!

    This summer was a particularly difficult one (many weddings and births) and I found myself being grumpy with my boyfriend for no reason at all. When he finally asked, I admitted that all the comments from family and waiting was getting to me. He grabbed my hands firmly and said, “It’s coming. I can’t tell you where or when, but please just hear me…it’s coming.” That helped so much to bring me back to the moment, to us. I had let other people’s voices run rampant in my own head, clouding the reality of our wonderful life (beautiful home and complete and unconditional love for one another) with an idea that we weren’t where we were supposed to be.

    Your relationship belongs only to you and your partner. Everyone else should just bite their tongues and smile.

    I know it’s coming and now I just have to focus on where we are today and enjoy each moment.

  • Lauren

    Oh god, do I know this feeling! My husband and I were together 7 years before getting engaged, although I wasn’t ready to get married until about 4 years in. We weren’t very young either (late 20s/early 30s).

    He wasn’t ready for a really long time. He had never even considered getting married, to anyone, and had to decide if it was an institution that was right for him. He also had all the milestones in his head about how much he should be earning etc… before he was a husband.

    However, for us it was never a question of whether we would be together or not, just whether we would formalise the arrangement. We got on with our lives. We bought a home, started renovating it, and planned financially for me to take maternity leave. But I always felt a bit on edge, because I didn’t know what we were going to do (and I am definitely a planner!). I could cope with no marriage ever, but the uncertainty was killing me. And there are definitely sections of society (including my in laws), who will never believe you are a committed couple unless there is a ring.

    I have to admit that my feelings of frustration and angst didn’t go away immediately after we got engaged. All the comments from well meaning friends and family of ‘finally’ or ‘about time’ just made me feel even more that we weren’t considered a serious couple until we were engaged. Which made me angry and bitter, and like I had something to prove.

    Now, almost a year after our wedding, I’m glad we waited. He was really ready by the time we did, which has made being married to him all the sweeter. But it took a long time.

    • MP

      Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.

      7.5 years into a similar relationship. And I’ve reached the point that while getting engaged would be nice (for all the reasons mentioned in all the comments – for myself, for us, and darn it just to get everyone – including the mailman – to stop making snide comments like “what’s the hold up? doesn’t he…? don’t you…? Of course you want to get engaged! Tell him to get off his duff!”), I wonder if part of me doesn’t want to simply because I don’t want to hear the “finally’s.” I want people to just be happy if it happens. No need to say “finally” – saying that is just summing up what the mailman has been badgering me about in one word; all those emotions, in one freaking word.

      I don’t normally feel like a second class citizen because of my relationship status – except when those cutting questions are asked by people I hardly know. And managing a B&B, I get asked those questions a lot, by people I just met. Every time I feel like I have to back peddle and apologize (feebly) for the “shortcomings” of my relationship and “defend” our commitment to one another and his “inactivity.” I’m tempted to print up business cards with the web address to this post on it just so I can hand it out as my rebuttal to those questions.


      Loved the bit about him being really ready. Am trying to figure stuff out now with my boyfriend and wishing I could be more like you. We’ve been dating for a little over two years, and have known each other for about 2 1/2 years. I’m 30, he’s 43, and we’re both in different countries (I used to live in his country but left to do my PhD). We’re both from yet another 2 countries, and I really would like to know where things stand before I move back to his country. He promised to propose last weekend, then asked for an extension to this weekend (and promised 10 million times), and then instead said that he wasn’t sure if he wanted to marry me at all, or if he was the marrying type. He’s never been married and has two older, unmarried brothers, one of whom has several kids. I was wondering if any APWers had suggestions on how to cope with this, since I kind of don’t really know whether I should stick around and give it time, or just move on with my life. So wishing I could be like Lauren, and okay with not getting married (though I guess visas and stuff do complicate things)!

  • MissKS

    Thank you Sarah! Your post was like the inner monologue that was running through my mind when I was pre-engaged! I can relate 100% to all the feelings you expressed in your post and again thank you so much!

    I remember one day my boyfriend called me at work and asked “have you heard the news” and so I say no I haven’t seen a paper or heard the news today and he says “no the news… so and so and so and so are engaged”. I just said OK wow thats great well I better go. I hung up, got up, closed my office door, texted a massive vent to one of my best friends and cried. They had only been together A YEAR she was only TWENTY THREE!! It is so hard, of course you are happy for your friends but there does come a certain breaking point, one engagement too far, where you (or at least in this case I) can’t take it anymore. The worst was going to celebrate with the happy couple and hear all the “you know when it is right” “we just love each other so much” and I am just thinking OK so I am chopped liver, we don’t love each other????

    My boyfriend and I had discussed marriage often and knew that was what we both wanted “one day”, but it is so hard when all these couples keep getting in before you – when is it our turn??!! My boyfriend could see the pain and he told me of course we will get married one day, you know I love you. Throughout the whole time what I didn’t know, and really I wouldn’t want to know (even though I was in torment I do love a surprise), was that my boyfriend had picked a diamond and it was on lay by at the jeweller.

    When he proposed a couple of months later (after 7 1/2 years together) it was simple and utterly romantic in our living room at home. Perfect.

    Thank you again Sarah! I will bookmark this post and share with the pre-engaged.

  • lia

    i love this simply because 6 months ago it wouldve been exactly what i needed to hear. for the longest time i was dying for my now fiancee to propose because i felt like we werent good for some reason since we had been together for 4 years and it hadnt happened.

    then i got pregnant and did a complete 180 and demanded that he not propose cause it made me feel like i was trapping him.

    finally one morning we were laying in bed and he just looked at me and stammered out “i love you will you marry me?” turns out he had this huge proposal planned for months for that summer, but decided that this was the time. and it was perfect even though we were half asleep and he had abit of beer breath and i didnt have a ring until almost 2 months later.

    i now realize how truely perfect it was fr us, both the timing and the crazy simpe proposal. its just who we are.

    • Hoppy Bunny

      double congrats!

  • Pippa

    Thankyou for this post… because sometimes I have to remind myself how it feels to be the one waiting.
    After being proposed to already, then an engagement, followed by a break-up and now over a year of being ‘pre-engaged’, I am the one who’s not ready, I’m the one whose ducks are wily, who’s saying, “Please wait for me, I’m working on it”. (I actually am saying that though, so my partner doesn’t have to decipher my words). I’ll know exactly when I’ll be able to wear a ring, call myself engaged and tell others about our decision (while recognising that these things aren’t necessary for every engaged couple, but they are for us).
    This post has given me the courage (and the kick up the arse) to realise that saying to him, “I’m ready, you can propose now” is ludicrous given the circumstances. I feel like this will definitely be something we do together, and it makes me feel all warm and fuzzy inside.

  • “And when he said, “be patient,” what he meant was “please wait for me, I’m working on it.””

    I needed this reminder. We’ve talked about marriage, we’ve talked about things once that begins… but being in the pre-engaged state is rough. Especially when EVERYONE around us is 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.””

    Thank you SO much for this. It’s sometimes really hard to counter the “He’s Just Not That Into You” message, but this is a really excellent gem to keep in mind.

  • Lynn

    Do any of you amazing ladies out there have good responses to insensitive people who ask
    “are you engaged yet?” or “any news yet?” Or how to respond when once you are engaged instead of saying “congratulations!” they say “finally!” or “it’s about time!” ?

    I’ve run out of ways to respond to insensitive comments and I tend to just crack a dry smile and walk away but I’d love to be able to respond in a way that maybe doesn’t reciprocate their rudeness but at least makes them think twice about offering up comments like that to others in the same situation. I’d love any advice on great responses!

  • tammy

    I got engaged last year…after dating for 9 years. We spent a lot of time long distance (schools in different states and the military) but it was hard to wait. He would always say he had a plan. I HATED hearing that. He knew that I wanted kids, and more than one, so I had a biological date stamp on how long I could wait. He still managed to surprise me when I finally proposed.

    I finally told him this past weekend how frustrating it was to hear that he had a plan for OUR future that HE knew but that he never shared with ME. He felt he had to have a plan on how to pay for the rest of our lives BEFORE asking me to marry him. I was like no, that life is what happens when you make plans. I think he finally understands how frustrating it was to know that he had plan, and to know that he wanted to get married, but that he neglected to inform the other person that the plan affected.

  • Dear Sarah, you are my soulmate!
    Love, me
    While I’m kinda kidding, this is a beautiful post (almost had me crying). I feel the same way about proposals becoming productions instead of a private commitment. I love how you made yours seem to be a magical story in the midst of everyday life. Blessings on you and your fiance!

  • MP

    After a whole day of pondering this (actually, pondering since 9:45 last night), I think I’ve nailed down why some people (myself included) get so worked up about the pre-engaged state.

    Depending on what stage of being pre-engaged you are in, it seems that suddenly there is a giant brick wall up between the two of you. While you may be great at communicating about all sorts of things (pets/parents aging, bills, $ issues, what to have for dinner, holiday plans, etc) you suddenly no longer feel comfortable talking about your future (or at least, the prospect of being engaged/married). You suddenly feel that if you bring it up, the other will end up frustrated for one reason or another (that you brought up weddings again, that you aren’t patient, that they are disappointed in themselves for taking so long, etc) – and all sensible communication at that point is out the window.

    For me, this stage happened when the topic came up one day and I was told that he wanted to take control of the proposal (but would like some input as to what I thought was pretty/ring size – flat out told 2 YEARS ago to go get my finger sized (I don’t wear rings, so there was no stealth in that question)). He said that he wanted to control that aspect because after the proposal, no one will care to ask him his opinion on anything. All wedding plan inquiries from friends/family will naturally fall towards me, questions about kids (when/how many/education plans) will fall to me, holiday plans will fall to me. And while he knows he will always have a say in the things that happen, he knows that our society pretty much ignores him after his one “moment in the spotlight” – so “dam*it, let me have my one moment and then you can take control for the rest of our lives.” ***But, I have to say that after 2 years of waiting (economy hasn’t helped to speed up the process in any regard), I’m ready for this one big brick wall to come tumbling down.***

  • Bam

    Thank you for this post. I needed to read it. But reading the post and the comments made me realize a big difference between dating and pre-engaged. I was struck by how many of your guys responded to your questions and stress by assuring you that a proposal was coming . . . someday. I have been with my boyfriend for over six years. We live together and function as a married couple in most ways (although we don’t have kids and aren’t planning to until we are actually married). But when we have had those frank and honest (often tearful) discussions about marriage, he basically admits that the reason he hasn’t proposed is because he doesn’t know if he wants to get married. He loves me very much. I love him. We are happy. And neither one of us wants to imagine our lives without the other. But never, even in the midst of my worst melt downs, has he assured me that it WILL happen. I think both of us would agree that, if he knew he wanted to marry me, he’d propose. And, honestly, if he was saying that he was going to propose, just not yet – I’d essentially take that as a proposal in iteslf (a definite statement that he does want to get married). For us, it isn’t a matter of wily ducks and finances and school/work/long distance. It is simply that he hasn’t decided that he wants to marry me (while I figured out a while ago that I want to marry him). So, I guess I’m commenting to say that everyone’s situation is different, and for all the guys that need you to be a little more patient while they get their ducks in a row to propose, there are also guys (and girls) who are in long term committed relationships that aren’t planning a proposal anytime soon because they haven’t mentally made that leap to knowing that they will marry the person. I mean, it is very easy for me to go on autopilot and feel like we are pre-engaged because we are so happy together, have been for a very long time, function as a stable family unit, and often talk about the future as if it is unquestioned that we will be together and have kids, etc. – but really we aren’t pre-engaged because he hasn’t made the mental jump to knowing that one day, sooner or later, he is going to buy a ring, say vows, sign papers, and be married to me for the rest of his life. I’ve made that leap in my mind, and when he does then I will view us as pre-engaged (and once he makes that leap, I doubt there will be much “pre” before we are actually engaged and married). But for now, as much as I’d like to be “pre-engaged” I have to be honest and say we are just dating (and living together, and mingling finances and expecting to remain that way). In my sitation, I don’t know that being patient and giving him time is a good policy, at least not much longer. What I need to do about my situation is a whole different topic, but I wanted to bring this up because what is right for one person in a long term relationship who is anxiously awaiting a proposal may not be right for another.

    All of this is just to say that there is definitely a difference between dating (even very long term, very committed) and pre-engaged, and from someone who hasn’t crossed that line yet, I would remind all of you whose boyfriends are saying “it’s coming, it’s going to happen, be patient,” etc., not to take those words for granted. They mean something, and they show that your boyfriend is in a very different mental state than one who doesn’t really know if he wants to get married.

    • Kellyh

      Bam, I could’ve written this comment. This is exactly where we have been for a long time. It is an incredibly hard place to be. It takes a lot of strength to give your partner the space to make this momentous life decision and I feel like I haven’t always been my best self in the process. That’s the worst part. I don’t generally view myself as an insecure person, but I’ve been dating my partner for over 6 years and for the last 2 I’ve been all over the place emotionally. I think I have finally come to terms with his decision-making process and am able to let go a little and enjoy what we have. However, I think part of why I am currently content is that in the past year things came to a head and we were on the brink of breaking up. That (while painful) let me take a step back and realize that I am strong and independent and I can wait for him to be sure of me and if he (we) decide this isn’t it, I can survive a broken heart and go on to thrive with someone else. So yes, if I’m honest, I don’t count myself as pre-engaged either.

  • I’m really struggling on how to process this all. And really, it’s the comment right above mine by Bam that really details it. We’ve talked about marriage. But unlike almost everyone here, *I’m* the one who isn’t sure. And not not sure in a ‘I want to get married, just not tomorrow’, but in a “I don’t know how to make this decision, are you really The One I want to spend my life with?” I find myself incredibly torn on how to think this through. So while I love hearing the sentiment of “please wait for me, I’m working on it”, I don’t know what my answer will be. I NEVER dreamed the ManBeast would be the one to bring up, so openly, the idea of ‘hey, I want to spend my life with you’. Being 6 years older than him, I thought I would be the one to be ready first. And it just isn’t happening that way. I know I want to be married one day, but I’m not sure if it’s to him. And I don’t seem to know how to make that choice. Thankfully the ManBeast has respected and taken to heart when I tell him that this does need to be a process for me, a series of discussions, and that there are some internal issues that I need to work through before I can feel comfortable making this decision either way.

    I’m finding this incredibly painful and I’m finding few practical resources on how to work through how I feel.

    • My now-husband was ready before I was. And he gave me time to figure it out, which I am thankful for. At some point I realized I was close to being ready, so I asked him to go to a marriage counselor with me for two sessions. (I had asked someone I trusted for a recommendation of someone that would be a good match for us.) I wanted to talk with someone used to addressing potential challenges in relationships. Through those two sessions, I was able to figure out what was holding me back and process it, and get some good tools for dealing with our differences and those things that can cause conflict. So, I maybe some before-engagement counseling could be helpful, if you feel almost ready, but want to sort through your concerns…? Either as a couple, or even solo…

  • Brooke

    Thank you for this post, and thank you APW in general……3years of being pre-engaged, lots of reading of APW, literally having conversations about getting ducks in a row (“How are those ducks going?” was my not so subtle way of checking in over the past few months!), lots of requests for me to be patient……most things you have described here really….and we got engaged last weekend! The love and good wishes coming our way from friends and family over the past week has been wonderful, and to know this has come about when we were both feeling ready to get married has certainly been worth the wait. Feeling very happy, very peaceful, and looking forward to all that lies ahead!

  • Couldn’t have said it better myself! Wish I had read this a month ago when I was pre-engaged. Now that we’ve crossed that hurdle, I couldn’t agree more.

  • Jenn

    I know I’m probably parrotting off the same sentiment as many others (and am WAY too lazy to confirm, lol), but thank you so much for this. I’m a pre-engaged, and with the guy whom I know I will marry–someday. We’ve had countless conversations on the topic, about how we’ve got time and neither of us are going anywhere and we just need our lives to slow down and our bank account to bulk up. We’re a progressive couple, but we still have old-fashioned sentimental bits about us… I want to be asked, and he wants to do the asking, and I want a ring to come with that I can stare at dreamily for the days immediately following.

    Just this weekend, actually, he confessed that it hurt him that he has yet to have asked me to marry him. That it hurts him that annoying things like money are in his way. That, if he had his way, we would be married now, or at least planning our wedding.

    And I get the same way with the Facebook posts and the Teen Moms… every time a new engagement pops up around me, I have to squash the feelings of “BAHHHH you shouldn’t get this before me!!!”

    So thank you for that last bit. It really, really, really helps. :)

  • d’oh. should have read this earlier — I asked my guy to marry me. And while he said yes, and it’s been wonderful, I sometimes wish I would have waited. Not that I’m not sure of us . . . but I think he did want to propose. He just takes forever and a day to get around to things. When I asked if he was planning something, he said “Yes. Eventually. Someday. Maybe on our spring break trip?” (we’re both teachers) I proposed 7 months ago, and I think I may have still been waiting for him had I not done so.

    So, I am here to say this: yes, patience is good. And good things are worth waiting for. And this obviously goes on a case by case basis. But I still think it’s okay that I asked :-)

  • Sarah

    I want to start by saying, congratulations, I think your engagement is so fabulous. I read your previous post about do’s and don’ts for friends of the pre-engaged and thought it was very spot on. I’m pretty new to APW, and so I’m not totally sure about the culture of commenting, and I hope I’m not crossing a line when I say: I am so, so happy this worked out for you. But this post also frustrated me a little bit. I do think that everyone has a right to approach marriage and engagement in a way that works for them, and what works for one person might not work for another. But it upsets me a little that your fiance had to “fake” not wanting to get married, and that rather than tell you where he stood, he let you suffer through months (or more?) of agony and anxiety and worrying that you weren’t good enough. I feel like you deserved more communication from him, more treatment as an equal. He let you suffer when he didn’t have to. And as far as your closing comments go, “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,” I’m not actually sure that this is a great message to tell other women. Because I DO think that many women have a tendency to want to convince themselves of things that aren’t true–as another poster said, that if your favorite ring is missing, he must have taken it to get sized! That he brought champagne home tonight, tonight could be the night!! That if you just hold on long enough, someday you’ll be good enough!!–and sometimes those things are true, but you know what: a lot of the time they’re not. Obviously, a lot of this depends on your relationship and the type of communication you have, but many, many times, if he is not marrying you, it is because he DOESN’T want to. And he may never. This isn’t to say that if he doesn’t want to within a month of getting together, he never will. This isn’t to say that it never works out. But I also think that women–or men who find themselves in the same position–who are multiple years into a relationship and who want more than what they have now have every right to ask the question, “are we building a life together or not?” and to have an answer. I know no one ever wants to believe that he may just not be that into you, but … sometimes that’s the case. And if you stick around forever, you may be deluding yourself and you may be denying yourself the opportunity to have the future you want with someone else. All which is to say, that truly I am happy that this has worked out for you, and I realize that your fiance had certain priorities. But I do think it’s important to voice the fact that just waiting and waiting and waiting may NOT be the answer for everyone. Because he may NOT be waiting and waiting to marry you.

    • Thanks for your comment and welcome to APW! My post is my experience, and I agree that this post may not be relevant to all women (most APW posts aren’t).

      I mentioned this earlier in the comments, but I think it’s important to say again:

      My fiance and I talked at length about our future for months. Getting engaged was a mutual decision that we had discussed for a long time. I never felt like he was stringing me along or refusing to commit. The *proposal* was what took time, and what was difficult was waiting for it when I didn’t feel like I needed it (because I already felt like we were engaged). What I learned was that it was important to him. Really important. And I learned a lot about his character while I waited: that he is romantic, respectful, kind, cheeky, old fashioned, thoughtful, and deliberate. It was hard to be patient but it was worth it in the end.

      Around the same time I got engaged a close friend left her boyfriend of eight years because he wouldn’t commit. So I know very, very well that my experience is not the case for everyone. A lot of men don’t want to get married or don’t want to marry the woman that they are with. But I think the problem is that we only hear about those men.

      My point is that there ARE men out there who DO want to get married, TO the woman that they are with, and just because it takes them some time to pull it off, doesn’t mean that they don’t love you.

      But you should know in your heart of hearts that your partner wants to build a life with you, WAY before they give you a ring. And if you don’t feel that way, don’t wait.

      • Sarah

        Sarah, I completely agree with what you’ve just said. You’re totally right on and I completely take your point.

  • YES YES OH MY GOD YES. The “everyone but me is getting engaged everyone probably thinks he doesn’t love me and judges me constantly for not having a ring yet EVEN MY COUSINS’ CHILDREN ARE GETTING MARRIED BEFORE ME” feeling. And then it’s gone in an instant. When my boyfriend of two and a half years suggested a weekend in New York in February, I was sure he was going to propose. Except I was also afraid he wouldn’t and I’d have a total meltdown on the bus back to DC. We went to the Met, walked through Central Park, had tea at the Plaza, and then…went back to our hotel room. And talked about logistics of going to his friends’ wedding in Connecticut in March. His friends who had been dating for a year less time than we had. Which is when I went ahead and had the metldown right then and there. To which he said, “I was going to propose today but the ring didn’t come in time.” And then I felt awful because I hadn’t trusted him and things were really awkward the rest of the night. The ring FINALLY arrived in March (unbeknownst to me) and he proposed during our vacation in Belize. And it was wonderful and put an instant end to all of that anxiety and insecurity and frustration with him for not being on my timeline. And to me ruining every single special occasion for myself by getting my hopes up and then dashed when he didn’t propose. I can enjoy holidays again! So there isn’t time to plan the summer wedding I’d been mentally assuming we’d have. We’re getting married in December. More importantly, we’re getting married when we’re BOTH ready and excited about it.

  • Still waiting

    Thanks for this post, I really needed to read it today. I’m in the pre-engaged state and have been for 12 months. I have met an amazing man and I know he has the right intentions. I know he is working on getting the ducks lined up ( because it is important to him) and I am allowing the space and time to do this and I understand his need to provide for me.
    Most days I’m fine and we are happy, but then I have today’s like today when I feel feed up with waiting and sad. I just feel like I’m on hold and want to get on with life. I’m 36 and we have been together 2.5 years, living together for 1.5 years. Your post just reminds me to be patient, enjoy the moment, give him the time he needs and hopefully well enter the next chapter soon.

    Thanks for your post Sarah, it’s such a relief to realise that I’m not the only one.

  • Nicole

    Wow. this post really put things in perspective for me. I am 29 yrs old and i’ve been waiting 5 years for my guy to pop the question. its been an emotional rollercoaster.
    theres been fights, breaks and plenty of meltdowns waiting for him to ask. I even considered asking him, but he told me thats out of the question, as he is very traditional.
    so any control i could have was gone. now im trying my best to keep quiet and be hopeful the waiting torture will end. reading posts like yours makes the waiting a little tolerable. so thank you!

    • Sophia Marsden

      >I even considered asking him, but he told me thats out of the question, as he is very traditional.

      Well within a 5 year period there’s always the 29th of February Then its perfectly traditional for you to ask him (and he is meant to give you money if he humiliates you with a refusal, win win :P)

  • lp


    Boy am I happy that I read this tonight, at this moment. Every sentence of this I was like “Thats me and my boyfriend and that’s me! I’m being like that too”! And tonight I know for certain he is going to do it, just a matter of when. But he keeps saying “Be Patient”. And those last words in the last paragraph really hit home for me. That he is hearing me, and he does want to marry me. I have never been a patient person. Ever since I was a kid I wanted something that moment (I mean, what kid isn’t like that). It has been a constant practice of mine to just let things go their course and to be patient while I am waddling along that course. This engagement has me very impatient for many reasons, but the number one reason that I have had to remind myself with (amidst all differing opinions and everyones 2 cents) that it isn’t the engagement ring I want, I want the validation that indeed, he is the only one I am spending the rest of my life with.

    So I know I’m late but you don’t know how much this post means for me right now. Bravo to you and congrats to you both. I am hoping to hear those words as well soon enough. :)

  • Brim Nichol

    Greetings to every body that is reading this testimony

    Me and my boyfriend were seriously in love for six years and we were planning to get married but one day he came to my house and told me he was no longer interested in our relationship simply because he was dating another rich lady who promise to buy him a car and to sponsor their wedding. And i suffer heartbreak for seven months and i was not tired of loving him.so i take a bold step by contacting a spell caster who help me bring my ex boyfriend back. he is powerful and great his contact is Drodililovespell@gmail.com you can also contact him for help

  • Pre-Engaged

    Thank you for writing this. This is something I really needed to hear. We are nearing out 5th anniversary and it’s becoming very difficult to see people who have been together a fraction of the time we have (like seriously…engaged after 4 months and married before a year together) get engaged and married. Makes me wonder what I’m doing wrong. Two years ago he told me he wanted to marry me and wanted me to take his name. We know we are going to get married and 7 months ago we had our first real “marriage” talk about when we wanted to get married, etc. In February we actually tried on engagement rings, he said he has a budget and even his best friend has told me that he wants to propose, but feels he can’t because my best friend is getting married. So all of this has caused a lot of resentful feelings towards others (not my SO) and a constant worrying about how long I’ll have to wait. This really helped though. Shows that I’m not the only one.